Owner and Creative Director Courtney Gray said experienced jewelers can use studio space and take classes, but the school also invites beginners to take classes and work with experts.
"I love the permanence of working in both steel and [metals such as] gold and silver. Once you make it, its there, and its solid," she said.
The school is preparing to open Creative Side Metalworks, its metal smithing and welding division, at a 1,225-square-foot Thornton Road Studios suite at 2309 Thornton Road in May.
Gray, from Houston, said she originally wanted to be a welder.
"I decided at [age] 17 or 18 that I was no longer going to work customer service in the bakery at Whole Foods, that I was going to learn how to work with my hands," she said. "I approached the guys who were renovating the Whole Foods at the time and asked them for a job."
She started hanging drywall, renovating and working with sheet metal.
"My stepfather jokingly came to me one day and [said], 'We'll send you to welding school,' you know, and it was a joke," she said. "I went back to him about six months later, and I said, Really?"
She took classes in Houston and at Austin Community College. Years later she became a casting technician, started working on side projects and began making custom jewelry in a home studio. She studied welding technology in Germany.
"It was at the bench that I learned. I didn't go to school for jewelry; I went to school for metals and welding," she said.
Gray opened her doors to other artists in 2006, launching Creative Side, which moved Dec. 1, 2013, into its current location. The business attracts locals, international jewelers and college students with one-day classes, two-day workshops and weeks-long classes, Gray said.
Creative Side aims to offer a nurturing and cooperative space, Assistant Director Celina Zisman said.
Upcoming class offerings
- March 14-15, 10 a.m.-6 p.m.: Jewelry 101: Bezel + Tab Setting with Shalena White. In this weekend course attendees can learn about core techniques and the tools and equipment of a metalsmithing studio.
- March 17-April 9, 6-10 p.m.: Jewelry 101: Fabrication + Soldering evening classes with Deanna Pastel.For four weeks on Tuesdays and Thursdays students focus on fabrication techniques, including soldering and stone setting. Beginners are invited.
- March 21-22, 10 a.m.-6 p.m.: 201: Intermediate Projects with Shalena White. Experienced jewelers and students who have taken Introduction to Jewelry 101 can practice more challenging methods of setting stones and soldering.
- March 30-May 8: 2015 Argentium Series, Led by Ronda Coryell, the six-week immersion course will educate jewelers on how to work with argentium, a new sterling alloy in the industry.
Class prices range from $99-$970, Assistant Director Celina Zisman said, noting students keep their projects.
People can come to Creative Side Jewelry Academy of Austin and make their own wedding rings as part of the studios Forged Together one-day workshops, owner and Creative Director Courtney Gray said.
Couples design bands, choose metals gold, platinum, palladium or silver and make the rings. Fees vary. More information is available at www.forgedtogether.com.