If you aren't familiar with Richard Salley, run - do not walk - over to his website to check out his amazing work. There is a reason his students call themselves Salley Stalkers - he is not only an incredibly talented artist and photographer, but he is also a genuinely nice guy and a superb and encouraging instructor. I've written before about the blessing of a good teacher - there's a special kind of alchemy that happens when we are challenged and stretched and pressed to work completely outside the boundaries we normally set for ourselves. It's a kind of "lift," when our progress and growth is amplified and we leap forward into a whole new kind of understanding and ability in our work. It's exciting and scary and hugely satisfying.
For the last year, Richard has co-taught with the amazing Jessica Jordan, aka Rosy Revolver, who joined him with us at Wired. I confess that I didn't know anything about Jess before this workshop, but I urge you not to make the same mistake. She is something special, and so is her writing, and so is her work.
Fourteen of us had the great pleasure of attending the Three Ring Circus with Richard and Jess, and it was a terrific experience. Day 1 was spinner rings, and we did three in one day. Spinner rings may not seem like a big deal, but these were thick, heavy stock (which I'd never worked with before) and introduced us to a new (to me) approach to soldering that completely changed the way I'll approach it forever more. It was a chance to work in a new way with all three of the metals I am most likely to use in my own work (sterling, copper and brass) and I was delighted with the outcome.
Day two was a southwestern-style ring, all in sterling. Both Richard and Jess work extensively in this style, and it was exciting and more than a little scary to give it a try. We did a lot of sawing and I was enormously grateful for the experience I had last year with Thomas Mann and the time since to practice and get better at it. If I'm being completely honest, this was the project I was fairly certain I would be unable to complete - or at least complete well. Bezels and sterling silver granulated balls and close-quarters sawing.... well, it just didn't seem like a promising combination.
However, Richard and Jess are phenomenal teachers.
I have worn this ring every day since I made it - mostly because I can't believe I made it.
Day 3 was the ring that was the reason I took the class in the first place: an enameled copper ring with a tube-set CZ. Richard is well-known for this particular style.
The combination of a raised bezel setting with a tube setting and an enameled "stone" was something I was chomping at the bit to try. Enameling is one of my all-time favorite things!
This was the ring I signed up to make - and I went big. Actually, I went HUGE.
I think the thing I loved most about this workshop - apart from Richard and Jess themselves, because they were wonderful - was the huge number of new tips and techniques that were folded in to the weekend. We weren't taught one thing - we were taught all the things. And while there's a moment when you feel like your head is going to explode, there's also that moment when you feel the "lift," when you see all the ways you can use all these things in the work you set your hand to every day, when your entire workflow changes because suddenly you have a better skill set, a sharper perspective.
I've said it before, and I'll say it again: if you ever get an opportunity to take an in-depth workshop with someone whose work you aspire to, grab it. Grab it even if you feel you aren't quite ready, that some of it might be over your head. You might be right - but the things you learn will be worth stretching that far.
And I'm looking forward to the next workshop with Richard and Jess.
Until next time!