Formal art or metalsmithing programs, either at working studios or in academic settings, are an excellent, comprehensive way to immerse yourself in a serious course of jewelry making study, but for many adult learners, they often require too great a commitment of time and financial resources. Project-based learning offers opportunities to learn foundational skills quickly and makes for an easy, successful entry into the world of metalsmithing and jewelry making, but there usually isn’t enough time to “go deep” and learn as much as you’d like. If you’re like many adult learners, you’ve taken a lot of classes but you may be struggling with making your new skills your own, or making work that doesn’t look derivative of the work of your instructors or other artists you admire. That’s why we’re thrilled to announce the launch of The Heart of the Maker, an ongoing program of in-depth, design-based workshops specifically for adult learners who want to get serious about jewelry making.

The Heart of the Maker program is led by master maker Lesley Aine McKeown, a working studio artist whose distinctive style is instantly recognizable and deeply personal. Twice a year, we offer four day intensive in-person workshops with Lesley structured specifically to help you maximize the skills you already have, identify the skills that should be next on your list, and help you discover and develop your own design voice and vocabulary. The Heart of the Maker is also available as a six-week online experience, offered several times a year.

Our primary sessions are intended for the intermediate maker with a solid foundational skill set, including soldering, sawing and piercing, filing, and finishing. Over the course of four days, Lesley will help us explore and identify the things that inspire and move us. We’ll dig deep to figure out why we love the work and artists we do, and how to articulate and make those things tangible. Along the way, we’ll learn and practice the elements of productive critique, both of our own work and others, as she teaches us her approach to practical, essential fabrication techniques and skills including stone setting, designing with multiple stones, using prongs, chain making, keum boo, and more. This is the perfect workshop if you’ve been collecting gorgeous stones you’re dying to set, the ones you fell in love with but haven’t had the courage to use or the experience to combine. We’ll also be covering the safe use and setup of acetylene and dual-fuel torches, usually an intimidating prospect for the beginning metalsmith, and you’ll have plenty of time to practice and get comfortable with them.

Each Heart of the Maker session concludes with a critique of your pieces and overall workshop experience, so you have a clear roadmap for taking next steps in your work and constructive input on how to make it better. You’ll be invited to a private Facebook group where you can get ongoing help and encouragement from both Lesley and studio owner Francesca Watson, and where periodic live and special events will be offered exclusively to Heart of the Maker alumni. And from time to time, we’ll launch challenges and design prompts to help keep you inspired and moving forward. “Graduates” of the primary sessions tell us they find their working processes and even the way they think about their work radically transformed, and after several months of working in that new creative space, they’re eager to take significant steps up and forward.

Alumni sessions

Our alumni Go Deeper sessions are invitation only events for students who have participated in one of The Heart of the Maker primary sessions with Lesley in our studio or online. Two or three months before each alumni session, registered participants will be asked to start sending photos of new work and specific requests for new techniques and processes they want to cover. (For example, some participants express interest in intarsia, mixed metals, gem-cut stone setting, and working with gold.) Based on that input and on an evaluation of each participant’s new work, Lesley and Francesca will plan for a four day session tailored to those requests and interests, to help participants “level up” over and above the work accomplished during the Heart of the Maker primary sessions and after.

Students who may need a little more “seasoning” will be invited to take additional foundational workshops with Francesca or other guest instructors at The Makery, and to re-enroll in additional primary sessions of the Heart of the Maker program before signing up for the Go Deeper alumni sessions.

Visit our workshops page to see available Heart of the Maker workshops!