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Quest for perfection

"Stacked with tools, beads, and scraps of metal, Jane Martin's jewelry studio is not only the hub of her trade, but also where she shares her expertise with future artists.Anything that I need to do they do with me, Martin said. I literally have to sit on my hands and let them do it themselves. It is hard to learn something from the beginning, but it is so satisfying when you finally get it.Martin is one of three local artists currently involved with the Arts Apprentice Program through Bainbridge Arts and Crafts. The program, funded and sponsored by BAC, provides career-bound art students with an opportunity to become more proficient in the visual arts by working side by side with professionals. Selected students work for approximately 80 hours during the summer months, and receive a part-time salary for their work. In return for donated time and materials, mentoring artists receive a $250 honorarium, as well as assistance from dedicated apprentices.The most successful thing about the program is giving students the chance to build a relationship with an artist that goes beyond the program, said Kathleen Thorne, art education coordinator at BAC. The artists become mentors, and that is what really makes a difference.The program, which started in 1997, exposes students of all ages to a professional studio environment, where they develop new production skills, learn stylistic techniques and gain a basic understanding of post production business and marketing. Although it is now a summer program, BAC hopes to expand the apprenticeships into the school year since the program has drawn tremendous feedback from previous students and artists, Thorne said. Martin, who has been working with jewelry for more than 30 years, said she is thrilled to play a role in the co-creative development of her current apprentices, Jennifer Olson, and David Purcell. Both students have spent the majority of the summer designing a line of earrings, and they are currently consumed with ornate metal boxes that are interlaced with pieces of nickel, copper, sterling silver and brass.Olson and Purcell, both of whom are veterans of art classes at Bainbridge High School, spend an average of 12 hours each week with Martin, gaining familiarity with every aspect of the creative process, from soldering metal to sweeping the floor afterward. The biggest challenge for them has been to produce pieces in bulk, and make the finished products as flawless as possible, Purcell said. In order for a piece to sell it has to be perfect, Olson added. And that is something you would never think about in high school art classes.Aside from the jewelers, there are two other art apprentice students, who have spent the summer working at local ceramics studios. Bryn Dawson is an apprentice at Cynthia Dice's ceramics studio, which specializes in colorful and whimsical pieces, while Matthew Browning works at the Rick Stafford's ceramic studio, which uses a variety of ceramic techniques, and also makes porcelain flutes. All four apprentices are returning students at Bainbridge High School. BAC will exhibit highlights from the Arts Apprentice Program, Aug. 24-31 in the front display window on Winslow Way, showing oeuvres that students have been perfecting since June.The most rewarding thing about the program would have to be the end result, Olson said. Considering how long the pieces have taken to make, we are very excited to see the final product on display. "

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