Tuesday, November 2, 2010

End of an Era-or Not!!

This post concerns my education as an artist. In the early days, after a brief, 6 evening class in lost wax casting, and a year or so of evening adult class/studio time in jewelry making, I was on my own for many years. Then I heard about a metal guild in Southern California, so I joined, finding fellow jewelry artists and fantastic workshops given by nationally recognized experts in various techniques. But always, it was back to my tiny studio, maybe 10x10', working by myself.

Along the way, I met Anthony Chavez and his staff at Bourget Bros., a hardware and building supply store not far from my home. Surprisingly, it had a first-class jewelry supply department in the rear of the store. Here, I not only bought most of my supplies, but I gathered a sizeable amount of information on the use of the tools and products they sold. I remember in the beginning, that I would sometimes make 2 trips a day to Bourget, to seek out Anthony's help for a project I had no clue how to start, or finish!

Chanukah menorah, lucite, film canisters, brass
Anthony encouraged me to try out his jewelry class at Venice High School, but I thought I had advanced too much for a beginner's class. I had also equipped my work space to such a degree that I thought I didn't need to go elsewhere to work. Boy, was I wrong!!        

I got to a point where I felt the need to shed my lonesome workspace existence, and join some kind of group. At the metal art guild (MASSC), I met Brad Smith, who was the intermediate/advanced teacher at the Venice High  Adult School, in conjunction with Anthony's class. I agreed to sign up for his evening classes. These classes, as I found out, were so popular, that students waited in line to register, sometimes for hours. The classes filled quickly with enthusiastic, happy, creative people- some just learning, and some verging on the professional. In the 3 classes offered during the week, there were nearly 150 people registered!

The was the start of something I have continued for about 7 years. Going to school 2 or even 3 times per week, I have learned so much, but more importantly, I  ave made wonderful friends, all of whom love jewelry! We worked on our own projects, or on one of Brad's choosing. It didn't matter. What we really worked on was encouraging and teaching each other. We spent many evenings problem-solving, and with Brad as our teacher, the problems got solved very quickly. We learned all sorts of skills in using tools, and even learned to make our own specialized tools. We learned people skills and the tools of life as well.

In the past couple of years, our class room space has been threatened. Venice High School needed it for other people's dreams, not ours. We fought the good fight, wrote letters, and forestalled the inevitable, but eventually we got kicked out. Brad and Anthony found us another space, at another high school with a deserted, rundown wood shop that we were allowed to convert for our needs. After hundreds of hours of volunteer cleanup and building work, mostly Brad's, the huge space was ours--but not for long. The room was so nice, that someone else claimed it, and again we received notice that we were to be  thrown to the curb.

Brad and Anthony worked hard, and found us another space at an adult school facility where we were told we now had a permanent home. We've been without a class all summer and fall, and looked forward to moving in and starting class again in January. We were all waiting to unpack the boxes and make this new place our home.

Today, we got the crushing news that this is not to happen. Budgetary cuts, other priorities, whatever. The needs of our adult art community are put aside and our community of jewelers and artists, old and young, is no more. I believe in miracles, but it's getting harder to be positive. Tools rust in storage, joints rust with disuse. We've run out of ideas. However, the Phoenix always rises, so we must continue to hope, and perhaps find a place to be reborn.

Overly dramatic, you ask? No, this was a very special community, cherished by many and certainly not to be forgotten easily. If anyone has any ideas, speak up. Until then, let's keep in touch and keep positive.


  1. I read Brad's post this afternoon and am just so sad! Although I haven;t attended for years, the fantastic, well stocked, welcoming and generous jewelry studio space at Venice High was always my idea of Nirvana. I always hoped to be able to study with Anthony and Brad again.

    I learned so much in my 4 or 5 semesters there. And met some long lasting friends. The author of this blog included. I'm so glad to have met you Miss Ruth! I'm keeping my fingers crossed for the Phoenix. And hope that Brad and Anthony will find another venue that will let their lights shine bright.

    Lora ~

  2. Hell no that isn't overly dramatic...this is the one course in the LA Adult School that didn't just break even - it makes money for a district that is always crying about lack of funding!!!

    It is Ridiculous!


  3. We need to figure out a way to fund the remodels and move - and probably storage fees for the equipment.

  4. i am with robyn, lets figure it out! this is not the end. thanks ruth for writing such inspiring post!
    i also, remember making several trips to bourget to get supplies for my sister and taking my dad along because he needed advice from anthony!
    see you soon.