Alchemy

I had an idea about a year ago that I’d like to have a silver ring workshop for women who have experienced physical or sexual trauma. I wanted the ring to symbolize their path to healing. I asked my jewelry instructor Jim if we could do it. I wanted Jim to teach most of the workshop because I wanted participants to have exposure to a man that all men should strive to be. Jim suggested I should see if I could get beads donated to my local drop-in center and teach beadwork. I got the bead donations from a company I’ve done business with for the past ten years, Fire Mountain Gems and Beads.
Soon after that Jim started volunteering at the drop-in center with me to help with my beading classes. One day Jim asked if we could teach the drop-in center’s clients how to make a silver ring. I told him that I wanted to do that for women who have experienced trauma instead. I told him I could recruit women from a support group for women who have suffered from interpersonal violence. Jim is a Vietnam veteran and occasionally we discuss Post Traumatic Stress Disorder before class. I simply told Jim I wanted to help women like me and said nothing about the organization where I go for support and participants. The organization told me that they could not be associated with the workshop because of confidentiality, but that after the support group I could recruit participants as long as I didn’t disclose where I’m recruiting from in order to protect the confidentiality of the women who wanted to participate.
The studio where Jim teaches is quite small so only four women at most could participate. Jim went to the Director of Education of the organization where Jim teaches metalsmithing classes for the general public. The director approved it. Four women were interested, but only two could attend because the other two women had to work. I made it clear that the workshop was free of charge.
The class was a great success. Jim was as excited to teach these women as I was and he was funny, kind and patient. He taught the two women how to make two stackable rings. I let Jim teach most of the class. He has over forty years of experience making jewelry and I wanted the women to see that kind, compassionate men exist. I attended mostly to make the women feel safe.
The steps of metalsmithing are simple; cut, weld and polish. After welding the rings, we discovered that the rings were a little too small. The way to make a ring bigger is to put it on a piece of graduated steal and pound on it with a rawhide mallet. The women told me that they loved hammering the rings to size because they could take out their aggression. After hammering their rings to the appropriate size, they polished their rings. They were very pleased with what they made. Jim told them that every second Friday of the month the organization Jim works for holds open studios from 6 pm to 9 pm. They both wanted to attend.
I’ve dreamed of holding a metalsmithing workshop for women who have suffered trauma for a long time and this is a dream come true for me. I hope Jim and I can offer this opportunity again. It was wonderful.