Santa Fe jewelry makers and other metalwork artists who complete a college level or private metalsmithing course often retake the classes just so they can have access to all the equipment necessary for their art.

Lauren Tobey is determined to change that — to create a space in Santa Fe, a community really, where artisans who work in silver, other metals and gemstones can learn, work and share side by side.

“A lot of students who take metalsmithing classes will graduate from a program and they just don’t have access to the tools anymore,” said Tobey, a transplanted Louisianian speaking from her own experience. “All this stuff can be a little bit pricey to put together.”

It first came together for her about 10 years ago when, feeling trapped for space and tools herself, she opened her Meltdown Studio in Albuquerque. There artists take classes, many of which Tobey teaches, and share work space and specialty equipment that the studio provides, such as soldering, buffing and casting equipment.

Her focus recently, however, has switched from Albuquerque to Santa Fe. Last month, Tobey opened an expanded Meltdown Studio at 3209 Mercantile Court off Rufina Street.

Besides the local talent, through her marketing online and elsewhere, Tobey hopes to draw artists and students from other parts of the country eager to bask in the Santa Fe mystique for a few weeks. Those “who want the experience of coming here and seeing art alive and well, and jewelry thriving. Our students will not only be in the classroom and doing [their art], but we will be taking them to local suppliers and galleries.”

Plus, she said, “It’s easier to get people to come to Santa Fe than it is to Albuquerque.”

What Tobey really is pushing in Santa Fe are weekend workshops and weeklong intensives.

The weekends focus on two days of instruction on a particular technique, while the intensives cover everything there is to know about one subject. For example, a week exploring casting where participants learn the wax carving, the mold making and the actual casting.

The intensives reflect Tobey’s own interests.

“I am technique driven. I am into the process almost more than the end result,” she said, “because I like [taking] the measurements and cutting and that whole process of melting the metal and turning it into something else.”

In addition to a variety of group and individual classes taught by Tobey and other metalworks professionals, Meltdown offers open studio hours and a “bench mate” program where, for $200 a month, artists can work at their own jeweler’s bench with 24/7 access to the space and equipment. Artists provide their own materials.

Time slots are available at $30 a day, except for private lessons with Tobey at $65 an hour. The weekend workshops range from $300 to $495 depending on the subject, and the weeklong intensives are $1,495.

Tobey is planning to hire several studio monitors and assistants.

Tracey Weisberg of Albuquerque and Pam Orient of Tijeras plan to take Tobey’s business and marketing class in the Santa Fe studio. Both are bench mates in the Albuquerque studio and are helping Tobey set up the local site.

“I have not yet been selling my jewelry,” Orient said. “I have been making spectacular gifts for people — friends and family, special events — but I really want to sell my jewelry. I just don’t know how to do it.”

Tobey, who has developed her own line of jewelry products, said she wants to teach her students how to get a handle both on selling on the internet and by traditional means.

“We are helping jewelers not only learn how to make things, but learn how to get out there and start selling them and actually making a good business while doing it.”

Tobey also hopes to reach people just beginning to develop an interest in metalwork but who still lack the commitment — “people who have thought, ‘I would like to give it a try but I don’t want to go out and buy every thing until I know what it’s all about.’ ”

Contact Dennis Carroll at

If you go

What: Meltdown Studio

Where: 3209 Mercantile Court

When: Open studios are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday, Thursday and some Saturdays. Group or individual instruction can be scheduled.

More information: Call 505-977-1179 or visit

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