News from Boxes and Lockets Workshop at Arrowmont

This has been a mind-spinning week of wonderfulness, and it’s only Wednesday. Whoops, it’s Thursday now! The hours keep dripping away. I’ve been in class or in open studio for, oh, I guess about 45 hours so this week. Yeah. And you know what? I couldn’t be happier. I am learning from a master – John Cogswell – here at the Arrowmont School in Gatlinburg, Tennessee.

Mr. Cogswell is a consummate jewelry and metal artist, instructor, illustrator, author, and showman. His perpetually sold-out classes are extremely well organized, rich with information, and just plain fun. He teaches at State University of New York (SUNY) at New Paltz,  and is taking his spring break by doing what, what’s that? Yep, teaching again – at Arrowmont.

Class is a real treat for me and about 13 other lucky participants. We are learning how to make boxes and lockets – a set of difficult techniques for any jewelry maker or metalsmith.  Each morning begins with John standing on a chair in front of a huge chalkboard, writing copious notes peppered with brilliant technical illustrations. We students groan as we get our pencils sharpened for another lengthy note taking and illustration-copying session – no handouts allowed!

But it’s all in good fun, and the fun is just beginning. Every day brings literally dozens of new techniques to learn, interspersed with tall tales, jokes, and sweet family memories. Learning how to score a perfectly straight and true line on a slippery smooth sheet of metal is just as hard as it sounds. Metal must be scored several times just to make a basic fold for the wall of a metal box. That is only one technique of many, and an easy-ish one at that. But John’s instructions are patient and thorough, and he imbues the space with possibility. Each student is infected with the desire to do their best. For John and also for themselves. This is the hallmark of a truly gifted teacher.

Lest I overwhelm you with additional technical box-building details, I shall post a few pics instead.  They are taken as the work sits atop my workbench. You can see a portion of my notes and sketches from those morning note-taking marathons. At this point, I’m a little behind on my box but am hoping to make up some time tomorrow. The possibility for wonderfulness exists there. Or maybe tomorrow is today….

Nancy's Benchtop
Benchtop Photo
Benchtop Photo #2
Benchtop Photo #2

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