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Goldsmith is the state of mind, not a profession


#1

Quite often I am accused of been overly interpretive of the meaning
of a goldsmith. Some mistakenly think that it should always mean,
someone in at the bench, making expensive things. This is not the
case, at all

I view a goldsmith as someone who pursues perfection, not necessarily
achieves it; as someone who can imagine ways of doing extraordinary
things, with ordinary means.

Here is the link to a short video clip, which exemplifies it, even if
it has nothing to do with goldsmithing.

It is not only the performance of the diver, which is quite
interesting. It is the taste of whoever produced the clip. The
interplay of editing and the music selection is quite notable.

Leonid Surpin
www.studioarete.com


#2

Everybody has a point of view about what goldsmithing is or should
be.

I believe that many people (not all of them!) like to try to be as
perfect possible in anything he/she go’s for. Backing bread, making
furniture, cooking food or making a video, it all depends on
knowledge and what you can do with that knowledge. Some people are
pretty good in translating their idea’s and other just don’t get it.
I know I’m walking on one day ice by expressing my estatement but
I’ll give it a try. If one sell his state of mind for money then it
is a profession, if one just look at it as fun without making money
of it, it is a hobby. However, hobby or profession, it takes a lot
(money, skills, knowledge, respect, honesty…) to be good at both
and experts are born out of making lots of mistakes.

A state of mind can help you very much but you still have to do it.
Why do we have all these questions in this wonderful forum if
everything is related to a state of mind?

Nobody has to agree with my opinion and everybody can build his
point of view. Relating goldsmithing to a state of mind is a bit to
easy as an explanation.

BTW, wonderfull video Leonid, it truly is!

Enjoy and have fun.
Pedro


#3

Leonid, Once again you have found perfection! This is amazing, and
the music -well, my favorite, it couldn’t be anything else. I’ve
posted it on my FB page.

Thank you so much for sending this.
Kind regards,
Dinah


#4

Leonid-

I view a goldsmith as someone who pursues perfection, not
necessarily achieves it; as someone who can imagine ways of doing
extraordinary things, with ordinary means. 

I have always said that if you tested professional gold and platinum
smiths we would mostly be classified as obsessive compulsive and
just a bit anal retentive. We also have to be unflappable and not
easily frightened.

I think it takes a special kind of brain wiring to make the best
goldsmiths.

I’ve often said that Tim and I would make great surgeons except for
that “Ooooo Yuck!” part with all the blood and everything.

Have fun and make lots of jewelry.
Jo Haemer


#5
Everybody has a point of view about what goldsmithing is or should
be. 

My POV :-

An item as best as I can make, that someone wants to buy.

Regards Charles A.
P.S. Joy and fun… that’s good to add to any work :wink:


#6
I have always said that if you tested professional gold and
platinum smiths we would mostly be classified as obsessive
compulsive and just a bit anal retentive. 

Have you been talking to my wife, Jo?

When people ask me why I became a goldsmith I have always said “I
didn’t choose goldsmithing, it chose me”. Many if not most of the
really good goldsmiths I have known never started out with the
objective of becoming a professional goldsmith, it just sort of
happened. I warn my apprentices on their first day that if they’re
not careful, this is what they will be doing when they retire. Once
it gets under your skin, you’re hooked forever.

I have observed that there are basically two different types of
goldsmiths, those with more mechanical / engineering strengths, and
those with more artistic flair. I see this more in beginning smiths,
kind of a left brain - right brain phenomenon. Those that really
excel over the long term, learn the side that they are strongest with
very quickly, but tend to struggle with the other side, sometimes, if
not usually for years. The really good ones accept this as a
challenge and refuse to give up. Eventually, the weaker side starts
catching up, the two parts start talking to each other, and that’s
when the magic starts happening. For most full-time folks, this seems
to gel around the eight to ten year mark.

I agree with Leonid, that a very specific state of mind is probably
the most important single element of becoming a truly talented
goldsmith, but I have to disagree about it not being a profession. I
am a professional goldsmith. It is how I feed my family, and is how
I’ve paid my bills for more years than I really want to think about
anymore. It is the center of my working life, has been since I was a
teenager banging out silver bangles and collars in a tent and will be
until the day I leave this world. I work hard every day to improve my
skills, learn new ways of doing things, exploring new frontiers of
creativity and passing on what I have learned to anyone that is
interested. To me, that is the definition of a professional.

I have started a retail design studio that is very different from
the traditional retail store, it is based entirely on the goldsmith
state of mind. The total opposite of the way the vast majority of
jewelry retailers are set up, we have four full timers, three of us
are full-time, professional benchies. We are growing at a rate of
about 20 to 25% annually, and except for a one year dip in growth
(not in over-all business) during the recent downturn, have kept that
up for six plus years. I was told by many people that are in more
traditional retailer roles, that I was crazy, it’ll never work (I
still hear that too), how are you going to pay all those bills just
doing bench work? I took that as a challenge, much like I would take
on an extremely complex antique restoration that several others had
said was impossible. Just like the antique reproduction demo on my
website (the one even some the best of the best on Orchid told me I
couldn’t do), I’m here to prove the naysayers wrong about whether a
goldsmith based retail business can hit the big-time (one million
dollars gross annual sales) or not. 2013 is the goal, and we’re right
on track so far. I think that is another intrinsic element of the
successful professional goldsmith, at least the ones I know. The
ability - no, the absolute need - to accomplish what others say can’t
be done. Call it OCD, anal retentiveness, whatever, a challenge is
not something most professional goldsmiths will ever walk away from.
They can’t. They won’t be able to sleep for weeks. Such a concept is
not allowed by their DNA.

I think it takes a special kind of brain wiring to make the best
goldsmiths. 

I agree with Jo, and I think that’s what Leonid was talking about
when he says that goldsmith is a state of mind. But I also think it
is one of the finest, most rewarding professions anyone could ever
aspire to. Anyone want to make the case that Lalique wasn’t a
professional?

Dave Phelps


#7

It’s not longer about being a goldsmith, metalsmith or what ever you
may want to call ones self today, all one needs is a computer, a CAD
program and a sense of design and there you go. You’re now a
"jewelry designer". It’s easy to find someone to grow or mill your
design and cast it, and let’s face it the finishing processes is very
important (to me it makes or breaks a piece) but there is so much
poorly finished pieces out there I really don’t think the consumer
knows the difference. So I see it as there is little future for the
"goldsmith", like everything else it will all me made by machines in
the future, all we will be are good repair people. I could go on but
I think you get the idea or I hope you do. This doesn’t mean to give
up, it just means that if you want to succeed you are going to have
to be the best that you can be and learn more than the other guy who
just sits at akeyboard.

Good luck, keep up the hard work.


#8
but there is so much poorly finished pieces out there I really
don't think the consumer knows the difference. 

It depends on you and your customers. We take the time to educate
ours if they are not already.

I do agree that CAD CAM is a very important tool, but it’s still
just a tool. I recommend that all of our students learn CAD if they
want a long career in the trade. However, it’s up to us to educate
our clients and show them how fine jewelry is really made.

We are not all helpless in the face of changes. It’s our trade and
we can make it whatever we want. Learning how to use tools and make
stuff is just the start. We also have to teach our clients. The
better educated the client is, the nicer stuff she will want.

There will always discerning jewelry collectors.

Have fun and make lots of jewelry.
Jo Haemer
www.timothywgreen.com


#9

As usual, I haven’t read much of the thread I’m responding to, I just
read a little something and start thinking, and then typing, half-
baking the idea as I go. I’m not necessarily applying any of this to
any of you nice folks, because it’s definitely more about the way I
am, and the way I used to be, which was very rooted in deriving
self-worth from my talent and abilities as an artist and craftsman. I
was not what you could call ‘balanced’ in my (mostly wasted) youth,
so I wasn’t able to derive that all-important self-worth from areas
where normal, healthy-minded people do ; almost all of it came from
the obsessive and perfectionistic outlook on my work, which was, at
the time, silversmithing, jewelry modelmaking, and a bit
of…goldsmithing.

My first thought upon reading the bit of this thread that I did (too
late for the video) was along the lines of not just goldsmithing
being a state of mind, but of almost anything and everything we do
potentially being grounded in a similar, exalted state of mind;
placed in the category that we put the results of our finest efforts
into. Now, I don’t actually spend much time marvelling at/in the
Uber-Zen of brushing my teeth or watering the yard, but I’m sure it
isn’t any real stretch to see how we can operate from that same
state of mind, that same energy, or what I think of as a state of
grace, in many activities that are not associated with jewelry. At
least I don’t think it should be a stretch, because I find myself
doing it ‘all the time’ doing ‘ordinary’ things.

I have to work to remember how screwey my thinking used to be, and
it’s hard to think that way now, and why would I want to ?. Now, it
serves as a contrast and a reminder of how much I’ve evolved; I
haven’t made any mind-bogglingly intricate, precise jewelry (or any
jewelry) for at least ten years, and I still like myself. There’s
the difference, and an opportunity to avoid swirling down the
self-help-cliche drain too far : I actually like myself now, but I
didn’t ‘back then’. I would excitedly design a piece and not enjoy
making it, taking joy only in dreaming of the final product, and
basking in the glory of it, but hating the process sometimes. I made
some very detailed pieces, but didn’t enjoy actually working on all
those details. I designed things that were impractical to make and
impractical to wear ; there was something big missing from the
middle, with a lot of clutter and confusion there instead. I spent
hours hand filing and sanding areas that nobody would ever notice the
difference of, much lass care about it, and even less, think less of
me if I hadn’t spent all that time on it, if they somehow found out
I hadn’t.

This kind of anal-perfectionist, obsessive attention to detail came
in handy for the modelmaking, no doubt about it, and I enjoyed that
part of that particular job, but that job also came with boatloads
of mind-numbing, brain-dead, mass -production bench work; enough so
that I became burned out on jewelry making. Omitting the legendary
saga of how my life changed (for the much-worse, and now the
much-better), I still get to be a perfectionist in my work ; there’s
a healthy outlet for the obsessiveness, but it doesn’t define me the
way it used to. I can have balance because there is a larger context
for the creativity and need to do good work.

The creative urge seems to come from a place of appreciation for
beauty, not some sense of incompleteness that may be fulfilled by
the process of creation, as may happen with some people. Instead of
trying to achieve (what I call) a state of grace through creativity,
I find myself in states of grace and beauty and appreciation, and
operate from those places. What I’m doing doesn’t determine my state
; instead, my state determines how I look at what I’m doing. I don’t
have to be creating an object of beauty to be beautifully creative
(but since I have good taste, a lot of what I do looks good ). There
can be beauty of motion in things like raking leaves or painting
logs with asphalt; it may not look like ballet, but seemingly
ordinary activities like this can be performed artistically. It
isn’t about art, it’s about operating from the place where art comes
from, which is the place of beauty, and the place of beauty comes
from the state of grace, which, to me, has a mystical, metaphysical,
spiritual context.

Dar Shelton
sheltech.net


#10

Wow, Dar, you have cut through the clutter right to the heart of the
matter. Thank you very much for the reminder of the real goal.

Congratulations for getting there.

Noel


#11

I completely agree with jbdwizard1. Wax carving and casting was the
core of my business. I watched it erode over time. In the beginning
I was able to compete against CAD/CAM machines simply because I was
cheaper and the programs were not as sophisticated. Now, they can
make anything much better than a human can make it. And all of the
casting houses will now carve your piece and cast it all in house for
very little money. I really believe that the future of goldsmithing
will be in hand fabricated work. The value of cast and machine carved
pieces will decline, just like every manufactured item. It starts out
expensive and gets cheaper and cheaper. The only reason they will be
worth anything at all is the value of their materials because anyone
can scan the item and reproduce it. It doesn’t require a skilled
craftsman.

Kevin
www.potterusa.com


#12

It’s not longer about being a goldsmith, metalsmith or what ever you
may want to call ones self today, all one needs is a computer, a CAD
program and a sense of design and there you go. You’re now a
"jewelry designer". Two responses and one idea to this idea that
people that ‘just sit at a computer’ are somehow robbing metalsmiths
of their career. (1) CAD people that don’t have a practical
background (I.e., are benchies of one sort or another) often, maybe
usually, come up with designs that aren’t very practical. The designs
are laughably unusable. The renders are breath-taking but as jewelry
they just won’t work. So they aren’t any competition to you. (2) I
often feel benchies disapprove of people that ‘just sit at a
keyboard’ and design jewelry (see above), as if they are somehow a
lower form of life. News flash: there is a significant outlay for
equipment/software and a steep learning curve to become a good CAD
designer. By the time they are putting out valid designs they have
paid their dues, just as benchies have. It’s true if you purchase one
of the higher-end programs such as Matrix you can be putting out
perfectly acceptable three-stone rings pretty quickly, but, so what?
It’s just like every else’s three-stone ring. In addition to the poor
designers, there are also excellent designers ‘just sitting at a
keyboard’. They have a lot of talent, they’ve made a big investment,
they’ve learned the necessary skills and they’ve put it all to work.
Why should they apologize? IDEA: Come to grips with the fact that the
only unchanging fact of life is that there is always change. How many
times through history has this lament been sounded? “Huh. Grog make
wheel. Now Grunt no longer got job hauling rocks on back like Big
Spirit intended.” Any metalsmith/designer that feels their lifestyle
is threatened by CAD can do what I’m doing. Learn CAD. If it’s is the
tool-of-the-day, so be it.


#13

Hi gang,

I’m slowly forcing myself to pick up Rhino, largely because of Lee’s
needs in terms of getting the KC saws (and new toys) done. it’s
interesting coming at a modern CAD program after having given them up
in disgust 15 years ago. (I’m not a big fan of the Rhino interface,
but I haven’t seen one that I like better yet, either.)

In the long run, I think things that can be cast will be CAD/CAM
waxes. The future for humans lies in doing the sorts of work that
the cam systems can’t.

Can a CAM system produce forged titanium? No. Can it do much of
anything with titanium or other reactives? Not easily. I’m picking
those because they’re near to my head, and come easily, but there are
plenty of other processes like repusee that simply don’t lend
themselves to being cast, or faked with a mill. Yeah, you can get
something that’s visually close, but the weight and strength will be
all wrong.

It’s sort of like what happened to painting after the camera really
hit big. They stopped chasing realism and became abstract. They
stopped competing on the camera’s home turf (capturing reality) and
went where the camera couldn’t follow.

We need to keep that in mind, and pitch our skills into areas where
the machines can’t follow. (repair, plastic deformation, etc.)

Regards,
Brian


#14

Somehow this subject morphed into CAD/CAM discussion, which is an
interesting subject in itself, but the question " what is and who is
a goldsmith ?" have much broader implications. So, with your
permission, I will try to nudge this question towards a wider
channel.

I promise to do it without any scatological references. I sympathize
with all of you, who express their dismay at the form that one
individual on this forum have chosen to express his opinions. As
disagreeable as it is, we have to come to grips with the fact, that
certain ways of upbringing leave an indelible mark on person’s
behavior thought their lives. So, we simply have to accept it and
move on.

Historically, a goldsmith was a person who worked with gold.
However, this simple description implies quite a lot. What is the
difference between coppersmith and goldsmith? The methods of shaping
of the metal is almost the same; tools are largely interchangeable;
scale of objects is different, but it can be ignored for the purposes
of this discussion.

The difference is that goldsmith must carefully preserve every bit
of metal, and very carefully chose methods of fabrication, with this
preservation in mind. Coppersmith does not have this impediments. No
good craftsman would waste anything, but it is secondary for
everybody, except goldsmith.

This constant concern for the metal, over the ages, produced a type
of craftsman with unique ways of thinking, and ingenious fabrication
methods. Let’s face it, it is not difficult to produce what goldsmith
does, if use of industrial equipment is allowed. It is exceptionally
difficult, if one has to rely only on hand tools.

This sheds some light on CAD/CAM approaches. While results may be the
same, or almost the same - the way to achieve it makes a difference.

Desire to accumulate wealth is almost universal. If a person build
business, employ people, and accumulate wealth this way, we welcome
it. If a person achieve the same result by selling drugs on the
street corner, most of us will reject this idea of wealth
accumulation. So, to define what and who is a goldsmith ? we must
consider the process itself.

Leonid Surpin
www.studioarete.com


#15

Peter,

You are so right. I have spent more decades as a benchie than I care
to admit. Add in another decade and lots of $$ for cad/cam. A neat
bench tool at a high price and a more vertical learning curve than
all the skills a good benchie needs. I use it (and my bench) but am
probably stubborn as hell, obsessive and anal rentive as Jo H so
well described good jewellers.

jeffD
Analog/Digital Modelling & Goldsmithing
http://www.gmavt.net/~jdemand


#16
It's sort of like what happened to painting after the camera
really hit big. They stopped chasing realism and became abstract.
They stopped competing on the camera's home turf (capturing
reality) and went where the camera couldn't follow. 

My friend’s son writes videogames and paints realism. Go figure.
http://www.ganoksin.com/gnkurl/lv


#17
The value of cast and machine carved pieces will decline, just like
every manufactured item. It starts out expensive and gets cheaper
and cheaper. The only reason they will be worth anything at all is
the value of their materials because anyone can scan the item and
reproduce it. It doesn't require a skilled craftsman. 

As important as you waxheads are, I think there’s still a little
talent required to properly finish CAD jewelry and to correctly set
the stones.


#18
It's not longer about being a goldsmith, metalsmith or what ever
you may want to call ones self today, all one needs is a computer,
a CAD program and a sense of design and there you go. You're now a
"jewelry designer". It's easy to find someone to grow or mill your
design and cast it, and let's face it the finishing processes is
very important (to me it makes or breaks a piece) but there is so
much poorly finished pieces out there I really don't think the
consumer knows the difference. 

It’s up to us to educate the consumer. I have a computer and am
learning CAD and I just built a foundry furnace and am learning sand
casting. I make all my own wire and sheet and alloy my metals. I
also use a microscope and a GraverMax. I think you’re making a lot of
assumptions. Let me make one: It’s time for some people to retire.