These programs typically require many hands-on classes and studio sessions where students can learn techniques for hammering, welding, soldering and enameling metal pieces. Bachelor's degree students may need to participate in an exhibition before graduating. Graduate students must complete several studio courses and either participate in an exhibition or complete a thesis. Those who want to learn a few metal art skills for personal enrichment can enroll in courses at community colleges or vocational schools.
Bachelor of Fine Arts in Metal Art
A BFA degree in metal art can be offered in combination with jewelry or as part of a broader program focused on 3-D design. Undergraduate students can participate in lectures, discussions, studio workshops and collaborations with other artists. Through studio classes, students might get experience with laser welders, milling machines, wax-printing machines, copper plating tanks, metal lathes, computer design programs and rapid prototyping machines. During studio hours, students employ and perfect methods like hammering, forging, welding, soldering, etching, riveting, seam construction, bonded sand casting, ceramic shell casting, wax casting, enameling, foiling, anodizing, plating, surface treatment, patination and stone setting.
Students can work with various types of metal, such as copper, bronze, iron, aluminum, silver, gold and platinum. They may also incorporate other materials into projects, such as hollowware, textiles, beads, gems and stones. Students combine sets of materials and techniques to create original pieces such as glasses frames, watches, rings, necklaces, bracelets, home goods or sculptures. In order to graduate, a student must usually create an exhibition that demonstrates particular skills, originality and creativity.
Those who apply to a BFA program must have earned a high school diploma or GED. A portfolio of artwork completed in prior high school or college courses may be required. In addition, completion of basic art courses, such as drawing and design, are often necessary before students can sign up for program specific metal art and jewelry courses.
Studio courses are a significant component of the training, and students will study artistic concepts in classroom settings. In addition to art history and fabrication, some other courses that students might take are:
- Metal casting
- Stone cutting and setting
- Metals and color
- Mixed media jewelry
Master of Fine Arts in Metal Art
A Master of Fine Arts (MFA) degree program can be offered in metal art and jewelry or in studio art where students can choose their own concentration options. Students can refine their skills and develop their individual style by experimenting with new materials and innovating craft-making methods. They can also become competent in criticizing artwork according to historical and contemporary trends, theories, personal style and concepts.
Graduate students may be required to research topics like historical and modern ethnic productions of metalwork and jewelry, professional collections and popular consumption trends. They may incorporate such elements in their own artwork and must integrate what they have learned in a final exhibit project and critical analysis thesis.
Applicants to a master's degree program are typically required to submit a portfolio of work and have completed a bachelor's degree in a related area. Significant studio experience may be an important factor in the admissions process. A portfolio that contains numerous examples of prior metal art and jewelry creations, likely from BFA coursework, is a vital portion of the application.
The MFA may include few courses like visual communications or presentation techniques to enhance students' abilities to work with art institutions, companies and the public. Often, the majority of the coursework is directly focused on metals and jewelry coursework and studio time, which may include classes such as:
- Contemporary metal art
- Concept development
- Art criticism
- Metals and textiles
- Signature artwork
Popular Career Options
Graduates of a BFA degree program have several career options. Metal and jewelry art is incorporated into a variety of items in daily life, so artists can design and create for a range of individual clients and businesses. Some jobs that graduates can attain are:
- Product designer
- Display designer
- Lapidary artist
- Casting specialist
- Jewelry repairer
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
Graduates of fine arts degree programs in metal art and jewelry can find several types of jobs depending on their personal interests and niche specializations. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported in 2018 that fine artists, which includes metal and jewelry artists, earned a median annual salary of $49,380 (www.bls.gov). Employment was predicted to increase 1% between 2018 and 2028, but fine artists still usually work more than one job.
If you are interested in learning how to make art with metal, there are both BFA and MFA programs that allow students to learn about metal art and develop their skills through lecture-based coursework and studio experience.