The Woes and Joys of Being an Intermediate


A pendant I made for my stepmom.

About a year and a half ago I started a journey of becoming a metalsmith I had done creative beading and wire wrapping for many years, but up to that point never ventured into working with metal and torches. The torch sort of scared me and I wasn’t sure I had the imagination to take a sheet of metal and make something lovely. However, I thought maybe I could just start at home with some tools and see what happened. When I told my daughter my thoughts she said, “Mom! You have to take a class” in only the tone a 21 year old can muster. She then went, bless her heart, to find a local class, sign me up and pay for it (with the help of her grandmother). Next thing I know, I am in Karen Christians’* Jewelry 1 class.

I was still scared of the torch, but Karen (the great teacher she is) knew this about many beginners and taught us right off how to safely use it (and it wasn’t that bad). I learned a ton in that class – how to pierce metal (saw), how to form metal with hammers, how to texture metal with the rolling mill, how to solder, how to set a cabochon, how to rivet, how to use the Flexshaft – the list goes on. I have taken two other classes and now would call myself an intermediate metalsmith.


Reliquary I made in memory of Peter Marvit

Being an intermediate at any thing has its frustrations. What this means in this case is that I spend a lot of time redoing things. I know what I am supposed to do and usually how to do it, but it doesn’t always operationalize very well. However, if I allow myself the perspective that I am on a learning journey and am not a professional (0r even close) then I am not as frustrated. Sure, it is a drag to have to redo stuff, but most of the time I am able to see what I am learning from my mistakes. This is valuable to me, both as a metalsmith, as well as a person.

How I face learning something new says a lot about how I face life. If I refuse to learn new things, perhaps citing the erroneous statement that “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks,” then I am stagnant. I say that I may be “old” (although that is relative) but I am not done growing and learning. I could also get completely frustrated with my state of intermediateness and give up or at least make myself miserable with frustration and self-condemnation. I choose to do neither of these things.

As a teacher and a student, I know learning keeps one alive and sharp. It also makes life so much more interesting. I have never been one to suffer boredom well. There is really no excuse for it. The world is wide and there is so much to learn. However, along the way, you have to be ready to go over the hump of being an intermediate. I accept this challenge.

*Karen Christians has a studio in Lowell, MA and gives private lessons. She is a fabulous teacher. (


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4 Responses to The Woes and Joys of Being an Intermediate

  1. Sarah says:

    I love reading your thoughts. Congrats on taking a risk, beautiful work

  2. Luisa Paster says:

    Your work is beautiful. You are such a creative person. I admire your skills and your art.

  3. catherine w says:

    Great post and true words indeed! Being an intermediate at anything is very hard for me, too. It means that the beginner thrill (and the beginner steep part of the learning curve) are past. Now you’re in the middle– expected to know some things but now aware of how much there is remaining to learn. Your metal pieces are lovely and creative and definitely reflect that you are NOT an intermediate when it comes to artistic sensibilities and design. Your long-time expertise is that shows through. Looking forward to reading and hearing more about this journey.

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