Living in a city like Austin, with so much music and art around to enjoy, it’s no wonder we often feel an urge to tap into our creative side. Whether you already have a craft you dabble in or are looking for something new, you should consider the art of metalsmithing! Smithing is the craft of using metal to create items such as tools, kitchenware and jewelry, and is one of the oldest occupations. No wonder Smith is such a common last name.
Sounds like a difficult craft to try out, right? Wrong! Creative Side Jewelry Academy–and their latest expansion, Creative Side Metal Works–allows the average Austinite to tap into his or her creative side and learn how to forge, solder, melt and mold metal.
Located in a nondescript shopping mall in South Austin, Creative Side Jewelry Academy is one of the best-kept secrets in Austin, but local and international artisans have been flocking to Creative Side for almost 10 years. I recently took the Simple Series Earrings Class and spoke with owner Courtney Gray to learn what makes Creative Side so unique.
Inspiration Through Creation
Like many artists, Gray, a welder and metal sculptor, realized she needed a more sustainable income for her growing family. She started teaching mainly jewelry classes, first at Laguna Gloria and later out of her east side garage. From there, Creative Side Jewelry Academy grew organically.
Ten years later, it is one of the most respected schools in the nation. With the help of Ronda Coryell, Gray put together a team of local and international teachers that totals over 60 today. “Gaining access to this level of instruction is something that you can’t get at local schools or bead shops,” Gray shared.
And the business is continuing to grow. A second studio recently opened on Thorton Road, Creative Side Metal Works. Gray is excited to get back to her artistic roots with the opening of this studio which focuses on forging, metal casting and sculpting with steel for larger scale projects.
Creative Side Class Offerings
The classes offered at Creative Side Jewelry Academy and Metal Works are well-suited for everyone: one-time holiday gifters, hobbyists, Etsy artisans, kids, jewelers and teachers. What makes Creative Side Jewelry Academy unique is the ability to teach at an accelerated pace with an extremely high level of instruction. Ultimately, the classes are about having fun and being creative. However that looks for you, there is a class to match.
You can start with the Simple Series Classes which are one-time, four-hour classes on earrings, rings, bangles or basic blacksmithing. Or you can go right into the four-week Jewelry 101 course where you’ll make seven pieces. You can work your way up to the Jewelry 201 class where you focus on more complicated techniques, completing three projects in four weeks. From there, the sky’s the limit! You can take casting, filigree, chainmaille, chasing and repoussé, carving, argentium, blacksmithing, or you can even sign up for a marketing class for your growing jewelry business.
Probably one of the most unique classes offered is the Forge Together class, where soon-to-be husbands and wives can make wedding bands together.
But what makes Creative Side stand out from the crowd is their open studio and membership options. If you already have all the skills, but lack tools and/or space, you can rent a bench or drop-in during studio hours to work on your pieces.
My Experience With the Simple Earrings Class
Before stepping into the studio for my class, my only experience with jewelry-making was a Jo-Ann Fabric class I took 10+ years ago. So while I had some very basic knowledge, I learned more than I ever expected. Not only was it exciting to use new tools and learn new techniques such as soldering, but it reignited an old creative flame in me.
The class structure was laid-back and well-paced. The instructor, Shalena White, gave tutorials and taught new techniques while encouraging students to be creative with their designs. I loved the diversity of the students in attendance: one gentleman wanted to work his way up to building metal furniture and was there to learn the basics of metalsmithing. The only downfall was that I wished I had more time. The four hours just flew by!
Austin Charm With International Appeal
The a la carte-style course offerings are unlike anything else in Texas. They not only attract artists from around the city and state, but also from around the world. Students travel from near and far for the opportunity to learn from some of the best instructors at an accelerated pace. And while they do move at a quick pace, Creative Side instructors strive to nurture each student’s needs.
This international presence is also seen among the instructors. For example, every year Creative Side offers a chasing and repoussé technique class taught by Italian master Fabrizio Acquafresca, who comes from a long line of metalsmiths dating back to the 17th century. This is just one example of the exemplary quality of instruction.
Whether you want to focus on making jewelry or aspire to create large-scale pieces, Creative Side is the only place in the region that does what they do. So tap into your creative side and try your hand at manipulating metals. You never know when a new hobby could turn into a new career. And if you’re already in the business, check out the full-service memberships.
321 W. Ben White Blvd. (Creative Side Jewelry Academy) and 2311 Thorton Road Studio Q (Creative Side Metal Works) – Website
@jpino9 wants to know:
Have you ever made your own jewelry?
We always have unique content on the Austinot, and we love to give things away. You know, like CDs, event tickets and other cool stuff. We only send out our Best of the Austinot newsletter two times/month. It’s where we give you a recap of our best articles and give stuff away. Interested? Subscribe to Best of the Austinot here!