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  • Writer's pictureHolly Gage

Creating Zen in the Jewelry Classroom

I've always tried to create a Zenful experience during my jewelry classes. Anything can happen when students tap into themselves fully and immerse themselves in the process, letting their soul take over. Using their artistic voice to bring their hands and mind together in creative expression can be very powerful. People thrive in an environment which is peaceful, safe and inviting, and so I try to make it a point to provide tiny bits of Zen in the classroom whether it is my live online classes or workshops in the studio.

Providing a fun easy-going environment starts with the attitude of the instructor.

Honestly speaking, I get nervous teaching just before a class session. Even after 17+ years of traveling and teaching, I still want to make sure everything is just so. From my experience, if you are more relaxed, your students will be too. So, taking 15 minutes to find a quiet space to mentally prepare for your students' arrival by first reviewing the information you will be presenting, and then calming your mind, goes a long way.

It's also important to be approachable and available because there is nothing worse than being afraid to ask your instructor questions. I've learned to read the signs of technical frustration including the silence and heavy sighs, so I let the students know suffering in silence is unnecessary and this is why I am here.

Establishing a relaxed gentle tone for your class.

  • Give a warm welcome to your students and during introductions, give the students an opportunity to tell a bit about themselves. I often jokingly say, “In fifty words or less, tell us your name, where you are from, your experience, as well as what you hope to get from the class.” Students never stick to the 50 words, but that's OK, they provide a telling nugget of information where they briefly talk about themselves, discuss what they expect from the classroom experience, and sometimes they let you in on their needs as a student, which makes both their experience and yours richer.


I always have a diffuser in my classroom. I add Magnify your Purpose, by Young Living, which helps students to concentrate. I am not an essential oil guru, but I was introduced to this particular oil by a friend and Metal Clay instructor, Silvie Waals, who specializes in oils and SOMA aromatherapy. I’ve witnessed the result of improved focus throughout the classroom, and so I never leave home without it.


Play calming background music, when appropriate. I often put on Zen Garden at the beginning of the day and take suggestions from the students for more energetic music in the afternoon when energy wanes.

Leave controversial topics such as politics or religion at the door for a friendly, open atmosphere where everyone feels included.

Student performance at it's best.

Be aware students come to class enthusiastic about creating, but they often come with performance anxiety, as well as their own personal life issues. These things can get in the way of the creative process, so set doable class expectations.

Give your students permission to have a creative day to their self by requesting they silence their phones. This gives them a chance to put work and family life aside, so they can be their best creative self.

Set student expectations to a realistic level. Some students put creative pressure to perform as a professional "artist" in a class setting, however, they should be in a "learning" mode allowing for mistakes, imperfections, and the natural learning curve of new skills without unrealistic expectations of perfection.

Have a place for people to rest and take a break. Sometimes a breather is often helpful during a time of technical difficulty.

Be a facilitator for bonding among the students.

Many artists are often in their studio alone – they come to workshops not only to learn a new technique, but to enjoy the comradery of other artists and to connect with new friends. I like to encourage them to friend each other on social media and get together on playdates. Even if they are far away they can join Skype, FaceTime or a number of free sharing platforms where they can chat and work on projects.

A nice long hour lunch is a good time to swap contact information, chat, decompress and get to know one another. I have the advantage of having a chef for a husband, so Chris has been known to provide a gourmet lunch with a decadent dessert during my classes, which is always a great way to connect around the table.

I just love to teach, so I find these little touches brought to class make for a more enjoyable and productive experience for the students and myself included.

New Live, and Interactive Online Classes for Fall

(Click the class name for more details)

Romancing the Stone: Reverse Stone Setting (pic 1)

Tuesday, October 1 - November 5, 2019 • 1:00 - 2:00 pm EST

Bezel Setting Like a Pro (pic 2)

Thursdays, October 3, 10, 17, 24 • 6:00 - 7:00 pm EST

Design to Cast Line (pic 3)

Thurs., Oct. 10 - 31 • 6:00 -7:00 pm EST

Designing with Intention 
Monday, Oct. 21 – Dec. 16 (skip Dec. 23) Dec. 30 • 6:00 pm - 7:30 pm EST

Tropical Flora Lei Brooch (pic 4)

Mondays, Nov. 18 - Dec 16 (skip 23) Dec. 30 - Jan. 13 • 1:00 - 2:00 pm EST


Coming next week a workshop waiting for YOU!

Guest Master Instructor Michael Marx visiting Gage Design Studio in Lancaster, PA

Fabulous Flora (pic 5) Thursday., September 12 and Friday, September 13 • 10:00 am - 5:00 pm

Making Faces (pic 6) Thursday., September 14 and Friday, September 15 • 10:00 am - 5:00 pm

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