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Everybody in the pool!


#1

Hi Folks;

Just out of curiosity, since I was wondering how extensive was the
popularity of this new career of “jewelry designer” I googled a few
things. Here’s what I got:

automotive designer - 6,300 hits
apparel designer - 31.600 hits
jewelry designer - 326,000 hits

I’d guess that the ratio of jewelry designers on e-bay to actresses
pouring coffee in Hollywood is about 100 to 1. Don’t mean to stir
up trouble (well, maybe just a little trouble . . ). Do people
really think this is going to be that easy? So far, I’ve tried to
work for a half dozen self styled “designers” and their knowledge of
what could and couldn’t be done or should and shouldn’t be done made
my jaw drop. Obvious square-peg-in-the-round-hole kinds of
problems. And as for the “originality” of these designs, well, I
could tell them who’s pockets they were picking but I doubt they
knew themselves. I want to plunk down the Stuller mountings book in
front of them and show them how generic their ideas really are.

But I’ve also got a couple folks I work for who have paid their dues
and know how to defer to my experience, and they don’t have the
stars in their eyes that make them trip over their own egos.
Interestingly, their designs are very original too. Go figure.
They let me make it work for them, and it’s all theirs when it’s
done and their customers love it. But after I get past my disgust
at the pretentiousness of all these other folks, I start to feel
sorry for them and I’m saddened to think of what they can expect.

I’ve both enjoyed and hated making jewelry for over 30 years, and
I’ve been the anonymous facilitator of work that’s gone on the
bodies of celebrities and in the cases of huge department store
chains. I’ve done $30 price pointed items up to six-figure
one-offs. If I had ever approached my work with the idea that I was
going to find a shortcut to riches and fame, I’d have been crushed
by the realities of what this discipline demands of a craftsperson
and never gone on to learn what I did. Why haven’t I taken my shot
at fame and fortune? Same reason I don’t buy lottery tickets. Do I
think I’m good enough? It has nothing whatsoever to do with good.
Anybody out there seeing this or am I just having a bad day? I once
worked for a retailer who convinced me to call myself a “designer
goldsmith”. I’m going back to the title “metalsmith”.

David L. Huffman


#2
   I'd guess that the ratio of jewelry designers on e-bay to
actresses pouring coffee in Hollywood is about 100 to 1.  Don't
mean to stir up trouble (well, maybe just a little trouble . . ). 
Do people really think this is going to be that easy?  So far, I've
tried to work for a half dozen self styled "designers" and their
knowledge of what could and couldn't be done or should and
shouldn't be done made my jaw drop. 

I wonder what that ratio would drop to if you only counted people
who actually came up with original designs, and eliminated those who
use the term “designer” as a code word meaning “third world
sweatshop operator.” Seriously, I have spoken with people at shows
which were supposed to be solely for artists selling their own work,
and have been told “oh, yes, we are designers, and we have our work
produced in our factory in Bali.” If the pieces they were selling
were original and different, I might have believed, but what taxed
my credulity was the idea that the Balinese needed an American
couple to devise designs which looked the same as every other
uninspired piece of low-end Balinese silver work.

Lee Einer
Dos Manos Jewelry
http://www.dosmanosjewelry.com


#3

mr huffman, you took the words out of my head! i started in the
jewelry trade as a teenager, it has now been 25yrs+ learning my
trade, and i still remember the thrill i got from just the smell of
the shop. i felt honored and special to sit at a bench and be given
the gift of knowledge and the benefit of experience from my
co-workers over the years. i feel torn by what i’m going to say
next. i would never discourage anyone from emerging themselves in
this field, it is always fascinating and usually satisfying. but, it
is painful to know i took the long way to learn it right from the
basics, and earn the title goldsmith, and yet anyone can call
themselves goldsmith, platinumsmith, or jewelry designer…(lord
knows i’ve fixed enough of their blunders to know)…no offence
meant to true artists!

and thank you to ganoksin for having a place to speak openly

lisa
lmfsyrny@aol.com


#4

David, I don’t believe you are the only one seeing this, and you are
not just having a bad day.

You took the words outta my mouth, even tho’, relatively, I am a
baby in metalsmithing. It’s a subject that has been on my mind quite
a bit lately.

Thanks for the post - and don’t stop stirring up trouble!

Nancie
www.moonfishdesign.com


#5

David,

I’m glad to see that there really is another “metalsmith” out there
besides myself! I just HATE trying to design up stuff that: 1% of
the population will adore; 96% will say, ‘that’s nice’; and 3% will
politely say, ‘EWWWWW’.

I make more money, in a shorter period of time by doing repairs.
AND, every single customer is always thrilled with my work! Because
they loved that piece of jewelry enough to spend money on it to have
me fix it, when it comes back to them looking good as new, I’m a
HERO every durn time!! It’s hard not to enjoy being a hero 10
times/day.

Every time I let myself get talked into doing a custom piece I kick
myself 'til I can get back to doing what I truly
enjoy…turning nearly useless scrap gold back into cherished
jewelry treasures!!!

Steve (who’s kicking himself as we speak 'cuz he’s doing a custom
job now) Stempinski

Steve’s Place
Jewelry Repair
While-U-Watch


#6
            i took the long way to learn it right from the basics,
and earn the title goldsmith, and yet anyone can call themselves
goldsmith, platinumsmith, or jewelry designer 

Hi Lisa;

I don’t know at what point somebody has the right to call themselves
a goldsmith, platinumsmith, etc. There’s a gold-butcher in a nearby
mall who has hung a sign “Master Goldsmith”. He’s never passed any
kind of exam or been formally apprenticed, gone to school, nothing
but a couple years in a trade shop. Bingo, Master Goldsmith. Just
decided his customers would be as impressed with him as he is with
himself and probably, like him, wouldn’t know the difference one way
or another.

When I see some people calling themselves “jewelry designers” I’m
thinking of some short-order cook at the local greasy spoon calling
himself a “chef”. Chef Ed, and his award winning fried-egg sandwich.
Please, folks, drop the pretense. As Lee Einer has pointed out, it’s
such a hackneyed term that the folks pawning off junk made in
overseas sweatshops are using it as a way to introduce themselves to
the American market. Designer jewelry is like designer cheese,
designer laundry detergent, designer toilet paper. It’s worse than a
cliche. It’s drek.

David L. Huffman


#7

David,

I ventured into the jewelry business in 1979, ended my excellent day
job with Generous Motors in 1982, and as of right now still have
never equaled the wage I earned back in 1981 as a shoprat. I love
what I do, would never go back, but not only lost the wage, I have no
health insurance, no retirement, no basic life insurance, no security
of any kind. As I age, I wonder if the right decisions were made so
long ago.

Jon Michael Fuja


#8

This conversation reminds me of an “article” years ago in The Onion,
an American Satirical Newspaper. Here it is:

    80 Percent of U.S. Populace Now Selling Handmade Jewelry 

    WASHINGTON, DC-According to a Department Of Labor report
    released Monday, four out of five Americans derive at least
    a portion of their income from the sale of handmade jewelry.
    "In the past 10 years, the number of Americans selling or
    attempting to sell jewelry of their own creation has risen
    tenfold," Labor Department spokesman Gary Hardwick told
    reporters. "And, speaking of jewelry, if any reporter here
    has a girlfriend or wife who might like some lovely
    dreamcatcher earrings, I'd be happy to show them some of my
    designs." 

Source:
http://www.TheOnion.com
This bit ran in September, 2001

The Onion is so convincing that it has been quoted in various
congresses – with politicians denouncing whichever made up story.

Elaine
Elaine Luther
Metalsmith, Certified PMC Instructor
http://www.CreativeTextureTools.com
Hard to Find Tools for Metal Clay


#9

Thank you, Lee, I have been wondering the same thing for years. The
use of componants from Bali in an original way would even be
refreshing. In my best self none of this bothers me, there seems to
be room for all of us but, then when my paychecks are few and far
between I get excitable and look at the market for some one other
than me to blame.

Sam Patania, Tucson
www.patanias.com


#10
    Do I think I'm good enough?  It has nothing whatsoever to do
with good. Anybody out there seeing this or am I just having a bad
day? 

You hit the nail squarely on the head there, David. Once an art form
becomes commercialized, promoters will not only convince artists
that they are great designers, they will also manage to convince the
art-buying public that their designs are substantial art. And it
seldom has much to do with good.

James in SoFl


#11

First - I want to tell everyone on Orchid how much I appreciate
them. We all have our days- and Mr. Huffman you happened to speak
when I was having one of mine. I also choose to be the “Unknown
Craftsman” (Which is a very good book) and to know we have strong
blocks making up our foundation is comforting.

Cindy Leffler
Manney B’s


#12

David:

I saw your post and couldn’t help but respond. I too am dismayed
over how many folks have suddenly decided to become jewelery
"designers" or even “jewelers” for that matter. But then I am one to
talk as most folks on this post would probably say. I thought for
many months and discussed it with my spouse before actually starting
my first class in silversmithing and reading books, ie. beginning to
learn the craft just over one year now. I have talked with other
people who claim to be jewelers who have never cast anything using
ANY method, never seen a rolling mill, and quite frankly never had
much experience with a torch! It’s amazing. However, something you
should examine is where YOU want to be. The people claiming they are
jewelers and designers will eventually be weeded out. I don’t care
how much education someone has - as always in this capitalist society
of ours, the market will decide what jeweler’s designs succeed. We
may not like that, but it is a lot like music in terms of trends. Let
these designers go- do your own thing.

This can be a very difficult thing to determine. What would make you
happy? By the sounds of it you are not happy where you are at. Have
you thought about opening your own consulting firm and working with
these “designers” as a means of distancing yourself from them? It may
give you some extra time to play the lottery and sell some of your
peices :slight_smile: I have seen the info you post to this forum you have much
talent to contribute to the world!

One of the first things my spouse made me do when I decided to start
my jewelery biz was ask me where I saw my business as the finished
result. Would I have to have my jewelery all over the world to
consider myself a success? I have to say it was a very painful,
eye-opening, and necessary exercise.

Now buck up camper and go fire up that torch!

Kennedi


#13

Hi David,

As someone with many years behind me, I, too, have become disturbed
at the idea of “jewelry designer” being one of the new chic career
paths. My path has been far from easy, so at first, I figured that
perhaps I just hadn’t been smart enough to figure it out. Then I
figured that I was just envious that I hadn’t figured it out. Then I
spoke with someone who let me in on a dirty little secret their shop
was doing the manufacturing for some “designers” who went overseas,
bought a bunch of stones, brought stones and some rough sketches
back to the shop so some bench people could make up the pieces that
they would sell as theirs!!

I know that each person has strengths and weaknesses, and that not
every bench person is artistically inclined. There are obviously
designers that have no bench skills (or even basic jewelry
understanding) out there selling “their” wares. Marketing has lead us
to believe that every celebrity is capable of designing a jewelry
line, or a clothing line, or you name it. There are whole teams of
invisible talent making that happen for them.

Sour grapes? Perhaps, but I’m with you. I’d rather be “doing” the
honest work, from my own hands, than out there putting myself forward
with the glitzy “designer” title, and no skills to back it up.
Perhaps we’re “old-fashioned” now, and out of the smart money-making
loop. Somehow, there is more integrity in creating your own
interpretations with your own hands, but integrity doesn’t seem to be
as important today, as having a fancy label and a team to do the
work. Being “in charge” is much more glamorous than getting your
hands dirty. Bottom line, though, they wouldn’t have a product if it
weren’t for those of us who know how to actually make it!

Melissa Veres,
goldsmith and engraver


#14

Jewelry is being touted as one of the great alternate careers by the
career transition specialists. I know this because the literature
mentioning it was presented to me.


#15

One good thing is it gives a nice seperation between run of the mill
’crap’ and nicely made, original jewelry.

I don’t make jewelry yet so I really can’t say anything. I’m still
in the ‘buy a mount’ for something I cut stage. :slight_smile:

Craig
www.creativecutgems.com


#16

One thing I have to comment on here is that there is a difference
between jewelry DESIGN and jewelry PRODUCTION/MFG. Someone can sit
down in front of Rhino3d and pump out awesome jewelry that could
easily be manufactured from the resultant files (as we know). So, I
think if someone can design original jewelry in a cad package they
can call themselves designers even if they don’t have the know how to
make the stuff.

Craig
www.creativecutgems.com


#17

This is a very interesting discussion.

Jon, with the massive layoffs GM just announced, you probably did
make the right decision. It’s sort of the opposite with me - have
the day job, and the health insurance, but that’s only while I am
working - and I am very lucky to work for a company that pays for
this insurance.

I make jewelry because I love it. Looking into the not-so-distant
future when I reach the age of retirement, I hope to be good
enough, with well developed skills, to have something I both love
doing and can make some kind of living with. Certainly, I can’t
picture myself at the age of 70 doing a day job like I have now.
Retirement? There really isn’t one for me. I will have to work until
I drop dead, and will probably live to well into my 90’s.

There is much to be said for craftsmanship - it does seem like many
people want to skip the work, the effort, and the time it takes to
learn and develop the skills necessary to really know what they are
doing - but I don’t think it’s exclusive to this industry. I think
it’s the American way. We want it fast, and we want it now!

But fortunately, there are plenty of people who do appreciate well
crafted work. They do know the difference between stuff
mass-produced by underpaid laborers and the work most of us care
about. Personally, when I start thinking about all the stuff
marketed as artisan made which really isn’t, I drive myself nuts.

Discussions like this bring it back to the sense that all I can do
is what I love, keep the desire to continue learning, and understand
that the only thing unique about my work is that my hands actually
made it.

I agree with whoever said that eventually many of the "designers"
will be weeded out.

There was one such designer that was everywhere, and I mean
everywhere, in CA - in small little coastal shops and high-end
jewelry stores. In a couple high-end stores the sales people tried
to pass it off as artisan made, even tho anyone with half a brain
had to know it was mass produced overseas. Eventually this designer
disappeared - there was such a glut of this jewelry I think people
got sick of seeing it everywhere and it stopped selling.

We should take pride in our desire to keep craftsmanship alive and
well. While it won’t make us rich quick, our work will outlive us,
and that’s way more than many of these non-artisan designers can
say.

And Elaine, wish I had seen that Onion article! They amaze me with
their dead-on satire.

Nancie
www.moonfishdesign.com


#18

So, is it okay to call yourself a jewelry designer if you don’t send
sketches overseas for production? Aren’t there a lot of people on
Orchid who design and make jewelry in their studios?

I realize it’s not going to get me famous or rich, but that’s what
I’d like to be doing for a living five years from now…

Leah
www.michondesign.com
@Leah2


#19

One thing I have to comment on here is that there is a difference
between jewelry DESIGN and jewelry PRODUCTION/MFG. Someone can sit
down in front of Rhino3d and pump out awesome jewelry that could
easily be manufactured from the resultant files (as we know). So, I
think if someone can design original jewelry in a cad package they
can call themselves designers even if they don’t have the know how to
make the stuff.

Craig
www.creativecutgems.com


#20

I’m pretty new to the pool compared to a lot of you guys. I think
I’m going on 4 years in this business (I know… peanuts compared to
most of you). However, I have pretty much worked in art in one form
or another since I can remember, so it was just a transition for me.
And I have been able to support myself and my teenage daughter, so I
must be doing something right. I also have some legal and business
background - for what it’s worth. Although, I do know it’s helped me
many times in the past 4 years.

When I first started working in jewelry I knew this was going to be
a really tough job. I won’t lie - 40% of the time, this job sucks.
For me, I was working full-time and making/selling jewelry on the
side. It got to the point where I needed to make a decision, because
I was really working two full-time jobs. I decided to risk it and go
for the jewelry business. I quit my job, crossed my fingers, and
I’ve been working like a dog ever since… But there is so much
competition and pricing can either make or break you. It’s a really
cut-throat business to be in. It’s still amazing to me that there is
a forum as great as this one - because this is really a hard business
to get any kind of or business advice on. The
competition is so fierce that no one wants to share - but this forum
is different and I think it’s great!

I’ve found that I need to be consistently moving forward - all the
time. My website is totally outdated and most, if not all, of my new
designs are sitting here waiting for the photographer and my decision
on what direction to take - wholesale, retail, shows, etc. I’d say
that 90% of my business right now is custom work. I even had my
first diamond jewelry piece requested the other week. Don’t laugh -
that’s a big step up for me. I’ve already done wholesale, and I’m
currently doing retail. There are definitely pros and cons with both
of those. I’m trying to weigh out which one has the least cons to it
and then I’ll move forward. I haven’t quite decided. I think it’s
going to be a toss up.

But the main thing is to constantly move forward and advance.
Constantly… Once you stop and become comfortable in a design or
style, everyone else has already caught up to you - and probably
underpriced you too. My jewelry doesn’t compare to many of your
wonderful creations, but I’m still always moving forward - always.
I’m trying to find a niche right now that is different from what is
currently out there. That’s pretty tough to do. At the same time, I
try to avoid looking at other’s designs for inspiration - because I
don’t want to be influenced by someone else’s work. I also don’t
worry about those that copy because they are only going to be able to
survive off copying for so long. There will come a point where their
lack of creativity and originality will put them out of business.

I spoke to someone that has been in this business for a long time a
short while ago about this same thing. I agree with what he told me.
That is that it’s all going to weed itself out in the end. Those
that are not unique are not going to sell, etc. Those that are and
are successful will stay in the business.

Maybe instead of “everybody in the pool”, it should be “may the best
man win…” lol!