I Love Teaching AND Metalsmithing

by Cynthia Eid on February 27, 2010

Cynthia Eid teaching a hydraulic press workshop

Cynthia Eid teaching a hydraulic press workshop

I was recently asked by a craft school’s press department to write something about myself, why I like to teach at their school, and why people should take classes at their school.  Having done so, I thought I’d share it.  (I’ve made a few changes for this wider audience.)

I earned a Master of Fine Arts degree in Jewelry, Design, and silversmithing from Indiana University-Bloomington, and a BS in Art Education from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  An MFA is the “terminal” degree for studio artists—-our equivalent of a PhD—so I am qualified to be a University professor.  However, I find that I prefer to teach adult ed, at places like Metalwerx, where everyone is there because they choose to be, not becuase they “have to” be.  I don’t need to worry about giving grades or poor attendance or students who are just there to fill out their college’s requirements.  I like teaching people who are there because they want to learn, and to have fun.

As an artist, I spend a lot of time working alone in my studio, with just my dog for company.  So, when somebody in a class has the “light bulb click” inside their head, that is really a fun reward for me.  I enjoy the range of people that take adult ed classes—from housewives to lawyers, from enthusiastic hobbyists to passionate career-changers— my goal is to help each person grow, at whatever level they are.  I adjust my teaching for each student.

I think that it is important to have balance in your life.  As part of the search for balance in my own life, I enjoy playing music with my family—both informally in the living room, and performing at dances, weddings, parties, and festivals as the Reiner Family Band.  (You can hear us at www.reinerfamilyband.com).  I play old-time clawhammer banjo, Irish bodhran (drum), and I have begun to sing with the band.  I have been taking voice classes for the last few years, which has reminded me how it feels to be a nervous student, and how great it feels when, as a student, I grow, learn, and begin to “get it”.

Making jewelry and hollowware (bowls, vases, teapots, etc. are called hollowware) in metal is fascinating—-I’ve been working, creating and learning for 40+ years, and there are still so many techniques that I’d like to learn.  Some aspects of metalsmithing can be very free and fluid, and some are more like being a chemist or scientist—measuring, calculating, planning, and evaluating.  I enjoy the technical aspects and tools of metalsmithing, such as the hydraulic press and the tools that I’ve helped develop that go with it.

I am continually intrigued by how clay-like metal is—-It is amazing that complex forms can be created from a single piece of metal. Recently, I taught a forging class, in which people are learning to understand how to use a hammer to control the metal’s movement.  When I told the participants to think of the cross-peen (narrow, rectangular) face of the hammer as a rolling pin, and the metal as dough or clay, it was wonderful to see their faces light up with understanding of how to orient the face of the hammer, so that the metal spread in the desired directions.

My university professors taught me how to move metal with hammers.  Over the years, though, I realized that my arms are capable of a limited number of hammer blows in my lifetime.  I began to investigate using a hydraulic press as a BIG hammer that could save me time and effort.  It turns out to be a lot of fun to use the tools in the hydraulic press to do the primary forming of a piece, and then finish with traditional techniques.  My enthusiasm has helped develop friendships with the people who design and make the presses and tools.  I have had a lot of fun being on the development team, helping to design new tools for the hydraulic press.

I feel fortunate to have a full life: family, metalwork, music, and walks in the woods behind my house with my dog.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Cynthia Eid August 18, 2010 at 12:16 pm

Follow your passions, and see where they lead you. this is what I have done, and the advice I give my sons and students.
Best wishes, and good luck!

Brooke June 18, 2010 at 12:21 am

I have just started to sketch and create jewelry and I absolutely love it! I also recently changed my major from human resource management to metalsmithing and I’m not too sure what the heck I want to do after I graduate. After hearing your story it makes me wonder if it’s something that I want to get into as well. Any advice?

Jennifer April 29, 2010 at 9:48 am

Do you offer adult classes for jewelry, specifically silversmithing? If so, where would I find out more? Thank you!

Cynthia Eid February 28, 2010 at 12:20 am

Hi Adele,
the press in the photo is a Bonny Doon Classic. they are now painted gray. Rio Grande is the sole distributor for Bonny Doon presses, which I can recommend highly for their sturdiness and reliability. The service from Rio Grande and Bonny Doon is excellent. They currently cost $995. Another option is to post on Orchid or http://www.bonnydoonengineering.com that you are looking for a used press.
good luck!

Adele February 28, 2010 at 12:00 am


Can you please tell me where you got your hydraulic press? I have been trying to find one like the one in your picture, but have not found one even close to my price range.

Thank you!


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