Monday, 4 June 2012

Holts Academy review - Beginners Stone Setting course

This is probably a bit overdue - but I should probably write about the Beginners Stone Setting course I attended at Holts Academy in mid-May. I've been putting this off slightly, because it's not exactly going to be a positive review - but I tried googling reviews before I signed up, and couldn't find anything - so maybe this will help one or two people out there *shrug*.

Overall, I was pretty disappointed with the course - it was really badly organised and didn't really meet any of my expectations - so in the end I actually only attended the first day, because I didn't think it was worth following through to the second day.

Full review after the jump....

The course is two days long - it was set over two consecutive tuesdays, which wasn't ideal for me as I work full-time, but I decided it sounded like the right course so I booked holiday to attend. Holts has a very impressive workshop - we were in the newer building and the room we were in had about 25 benches. Location was also great, being in the centre of Hatton Gardens, which meant at lunchtime I could check out the Cookson Gold trade counter. The course was taught by Tony Tiggs, who has many years' experience as a setter.

Over the course of the first day, we learnt how to prepare graver tools (such as the flat scorper), how to set a faceted stone in a pre-fabricated claw setting, and how to set a cabochon in a tube setting. We then started doing practice exercises on copper plates, in preparation for learning pavé setting.

Claw setting and tube setting
Claw-setting and tube-setting (still a bit dirty from setter's cement)

What we didn't learn was how to make any of the settings (I thought, from the description, we might be learning to make the claw setting - which is what some other schools offer), and there wasn't any mention of learning pavé setting in the description either, so that was a bit unexpected.

Although I felt that the instructor, Tony, obviously has a lot of knowledge on his subject, I felt the teaching was overall very poorly structured and the course itself was badly organised. There was no overview or introduction to the course or the tools - so we didn't know what we were going to cover on the whole course, and what we’d cover each day, what the objectives of the session were. There were also no introductions at the beginning, so it was a bit awkward not knowing anyone's names all day. 

In the tool preparation at the start, the teacher showed us how to prepare a tool, then asked us to have a go, which would have been fine for 1 or 2 of us (you only need to see something demonstrated twice, maybe three times, in order to understand how to do it) but we had to stand and watch 6 people do the exact same thing, and then watch all 9 of us prepare a cement stick each - this took about 2 hours which was an unnecessary amount of watching and waiting from everyone.

The training was delivered in a very piecemeal and disjointed way. Each stage was explained in isolation, to individuals, and there was no initial setting out of the structure of what we were doing - which meant there was a massive amount of confusion in the group about what we were actually doing. We also had to spend a lot of time then queuing individually to see the teacher and find out what the next step was. Also with 9 of us there, we could barely see what the teacher was doing half the time!

There was a serious lack of tools for the size of the group. It was really frustrating that there was only one set of dividers, and a couple of gravers, for 9 people which we all needed to use. I spent approximately 70% of my time waiting for tools. One of the other attendees told me she had asked whether there were any particular tools she should bring with her on the course, and was told 'no', so she was particularly frustrated.

All in all, I found that I spent most of the day waiting and not learning. The lack of structure to the course and the disorganisation was extremely frustrating - and when I looked at what I'd learnt and produced in 7 hours, I really couldn't see any value for money. I haven't been on a lot of other courses to compare it to, though, and I'm sure some of the others may have gotten more out of it than I did - but this was my frank opinion. I'm going to stick with courses that I've heard recommendations for, in future - such as West Dean College.

Have you been on any good courses? Or did you have a really good experience at Holts? I'd be really interested to hear any other views!

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