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Billy King, Master of Art Jewelry

The teacher at the workshop

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Billy King

Personality of the month

By Jade Arroyo

The dragon is an animal full of symbolism. It can be a monster that spits fire and eats princesses, or it might be a dignified and noble beast that guards the rivers and brings good luck. In any case, this mythical animal is a magical one, a rebel, enemy to the gods.

The dragon is the logo of the Sterling Quest School of Fine Jewelry Design and Creation, representing the individualism of the school founded and presided over by Billy King. Originally from Ontario, Billy moved to the west coast of Canada, where he became involved with jewelry and stone production at an early age. In the ’60s, King started to work as an apprentice in a gold jewelry factory.

During the mid-1970s, King came to Mexico with his girlfriend because, “it’s a country full of human beings,” and enrolled in Advanced Silverwork at the Instituto Allende. He retired from the Instituto Allende to establish the Sterling Quest School in 1999, where he continued working as a silversmith out of his own studio, gaining a reputation for his mastery in jewelry making. The majority of his private students have gone on to become jewelry majors or jewelers in their own right.

In the course of 27 years, King has taught 2,451 students from 58 different countries.

“Artists are not made, they’re born. It’s a character flaw,” he says. You don’t fit because you can’t fit, and the only thing you can do is art. The question is what. What is the medium? Knowing this, King has dedicated most of his life to the creation of a new generation of artist jewelers. “I just started teaching and found out I was really good.” King is not a conventional teacher, but he’s forever becoming one, learning every day from his students. He’s deeply loved by his students, on whom he does not impose his ideas. He encourages them to experiment and find their own path as artists. “Yeah, I scream and yell and make death threats. But if you want to do something, I’ll teach you how to do it.”

“You’re going to work with your heart and your hands, to create something beautiful. We’re supposed to make beautiful things for the world to see and be changed by that. We are the solution; we are here to make a balance. On one side is the ugly and the violent, and [on] the other, us. We offer beauty to make people think and produce a change. We don’t live in a box. Everything you do here is unique.”

King feels that all teachers should take an oath similar to the Hippocratic Oath taken by physicians. If one decides to be a teacher, there should be no limitation in instruction, no secrets from the students. There should be no question of jealousy or envy on his part. If a student displays the possibility of becoming better than his teacher at some technique, this is, after all, a goal all students should strive toward.

“As artists, we need constantly to question what we know and endeavor to add to the great store of knowledge in the area of our medium; there is always room for innovation and change in the world of art.”

The school is located in colonia Guadalupe, featuring a great workshop with lots of natural light and space, where students learn the major techniques in jewelry making, fast and dynamically (and inventing new ones along the way), like hard soldering, hammer texturing, roller print texturing, pierced work, scrollwork, shot fabrication, overlay, fusing, riveting, stone stetting, line chasing, forging, casting, married metals, reticulations, and a multitude of other alchemy-like techniques.

King lives outside of town in the countryside with his Mexican son Joel, daughter-in-law Estrella, and baby granddaughter Lyanna Ruby. They are surrounded by neighbors who are also family, and the only things between them are not walls, but laughter and caring.

The Sterling Quest School
Guty Cárdenas 3, colonia Guadalupe


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