The Next Generation of Jewelers with Nanz Aalund
September 12, 2019
With the current generation of master craftspeople aging out of the jewelry industry, demand for professionally skilled workers is high. But a number of barriers stand in the way of developing an effective education-to-employment pipeline for prospective jewelers, including issues such as pay scale disparities, gender bias, a lack of on-the-job training, and misaligned expectations between the industry and educators.
Award-winning jewelry designer, goldsmith, author, and educator, Nanz Aalund has been spearheading a movement to raise awareness about these issues and to help develop the necessary training and apprenticeship programs to meet the industry’s growing needs. Currently the owner of Nanz Aalund Art Jewelry in Poulsbo, Washington, Aalund has had a far-ranging career: She’s taught jewelry and metals classes at the University of Washington and at the Art Institute of Seattle; served as a designer and consultant for Nordstrom, Rudolf Erdel, Neiman Marcus, and Tiffany & Co.; was associate editor for Art Jewelry magazine; and created her own series of DVDs on jewelry making. She is also the author of A Jeweler’s Guide to Apprenticeships, published by MJSA Press, and a member of MJSA’s Council of Custom Jewelers. In May 2019, she presented a paper at the Santa Fe Symposium conference, along with co-author and fellow jewelry artist and educator, Charles Lewton-Brain. Their paper, entitled “Jewelers: The Next Generation,” takes an in-depth look at the challenges of creating the practical hands-on professional training programs needed for the future.
In this episode, Aalund discusses her own path to becoming a jeweler and educator and identifies the existing obstacles and opportunities to ensure a steady flow of future qualified jewelers.
- 2:51 - Early inspiration and mentoring
- 5:27 - Her experience as an apprentice, working with gold
- 9:42 - Changes in training in recent years, current challenges to attracting younger jewelers
- 11:53 - The catalyst for writing A Jeweler’s Guide To Apprenticeships, misconceptions about the industry
- 14:00 - Decline of classes and trade programs focused on hand-skills
- 16:18 - The lack of communication between the industry and educators
- 18:55 - The importance of educating jewelry consumers
- 22:00 - Recent feedback from jewelers about the book, apprenticeship examples
- 29:35 - The surprising data that came out of the Santa Fe paper research,
- 31:47 - The current barriers to building an effective education-to-employment pipeline
- 37:22 - Challenges for students, educators and shop owners to support effective, affordable training programs
- 41:43 - The Dunning-Kruger Effect and what it means to the jewelry industry
- 44:25 - FIT’s approach to to focusing on higher paying skills (CAD/CAM, additive manufacturing)
- 47:02 - Examples of companies adopting a more traditional approach to training and future planning
- 50:45 - How she keeps learning and growing as a jeweler and educator
Related MJSA Journal Articles:
- Hire Logic (Members Only) - How one U.S.-based jewelry manufacturer is working to attract and retain talent. (June 2019)
Mentioned in this episode:
- Nanz Aalund Art Jewelry - Aalund’s business website featuring her jewelry, information on workshops, and online shop to purchase training materials.
- A Jeweler’s Guide to Apprenticeships by Nanz Aalund - MJSA Press book that provides detailed insights into all aspects of setting up a training program in the shop.
- Mary Lee Hu - Artist, goldsmith, and educator known for using textile techniques to create intricate woven wire jewelry. Aalund taught jewelry and metals classes at the University of Washington under Mary.
- Blue Heron Jewelery Co. - Poulsbo, Washington jewelry store where Aalund worked as a freelance designer and jeweler. Currently using A Jeweler’s Guide to Apprenticeships to guide their own in-house training programs.
- Santa Fe Symposium - Annual jewelry conference for the exchange of technical information and key topics relevant to the jewelry industry.
- “Jewelers: The Next Generation” - paper by Nanz and co-author Charles Lewton-Brain presented at the Santa Fe Symposium in May 2019.
- BARN (Bainbridge Artisan Resource Network) - A non-profit community center located in Bainbridge Island, Washington, for artisans and makers, offering an Advanced Jewelry Apprentice Certificate to prepare students for entry-level work in the jewelry industry. Nanz serves as Certificate Program Coordinator.
- David Geller/JewelerProfit.com - Jeweler and author of the renown repair manual Geller’s Blue Book to Jewelry Repair & Design. (MJSA members save 15% off this title in the MJSA Bookstore.)
- Blaine Lewis/New Approach School - Jewelry school located in Arrington, Tennessee, known for its hands-on training approach and success at graduating students directly into industry jobs.
- Rio Grande - Trade supplier offering tools, equipment, metals, gemstones, chain, findings, and more. Serving jewelers, artisans, and metalsmiths.
- Blue Nile - Online retailer offering diamond jewelry, engagement, and wedding rings.
- Jim Tuttle/Green Lake Jewelry Works - Seattle area custom jewelry studio. Jim is also a member of MJSA’s Council of Custom Jewelers.