Lisa Cain is a Pioneering Innovator
With nearly 30 years at the leading edge of independent jewellery education, it's going to take quite some time to add all of Lisa's achievements, inventions, awards and collaborations to this website but we're working on it!
There are plenty of exciting new projects on the horizon too.
Lisa has a natural flair for helping bring out the best in her students, is happy teaching large groups, comfortable with public speaking and even confident in front of the TV cameras. Her career has led her all over the world and she is delighted to share her knowledge.
Check back from time to time to see her accomplishments on the list here grow.
You can also take a look at the About Lisa page for other details.
Leading the way for Independent Jewellery Education
How it all began
Lisa embarked on her jewellery path more than 30 years ago, by taking an evening class while a single parent and was immediately hooked. She quickly outgrew the part-time classes and went on to study in a traditional jewellery apprenticeship with Master Craftsman, Ralph Rowe, based in Cornwall.
This lasted five years and it was during this time that Ralph encouraged Lisa to teach alongside him at Adult Education jewellery classes. “When I started teaching, I realised I’d found my vocation,” Lisa says, “So I was keen to gain qualifications in Teaching, Risk Assessment, Business Management and more. Teaching evening classes was a great start but I’d have to carry all the tools with me to the venue for just a two hour class with more than ten students and I wanted to create a more satisfying learning environment.”
Lisa established her business, The Mid Cornwall School of Jewellery (MCSJ) in 1995 when there were no other independent jewellery schools in the UK. Initially this was a small-scale operation and she used her spare bedroom to set up three workbenches. This allowed Lisa to run private silversmithing classes as an over-spill for the ten-week evening classes she was teaching at the local college, which were always full.
Teaching fewer students for longer periods of time in a well-equipped setting, Lisa realised she was heading in the right direction.
"I was lucky to be venturing into my new business while still in an apprenticeship. When my mentor wanted to send me to learn more specialised skills like enamelling, engraving and pearl-threading, it was almost impossible to find short courses anywhere in the UK. I continued to grow my small business and it was obvious to me there was a gap in the market for jewellers like me.”
By 2001 her apprenticeship naturally came to an end and it was obvious that MCSJ needed to expand into larger, purpose-built premises to cope with growing demand.
However, the next steps were a bit tricky, as Lisa explains, “The concept of an entrepreneur running an independent jewellery school was an unfamiliar business model at the time. Even though I had a proven track record and a robust business plan, the banks were unwilling to lend the money for such a unique venture back then. So, I decided to circumvent the banks and sold my house to fund the business growth. Luckily the timing was right and MCSJ became a great success.”
Within two years, MCSJ rapidly grew to have the widest range of jewellery related classes at any independent school in Europe.
Many of Lisa’s students eventually went on to establish their own independent jewellery schools and now, decades later, there are dozens of schools to choose from all over the UK.
Make Your Own Wedding Rings
Lisa was the first in the UK to offer a Make Your Own Wedding Rings class for non-jewellers .
To date, she's helped over 300 couples to make their wedding rings and 99% have been total beginners.
"Couples can choose to make their rings in Silver, Gold, Palladium or Platinum," says Lisa. "First we have a consultation to establish their finger sizes and which metal and shape of ring they want. The couple have exclusive use of the workshop with my full attention for the wedding ring process. I make a ring in silver alongside them so they can see exactly what to do at each step. I'm able to take photos while I keep an eye on guiding the couple to completion. It's a joyous, fun-filled day. The best part is that these are one-of-a-kind rings and the couple are creating memories together which will last a lifetime."
Every couple has left delighted with the end results and are thrilled with the unique experience.
One of England's first Silver Metal Clay Teachers
Lisa has been teaching Silver Metal Clay classes longer than anyone else in the UK.
Originally trained as a traditional Goldsmith, Lisa specialises in combining her traditional skills with the newer medium of metal clay.
She discovered silver clay by accident when she stumbled into the wrong classroom whilst on a stone setting course at Birmingham school of Jewellery in 1995.
In the years since, Lisa has become a trailblazer in this field.
She has developed several metal clay educational programmes, she ran the UK Precious Metal Clay Guild for seven years, invented new techniques, organised the first silver clay conferences, exhibitions and competitions and even invented a new type of metal clay.
"It was such a privilege to discover Silver Clay when I did" says Lisa. "I've been able to shape the future of a completely new way of working with metals. That's not something that happens to many Goldsmiths and it's been an exciting, historic ride."
All the images shown on this website are created from Silver Metal Clay and traditional metals combined.
What is Silver Metal Clay?
Essentially, it's silver but in a malleable format.
Tiny particles of silver are packed into a putty made from a small amount of organic binder and a tiny amount of water.
Once we have shaped the item we want, we allow time for the water to evaporate from the item and then apply heat to burn the binder away (with a small hand-held butane torch or a kiln).
At the correct temperature, all of the tiny silver particles fuse together and you are left with a pure silver item. This is called Sintering.
The loss of water and binder mean there is a small amount of overall shrinkage but all the detail of the original item is left intact.
What remains is HALLMARK QUALITY SILVER which can also be combined with traditional metals.
Lisa says, "Discovering a metal which is pliable, easy to carve, texture and mould has changed the way I create. Silver Metal Clay has only been around since 1990 so we're still discovering what we can (and can't) achieve with it. To put it in context, the traditional Goldsmithing techniques I use pre-date the Egyptians so there is a lot more we've yet to discover with metal clay."
Folded Brooch in Silver and Gold by Lisa Cain.
Photo by Paul Mounsey.
MCSJ Silver Metal Clay Diploma
The Most Thorough Training in the World
MCSJ Diploma Student work- silver boxes
Photos by Paul Mounsey
Lisa devised the Silver Metal Clay Diploma over several years to become the most in-depth training available.
She taught this course at MCSJ for nearly a decade before launching it as the world’s first ever Home Study Jewellery class.
The Diploma was the first ever brand-neutral metal clay qualification course to have an emphasis on professional-level jewellery skills.
Prior to this, certification classes were based on a pyramid-type discount award and did not include any traditional metal work skills.
"My aim with this curriculum was to elevate Silver Metal Clay above the hobby craft realm for beginner jewellery makers," says Lisa. “But I also wanted to address a problem at the other end of the spectrum with more experienced traditional jewellers, who were mostly resistant to this brand new way of working. A malleable metal didn’t fit any training they’d ever had before, no matter how long they’d been in the jewellery trade! Our Diploma is only achieved by reaching the high standards set out in the class criteria. It comprises four separate Grades and each one stands alone as a significant achievement. Students learn plenty of traditional jewellery skills like soldering, making unique earring hooks, chain making and more alongside the metal clay work."
Lisa then went on to improve the overall quality of education in the metal clay world by adding a written test and a teaching qualification as part of the MCSJ Diploma.
Lisa says, "No one else was teaching the metal clay teachers how to actually teach effective classes so we fixed that."
Many of the Metal Clay teachers currently working in the UK have studied with Lisa at MCSJ over the last few decades.
This innovative new technique took Lisa more than 4 years to perfect and will revolutionise the way we construct boxes, beads, vessels and hollow forms in silver clay.
Lisa's simple but ingenious innovation produces a never-before-seen beautiful surface texture and cuts production time in half. Take a look at the video to see an example of this unique effect.
Making Jewellery Magazine dedicated an eight page feature to reveal the brand new method to artisits worldwide in October 2018.
Cain Corner classes are available exclusively with Lisa in Cornwall .
If you can't make it to Cornwall, you can also purchase the 27 page step-by-step Cain Corners tutorial
Find out more here