Discovering the Right Setting
George Brown student finds jewellery classes the perfect place to develop his talents
After years of working in various service roles, Wesley Sloetjes was looking to move on from an industry he had outgrown. He started taking post-secondary courses, starting with general arts and sciences and advertising. He first came to George Brown College for culinary arts and hotel management classes.
“As someone who wanted a new path away from the service industry but wasn’t 100 per cent sure what path to take, George Brown was the perfect choice for me,” he recalls. “I knew of the school’s reputation for quality education and, because they offered a wide range of Continuing Education classes, I could test my enjoyment of something through a three-month, once-a-week course.”
In addition to their variety and flexibility, the college’s Continuing Education courses appealed to Wesley because of their reasonable cost and practical approach. He also appreciated the fact that he didn’t have to commit to an entire program and could pick and choose the courses that most interested him. That meant he could be as immersed in or as casual with his education as he wanted to be.
“George Brown was for sure my go-to,” he says. “I always liked the way the school offers its education. It feels very natural to learn by doing. I wanted something in a standardized education environment while being able to omit some things I thought I was already pretty good at.”
Although his mother and brother are both artists, Wesley didn’t consider himself to be a creative person. But his love of hands-on work led him to try our jewellery classes. It was while carving wax in his first jewellery course – Model Making – that Wesley realized how much he enjoyed it and that he could turn this interest into a career.
“I remember thinking, ‘Whatever I’m carving will be translated into precious metal,’” says Wesley. “I thought that was very interesting and could go in many different directions. I wanted to create something that would last a lifetime and bring joy to my customers any time they wore it.”
After that first course, Wesley moved on to our Basic Jewellery-making Techniques course and then to our Gem Setting course. All the classes he took lived up to his expectations thanks to George Brown’s well-equipped jewellery studios and course structure (which includes theory, instructor demonstrations and hands-on practice). But what really struck Wesley was his teachers’ willingness to share their knowledge and advice.
“Every single skill I learned about jewellery making came from George Brown. The basic skills are used in such a wide range of ways, and it still impresses me when I can adapt a skill for the task at hand and come through with a beautiful treasure.”
“There was no feeling of, ‘I don’t want this guy who is trying to be a jeweller to be my competition,’” he explains. “It was very welcoming, and they wanted me to do my best because they want beautiful jewellery to be made in the future.”
That supportive George Brown environment helped Wesley develop his craft and discover his niche. It didn’t take long for Wesley to begin refining his jewellery-making skills, and this gave him the confidence to become his own boss: he opened a custom jewellery company, WildRock Co., where he combines tradition and technology (by incorporating self-taught 3D printing techniques) and focuses on sustainability and quality materials.
“Every single skill I learned about jewellery making came from George Brown,” notes Wesley, who is returning to the college to further his knowledge through the Intermediate Jewellery-making Techniques course. “The basic skills are used in such a wide range of ways, and it still impresses me when I can adapt a skill for the task at hand and come through with a beautiful treasure.”