At the age of 63, Calgarian Rita Cormier is the happiest she’s been in her life.
It all started in the fall of 2004, when she took an extended studies beginner’s jewelry course at the Alberta College of Art and Design (ACAD).
Since then, she has taken every jewelry and metals course offered in the extended studies program, then took a credit course and opened up her own jewelry business.
“A whole new lifestyle was opened to me,” Cormier said. “I reconnected with the awe and wonder of my youth and became young again.”
Bonnie Murdoch, director of extended studies at ACAD, said Cormier was always interested in making art.
“She stepped into her first jewelry class and went, ‘Wow,’” Murdoch said.
Murdoch is a graduate of the jewelry and metals program herself. She said she can see why the course has high popularity among students.
“I loved that right from the beginning, you can wear your very first piece and feel just fabulous about it,” she said. “For many people, the very first thing they make is a silver ring. You would be surprised how proud you can be of a little silver ring.”
Along with the ring, students make a pendant and a chain in the 12-week course.
“Students get grounded in jewelry making,” Murdoch said. “They learn to lay out their design on the sheet so they don’t waste silver or, God forbid, gold. Many chose to work in non-precious metals, which is a great way to learn because it costs virtually nothing for the metal. Or, if they want, they can jump right in there with silver.”
Murdoch said that once students complete beginner’s jewelry, that gives them the skillset to go on to any other jewelry class.
“It’s rare for us to find someone who doesn’t actually like doing this kind of work once they try it,” she said. “For most people, it really sets them on a path to take lots of different courses to build their skills.
“To get really good hand-eye co-ordination for jewelry takes a little while. You must be very accurate for the piece to end up looking just perfect.”