Left to right: A BoMA metalsmith proudly displays her hammered copper bowl; Students in BoMA’s Level I Metalsmithing workshop show off their beautiful ring creations; BoMA member Amy Okubo made this pendant after attending a BoMA session in the art of keum boo, the Korean technique of applying 24-karat gold to sterling silver.

A welcoming community for jewelry-makers and metalsmiths

By Lisa Truesdale

 

Amy Okubo has always loved jewelry, so when she needed an escape from the stresses of her 30-year law career, she turned to jewelry-making as a hobby.

To learn the basics, she took a few classes at different places around the metro area, but it wasn’t until she joined Boulder Metalsmithing Association (BoMA) that she really became enamored with the process of creating her own unique jewelry designs. So enamored, in fact, that she’s shuttering her law practice to make jewelry full time out of the spacious new workshop in her Longmont home.

“At BoMA, I was able to take the more advanced, specialized classes that I needed,” Okubo says. “Because of the experienced instructors there, I was able to significantly increase my skills—the skills that make the finished product look polished.”

Being part of BoMA also has other advantages: “I’m able to network with other successful jewelry designers in the area, and I’ve learned so much from them.”

Open studio sessions at BoMA give members access to the organization’s vast collection of metalsmithing tools and equipment.

Passion Project

Like Okubo, Beth Merckel first turned to metalsmithing as a creative outlet to escape a stressful career.

“I was working in Silicon Valley. I started taking metalsmithing classes to exercise my right brain, and I found I loved the craft,” she says. “When I moved to Colorado in 2007, I really missed the ‘metalhead’ friends I had made in California. There were lots of talented jewelers and metalsmiths here, but no real community.”

So, she got creative again—she created BoMA.

It all started as a Meetup group, with the first meeting drawing just three people to a Boulder coffee shop. As the group grew, it moved around a bit, and in 2015 it settled in the partially subsidized space they occupy now. Merckel says anyone can be a member (there are 350 now), but you don’t need to be a member to take classes or to attend second-Saturday demonstrations.

Membership ($45 per year) has its benefits, though, like class discounts, registration for in-demand classes before nonmembers, and the chance to exhibit at local galleries. Members also have affordable access to open-studio sessions at BoMA’s fully equipped workspace. That’s crucial for artisans who don’t have their own studio and don’t own (or need) every single tool or piece of specialized equipment, like Avery Oatman.

“Using the BoMA studio for my first few years in business allowed me the space, time, tools and equipment to create without needing to make a huge initial investment,” says Oatman, who now has a home studio in Longmont but remains a BoMA member because of the connections she’s made there.

Helen Pearsall works on her ring during a “Lathe Turn and Cast a Ring from Wax” workshop taught by Chapin Dimond. Lost-wax casting is an ancient technique for making jewelry cast in metal from models made of wax.

Although the organization has many professional members—like Oatman and Okubo—who are working to make a living from their craft, the most important thing that Merckel wants people to know about BoMA is that it offers something for everyone interested in jewelry-making or metalsmithing.

“We make it easy for beginners to get started,” she says. The Level I Metalsmithing class, for instance, accepts only six students at a time, so they all get dedicated attention. The fee for that course also includes a year of BoMA membership. As a nonprofit, BoMA reinvests profits back into the business; to reach students under 18 (who aren’t yet able to attend classes), that includes providing local public school art teachers with education and tools to use in their classrooms.

“BoMA is a place to learn from local and nationally recognized craftspeople who love what they do,” Merckel says. “They’re eager to share their passion and knowledge with the next generation of makers.”

Oatman agrees. “BoMA has been essential to my growth as a metalsmith, and I’m so grateful that we have a community like this so close to home.”

 

BoMA is in Boulder at 4919 Broadway, #15.
Learn more at bouldermetalsmiths.com.

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