MJSA. Professional excellence in jewelry making and design.

Tucson, Arizona

At the Bench and Beyond

MJSA seminars at AGTA GemFair Tucson

Winter gem and bead shows are to Tucson what the swallows are to Capistrano. Every year, the shows return to the Arizona desert, drawing everyone from rock hounds to professional jewelers seeking the best in gems, beads, and related supplies and equipment. Many also want information to help turn those gems and beads into quality jewelry—which is where MJSA’s At the Bench & Beyond seminars come in.

The annual series will return to AGTA GemFair Tucson in the Tucson Convention Center, Jan. 30 to Feb 2. Two sessions will take place daily in the Tools, Technology, and Supplies/Ballroom, featuring some of the industry’s best-known experts in jewelry making and design. On the following pages you’ll find the full schedule. For more information go to MJSA.org or call 1-800-444-MJSA (6572). For information about AGTA GemFair Tucson, visit AGTA.org. MJSA thanks the Bench and Tool Sponsor, Stuller Inc. (stuller.com), for its support of these sessions.


Jan. 30

Nanz AalundAchieving Shop Excellence: Training Strategies for Apprentices & New Hires

Presenter: Nanz Aalund

11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Whether you need an apprentice, a new sales associate, or a staff for your office, this seminar offers interviewing and training methods that have proven effective for businesses ranging from small shops to Fortune 500 companies. Attendees will learn the finer points of finding and choosing candidates with the right mix of skill and passion for their work, and of using proven skill-training strategies to bring out their best. Topics will include group skill training and how to develop objectives and incremental goals that enable business owners to mark the progress of an apprentice or any new hire. Based on research compiled for the latest MJSA Press book, A Jeweler’s Guide to Apprenticeships, copies of which will be available for sale at a special seminar discount.

Get SMART: Customizing Workforce Training

Presenter: Nanz Aalund

3:30 to 5 p.m. Discover how to organize your workspace and business to get the maximum benefit from worksite training. "SMART" training objectives (which are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-bound) allow you to create measurable goals to track the new skills your staff is acquiring. This session will show how you can employ SMART methods in everything from safety training in the shop to security protocol for sales floor staff. Expand your current staff’s skills, train new staff, and benefit from customizing your workforce development. The session is based on the latest MJSA Press book, A Jeweler’s Guide to Apprenticeships, copies of which will be available for sale at a special seminar discount.

Nanz Aalund is an educator, an award-winning jewelry artist, and the author of A Jeweler’s Guide to Apprenticeships: How to Create Effective Programs (MJSA Press, 2017). She has taught jewelry and metals classes at the University of Washington (under Mary Lee Hu) and at the Art Institute of Seattle; served as a designer and consultant for Nordstrom, Rudolf Erdel, Neiman Marcus, and Tiffany & Co.; and was associate editor for Art Jewelry magazine.


Jan. 31

Sam PataniaHand Filing 1: Basic Techniques & Textures

Presenter: Sam Patania

11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Beyond smoothing and shaping metal, hand files offer multiple opportunities to create interesting patterns in your jewelry. This session features best practices for filing metal, including choosing the correct file for the task at hand, measuring properly, and cutting precisely to achieve beautiful finishes and textures. Sam Patania appears in the latest MJSA Press book, A Jeweler’s Guide to Apprenticeships, copies of which will be available for sale at a special seminar discount.

Hand Filing 2: Creating Filed Cuff Bracelets

Presenter: Sam Patania

3:30 to 5 p.m. This session applies the techniques in Hand Filing 1 to the creation of a cuff bracelet with a scallop-shell design. In this step-by-step demonstration, Sam Patania will show how to turn a square wire into a finished bracelet featuring masterfully wrought textures. This project appears in the latest MJSA Press book, A Jeweler’s Guide to Apprenticeships, copies of which will be available for sale at a special seminar discount.

A third-generation artisan, Sam Patania is the owner of Patania Sterling Silver Originals in Tucson, Arizona. He started his career as a teenager in his father’s shop, which was renowned for sterling silver originals, and he has gone on to continue and expand that legacy. One of his pieces is currently in the permanent jewelry collection of the Renwick Gallery in Washington, DC. 


Feb. 1

Charles Lewton BrainFoldforming: Shaping Metal Naturally

Presenter: Charles Lewton-Brain

11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. More than 20 years ago, Charles Lewton-Brain invented foldforming, a radical new way to shape metal sheet. Through the use of hand tools, he was able to exploit metal’s natural plasticity, ductility, and elasticity to achieve unique, three-dimensional forms. In this session he will demonstrate foldforming’s time-saving techniques, which can replace or augment traditional metalsmithing procedures, and how they can be used achieve designs that are both innovative and inspiring.

Modifying Hand Tools for Fun and Profit

Presenter: Charles Lewton-Brain

3:30 to 5 p.m. It’s no secret that bench jewelers love their tools—the more tools, the better. It’s also no secret that they like to modify their tools—maybe to create a cut not easily achieved with a stock tool, to access unusually deep recesses, or simply to make the tool easier to hold and handle. Whatever the reason, a standard bench tool rarely stays that way. In this session, Charles Lewton-Brain offers some of his favorite modifications. Learn how to expand your tools’ capabilities.

Charles Lewton-Brain is an associate  professor and the former head of the jewelry and metals program at Alberta College of Art and Design in Alberta, Canada. He is the author of Foldforming (Brynmorgen Press, 2008), among other books, the consulting editor for the MJSA Press book A Jeweler’s Guide to Apprenticeships by Nanz Aalund. His honors include the Saidye Bronfman Award, Canada’s highest prize for fine craft.


Feb. 2

Gary DawsonTool Talk: Finding the Hidden Possibilities in Tools & Technologies

Presenter: Gary Dawson

11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Whether you work with traditional bench tools or with newer technologies, such as lasers and 3-D printers, are you getting the most out of them? This session will offer real-world anecdotes and examples, as well as a few demos, to show you how to rethink your tools (even those not designed for jewelers) to find inspiration and expand your capabilities.

Custom Confidential: Getting Personal with Customers

Presenter: Gary Dawson

3:30 to 5 p.m. Do you do custom work? Would you like to do custom work? Gary Dawson will lead an interactive discussion on the best ways to work with customers to create personalized jewelry designs that make a statement. Topics will include explaining custom design to customers (based on the categories created by MJSA’s Council of Custom Jewelers), managing custom expectations, creating workflow and pricing strategies that work, and ultimately delivering on your promises to the customer.

Gary Dawson is a designer/goldsmith and the owner of Gary Dawson Jewelry Design (garydawsonjewelrydesign.com), a studio specializing in custom design that was named a "Best of the Best" by Instore Magazine. A specialist in digital design technologies, he is a frequent contributor to both MJSA Journal and MJSA Custom Jeweler. He has presented at numerous industry events and conferences, including the renowned Santa Fe Symposium on Jewelry Manufacturing Technology, AGTA GemFair Tucson, and MJSA Expo in New York City.


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