I had thought it would be easy to find courses in basic jewelry design in Paris. After all, the city is the world capital of fashion. There are independent jewelry stores all over the place. But no. What little I could find were studies that took at least a half year.
I finally landed on La Petite Manufacture, a jewelry boutique in the 11th arrondissement with a sizable studio in back. The owner, Marie, gives courses on Fridays and Saturdays when not tending to the store and making her own creations. A look around the place and you know you’re in capable hands: besides Marie’s own jewelry, which is whimsical and well made, there’s a kiln; a wall of drawers for materials from stamps to glues to silver metal paste; and, on the large wood workbench, jars of scissors, colored pencils, and dentist tools.
The 3-hour, one-off classes cost 45 to 60 euros and range in subject from beading to metal paste to Murano-style glass-making. Students are provided with all the materials they need, and can also select from the boutique in front. In yesterday’s beading course, for instance, I “shopped” for ribbon, clasps, beads, wire, and fancy embroidery thread.
The real value of the class is in Marie. Patient and encouraging, she leaves the students enough free range to find their own way after ample instruction. She speaks English, in case your French is a little shaky and you need a few words translated (“melaxer” means “squish,” I learned).
I was amazed at how many new skills I learned from Marie. Because there are often just two or three students in a class, Marie tailors instruction to your level of ability. (I took two classes, and am headed for a third next week.) Yesterday, since I’d already had some basic instruction in beading and wire work, I brought in some pieces I was stuck on. She helped me find aesthetic solutions to all my problem cases.
Experienced artists can buy time in the studio to work on their own projects. If you need a shot of inspiration, this is a great place to find it.