Designers With Different Abilities

While teaching a jewelry class 30 years ago, goldsmith Phil London was approached about taking on a physically disabled protégé. Too inexperienced to know how, a frustrated London declined. But he never forgot the episode, and today he can tell a different story.

London’s nonprofit Disability Alternatives Inc., based in St. Petersburg, Fla., offers the physically disabled an opportunity to learn to make jewelry. DAI’s instruction includes teaching students to perform challenging maneuvers, such as operating a saw with one hand.

Classes started in July on a first-come, first-served basis. Two are held once weekly for a six-week period at London’s studio in St. Petersburg, with four volunteer instructors, including London. Sessions are free for members of London’s studio group and members of the Florida Society of Goldsmiths, which London founded. The fee for nonmembers is $35.

While attendance at initial classes was light—the first had just one student— London aims to fill them. “People in the community think it’s a great idea,” he says. In fact, London also wants to teach the blind to use precious metal clay (PMC). Current students work with copper and aluminum, or silver for an additional fee.

DAI needs a kiln for PMC and an engraving machine for making ID bracelets. Anyone who can donate these items can call (727) 548-6500 or visit www.disabilityalternatives.org.