Rio Grande’s Winter Workshop 2013 wrapped up Friday, February 1. For the six days before that, there were modern jewelry miracles happening in every classroom. I saw a modern alchemy turn gold to blue. I witnessed lines of blurred arms holding speeding mallets pounding silver over anvils. I held my breath in silent rooms of focused wax carvers. Ok, this is jewelry making and I’m describing a spiritual experience. But if you were here, you know what I’m talking about.

Subomi enjoys the wax carving demo booth with Kate Wolf.

Subomi Elesha Okhueleigbe, jeweler and business woman, made the pilgrimage to Rio Grande for Winter Workshop, all the way from Nigeria.

Last December Subomi asked us what she needed to do to attend, so we sent her a letter of invitation that helped her to obtain a visa. Then she flew 7,078 miles to take Workshop classes in casting, plating, and carving wax. Her journey here was a longtime personal goal.

“I’m so excited! I couldn’t wait to take classes here. I love Rio. I have dreamed about coming here!”

Subomi is as beautiful as the jewelry she was wearing when we met, jewelry that she designed and made herself, purchasing many of her supplies and equipment from Rio Grande, which she’s been doing since 2008. Over the years, she has taught herself jewelry-making through our free online videos (especially Mark Nelson’s), through correspondence with Sessin Durgham (himself an award-winning designer and a member of our Tech Support team) and, most obviously, through her own sweat equity.

Rio’s staff immediately bonded with Subomi. Renee from our Will Call area (who took the photos I used for this blog entry) took Subomi under her wing, an impromptu concierge, and bonded with her over Rio’s video on how to fuse glass. (They use it as a “cheat sheet” when setting their kilns for the fusing process.) Phil Scott, who taught Subomi’s casting class, describes her as, “a whirlwind of energy, a sponge, eager to learn, never wasting a moment, and always networking between classes.” I was personally amazed by how she could point out where our products are in the catalog without really reading the page numbers, just by naming the product and flipping to it in five seconds or less. She loves receiving our catalogs in Nigeria.

Subomi and Lorna at the keum-boo demonstration booth. Her earrings are a product of her jewelry business in Nigeria.

One story really stands out for me: Lorna, who works in Rio’s Customer Center, taught soldering in the Workshop’s demonstration area, a public part of the Winter Workshop experience. Subomi, however, had heard that Lorna knew a technique that was not on the agenda: the Korean art of keum-boo, or bonding gold leaf to other metals. Subomi had been trying this technique at home in Nigeria, pouring over books and dvds, never sure why it wouldn’t work. At Subomi’s request, Lorna and Sessin Durgham quickly set up the burnishers, ultralite kiln, foil, and set to work. With Lorna’s instruction, Subomi got it on the first try! (She had been missing the correct keum-boo foil.) Subomi was thrilled! She proudly wore one of her keum-boo pendants around her neck for the rest of her time here. By the time she left, she had purchased everything she needed to practice keum-boo at home, and a lot of other people that day, including Sessin Durgham’s wife, learned the process as well. Subomi’s curiosity and excitement were contagious.

This is one great experience from just one of the Winter Workshop participants. We hope that you’ll consider taking part in the magical week of learning that is the Rio Grande Winter Workshop next year, or think about taking one of the many classes offered at the Rio Grande facility throughout the year. Check out  the link to classes, videos, fashion trends and more anytime you’re online!

If you have attended a class at Rio Grande, or if you have learned through our Tech Support team or our free online videos, drop us a line! Let us know what you learned. We’d love to hear from you.

Subomi’s keum-boo creations at Winter Workshop. She got it on the first try!