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I faced a similar problem with my high school teaching--I had done small
scale metal sculpture as well as traditional jewelry making and I wanted to
bring these materials and techniques to my students. Unfortunatly, like
you, money and space was not available to set up a metal studio in our one
art classroom. Kids are very turned on by jewelry and its possible to do
some cool stuff without a torch.
There's a great book out from Davis Publications called The Jeweler's Art
by Alice Sprintzen. It features jewelry projects exploring alternative
materials and experimentation. There are several other good art jewelry
books out, just look through the crafts section of a large bookstore. My
students really enjoy working with Sculpy and Fimo. We've made pins,
earrings and pendants. It can be faux painted to look like bone, metal or
stone. They love doing their own cartoon characters as jewelry.
I bought some mallets and rubber pads to allow my students to work with
metal. Thin gauge metal can be cut easily with shears, filed and drilled
without expensive equipment. We've also done small metal figures using
flat, drilled pieces of copper with floral wire. I'm often able to get
copper scraps free from roofers (its used for drains and gutters). When
you polish it, it looks as good as new. I also use heavy duty, 2-part
epoxy which will hold metals together very well without soldering. It
works well for attaching pin backs and other findings. These kind of
techniques make my professional art jeweler friends go nuts, but my main
objective its to get a metal experience to my kids. If they can learn to
cut, file and polish pieces, they've done most of what would be in an entry
level jewelry class.
Jewelry can be thought of as a small work of art that just happens to be
wearable--it need not be simply decorative. (Small painting can be turned
into wearable art.) It often has specific, personal meaning for a family,
culture, religion or individual. Students might be encouraged to bring in
family hierlooms or mementos of jewelry to look at and discuss. A study of
body adornment is always helpful and a way of exposing other countries.
There are several big coffee table art books out on body adornment from
Africa to Hawaii.
I hope this helps.
A pat on the back is only a few centimeters from a kick in the butt.