Like a lot of first-year college students, Joe Silvera was having trouble finding himself. A fine arts major, he tried his hand at painting, sculpture, and even biomedical illustration, but nothing really clicked. Then, his roommate took a jewelry-making class and shared what he learned with Joe.
“I tried it and I was hooked,” said Joe. But soon he discovered he enjoyed teaching as much as jewelry-making. “In school, lots of students would leave all their work to the last minute. It was really easy to step in and show them how to finish things. That’s when I knew I had the bug. I loved passing on the craft and traditions.”
When Joe met his wife, Anat — an experienced instructor and enamel artist — she helped him see how teaching could be the core of a business. While continuing to make jewelry (Joe has 23 years experience in the craft), he and Anat taught together. Then Joe teamed with Kalmbach Publishing to explain one of the most challenging aspects of metalsmithing – soldering. His book, Soldering Made Simple: Easy Techniques for Kitchen Table Jewelers became the number one best-selling and most “wished-for” book in the Amazon jewelry and crafts category, and the first in his series of instructional books and DVDs. Today, Joe and Anat operate the Silvera Jewelry School in Berkeley, California, a place where professional and hobbyist jewelers can receive hands-on instruction in a variety of techniques and materials.
“I put a lot effort into transmitting skills in as many ways as possible because people have different learning styles,” he said. “We’re able to provide more than one view point,” said Anat. “There are different ‘right answers’ to problems, and that helps students see how they can be creative and add to the craft of jewelry, too.”
Israeli designer Yael Falk also looked for ways to share what she knew with others. “The idea that a design I developed on one side of the planet would be produced on the other side profoundly enchanted me,” she said. At first, she feared that sharing her patterns could hurt her handcraft business — who would buy finished items if they could make the same thing themselves? — but this fear proved to be unfounded. “The pattern sales actually gave a boost to my finished items. Some people purchased finished pieces of jewelry, the instructions on how to make them, and other items in my shop all in the same transaction.” Yael’s shop, Yoola, now offers a library of pdf tutorials and videos that teach her wire crochet technique for making wearables and home decor, including her signature pomegranates.
Beyond the business itself, the satisfaction of teaching can bring a new dimension to the experience of craft. “On a personal level, entering the educational business offers me the double satisfaction of a growing income and a glowing feeling of shared knowledge,” said Yael. “What I do is teach the melody and a few of my lyrics. From there I invite everyone to write their own songs.”
“It’s a labor of love,” added Joe. “The love of teaching made me hope it could be a business. And it turned out it could.”