Learn Metalsmithing, Rotary Tools, and More with Helen Driggs

I’ve been teaching for over a decade now. Every time I teach metalwork in person and feel a twinge of regret that I am not a career educator, my (now former) boss respectfully reminds me that I am a teacher–just not in a regular university situation, because education is changing. The point is this: change is always happening. It’s what you do about it that changes you.

Yes, my boss is right. I am a teacher–it’s just that the delivery mechanism for my teaching is different. These days, I teach in magazines, books, videos, my blog, and yes, in person, too. Because if you are interested in teaching, you need to be prepared to deliver your content in many shapes, forms, and styles. Once I wrapped my head around that, I realized I already have and do what I thought I had no hope of, and it was easier to adapt to change and move forward.

Learn to make fun rings to show off a bead or stone in Helen’s Riveted Bead Rings class at Bead Fest.

Learn with Helen at Bead Fest!

True confession: It’s still the in-person teaching I love most, so, Tammy invited me to write about my classes for Bead Fest this August near Philadelphia. Her “evergreen” is an old-school term I relate to, and I love to teach the evergreen basics of metalsmithing. These foundation skills are the fundamentals of our craft. They are not flashy, sexy, trendy, fast, easy, or shortcuts. Often, they are not even all that much fun–because mastering them can be very hard work. However, there is a payoff. If you learn the essentials, one day you will be able to make things that are flashy, sexy, trendy, and fast–because you will have learned the most efficient and easy way to do so. Again, that’s the payoff.

If you’ll be at Bead Fest, are curious about learning some metalwork or mastering the use of a specific tool like a Dremel and all those little attachments you bought for it, hunt me down, because I’ve made it really easy for you. We will saw, file, solder, texture, form, and build your skills. We laugh, play, and have fun. We play the “What’s this for?” tool game, cut bunches of metal, hammer our hearts out and learn.

Teaching is my true love, and the roots of teaching lie in helping people, so let’s get going, and I’ll see you at Bead Fest in August!


Register for Helen’s Classes at BeadFest.com

Here are just a few of the classes you can take with Helen at Bead Fest Philly this August:

Dremel class Helen Driggs Bead Fest
Rotary Tool Intensive: Dremels

Helen’s super-popular classes Rotary Tools Intensive One: Dremels Only and Rotary Tools Intensive Two: Advanced Techniques are back in condensed versions so you can learn more in a shorter amount of time. Sign up for part one and/or part two; both half-day classes are offered on Friday and Sunday for your convenience.

solderless setting with tabs Helen Driggs Bead Fest

Solderless Setting with Tabs and Folds

Yes! You can set a stone, cabochon, found or fabricated object without a torch! In this class, you will learn how to design and plan a sophisticated sheet metal setting for your favorite focal object. Tabs and folds are an ingenious way to capture and securely hold many types of objects in jewelry, and are even more interesting when they are integrated into the overall design of the piece. We will create a pendant using sheet metal and a stone cabochon. Several color and metal options are available to choose from, or bring your own!

metal finishing class Helen Driggs Bead Fest

A Fine Finish

Creating a flawless polish is one of the most sought-after skills many jewelry makers wish to add to their skill set. In this class we will learn how to properly file, sand, prepolish and mirror polish a yellow brass pendant with a hand-hammered surface texture — one of the most difficult polishing challenges there is. We will create custom sanding sticks, learn how to properly file, scrape and burnish metal edges, and then use Tripoli and rouge polishing compounds to bring a golden shine to the metal.

selective stamping on metal Helen Driggs Bead Fest

Selective Stamping on Metal

It’s easy to create a sophisticated surface texture on plain metal sheet of any kind using just a few hand tools. Once you get comfortable with this process, you can create decorative metal components, parts and elements for jewelry and for use with other mixed-media work. This technique requires very few hand tools, and is travel friendly, too.

Lap Joined Lantern Pendants Helen Driggs Bead Fest

Lap Joined Lantern Pendants

Lap (or overlap) joins are a traditional cold connection and a great way of securely joining metal sheet edge-to-edge. With clever engineering and design, sophisticated 3D hollow forms can easily be created without the use of a torch. Students will learn several ways to use lap joins, folds and rivets to fabricate one of several different forms inspired by antique paper lanterns.

Check out all of Helen’s classes and 100 more at BeadFest.com!

Updated May 22, 2019. Originally published January 2015.

If you can’t make it to Bead Fest to with from Helen, learn from her at home with these resources!

One Comment

  1. Miriam C at 6:31 pm May 24, 2019

    We are so pleased to have had Helen at Snow Farm: The New England Craft Program this week. She has been teaching an Introduction to Lapidary workshop, and her students have been loving it and creating beautiful pieces! Next up she’s teaching all about textures and patinas, Saturday through Memorial Day Monday. Can’t wait to see what everyone makes!

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