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Process versus Production

What are your thoughts on Process versus Production?

I consider myself to be a bit too process oriented, and I’m trying
to curb it or at least find a “balance.” Somehow I seem to be able
to get enough product out the door to keep the bills paid, but I’m
constantly catching myself getting far too involved in
experimentation with the process. This involvement does not usually
produce profitable results - well sometimes it does - but not often
enough to warrant becoming obsessed with finding a way to get some
tiny detail worked out… I find that when I finally find the
process to refine the little details, the profit on the piece has
shrunk considerably!

I’m not seeking perfection, just very high quality.

Brian P. Marshall
Stockton Jewelry Arts
Stockton, CA 95209 USA
209-477-0550 Workshop/Studio/

... I find that when I finally find the process to refine  the
little details, the profit on the piece has shrunk considerably!

Hi Brian;

I’d be careful not to be too critical of the value of this habit.
Could be that you might look carefully into the past and see if some
of that research isn’t now a part of your regular vocabulary of
techniques, in which case it’s paying off profitably in the long run.
I do a lot of that too, especially with all this “estate” jewelry I
work on. I thought I wasted a lot of time puttering with resins,
enamels, polymer clay, etc, but I discovered how to do a number of

fix chipped watch dials
replace missing pieces in micromosaics
repair chipped or missing jet, tortoise shell, bakelite, etc.
make colored foil backs (yep, need em, can’t find em)

sounds like junk, but did you know, a bakelite piece sells for
hundreds of dollars?

sometimes little flaws make the difference in price to the tune of
hundreds of dollars. You have to disclose such repairs, of course,
but even then, it can make or break a sale if there’s a crack or chip
somewhere that’s distracting.

I’ve become a great counterfeiter, replacing the patina on old
silver coins, removing lead solder from gold ones, stabilizing cameos
that are breaking down, etc. But it used to drive me crazy when I’d
look at the clock and see how much time I’d spent trying to plug some
hole in some ancient doo-dad. Couldn’t bring myself to charge nearly
enough for the time, but I think I’m getting a better return on the
stuff now that I’ve expanded my vocabulary of little tricks.

David L. Huffman

    consider myself to be a bit too process oriented, and I'm
trying to curb it or at least find a "balance." 


As a fellow engraver, I believe that the process demands attention,
and your attention to it is mandatory to a good outcome. I, too,
fall into the trap of trying to work out the finer details,
sometimes to the detriment of the profit margin, but my thoughts are
that it is exactly that attention to the finest detail which
elevates the quality of the work. Is there actually a balance? I
suppose the true answer to that is the kind of piece that you are
working on. If you are just cutting names and dates on charms, or
doing repetitive work, the process is somewhat automatic, and
production will improve. If you have been challenged to doing
something smaller, more detailed, or of some other intricate nature
that is beyond the scope of the everyday, then you will end up
sacrificing the production time in order to tackle the challenges
before you. I firmly believe that success in solving the challenges
will end up leading you down new creative paths, and help to set
your engraving skills apart from the rest.

Engraving is so very different from job to job. Different metals,
different things to engrave, difficult areas to access, the customer
who wants too much put into too little a space,etc. Everyday is a
challenge to solve all of the issues that come across the engraving
bench! Engraving by hand is enjoying something of a come-back, but
as “calligraphy in metal”, it doesn’t always lend itself too well to
production over process. (Hence, the scarcity of experienced hand
engravers!) Keep the quality high, raise the price to keep it
worthwhile, and keep on cutting!

Melissa Veres, Engraver


I do alot of production work and have done so for over 20 years. I
think that “process” is a good way to describe exactly what jewelry
making is all about. Most visitors to our shop are amazed at the many
processes that we take metal through to become jewelry. I do some
unique one off pieces to discover ideas that can be translated into
the production process. It seems that I have a process for being
creative and a process for developing production work. Once I refine
the process for a unique idea, I could never recoup the cost from
that one piece. Instead the cost of development is deferred to the
profit I make from my production work.

Production work in and of itself is an “art”. Having a threshold of
quality and profitability is always a challenge and I find that the
process and procedures involved are always open to improvement and
change. I have lost my shirt more than once when I misunderstood the
processes I was using or was careless. So I have even had to develop
processes for processing.

I carefully draw the line between new experimental work and “bread &
butter” production work. I don’t usually try processes and procedures
I am not sure of for a production run of any size until I have
completed several rounds with smaller batches.

In order to have continued interest in what we produce I must always
be experimenting and coming up with new ideas. In order to make a
living producing these works I have to depend on proven ideas,
techniques and processes. Truly, success lies in the balance between
the two.

Ken Gastineau
Gastineau Studio
Berea, Kentucky