Saturday, October 3, 2009

William Holland School of Lapidary Arts

It’s taken me three weeks to digest my experience at William Holland School of Lapidary Arts well enough to sit down and write about it. It was a singular experience, and one that I truly hope to repeat next year!

Kym had already been there a week to take a wire sculpting class when I arrived. We originally had planned to both take cabochons, but then she changed to chain making.

As a result, there were only two of us in the cabochons class, myself and a lady from south Georgia who was less serious about learning to cut cabochons than she was staying away from home for a while. She was only there about half the time, so I ended up having the instructor to myself a lot of the time.

My instructor was Gene Baxter, who’s been teaching cabochons at William Holland since the mid 1970s. One thing I really appreciated about him was that he didn’t have an agenda for the class; he let me identify my weaknesses and pick projects that would address those weaknesses. As I result I learned much more than I would have learned from a more structured course.

During the week, I cut a total of 20 cabs. A couple of them were experiments just to see if I could cut the particular material; I was able to cut them, but I won’t bother to try them again. Some of the others I cut in a freeform shape specifically because of the pattern in the material, because I’m trying to develop an “eye” for what makes a good freeform cab and what doesn’t.

One big thing I learned was not to fear experimenting. I’ve been so afraid of messing up nice pieces of material that I’ve avoided cutting them. However, I had one piece of “I dunno” rock break on me twice, and I just cut it smaller both times until I had a very nice—albeit small—cab out of it.

I was surprised at how much I already knew, but overwhelmed by how much there still is yet for me to learn. I’ve already made a “lapidary challenge list” of things I want to learn to do and I’m starting down that list one thing at a time.

I’m also enjoying teaching on Wednesday evenings. It’s fun to watch the beginners start to grasp what to do with a stone besides just look at it.

Just as an aside, the ocean vessel SAF Marine Oranje docked in New York on October 3. If all goes according to plan, my African material will arrive in Tampa on October 17, one week before our club show. I won’t have time to get many slabs cut, but if I can get the barrels unpacked I’ll at least have some rough there. I’ve also committed to the November Orlando show, the December Withlacoochee show, and the Tomoka show in January. Plus there are club tailgate days……

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