BY CHRISTINA O’CONNOR

Learning the Art of Jewelry Making

ON A RAINY FEBRUARY MORNING, a dozen people are gathered in a tight circle in the basement of the Honolulu Museum of Art School, watching intently as a jewelry instructor hammers a piece of copper into a thin, even line. Within minutes, the group is off-some to hammer, others to sand down their own pieces of copper. It’s only a couple of classes into their beginner’s jewelry class, and they’re learning to make rings. The studio is equipped with tools and machines to make just about any piece of jewelry you could want-and the Honolulu Museum of Art School offers the classes to make it happen.

From first-time hobbyists to lifelong crafters, jewelry lovers can find ways to hone their art with Hawai’i-based courses. Or, with summer just around the corner, jewelers can incorporate their hobby into a vacation destination.

Honolulu Museum of Art offers a wide variety of metal and jewelry classes for all skill levels, such as “Introduction to Jewelry Fabrication” and “Jewelry with an Attitude,” which teach students skills that include soldering, texturing and metal shaping. During a semester, students may create rings, earrings, necklaces, bracelets and more.

“You can never have had any art class experience before and come in and enjoy a class,” says Vince Hazen, the director of Honolulu Museum of Art School.

Jewelry with an Attitude instructor Barbara Farrell, who worked for years as a professional jeweler, says that her class focuses on fabrication with metal. Students can work on projects of their choosing, and she shows them how to add dimension with metals, smooth edges, drill holes and polish the piece.

“We generally have people who make stacks of bangle bracelets, we usually have people who work on drop earrings, and there are often chain makers,” Farrell says.

“The sky is the limit as far as technique, and it gets more complicated as you go,” Hazen says.

Once students have the basics down, or for those with previous jewelry making experience, classes cover more intricate creations such as carving wax and setting stones. The studio also has time slots available for independent study for advanced students.

“It’s really a studio designed for artistic invention,” Hazen says. “And it’s a lot about craftsmanship and learning new techniques.”

Classes are offered three semesters a year once a week for 14 weeks. The summer semester of classes for adults starts May 21, and registration begins April 10. For more information, visit www.honolulumuseum.org.

Bead It!’s three locations-Kaimuki, Kapolei and Kailua- are havens for bead lovers. Brightly colored beads of every shape and size line the shop. But for bead enthusiasts who aren’t exactly sure what to do with the beads, Bead It! can help.

“Wire Basics is one of our most popular classes,” explains Brendan Barry, Bead It! CEO. “We also have Earring Basics, in which the students will make three pairs of earrings. In Jewelry Basics, we do stamping on metal and knotting, in which you can restring your grandmother’s pearls or update them into something you would want to wear.”

Beyond the basics, Bead It! also offers weaving and metal smith instruction. Classes include Beach Glass Drilling, Fused Chain Bracelet and Introduction to Soldering. The Zipper Bracelet course will send students home with a wrap bracelet with chain woven with linen, leather and beads.

“Every new quarter brings a bunch of great new ideas,” Barry says, adding that Bead It! offers about 150 classes per quarter.

For more information, visit ibeads.com.

Those looking to get away for the spring or summer, can easily add jewelry making to their travel itinerary. Idyllwild Arts in California is a tranquil oasis tucked in the mountains between Palm Springs and Los Angeles. A high school boarding school from September through May, Idyllwild Arts opens to the public for its Summer Program, which features a variety of art classes, including several jewelry and metal workshops. Foundology instructor Stephanie Lee, a plaster artist and metalsmith, shared that her class is a three-day intensive course (this year June 28-30) that focuses on metal smithing. Lee will teach about a dozen techniques, soldering, wire working and chain making.

“We are going to approach that through different angles,” Lee explains. “(Students) are going to create pendant bezels and different chain constructions.”

Students are also encouraged to bring their own vintage finds to incorporate into the pieces they create.

“The idea is that they can bring anything,” Lee says. “It can even be an old photo … Everything can be included somehow.”

When not in class, students also can take advantage of the Idyllwild area, which boasts enticing restaurants, art galleries and hiking trails-all of which can add inspiration to budding jewelers.

“There is so much to do in a beautiful, natural setting,” Lee says.

Visiting students can stay on campus or in the nearby town. For more, visit idyllwildarts.org.

Traveling jewelers also might decide to head a little further down south to San Miguel de Allende in Mexico to the Antonio Lopez Silver Studio & Jewelry. The studio offers silversmithing courses to create cuff bracelets, rings, necklaces, or whatever else students can imagine.

The courses are self-directed and provide start-to-finish guidance for any piece a student wishes to create.

“Everybody is free to make their own designs,” he explains. “They bring the idea, and I make instructions to create the piece … For example, people who want to make a ring with a stone … they are going to learn how to solder, how to cut it, how to bend it and how to polish it. And the last step they are going to do is setting the stone, so it will be a completed piece by the end.”

While in San Miguel, many of Lopez’s students also take advantage of other nearby art classes and enjoy sightseeing around the colonial city.

“There are people who come from New York, California, Texas, Canada and return every year,” he adds.

Classes are offered year-round, and dates are flexible. Lopez also offers a four-week course, which meets three days a week for three hours. For more information, visit www. antoniolopezstudio.com.