A High School Course in Jewelry Making Inspired Tim McClelland to Pursue a Lifetime Artisan Profession | Company

Tim McClelland shapes an ingot of gold and alloy into a wedding ring

Tim McClelland has been making jewelry for 50 years, starting when he was 15. “It was very compelling to me,” he said. “That was really the only thing I was good at, even from the start.”

PITTSFIELD – Tim McClelland was just a teenager when he stumbled across a jewelry making course for beginners. This ignited a spark that led him to a profession that gave him great fulfillment.

McClelland crafts original fine jewelry, a task he has done alone and with others for 50 years. The South County resident, who has run his own Great Barrington-based company, TW McClelland, for the past two years, is also a member of the American Jewelry Design Council, which is made up of around 30 jewelry makers longtime Americans. Membership is by invitation only. The group sponsors educational programs and awards design prizes to increase awareness of jewelry design in the United States.

We recently chatted with McClelland about his craft.

Tim McClelland shapes a gold bar

Tim McClelland shapes an ingot of gold and alloy into a wedding ring in his shop in Great Barrington.

Q: How did you are you interested?

A: I became interested in jewelry making in high school. My public high school (in Pontiac, Michigan) offered a very rudimentary jewelry making class. It was in the early 70s. The jewelry teacher was a bit of a hippie and I thought he was cool. I also really liked the idea of ​​seeing metal melting and turning into objects like that. I was around 15 years old.

It was good because in a way it was like professional training because I was not a good student. I was not a troublemaker, but I was not a good model citizen. It kind of kept me busy. I was lucky to have it. It would be wonderful if more public high schools had things like this where they could engage students. It’s really a big problem. It was for me.

Q: Why did you persevere?

A: It was very convincing to me. It was really the only thing I was good at, even from the start. I wasn’t that interested in going to college. I went to a place in Maine called [Haystack Mountain School of Crafts] on Ile aux Cerfs. I ended up moving to Boston and was able to enroll in Boston University. It was called the craft program. It was for people who were interested in craftsmanship. They made furniture, musical instruments. weaving and textile design and metalworking and jewelry making. So I hung on because it just seemed to work for me. It was really interesting, the people were artistic and there was an artistic side to it. I was really interested in art.

Q: How do you make a Jew?elry?

A: It’s a dual process. It starts with an idea and the idea can be almost anything these days because there are so many things that have been done historically that you can pull from anywhere to get an idea. When I start with an idea, it’s often from things I’ve done in the past, but also from a particular material, a precious stone, or sometimes techniques that interest me. I always try to be original. I like originality. It’s really, really at the heart of how I design. I don’t want to copy anyone. I want it to be as absolutely as original as possible.

Q: How do you develop an idea?

A: Once I figure out how a part can be made, or if I can do it all, I usually make a prototype and see what it looks like. If it looks promising, I’ll either expand on the idea and make multiples, or create some kind of beautiful thing to watch.

Q: How do you make the prototype?

A: I have a bunch of sketchbooks, maybe four or five that I’ve kept my entire career. If I have an idea, it’s usually very late at night when I’m in bed or when I wake up in the morning when my mind is pretty quiet. I’ll come up with an idea and write it down in the sketchbook by my bed. What I do is keep these sketchbooks. I’ll go back to some of my early designs from years ago and if a design still looks good, like it’s still promising after many years, I’ll do it. I leave my lambs in my books for a while so I don’t do anything stupid.

It takes a long time to make a piece of jewelry. It can take a few months to make a piece, but usually an original piece of jewelry takes 10 days or two weeks. I don’t want to make a piece that won’t hold up over time. I want them to last.

gold ingot detail

Tim McClelland makes a gold and alloy ingot to make a wedding ring at his shop in Great Barrington.

Q: Hows your wife reacts to the creatif process when it wakes you up in the middle of the night?

A: My wife is also an artist. She knows how to tolerate my idiosyncrasies like that. She is also very opinionated and kind of tells me how to modify my ideas. She’s not afraid to tell me if it’s a bad idea. It saves me a lot of nonsense.

Q: Where do your ideas come from?

A: I have paid a lot of attention to design and visual arts all my life. You never know exactly where inspiration comes from. Nature is the greatest. The word natural is the master of all design. If you look at the natural world. even if it’s a bunch of weeds growing on the back of your porch, you’ll see the theory and the design. That’s where the inspiration always comes from for me.

Q: How to doou decide which materials to use?

A: After deciding on the original design, I will be doing a number of other sketches, drawings and technical drawings. There’s a lot of engineering. It must be designed correctly. You do this from a visual design to see how it will look best, but you also need to make sure it’s built properly. There is a lot of planning. Often I do color swatches to see what the metal looks like compared to the stone.

Q: What is the most complex piece you have ever made?

A: I made a box to be part of a desktop ornament, an ornamental box designed to be quite small. I would say it was about 3 to 3 1/2 inches in diameter. This is a scene of a group of birds, robins, guarding a bird’s nest with a life-size robin egg in turquoise. (The box) was made of gold and different minerals, gold and turquoise and malachite, a greenish turquoise colored mineral, and coral. It was very elaborate. I would say one took me almost five months on and off.

handcrafted jewelry

Tim McClelland makes jewelry in his shop in Great Barrington.

Q: What are the the best and hardest parts of jewelry making?

A: The hardest part is keeping track of everything because there are a lot of little things to keep an eye on. Not just material items that have value, but also information, records and customer information, all sorts of things. Jewelry is incredibly attention to detail.

There are two best parts. The first is that when you’ve been a jeweler for 50 years, you can do whatever you want. The idea is to do something that I call a joyful expression of jewelry art. It’s incredibly rewarding. The other thing that is really rewarding is that I really enjoy working with clients who are interested in jewelry. I like to talk about it and express what I know and I also like to get others excited.

Q: What advice would you give to someone interested in jewelry making?

A: For a very young beginner, I would recommend going to a school like North Bennet Street (a vocational school) in Boston. It’s kind of an old school teaching aspect of jewelry making. It’s not too crazy with the design. It’s more like learning the basics. If you like doing it after learning the basics, you can find a job in the jewelry industry. … If you learn to make jewelry, you will have a job that you can practice until you are 85 years old. It’s a lifelong thing.

manufacture of gold bars

Tim McClelland makes a gold and alloy ingot to make a wedding ring at his shop in Great Barrington.

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