Sunday, 11 May 2014

Always learning

This blog post was first published for the London Jewellery School blog. I have made a few slight changes here.

I met my first serious boyfriend at university when I did my undergraduate degree. Among other things he called me a ‘paper chaser’, someone who loves the validation of a certificate. We split up years ago when I had one degree. I do now have five so maybe he had a point.
As a tutor at the London Jewellery School, teaching beginners and intermediate classes, I am rather obsessed with continual betterment (I suspect you didn’t need to live with me for six years to work that one out). I am one of ten people in the world (so far) to achieve the higher diploma in metal clay at the Mid Cornwall School of Jewellery. I also have qualifications in both of the main metal clay brands, Art Clay and PMC.
While it’s true that I do like a certificate, it’s mostly because it is proof of attainment of a certain level of skill. More important to me than the piece of paper is to develop and push myself to a higher level and learn from the experts.

Last week I travelled to the Craftworx jewellery studio in Yorkshire to attend a jewellery masterclass. The teacher was Lisa Barth, an inspirational metal clay artist and wireworker. She had travelled from her home in the US to teach in England. I have attended a class with her in the past (I’m possibly the only strict vegetarian to attend a leather and metal clay cuff workshop. I used faux, obviously). This time I attended a wirework class with Lisa.

Wire wrapped boulder opal pendant that I made during the masterclass
Photo by Gary Ullah of
This was another unusual choice for me as it is not my current style of jewellery. Lisa was also teaching a metal clay class and a photography class but for some reason I was drawn to the wire. I suspect because the work that she does is beautiful.
I have another masterclass booked at CSACJ in Cornwall with US metal clay artist Terry Kovalcik later on in the year. And I have some more I’m saving for in 2015. My development is worth the investment. Time spent under the tutelage of experts accelerates my growth and deepens my understanding.
You may have heard that to become an expert in something takes ten years or 10,000 hours of practice. To really develop, psychologists have found that your practice must be purposeful and stretching. If you spend 10,000 hours shaping ear wires you are indeed going to be an expert in making ear wires but you will not be an expert jeweller. So, take my advice and look at how you can develop and stretch and do more. And I don’t want to hear, ‘Do you know how old I’ll be when I’ve done 10,000 hours?’ Yes I do. You will be exactly the same age as if you don’t.
So, what is your very next step up? Where do you aim to be? What can you do to help bridge the gap between where you are and where you want to be? Find someone to mentor you, attend an advanced class, set some goals but start moving in the right direction, even if it’s slowly.
And you can trust me on this. I have two psychology degrees.

Some books I recommend
If you love metal clay you should own Lisa Barth’s ‘Designing from the stone’ book on stone setting in silver clay
Her book ‘Timeless wire wrapping’ is due for publication this year and I have it on pre-order. You should too

For more information on becoming an expert check out
Bounce: the myth of talent and the power of practice by Matthew Syed. I found this so inspirational because it helps us see that we can all get to where we want to be if we put in the hours

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