Charles Lewton Brain's speech at the 11th Orchid Dinner

Good evening friends, industry and trade colleagues, Orchidians and
Ganoksin Project participants. Last year was the 10th year, a
milestone, a decade. This year we move forwards into the future, a
solid construction of our group mind, our mutual passion for metal,
for this field and for our sharing of it with each other.

To be together like this, here, in Tucson is a special moment in the
year, a moment of connection, networking, learning, of hugging and
greeting old friends, and conversation.

Conversation is what makes Orchid tick. It is the life, the smell,
the touch that makes what is happening with the ganoksin project, and
Orchid, poignant, human and warm in spite of the filters of the
keyboard and screen. We are a place of positions, and explanations.
Of opinion, of decrying the other and defending the other. With
respect. As in a relationship, a marriage, it is about respect, and
acceptance, even when the opinion is contrary to your own.

Ganoksin is our own community of makers, whose love of metal, and
making and object brings them together for critique, advice and life
lessons. It is about celebrating life as a jeweler, having someone to
talk to, to listen to who cares about the field, the making as much
as you do. It is about life, and passion, about the metaphors, the
stories we tell each other to try and explain the world.

We are a place of stories.

A beautiful place.

Hanuman points out that Orchid was a leading edge social network,
early creators, now the darling concept of the web. We constructed
the dynamics of it in 1997 as Orchid was born at the Ganoksin
Project. When we started Orchid we created a social network at a time
when social networks were not the in thing. Today, internet presence
through the social context is becoming a thing of value in the
physical world.

There is a recognized paradigm shift occurring, these days people
are spending more time on social networks on the net than watching
television. Besides shopping and research, social networking online
is the big thing. And you, through Orchid are that very thing.

Our Orchid role is myspace/ourspace, it is your mail, it comes into
your private sphere, is in your space and people are writing to you
(and us) as Orchid is delivered to you. Sometimes people when they
first sign up take each email as personal. They will answer “you have
the wrong address” or "are you talking to me?’ Our email list
approach feels personal. It touches you. That is why, in a world of
web blogs and webboards that force you to log in to participate that
we continue, and prosper. We consistently deliver the news to you, We
don’t wait for you to log in and read the news, the chat, the

Other shifts include the 24/7 internet, going mobile through phones,
your television. The internet is changing not just to be a tool when
you are home and log in but as a resource and feed all through the
day in different ways. Connectivity is increasing and there is a
shift in the physical world of access abilities, this creating new
shapes in thinking, feeling and experiencing the net. Ganoksin is
watching and finding ways to adapt and grow with these changes.

Most people are now over the learning curve of how to use the
internet, across most age groups, and this is changing people’s
access to us and our As in the contemporary jewelry
scene in North America most makers are now women, and gender issues
are a point for discussion in our field. In education, in the
industry and trade it is running about 70% female and in art schools
up to 95% women. These changes are noticeable and will need
addressing and thinking about in the coming years. Ideas of cultural
value, gender and more are being raised in our field. Interestingly
there is a correlation with the net: Internet users are also over 50%
female, they spend more time on the internet than men now.

To those caught up in the conversation and the community of the
Orchid list it is easy to forget that other part of Ganoksin, the
rest of the iceberg, the gigantic hidden mass and content density
that is the web site itself. Over 500,000 pages of it.

Ganoksin is the wiki of the jewelry world. We are displacing the
book (in its metaphorical sense) to your desktop. We are the
ultimate, living FAQ.

We are in fact Ganoksin College, an open school, an institute
dedicated to learning and to peer exchange, a mentoring center for
jewelers, professionals and students alike.

We are a place of learning, of education. Where else do you hear the
science, metallurgy and techniques of our field debated in this way?

And a few nuts and bolts:

There are 10 thousand unique visitors a day, 4 million and more a

Each user reads 8 articles, 80 thousand documents a day are served.

There are almost 8000 orchid members, up from 6500 last year.

Our press release mailing list is 40,000 people. (by choice)

We have republishing and sharing deals with MJSA, Glass on metal.
Art jewelry magazine, Lapidary Journal, soon to be renamed Jewelry
Artist, Colored Stone, Metalsmith, GZ and GZ art and design. A new
additition is an agreement with Bench Media to place the entire bench
magazine on line, a huge project. Negotiations continue for new
content sharing agreements with others.

The biggest issue this year was delivery of Orchid emails, because
we grew so large. Once the undelivered emails were simply bounced
back, but now they bounce back and trigger spam controls in the big
networks, and we are regularly being blocked in those larger networks
(like AOL) as a result. 70% of Hanuman’s time this last year was
clearing blocks to make sure that we do continue to reach our
readers, as it is hard to tell if people do not get their Orchid
emails, with only 1 in 100 recipients who will complain.

Hanuman and Ton have worked on a very complex software system to
deal with this. Delivery has been improved as a result. We kept doing
article uploads, and paced the rate of data upload, as for some
magazines the frequency of our uploads exceeded magazine output. A
small issue has been technical currency, with older issues of some
magazines having for instance CADCAM that is simply out
of date and so not worth uploading.

Still in development is the Ganoksin ‘workshop central’, which is
for schools to upload their year’s workshop schedules in spreadsheet
form, injecting their entire curriculum into a system that lets you
find a workshop or course by subject, teacher and location.

The first Ganoksin/Orchid/MJSA book by Karen Christians, Making the
Most of your Flex Shaft has sold 1500 copies in a year becoming the
bestseller of MJSA.

I am writing the second Ganoksin/Orchid MJSA book, on the Jewelers
Bench, and we are in the last throes of writing this and finalizing
images as I speak. Expect to see it available this year! Many
Orchidians contributed.

We had a super collaboration with the Bell Group, SNAG, MJSA and the
Bench Media group in the inaugural Clasp conference in Nashville, a
fantastic success fully engineered and carried out with beautiful
clarity by Rio Grande. It was everything we had thought about and
worked for years, breaking the silos apart sideways,
illuminating minds with views from other segments of the industry,
doing a superb job of Muse (inspiration), Method (the technical
world) and Money (how to do business, the place of the entrepreneur,
the professional). A truly wonderful success. We are proud to be part
of this industry initiative. It is one more way that we are working
to make the jeweler’s world a better place.

On a personal note, Hanuman has moved out of the center of Bangkok,
moved up country, where he grows wild orchids, and has built a lovely
garden, a more peaceful place, a home with quiet and beauty.

During the floods in Bangkok he volunteered for three months to
deliver supplies, rice, first aid, and other community service. He
cooks, I mean really cooks, collects antique Thai recipes, compiling
exquisite dishes which may someday see the light in a sharing project
for you to taste. Ton’s skills have enabled our software development,
and his work is integral to the project, the daily core of work that
is the Orchid list and more.

I’m going to Thailand next year, and Hanuman and I will have time
together for several weeks to plan, and grow the site in a way we
have not had before. I’m looking forwards to it.

A development area for the project remains the need for information
guides, interpreters, and teachers to use Ganoksin’s content for
curriculum, setting up paths and roads through it and making the mass
of more sensible, focused and clear for learners.

These comments would not be complete without recognizing some of
those who have worked for ganoksin, Ton, Karen Christians, Pat Glover
among others. To all of our sponsors who have given time, auction and
raffle items, bought tickets tonight and more we give great thanks
and appreciation. A huge, enormous thank you to Rio Grande, Andrea
Hill and the Bell group for their unswerving support, financial and
otherwise, and for the huge job of organizing, and sponsoring
tonight’s Orchid dinner.

And finally, I would like my dear friend and partner Dr. Hanuman
Aspler to stand up and be recognized for his work for us all, for the
world of jewelers, and for our part of humanity.

Thank you all, and have a lovely evening together.