Studio Notes: Challenge Yourself To Learn and Leave Your Comfort Zone

Went back to my local community college to learn a few basic steps about running a Bridgeport milling machine. I also spent a couple hours in a computer aided design/3D printing class and a welding class. I haven’t been out of my “comfort zone” in years. So these experiences were challenging. The thought of welding with large amounts of deadly electricity especially terrified me. Like KaZZZZAAAAAAp!

But welding instructor Scott MacKenzie has seen everything during his decades in education. So his primary goal is to avoid accidents in a learning environment. Same for Fred Wenn, a long-time metals shop instructor. He had me working at the giant milling machine, drilling aluminum, and tapping screw holes down to 1/1000 of an inch.

What did I get out of this? BRAGGING RIGHTS (see photo above.)! And confidence. A couple good ideas I can apply to my own jewelry making right now. I’ve also got insight into future classes I can take that are inexpensive yet cutting edge.

Want to find out more? Check on free or low-cost programs at your local community college, industrial arts school or high school. I took this sampler Manufacturing Boot Camp session at Alpena Community College in June. Funded by grants, it was free and included lunch, thumb drives, classroom materials, resume coaching, skills assessment tests, plant tours, and job resources.


  • Ask questions before you enroll in a free program or challenging class
  • How much experience does your instructor have?
  • Know your safety limit.
  • If you get tired, stop and regroup.
  • Shut down your creative mind when working with heavy machinery. Mine kept wanting to wander off and dance all over the place.

Betsy Lehndorff has been writing for Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist since 2010. This spring, she has taught at Metalwerx, the William Holland School of Lapidary Arts, and the Florida Society of Goldsmiths.

One Comment

  1. Robert D at 11:49 am July 20, 2017

    Hats off to Betsy for stepping out of her comfort zone. This ability can transfer into business’ sought after transformation of an individual becoming a life long learner. Good show Betsy!

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