If jewelers are so dissatisfied with what they are doing, why am I
trying so hard to be one? Can I talk to someone happy?
I’m the happiest person I know. In fact, if I were any happier,
there’d have to be two of me just to handle it!! Sure, there are
negative aspects to what I do, but I seldom allow them to get me
When they do get me down, the next customer always helps me feel
better. Always. The reason for that is because they all come through
the “man trap cage” asking “Hi, how are you?,” and my answer is
always something like "I’m great! Better than ever! Never better! Or,
my favorite, “If I were any better, there’d have to be two of me just
to handle it!”
Every time I say it, I believe it, and so do they. It makes them
smile, which makes me smile. Most of the folks who hang out at the
bar next door will often come in just to ask me how I’m doing, simply
to make themselves feel better. They have asked me how I can stay so
"up" in a retail situation and the only answer I can give is, because
I won’t live any other way. Even when I’m not feeling my best,
will ask me how I’m doing, and my reply always cheers me up (probably
some kind of “self-fulfilling prophecy” thing). I also have the
advantage of having my own workshop to go home to, equipped with
pretty much anything I need to do what I want. I cab in my shop out
back, while I can facet in my living room. My "little shop out back"
has everything I need to work metal, make molds, cast, fabricate, saw
and cut stones, etc. It took a long time to put together (years and
years), but during those years, I always stayed happy knowing I could
do what I want with what I had. Knowing you can do whatever you want
with what you have is key.
I also stay busy with hobbies and other lifelong pursuits.
Marksmanship is fun to me, especially polishing and trimming bullet
cases, pressing the primers into them, weighing each powder charge
and bullet, then seating them as perfectly likewise as I can. With a
hand lever, I can even do it in my living room while watching TV. And
just like the bowler who wants to improve their average, or the
who wants to better their handicap, I try to improve my marksmanship
by making my own match grade ammo and tuning my own firearms. I’ve
collected guitars for over 40 years and now have 12 to choose from.
Anytime I feel down well, MAN, there’s nothing like 12-bar blues to
get over that! Learning new (to my repertoire), challenging tunes is
extremely relaxing to me. Learning Classical Gas by Mason Williams
was…well, a gas. I’m still struggling with Mood for a Day, by
Steve Howe and Cowboys From Hell by Pantera (my musical tastes are
eclectic, for sure).
With a 14-year career in the tattoo biz, I picked up some decent
drawing skills, so I can also pick up a pencil, rapidograph, colored
pencils and watercolors and draw. Sometimes I’ll do some jewelry
illustrations, but when I’m down, I’ll often draw something that
represents how I feel, then burn it in a “burn barrel.” Any
usually metal container will do for the purpose, but I have a special
small, hexagonal copper thing that works well for the purpose. It
always feels good to let it go up in flames. A lot of skulls and
creatures have met their fiery end in my burn barrel. So have a lot
But it doesn’t stop there. A couple of weeks ago, I started a new
hobby I’ve been wanting to do my whole life, but never had a chance
to until now; scuba diving. My classroom work is finished and I’ve
done my pool dives. Tomorrow (Sunday), I’ll do some lake dives, then
finish off on Thursday with a wreck dive (The Ancient Mariner) and a
reef drift dive. This part of the country has enough reefs, wrecks
freshwater caves to keep me interested for a long time.
My point in typing all this isn’t to throw myself out to the world
as some kind of bon vivant, but I guess that’s what I am these days.
Even during lean financial periods, I will always find something to
do and be happy about, and I will always search for new inspiration
to continue to be happy with whatever my current career choice. The
real point I’m trying to make is, find a way to try everything you
can; you’ll probably like it all!
I don't want to just keep taking classes on and on. At 500 dollars
a pop, the money runs out quick and I'm back to square one. I wish
I had a crystal ball because I don't know what my goal is.20
I don’t remember where you live, Kim, so I’m not sure how much good
this suggestion will be for you. Join a rock & gem club. Or a gem and
jewelry club. Or a gem and mineral club, et cetera. Chances are very
good they will have knowledgeable people with plenty of different
equipment who do all sorts of things you may be interested in. All of
them will be more than happy to share knowledge (that’s why they
joined the club). They’ll also be happy to show you what they like to
do in their own shops and homes. That way, you’ll get a much better
picture as to whether you want to outfit yourself with a complete
metalworking shop, lapidary equipment, etc., or even whether you’d
want to go to FIT. The local club here has brought in experts who do
educational programs and demonstrations onthings like lampworking,
dichroic glass, keum-boo, reticulation, gemology, wirewrapping - the
list goes on and on. Every month there is something new and
different. I wish I had the time and money to do all of it. I’m
actually more likely to be discouraged over not having enough time
money to do EVERYthing, much less be despondent over not knowing what
to do next. The next thing always presents itself, somehow.
Like a lot of people, I'm getting ready these days to sell all I
can in the upcoming season. A couple of months ago, I sat down and
planned for this.....2 hours/large bracelet, 1 hour/small
bracelet, 40 minutes for earrings, 3 hours/woven necklace etc etc.
I'm quickly discovering that it doesn't exactly work like that. The
body has limitations and sitting for this long each day is
literally breaking my back.
I absolutely understand the need to work hard at the right time in
this business to make the best return for your time and effort, but
I’m sure you already know that causing yourself physical harm isn’t
the way to be happy. Since a couple of months isn’t adequate, perhaps
you can begin your seasonal prep time a few months in advance. I
know your schedule, so I don’t know if that’s possible for you.
way, it seems you don’t have enough time for recreational pursuits
I hope you can manage to plan for some of that time soon.
Recreation costs money, and most of it costs a lot. Some of it in
the form of admission fees, some in the form of equipment purchase or
rental. A fair amount of cost is also eaten up by time away from
But if you don’t spend some of that time, it will still cost you in
the end, perhaps more than if you had stayed at work and hurt
yourself. When you do work hard, try to factor in some time away from
that work to regain your health; physical, mental and spiritual.
are the times when your next step, move, investment, etc. will come.
At least, that’s what works for me.
I hope I get some answers because I'm kinda laying it all out
there. Now everybody knows how I feel. It's a little embarrassing.
Yeah, I know how ya feel because I’ve been there. Everything I wrote
above is how I deal with it. I included everything I could think of
because I have no idea which part, or any of it, might help you. I
hope some part of it does.
James S. Duncan, G.G.
James in SoFL