July 2, 2015

Instructor Spotlight - Joe Silvera

Joe Silvera is our resident metalsmithing expert. Joe is the author of Soldering Made Simple: Easy Techniques for Kitchen Table Jewelers, and Soldering Beyond the Basics. He has over 25 years of jewelry and teaching experience -- earning a BFA with honors in jewelry, working as a goldsmith, model making in the casting industry, and selling his own jewelry at shows and galleries. Joe brings a patient and humorous approach to his teaching style that make understanding jewelry processes and techniques fun. Joe and his wife Anat (a dear friend of ours) own and operate Silvera Jewelry School in Berkeley, California. We highly recommend heading over there for a class!

What inspires you?
I get inspired by nature, books on nature, and nature shows. I like to carve wax models, and I especially like figurative motifs like animals, flowers, etc. I love looking at Japanese sculpture and ink drawings for inspiration for poses and scenes. These artists would study their subject -- like waves cresting and crashing -- and then render them in ink, wood blocks, sculpture. They would learn the nature of the subject. What, for example, is the essence of a wave? And then translate that not realistically, but in color, line, and form, in a way that is more like poetry than photo-realism. That’s what I strive for in my jewelry.

What is your favorite technique and medium these days?
Lost wax casting. I love love love carving wax models. Theres a freedom of form and expression that isnt limited by soldering, joining, or fabrication.

Casting by Joe
What is your favorite color?
Blue. No yellow! Ahhhhhhhhh! Sorry, you have to be a Monty Python fan to get that one. But seriously, my favorite color is silver, no gold - argghhhh!

What are you up to lately (either jewelry or personal hobbies)?
Teaching takes up a lot of my time and creativity; designing classes and lesson plans to convey traditional jewelry techniques. But in my free time, when I have it, I like to saddle up the dogs and go for a walk. There are lots of little hidden pockets of nature in the East Bay, and its nice to explore those with my four-footed friends.

How have you seen our industry change in the last 5 years?
Being a teacher, I work a lot with students, and most students are women. That was true when I was getting my jewelry degree, oh, 25 years ago! The jewelry industry seems to finally be making tools for women -- hey, theyve finally noticed that most of the students out there are ladies! So, we have the gorgeous Green Lion Saw Frame and Potter Saw Frame, and pink handles for the flex shaft, and more. Wubbers pliers, made for women and designed by a woman (Patti Bullard).

Any recent trends that speak to you?
In the area of sales, we’re at an interesting place in jewelry history, once again. What an up and down roller coaster for making it as a maker it has been: economic down turns, economic “recoveries," sky rocketing metal prices, the birth and betrayal of Etsy. (Let me adjust my cane and stroke my gray beard... ha!) Back in my day, you sold your jewelry at shows and festivals, and by introducing your line to galleries and stores, and on your website. In the early days of the wild, wild internet, selling jewelry online was strange and odd: “How do I know I like it? I can’t touch it on the web." One thing Etsy helped with was making a central place for makers to sell and helping to make the idea of buying handmade goods online just as secure and confident as brick and mortar transactions. I live around San Francisco, so speaking from that point of view, I can see good signs: houses selling again, people fixing up houses, students traveling on vacations. People are feeling a little better -- theyre not going nuts, but theyre feeling better about spending some money on good things. Since Etsy traded its handmade credo for shareholders and cheap imports, I think the time is right for a new venue for makers, somewhere other than Etsy. Where is that? I dont know. Do you know? Is it here yet? Maybe so. In the meantime, jewelers are back to the fundamentals: sell at shows, stores, and your website. Its going to be interesting to see how this pans out.

Have you incorporated your free Beaducation Online Classes into your website?
Yes! We have embedded our information videos -- butane torch safety, home setup for soldering, and polishing with power tools. They’re great resources for our students - and lots of fun! Our students really appreciate them.

Where are you teaching? Any gigs you would like us to plug?
Joe's studio class, "Basket Style Prong Setting"
Were teaching at our school, of course. Come see us! SilveraJewelrySchool.com/classes

Where can your students follow you? 
They can sign up for our email list at SilveraJewelrySchool.com/lists, follow us on Facebook, and I have a blog with some articles you might find interesting.

What else should our readers know about you?
Im awesome at Trivial Pursuit and unbeatable at dominoes, and a terrible, terrible dancer. But seriously, Anat and I are here at Silvera Jewelry School to help students learn jewelry. Weve got a calendar full of great classes, and our classes include all materials and use of tools. Weve got books, DVDs, and articles out there for aspiring jewelers: Soldering Made Simple, Soldering Beyond the Basics, and Enameling Made Easy; and Ive written articles for ArtJewelry Magazine. If you cant make it to a class at our school in Berkeley, books and DVDs are a great resource.

At Silvera Jewelry School, each student learns from their own fully stocked bench.

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