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Got a life?

Hi all, Kinda curious how many hours the pros (and the hobbyists) put
into work in a n average day. And to make it more interesting - do you
have a life away from the bench?

In my old life (18 months ago) I used to spend at least 14 hours,
and up to 18 hours a day working at the bench or teaching tough as it
was, I loved it. Almost no life away from the bench. But even though I
would give most anythi ng to do it all again - I’m settling for
whatever I can get!

Now, an average day for me begins with coffee, checking my email,
and 20 minutes of drawing. I’ve got to soak my right hand in
medication and paraffi n for 15 minutes before I can use it. I built
myself an orthopedic appliance to ho ld my right arm up. (The muscle
that usually does that was a casualty to last year’s surgeries) I
stuff my arm into that. Then 4 hours work at the bench ( I’m
physically limited to that these days). Lunch is grabbed as I go out
the door on a 15 - 20 mile bicycle ride. Eaten while I’m riding.

Afternoon is spent working on my book “30 Years at the Bench” - a
collection of tips, tricks, jeweler’s jokes and stories. Maybe an
article or two. Tons of research and compiling
Photography and illustrations…

Evenings, after dinner, I spend learning new (to me) computer
programs, read Orchid, and play with experimental ideas in the
studio or machine shop.

Before I sleep I read. I don’t own a television, nor read
newspapers. I do read every single trade publications, and an average
of 150 - 200 books a ye ar. (That’s not an exaggeration, my wife
watched me read almost 300 while going through surgeries, radiation,
and chemotherapy last year!)

I also manage to squeeze in scuba diving, hiking, a little fishing,
photography, a collection of cactus & succulent plants, aquaria,
gardening, cooking, and time with my son Gabriel & the dogs. Don’t
hunt anymore, but try to get to the range once a month to stay
qualified with pistols. And oh yes, I do spen d some time with my wife
Melanie better go do that now:)

How 'bout you?


Brian, Okay, first, wow, it’s amazing what you do after such a major
setback. It’s funny you should ask about having a life. It’s the
one thing I struggle most with. This week I actually went out and
saw friends twice. I can’t remember the last time that happened
other than at a craft show. I generally work a couple of hours in
the morning trying to organize my life and business, do e-mail,
return calls and such, then I’m in the studio for about 6 hours,
come home for dinner for a couple of hours and then back to the
studio for another 4 or 5 hours. On the weekends I don’t work quite
as many hours but I rarely take a whole day off.

Good luck with your book.
Deb Karash

My average work time now is about 15 hours a week. Of course it’s
making up for all the 80-100 hour weeks I put in when I was younger.

Daniel R. Spirer, GG
Spirer Somes Jewelers

Hi Brian,

  Do I sense the beginnings of another great thread? 

I’m one of those whose hobby got out of control, so it’s really been
a small, part-time business since 1990. Earnings pay for taxes,
inventory, tools, classes, TUCSON, and the rest is donated to my
church or other worthies. Time? Sometimes 20+ hours/week. Other
weeks when I’m out of town or otherwise tied up, there is no bench

My day job used to be as the environmental supervisor for the local
county health dept. The problem-solving was fun and I enjoyed being
outside on the nice days. I don’t miss dealing with the ticks,
chiggers, mosquitoes, >100 degree/<20 degree temps, realtors, and
occasional obnoxious person.

My current day job at Kansas State University is coordinating an
environmental educational program for adults - which fits nicely
with my professional experience and advanced degree in adult
education. This is my third major project to manage. The job also
involves writing publications, reports, grants (got to keep $ coming
in), and whatever else comes my way. I really enjoy the academic
atmosphere here, where one is encouraged to pursue learning,
regardless of the topic. Access to the library is wonderful.
Access to all the experts is better - and sometimes I even get to be
the expert!! (OK, back off - even blonds can have a brain.) Since
these projects are grant funded (soft money), I am contracted from
year to year. There is always the possibility that there will not be
a job next year. In that case, I would have the luxury/necessity of
full-time bench work. I’d like to do more teaching. It’s nice to
have a fall back position.

Can’t wait to hear from all the rest of you - that includes Hanuman
and Ton! Orchid Rules! Judy in Kansas

Judy M. Willingham, R.S.
B.A.E. 237 Seaton Hall
Kansas State University
Manhatttan KS 66506
(785) 532-2936 FAX (785) 532-6944

people - yes, there is life during the bench - i have some sweat
shirts that read: “i backpack, kayak, hike, bike, and canoe too …
and boy am i tired!” and “i kayak, backpack, bike, hike and canoe
too … which way to the nearest e.r.?” but there are times when i
need another that reads: “i’ve taken to making jewelry, so there’s
no more tomfoolery.” most people do have lives, they just spend them
on petty, stressful activities; this isn’t a rehearsal, people, THIS
IS IT! ive who is in the midst of preparing for the season’s first
show & then a week in a canoe in the gulf of mexico to camp on
barrier islands & curse those who don’t believe the polar ices are melting
& the seas are rising.

Well people usually get mad when they see me so relaxed, I work at
the bench between 30 and 40 hours a week. It all started as a hobby
but now it�s my work and since there are almost no designer
jewellers in this country I get to do the most amazing custom work.

I don�t have a fixed schedule, most of the time I work at night
except the days I teach which are tuesdays and wednesdays. Since I
work by myself I can change working days, sometimes I work on
sundays (since it�s such a slow day no one bothers me). fequently I
take a couple of days off just to go to the beach ( you can imagine
the beaches here in Costa Rica, it�s a tropical paradise and
besides, you can visit the atlantic, and in 2 and a half hours youre
there, but if you wanted to go to the pcific 2 hours will do) I have
friends who are biologists and biology tour guides besides the
kayakers and the rafting guides, so I tend to go to the jungle
frequently. Most of the time these trips fill my head with fresh
ideas, colors, new forms and diferent ways to see the world.

So I do have a life I also have a huge garden, 2 collie dogs, I read
a lot, go to concerts frequently, I love music… and the list goes
on. BAsically jewelry has helped me to get a life I work in
something I love, I teach, I travel and I have the best of times…

You all should visit Costa Rica
Julieta Odio

okay folks, just one thing, …what’s a “life”?..:>)

In-between getting to my downtown setters bench in Toronto, I’m
there by 6:30 A.M. and leaving by 6:00 p.m. honestly! phone calls,
pick & deliveries, preparing for S/S & CZ samples for my Thursday
evening teaching of 22 students at 6:00-10:30 p.m. that makes it an
18 hour lo-o-ong day! werkin’ on Saturdays, sometimes on Sundays.

Writing articles for the Bench magazine, answering e-mails at
midnight or 7:00 a.m. but one thing IS for sure, no work on Friday
(Sabbath) nights or on Jewish Holy-days! This is time off for me and
my inner-spiritual needs. Also preparing for demo-trade show in
April, 2004 with BENCH and a visit to St. Petes, FLA…with

E-mails from people who request some help in their setting needs and
preparing for more notes on setting and my new CD. Life is ‘fun’,
especially if this person enjoys that new “spark” of creativity in
helping and teaching novices. So a regular 70 hour work week is just
the normal routine of my humble living. Yes, I do make of time for my
family, religious events, dinner with friends, so MY life is not all
work,…but its close…:>) Next year I’m gonna slack-off with only a
60 hour week…LOL ! “Gerry, the Cyber-Setter !”

Hello all

Cant wait to read the responses to this thread. Brian I’m totally
amazed by your daily routine, and you still manage to work on the
bench. ( right on !!) My average day is between 12 to 15 hrs six
days a week. My mornings begin at the gym @ 4:30 get work at 5:45 and
home by 7:00 or 8:00 pm. Friday nights I get together with friends
and family go to dinner and back to the routine on Saturday.Sundays I
stay home. I sometimes complain about not being able to getaway but
I was told that too much work is a GOOD PROBLEM TO HAVE . ( The
people I have met through my business makes it all worthwhile ) Its
good to know that most jewelers have a little bit of a life.

I am going FT.Lauderdale @ the end of the month . ( cant wait )

Tony Cecena

Talk about a 2 sided coin. Where I am now, I can only work when
someone else is there, they have the keys. Mostly I like it that
way. M-F, get in there about 9, leave by 6. Occasional Sat during
holiday rush. Plenty of time for family, sort of, but that is a
different question entirely. Lets just say it isn’t the job that
keeps us from having a life. Down side? Little time to work on
personal projects or develop and produce my own line, no chances to
work alone, on my own time and terms, to enjoy the high productivity
that such time allows. Before this, I have had a number of
situations that have had different results. My immediate previous
job was such a long commute, and we could only afford housing in a
community with little to offer, that we didn’t really have a life
there, either. When we had our trade shop, it got to the point where
my wife was complaining of being a single mom, and I worked in the
house. I rarely left the property, literally.

Seems like when we have been in situations that provided the time to
have a life, there is such a lack of funding that we can’t enjoy the
time, or there are other constraints like kids schedules and such.
When the income has been there, the time isn’t. Not sure which is
better for family relations. Being able to work at something you love
doing is certainly a plus, and perhaps more satisfying overall. For
me, the work I find most satisfying is a rare treat. Mostly, I just
repair cheap jewelry all day, trying to bandaid things together for
people unwilling or unable to pay for a really good job, or better
stuff to begin with. All in a days work, I suppose, while we wait
for the next opportunity to knock and step up a notch higher in the
food chain. Jim

I am on ther verge of so many developments in my abstract,
expressionist, 3dimensional, pierced and hollowed, classically
carved, wood, wax, silver,copper… jewelry, and with so many
directions to go in, in both material and design, and their
offspring, not to mention, stone, which i haven’t even gotten to
yet, or mathmatical design on computer, that i can’t stop now or
ever. unless i move to sculpture or painting, so the way i feel
presently, is, move over stephen webster, donatella, elsa peretti,
rl morris, etc,comin in! there ain’t no life, nowhere…dp

It’s funny to me to read about other people’s lives… this is a
more interesting thread than I expected. Myself, I would give a lot
to be able to throw myself into my work even 40 hours a week, but I
made my choices long ago, and now am trying to figure out how to
change some of them.

I’m almost 53, and have a husband and four kids, youngest 15. Two in
college now (expensive private). My husband is a self-employed
writer/consultant, and times have been very hard the last few years.
I teach, which I love, but enrollment is down, so I have fewer
classes, plus fewer sales at the few shows I manage to do each year.

So why am I not in the studio? Partly, I have trouble getting out
there when I know I only have a short time before carpool, cooking
dinner, appointments, conferences, whatever. I really don’t know
where all the time goes, 'cuz I sure don’t have a clean house or
gourmet meals. My favorite time is evening and into the night, but
then I never see my son, who is struggling at school and needs
attention. My energy is limited by fibromyalgia, chronic anxiety,
yada yada. My husband and I always seem to be playing catch-up ball.

But we’re trying to figure out how to sort things out (remember my
"where is jeweler heaven" thread?) and I sure am happy when I’m at
my bench. As soon as I enter the studio, just the smell makes me
start to relax.

So, in a way, I need less “life”. With a large family, I can’t put
everything aside and just be an artist. One thing that helps is I
take a welding class. Welding forces me not to be so tight and tidy,
as I am in most of my metalwork. Until I started it, I didn’t
realize that I wasn’t having fun in the studio any more. Believe me,
if you’re over-controlled, melting the bejazus out of steel with a
humongo torch and sparks flying while you sweat and get grimy under
a leather get-up and bug-eye goggles will pop you out of that rut!
While I was making “Just My Cup Of Tea”, I also made a "teapot"
entirely out of what I found in a bucket of scrap. My instructor
said it looked as though it was made by the mortal enemy of the
person who made “Just My…”. He might be right.

This is quite a ramble, but it feels real good to send this out to
people who will understand what I’m talking about… I hope! Thanks
for reading this far!



Neat thread!

Like some of the other Orchidians, I’m retired and have the luxury
of doing the amount of work I want (or don’t want!) When I first
retired from the ‘Feds’ I was really doing a lot of jewelry
work…about 12 hours a day on the bench…doing commission work,
repairing for local jewelers, etc. After retirement, I dropped back
to the hobby level and got in some golf.

Currently, I am so busy I don’t know how I found time to work full
time! I do a 14 hour day every Monday teaching 3-3 hour classes in
fab, cab and cast. Tues I do another 3 hour fab class. Wed is ‘some
other life stuff’…usually Dr’s appointments, shopping etc…Thurs
is a 10 hour day at our local Gem and Mineral Society where I teach
cab and facet not to mention maintaining all the equipment, etc.
Friday is another day off!!! cutting the grass, maintaining the
garden, etc… Fri eve, Sat and Sun is play with the grandgirls
and, in between, work at my own bench, grinder, faceter. Three days
a month is reserved for writing, editing and publishing the Society’s
8 page newsletter, and one Wed each month is meeting day…setting
up, fixing the agenda, holding the meeting, etc.

I guess one could say making jewelry and cutting stones and teaching
IS my life though I don’t have a lot of pressure to do it. On the
other hand, I haven’t played a round of golf for nearly two years

Oh, I also read a lot, spend 2 to 4 hours a day on the puter, grow
orchids, etc, etc.

Cheers from Don at The Charles Belle Studio in SOFL where simple
elegance IS fine jewelry! @coralnut2

Mostly, I just repair cheap jewelry all day, trying to bandaid
things together for people unwilling or unable to pay for a really
good job, or better stuff to begin with. 

Jim- here’s a little unsolicited advise. Me being a third generation
jeweler, I have received more than my fair share.

I am in a very small community also and the people have very limited
resources, but I have found that when it comes to people having their
jewelry repaired it is a matter of trust, not price. The opposite is
true for buying jewelry, not entirely, but mostly, it’s an issue of

I’m behind the bench, on the sales floor, scrubbing the toilet, doing
the books, et al. The thing I do when explaining, or better yet
saleing, repairs is show them what is going to be done. The JA guide
is an awesome tool for this. When you tell people something they can
doubt it, but when you show them, for some reason it’s more
believable. I also subscribe to Geller’s philosophy and it has
really opened my eyes.

One other thing that I have started doing because I am absolutely
barred on the bench is to start slowly raising my prices every month
to slow down the volume. However, this has not happened, but what the
hell, I’m getting more coin. When I start getting some walk aways
every month then I’ll know what my market will bare.

Sell that repair romance it the same as a sales person does a piece
on the floor. If you do you’ll find you’ll be fixing more of that
walmart crap the way it should have been made and the word of mouth
will help too.

Got a life? G’day, yes thanks, as a matter of fact, I have at the
moment and it has been quite a good and interesting one, despite
silly people throwing bombs, torpedoes, mines and bullets at me
(they were all rotten shots and missed - but not by much on a few
occasions). but not for all that much longer I reckon; the sands are
getting a bit thinner each day. I reckon I’ll get carried off
kicking and yelling in a little while, but not just yet (I hope)
Until then it’s:~~~~~~~~~–

Cheers for now,
John Burgess; @John_Burgess2 of Mapua, Nelson NZ

I can relate to this thread quite a bit. I am in a heavy union
industry city about 1 hr N of Indianapolis, IN. Crap is King here!!
But I have made a fortune repairing crap! I used to put in 80+ hours
a week, for years and years. I had a reputation as the best deal in
town for price and skill level. But I found that I was becoming less
and less profitable, the more I tried to compete with the Wallyworld
and Service Merch. type places, in sales of finished goods. Little
guys can’t get past the ‘percieved value’ mindset that the big
companies have instilled in todays consumer. And, you can’t afford to
advertise enough to change their mind , even if you have the absolute
best price in town on everything in your store and shop.

Here are a few things to consider.

(1) I capitalized on the very thing that makes jewelry what it
is-emotion, sentiment,romance,etc… Everytime someone walks in your
door with another piece of ‘modern junk’ thats sold as ‘FINE
JEWELRY’, always remember that the likelyhood of it being a gift to
them is very high, so don’t be afraid to

(2) charge enough for your time, including the time it takes to sell
them on the repair, process the paperwork, and deliver the job back
to them when they come in to pickup, besides the time it takes to
actually do the repair job.

(3) Leave ‘repairman’s pride’ out of your menu of repairs that you
do.Unprofitable, difficult jobs are just that- UNPROFITABLE AND
DIFFICULT. If you give your time away, doing unprofitable jobs, you
won’t have time to think straight when the good jobs come your
way.'Problem jobs=problem customers=problem profits!

(4) Don’t hesitate to send problem customers, or unprofitable
situations, to your competitor. Believe me, Wallyworld sends them
out the door everyday, after their ‘highly skilled teenager’ tells
the customer it cant be repaired.

(5) Never throw ‘mud’ at your competitors via the customer, such as
Wally or the mall type chain stores, because he is who will send alot
of people your way, and then you can pick and choose the profitable
jobs you want.

(6) Other than the simplest of repairs, i.e. batteries,
jumprings,etc… try to take items in for repair, as much as
possible, because a repair customer will pay drastically more if
they think it took more time by the ‘highly skilled’ jeweler,than if
you walked over to the bench, gave it a twist with a tool and handed
it back. Remember, what is simple and normal to you is 'mysterious’
and emotional to them.

By keeping these simple little concepts in mind, I have managed to
create so much profitable repair business, that I haven’t spent a
dime on advertising in over 10 years, I am only open 4 days a week,
so that I have enough time to handle all of the jobs that Wally and
the mall send my way. I’m backlogged minimum 2 weeks or more year
round. I get ‘premo’ price out of nearly every job that passes in
front of me. And I am still considered the ‘the best deal in town’!
And best of all, I still love the jewelry business that I have been
in since I was 12 years old. I’m the luckiest guy in the world,
because everyday, I get to do what I love, and send the bad stuff
packin’. Ed

Noel, (sorry I don’t know how to duplicate the 2 dots)…you sound
like you have a great life…I just loved your “flashy tea”. It
made me laugh and the hair stand up on my arms (from excitement) at
the same time. Well worth reading all the preamble up to its
assembly. But I’d like to know: why welding? Sounds neat. Does it
help you in some way, to work with other metals? I’d like to learn
to weld. And btw, you aren’t anywhere near Buffalo, NY, are you?
'Cause if you teach, I’d die to take classes from you. And I wonder
if this message will get posted, 'cause most of my others have not!

This is another great thread. It’s fun to get a little peek into the
other corners of your lives.

I’m your basic garden variety “lab rat”, do biological/agricultural
research full-time for USDA-ARS. If they’d stop paying me so well I
wouldn’t have the day to day struggle to keep showing up instead of
staying where I’d RATHER be (just ask my husband), 24/7 in my garage
full of rocks, cabbing machine, Foredom & carving tools, etc etc etc.
Wah! But good news, only 12 more experimental data-filled years until
retirement and I oughta have that darned soldering down pat by THEN!
ha ha

I love Orchid, Carol Carter-Wientjes

My husband and I both work at home, I in my studio and he in his.
He’s a writer, artist, and digital photo restorer.

I put in about four or five hours a day in the studio, plus filing,
stringing, or other lap projects on the sofa in front of the
television in the evening. It varies a lot. From August through
December is my busiest season. Right now I’m just barely keeping up
with the work. But after the new year I take about a month off and
let my creativity recharge while I do home improvement projects.
This year I plan to build in bookcases in the living room. By
February, design ideas will be seething in the back of my mind, and
I’ll be eager to get back to the bench again.

Janet Kofoed

Well, here goes…

I live on the west coast of Canada, nice environment, lots of trees
and fresh air. I spend the first half of the day doing yoga asanas,
ayurvedic routines and transcendental meditation.

The rest of the day I alternate between bench work and web work:
designing and working in 18 karat at the bench and web-related
activities of responding to enquiries from visitors to my sites,
shipping goods and improving the sites.

I’ve just started spending Saturday nights learning how to dance the
tango and when I get some money maybe I’ll get a sea kayak and spend
some time out with the whales.

Online business has relatively low overhead compared to a retail
store so when orders stop coming in, there isn’t the same pressure
that there is when things slow down in a store but I miss the face
to face contact and physical reality of showing the goods in person.
My training is in gemology but I’ve been making jewellery for a long
time. Because I’m self-taught in goldsmithing, there are many skills
that I lack so I concentrate on making the kinds of things that I
know how to do rather than offer a full spectrum of goods.

If I had the money and the requisite “green card”, I’d open a little
shop in California, focus mainly on selling and then job everything
out because I’m much better at selling than I am at goldsmithing or

Online business can work as long as one finds a very narrow niche
and optimizes the site for good placement in the search engines but
sooner or later other people climb into the same niche and then it’s
not a niche anymore. Then the decision has to be made about buying
online advertising as a way of augmenting the placement achieved by
search engine optimization.

Something that all lot of web experts emphasize is the importance of
linking one’s site to related sites as a way of generating higher
placements in seach engines’ results. I haven’t linked to anyone,
maybe because I’m not comfortable yet with “endorsing” anyone else.
Maybe all of us on Orchid would benefit from linking with each other
because there is a strong incentive to maintain certain ethical
standards when one is the member of a group of peers. Or maybe we’re
all too individualistic and would rather just do our own thing!

Today is Canadian Thanksgiving day; I was planning on going swimming
but got into responding to client’s emails instead so here I am back
on the computer and I’ve got a dozen earrings cooking in the pickle
and wanting some attention so I’d better get to it.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Hi, Judy, I do teach, but I’m in Chicago–Sorry! But I’d travel to do
a workshop… Welding doesn’t seem to have fed directly back into my
jewelry, as yet. Steel is very different from gold, silver,
copper. If you get annoyed at your project, or just feel like it,
you can toss it over your shoulder, and it will just bounce. It was
hard, at first, to get used to not being able to do neat, invisible
joints. But now, I find it very liberating, and anything that gets
you out of habits of thought is bound to be beneficial. The main
reason, though, that I went into it was the possibility of working
large, which I’ve never done before. I just finished an outdoor
bench. I got our local city tree trimming crew to cut me a slice of
a tree, and I plan to weld a base to turn it into a table, if I can
find a way to sand out the saw gouges. Or maybe I’ll just weld
together some BIG scraps! I don’t know-- it’s just fun!