There are times when partnerships bring out the best in everyone involved. A good example is when Central New Mexico Community College asked instructor Harley McDaniel a question and an innovative program was born. What they asked was if he could start any program he wanted, what would it be. What they got was the Bench Jewelry Certificate of Achievement. The program is the culmination of McDaniel’s beliefs in practical learning and CNM’s openness to programs that offer real-life skills. And the classes are offering Albuquerque residents a chance at some very practical training to combine with their own artistic creativity.
Harley McDaniel grew up in Ohio. He stumbled into jewelry making while doing his undergraduate work at Bowling Green University. The process of making jewelry had him hooked, but academics required more than jewelry classes. Harley estimates he took about eight actual jewelry classes to get his Fine Arts degree. It was a lack of practical application he would remember later. He went on to graduate school, staying in the field of jewelry and precious metals. When he finished, he looked for a way to share the knowledge he’d gained.
Understanding that “you have to teach wherever the jobs are”, Harley found a teaching position in Las Cruces at a charter arts high school. Later he taught in El Paso, Chicago and a college in Minnesota. He landed at CNM about ten years ago and it was there that he got asked the question that would open up his skills to a wider group of students. Harley’s brainchild was a program that offered the craft of jewelry making through practical classes with a focus on developing techniques. He wrote the curriculum, designing it to be mainly hands-on learning.
What he didn’t have, at first, was the facility and equipment students would need to learn these skills. But the advent of CNM Ingenuity, the enterprise arm of CNM, and its FUSE Makerspace provided the solution. FUSE had the equipment and the space to provide Harley’s students with all they needed. Today the Jewelry program is located on the second floor of the FUSE building, and students are offered a membership with their tuition. This membership allows them access to state-of-the-art equipment such as plasma, laser, and vinyl cutters and 3D printers along with workspace. With the access to FUSE, in a matter of three months, the program went from having no facility to the start of their first class.
Today there are five classes in the Bench Jewelry program. Although students can add other classes to complete their AA, the jewelry classes focus on developing skills and techniques needed to create pieces worthy of sale. What this approach offers is a way to focus on the skills a jeweler needs. Before, if a student wanted to learn the techniques, they either had to find a jeweler willing to teach them or go through a Fine Arts program that focused more on academics than a practical application of the skills.
The program is open to everyone as well, from beginner to someone who already works as a jeweler. McDaniel wanted the program to be a “low risk” option. He says, “I want everybody to give it a shot.” The low cost of tuition at CNM and the fact that the initial classes provide much of the materials needed so there is not an enormous extra cost make it appealing to those who may want to try their hand at making jewelry. The hope is that the program will grow, and students may find their niche in the art world through the skills they acquire.
Another option for those looking to explore Jewelry classes is to take a FUSE Makerspace Jewelry workshop. This option is great for those who are interested in learning to make jewelry or want access to the Jewelry Studio without having to enroll in an academic program. For more information on FUSE workshops go to: https://fusemakerspace.org/workshops.
For more information on the Bench Jewelry Certificate program at CNM, you can check out their page here.