Metalsmithing Schools & Courses

Learn about bachelor's degree programs in metalsmithing. This article presents information on typical coursework, admission requirements, career options, and how to choose the right metalsmithing program for you.

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Overview of Bachelor's Degree Programs in Metalsmithing

Many colleges and universities with larger studio art departments offer Bachelor of Fine Arts degrees in metalsmithing, sometimes in combination with jewelry making. Metalsmithing programs are designed to help students refine their personal creativity while developing and honing communication, critical thinking, and technical skills. This could be the program for you if you are interested in a career as a studio or retail artist, creating functional, wearable or sculptural metal art. This article provides more detail about this program, including the coursework you can expect, admission requirements, and career options to consider.

Admission Requirements for Metalsmithing Programs

Metalsmithing programs likely require you to complete a standard, written application for the school, and submit SAT or ACT scores. In addition, you will need to demonstrate your creative and technical abilities and potential. This is often achieved by submitting a portfolio of past work with your application. Some schools might also ask you to write creative or personal-motivation essays, or even an artistic project with a particular prompt. While admission committees do like to gauge your skill level, these requirements are more often about assessing your ability to think through creative processes and express yourself.

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Coursework for Metalsmithing Programs

A broad foundation in general fine arts topics will prepare students to narrow their focus to metalsmithing. Some of the typical courses for a metalsmithing program include:

Art History

This course is an overview of major artistic developments and achievements. It could be specific to a discipline, time period, or geographical location, or it could be a much broader look at art in relation to all of human history. The purpose of this course is to help students conceptualize their own art within time and place, and to learn about forms, techniques and media that may serve as inspiration. It also emphasizes the impact of art on culture, using many specific movements and periods as examples.

Introduction to Metalsmithing

This may seem obvious, but metalsmithing programs are organized in a way that first introduce simple concepts in metals and jewelry, and move on to progressively more difficult and complex practices. Learning how to do various metalsmithing techniques happens in a studio. At the introductory level it includes basic skills such as forging of metal substances, soldering and sawing, and surface work like embossing.

Advanced Metalsmithing

As you become more familiar with the techniques and processes of metalsmithing, you'll move on to more difficult skills. These include more advanced forging and forming, raising, and enameling, among others. In the final years of the program, you can also expect to spend a considerable amount of time in studio classes working to develop your individual artistic direction. This is achieved by putting an emphasis on personal research and expression, meeting with professors and professionals, and through group critiquing.

Digital Design

Every aspect of our world is becoming more digital, and that is true in metalsmithing and jewelry making as well. This course examines the scope and influence of digital fabrication in art, and how it might be useful to students and professionals. It also introduces students to the technical aspects of digital design, such as how to use software programs and convert physical work to digital models. The course might also provide exposure to different technologies like 3D printing or laser cutting.

Professional Practices

It is important for artists to know how to present themselves and sell their work. This course covers the development of a portfolio and planning for future projects. It also encompasses technical presentation skills like photographing completed work, and marketing skills like making connections with galleries, networking, and using social media as a resource for design and production. This course might be in the format of interactive lectures with professional guest speakers or include studio/lab time to practice skills.

Final Portfolio and Exhibition

A capstone experience is a key component of metalsmithing programs. It is designed as a 'real-life' exercise to prepare students for a career as an artist. This course involves conceptualizing and designing a project from start to finish and presenting the work in a portfolio and/or exhibition. Students achieve this with the help of supervisors or faculty advisors.

How to Choose a Program in Metalsmithing

The personal projects of faculty and the types of machinery and tools available in a school's metalsmithing studio are both great indications of the particular focus of a school. It might be functional design or sculpture or work with a specific material. If you know you have a well-defined interest within metalsmithing, be sure to research these factors to pick a school that meets your needs. While all metalsmithing programs will include studio work and professional development, you should also look at opportunities to do internships with local industries or organizations, or display your work in public galleries or exhibitions. These will help build real-world skills that will make you better prepared, and more competitive, as you enter the job market.

Career Options with a Degree in Metalsmithing

Jewelry making is one of the many trades you learn in a metalsmithing program, and it is a good career option upon graduation. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported a median annual salary of $38,200 for jewelers and precious stone and metal workers. The job growth rate is expected to decline by 3% between 2016 and 2026, but jobs are available to replace those retiring and in niche or custom markets. Other careers to consider include:

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