Interesting topic, looking back and the observations of time…
54 years ago, I was sweeping floors of investment, knocking investment out of flasks, cleaning investment off castings. (major investment…). Then off to cut castings off, weigh in / out gold-platinum. Moving on… sweeping up in the polishing room. Then duty in the wax room, what pressure, what temperature, hold how long ???. All this with extremely brittle waxes. Then off to the mold room… cutting rubber, learning how to pack, vulcanize… oops- too hot… Back to square one. Then learning how to cut…Then off to the bench. Cutting sprues, filing, soldering, clean-up. Off to polishing…dirty… but so artful when it’s done right.
( oh yea… +the 7 years as a setting apprentice)
I started with a jewelry firm that made charms as well as being the casting -mold making and special project house for Van Cleef & Arpels, Gump’s, Shrieve & co as well as others. We had 23 full time people, I was the first new hire in 20 years. The advantage of being low man on the Totem pole is that there is only up from there. I loved all of it, being gopher, learning each step to the point of becoming a model maker.
Everything was necessary…filing, forming, forging, shaping, carving, casting, fabricating, stamping machining et-al. Now in those six years , the thing I came to understand was the difference between competence, and mastery…they are worlds apart.
So, 54 years down the road, what has changed in my perspective.
Not too many artisan shops left around,
the opportunity to train in a productive environment,
with people willing to share,
meeting senior members of the community of jewelry,
again willing to share.
Time invested to see a vision through. ( how does one justify that level of training and the pay associated with the craft ? ).
I’ve had many people come through these studio doors, most have gone on to become great crafts people, and I would work with each and every one today.
But, when we all talk, the question is often asked, would you invest your life to this craft is you were starting fresh today. For most, it would be tough, raising families, creating a sound financial future, it might not be a first choice today.
As I see the new crop of “Jewelers” come up, devoid of bench skills, brilliant at cad, even then, having to compete with offshore techs. I see people with little or no background in the inherent math of jewelry. The balance that comes from making something with one’s hands, suffering the pokes and cuts of a slipped tool, the war wounds that teach so well.
Also lacking , for most new to the trade, is a rooted history of jewelry from the past, a time when a tool millgrained,
not tool path.
I’m fortunate to have the experiences of time and place, a bit sad to see the art in jewelry being rapidly out shown by cost cutting as the new normal.
However, without consumers who can distinguish the markers of quality that we grew up with, consumers that will be happy to buy the “Facade” of nice jewelry, at the best price they can get, we will see a diminished market for our distinctions of quality craftsmanship.
So what to do???
Educate, share, do work that shows off one’s skill set and talk about it, not egotistically, but pointing out the areas where the time goes, and why it went there.
I am starting newly each day now, fully grasping the accelerating nature of the world, and my personal deceleration due to age and milage. It seems we’ve entered an age where there is more thinking than doing. A time to grow in new directions, using the media available to educate, promote, and share our skills as they are, and keep adding to our tool kits as well.
So what has changed for you?
Make cool stuff…