Tina D, As for your first question. I wouldn't give up on working as
a jeweler completely. I am lucky enough to work at a store that
allows me, and the other 2 jewelers, to take our time and do the job
right. Yes, we do get a little pressure to rush a job every now and
then, but never to the point of sacrificing quality. I know that
this is not how many shops work, but I am sure that there are others
out there that would appreciate your attention to detail. But if
you can't find a job as a jeweler that fits you, see about finding a
jewelers supply company to work for. I don't know how you feel
about sales, but it is nice to talk to a sales rep who understands
the work that you do. Unfortunately, many sales reps selling to
jewelers have never picked up a torch or set a stone. With your
experience, I think that you could do very well in this field. Once
the jewelers that you deal with realize that you understand them,
you will be the one that they call when they need something. I know
that sales isn't for everyone, including me, but it is much easier
when you are selling something that you enjoy and know about. These
companies might also have jobs for support techs. You would also be
able to get new equipment for your own studio at great prices.
As for how I got where I am. I got a BFA in painting and drawing.
I worked for 3 years as an artist for a t-shirt company. A decent
job, but low pay, no benefits, and very little room for creativity.
I then got a job at a dental lab, carving crowns, bridges, and
implants. A cool job with decent pay and benefits. I got to learn
casting and did my first original piece of jewelry while working
there. But little room for creativity, except when working with
implants, and a factory/trade shop atmosphere. I had to crank out X
number of crowns a day and invest them for casting. I probably
would have stayed there, but they let me go. They said my work was
great, but I was to slow. Sound familiar? I then ended up at the
t-shirt company again for 3 more years. Then I was lucky enough to
land a job as a jeweler apprentice. I have been here a year now and
love it. They were happy to have my attention to detail (slow)
work ethic. They sent me to a week long course to learn the basics.
Then they starting giving me jobs. When I came across something I
had trouble with, one of the other jewelers would walk me though it
or take over and show me how it was done. It has been a great way
to learn the job. I am still just doing the basics: sizings, chain
repair, and setting round stones in 3 or 4 prong settings, as well
as engraving and sandcarving. I hope to get into design down the
road, as I get more experience as a jeweler. I have just started to
design some simple pieces out of silver and semiprecious stones. My
wife should be happy. She will be able to start filling out her
jewelry box with custom pieces, as I experiment with creating them.
Good luck in what ever you do.