After a couple of years of taking classes, learning a lot from
Orchid’s contributors and being alternatively inspired and depressed
by the galleries, I’ve just had my first sale and following on from
that, my first commission.
I’m both thrilled and a bit apprehensive that I’ll screw it up.
I wondered about what your first sale or first commission was and
what it meant to you?
My first sale was a commission to create an engagement ring. A young
man, who had been a friend of my daughter’s for many years and felt
like one of the family, contacted me just as I was completing my
bench training class. “I’ve found the one! Can you help me with the
ring?” No pressure, right?! LOL I was excited to be trusted with
this, but this is someone very important to me, asking me to create
one of the most important pieces of jewelry he will every purchase
or present and me being so newe?
I met with him to talk about the message he wanted to convey in this
important piece, style preferences, and to find out more about the
couple in general. Then I went home and sketched (if you can call it
that - I find I am much better in 3 dimensions than I am in 2) until
I found the design that “felt right”. I researched to make sure I
wasn’t creating something that was already out there on the market,
but after 8 years in the sales side of the business I was pretty
sure I had never seen anything like it before. We met again so I
could show him my idea and he was very pleased. I then proceeded to
the creation process, checking in with my mentors and even having my
"eagle eye" husband check for any quality factors I might have
Then came the day of the big “reveal”! I was SO nervous! I find when
I create something, it seems as though I have put a bit of myself
into the piece and then to show it is to ask for judgement on that
contribution and therefore on a bit of myself. Be that as it may, I
presented him with the box. I was so relieved when he opened the box
and a huge smile spread across his face. “It’s even better than I
imagined! She is going to love it!” The feeling was euphoric for me!
I had been apprehensive about leaving sales, something I was
confident I could do well, to embark on the creative hands-on side
of things, something I wasn’t even sure I had an aptitude to do!
Shortly after he proposed, I got to meet this sweet young lady. The
first thing she did was thank me for creating the “perfect ring”. I
was thrilled to be asked to also create their wedding bands. Their
preacher even mentioned the rings in the wedding ceremony and
encouraged everyone to be sure to see them before the end of the
evening. I was equally flattered and humbled when I realized I had
created something that will go on long beyond me, perhaps even being
handed down to future generations. I have enjoyed other professions,
but this feels as though I have truly found my calling. Since then I
have received commission requests for many other things and there is
truly no other word to describe what I feel each time - the word is
"honored". They are asking me to help them capture a sentiment in
something tangible, be it a mother’s ring, an anniversary necklace,
cufflinks featuring their military rank, a memory piece for a lost
loved-one, whatever it may be, and that is a high calling indeed!
I look forward to seeing your work! I wish you all the best on your
first sale was a bracelet on my desk, a $15 item, so i was so
excited, i made dozens… Still have most of them too, other things
I had an apprentice two years ago, she spent a year working along
side me in the shop for a year. She had been my best customer, She
has been busy working at a day job, and jewelry was on the back
shelf. In the spring i helped her label, box and deliver a large
consignment order. This is my best client, and i was excited to see
how Char would do on her first season… I did well, but my
victory was more in the fact that the student surpassed the teacher
and her first summer was fabulous. I enjoy it when my students
spring past me and go places i could not go. She will do great on
her intended move to Florida to get married, and she will be make
necklaces and bracelets for the senior clientele. And in her
success, i will have the pleasure of knowing that a portion of her
success comes from my influence.
Blessings from Alaska where it finally frosted big time. Snow is
days a way.
scared the crap out of me…LOTS of pressure, BUT customers seem
happy. I think it also depends on the type of jewellery you make. My
unrelated day job and my jewellery passion have offered the same
lesson: people can buy ‘things’ just about anywhere… it’s the
’experience’ they seek. They want a little piece of the artist –
from the first encounter to the follow up email, fitting, packaging,
etc…a lot is about how you make them feel.
Keep breathing and saying “I can DO this” (Corny, but it works!)
I’ve come to approach most of my life this way: I will NEVER satisfy
everyone. I can only satisfy myself and strive to do better. The
people who ‘get’ me will find me.
In looking back my first was creating a simple, fake
engagement/promise ring for a good friend of mine in college. She was
dating a guy from another school in Wisconsin and had grown tired of
getting hit on by other guys.
So upon request I carved and cast a very simple gold band for her
and I think that I charged $25 at the time.
Funny way to start a career, but I wouldn’t do anything else.
I was selling reproductions of my copper embossed creations. I was
filling the backs of the designs with plaster, finished the plaster
to look like the original copper piece then selling them in gift
A friend of mine suggested I look into lost wax casting as a means
of making a more permanent items. I signed up for a lost wax casting
class and ended up casting seven buckles made from waxes poured into
copper embossed molds.
The buckles were of Indian, mountain men and cowboy designs. I found
a store that took the buckles on consignment.
A Doctor from New Jersey bought all seven buckles and ordered ten of
each. I could not find a decent caster in town so I bought casting
equipment and was off and casting.
That was back in 1973. I always loved Southwest jewelry. Before long
I was creating all sorts of jewelry.
By the way the Doctor sent a $1000 check and told my to send him
anything I made. Whenever his account got down to less than around
$200 he would send me another check. That went on for several years.
Jewelry was only a hobby until around 1982 when I retired as an
Engineer and did my love of creating jewelry full time.
I am now semi retired creating some pieces which I sell to a jewelry
dealer who travels the country selling my work and his line of
I couldn’t ask for a better life. I get to enjoy creating my artwork
at my leisure with the ability to sell what ever I create.
It was 1977, and I had signed up for some jewelry classes at the
Smithsonian, having become frustrated at never seeing anything like
the jewelry pieces I was envisioning, anywhere. One of the first
projects we did was piercing, and I made a brass dragon belt buckle.
The first time I got a jewelers saw in my hand, it was instant love.
“Oh baby, where have you been all my life?” And I’ve never looked
I still wear that piece, and I’m just as happy with it thirty years
later as I was when I made it.
Dear Lee, thank you for your articles. I did not know anything about
wax and only went to your blog to see your work, ended up spending a
lot of time reading your articles, and will be printing them out
later and have a new item on my bucket list. Thank you for easy
reading, directions a novice could follow and a teachers mind.
In Alaska where it snowed powdered sugar day before yesterday, not
enough to be called our first snow. Patiently waiting for a white
The first sale was some where too long ago to remember. It was when
I was a kid, and would trade, or extract such things as cookies from
the kids that played with me, for stuff I made. BUT… The first
time I saw a lady wearing a necklace I had made that was an
experience. I was in a gas station in Texas. I saw the lady but the
necklace, I remembered the hard time iI had making the bezel for that
stone. I blindly walked up to her not thinking I was looking like
strange idiot pointing my finger at her and going OH OH OH OH OH. I
was babbling. She backed up from me, and I nearly poked her throat
out in my excitement. I think the look of terror on her face woke me
up. I quickly explained I had made that necklace, and she was the
first person I had encountered out in public wearing one of m y
pieces. She laughed, and I felt better about my strange behavior. Of
all things she had been wishing she had matching earrings. Long story
short, I got another sale. Her mother had purchased the necklace, and
now she was able to get the earrings with matching stones to the
original made by me as well. I still stop at that same gas station on
my cross country jaunts twice a year. Never have seen her again.
My family was in retail from pre-depression times until the late
1970’s; we sold no ‘jewelry’ per se except a few cuff links & tie
tacs, some 14k with tiny diamonds. All offspring were required to
sell, ASAP. “Get that fresh diaper on, and get back out on the sales
floor, young lady!” Grandmom would say. But I do recall my first real
customer in graphic detail to this day. It was near Christmas, and
the store was very busy; he looked like he needed help, and everyone
else was with other customers. I would be 5 years old in 3 weeks, but
still recall the look on his face when this child walked up to him
and asked “May I help you with something, Sir?” (that’s the way the
grown ups did it). He was confused, then amused, but in the end
bought $68 worth of assorted merchandise, which was a lot in 1960’s
money. We primarily sold men’s clothing, and he wanted a belt, but
didn’t know his size. My arms weren’t long enough to get the tape
measure around his 44" waist, so he fudged it a bit to make it seem
as if I had done it myself. What a gentleman. I’m now 57, but will
NEVER forget him or his smile.
The biggest excitement for a new creator was when a new client of
mine walked into her hairdresser (who happened to also be mine). The
hairdresser commented on her new piece of jewelry (a necklace)
whereupon my client exclaimed, “It’s not jewelry, its art!” with a
huge smile on her face. She has been back many times for more.
The first piece I sold was friend who bought a bracelet I made out
of my experiments with working with wax injection and RTV moulding
with natural materials. It was a bracelet with links of small limpet
shell castings. I still have the moulds and I have since made a few
more of the bracelets as well as earrings.
However this was not my most memorable piece. That distinction
belongs to a pendant I made for myself when just near the bottom of
the learning curve on lost wax casting. I was in a jewellery making
club at the time working with the resident casting expert, a retired
dental technician. Between us we did the castings for the club
largely sprueing and casting commercial waxes which others would
finish. I did learn a lot about sprueing burnout and casting in a
centrifugal caster with the occasional bit of drama such as 9 grams
breaking through the bottom of the flask. (We managed to recover
most of the gold) It did teach me to leave more invested space in the
flask above the pattern for gold that we could get away with silver.
However the work was rather boring because nobody seemed interested
in the expressive qualities of working in wax so I started
The first result of these experiments was making a wax pattern of a
simple Celtic knot pendant. I did so by rolling out three sausages of
soft moulding wax and knotting and welding them. It took a few
attempts but I finally made a pattern that satisfied me. I could only
just fit it into a 50mm flask which was the largest the club had. It
cast beautifully. The significance to me is that it stretched my
abilities at the time and was the first piece apart from a few chains
and bezel mounts which were more soldering exercises than anything
else, that I had completely created from raw materials, in this case
my scrap silver that had taken a while to accumulate.
I still wear that pendant at times. I know I could do a much better
job of it now, but I keep it because It reminds me of that learning
In 1976 I was commissioned to make my first forged gold bracelet (I
had only worked in silver up to this point and I was 17). The
commission was a family friend that worked in the wholesale jewelry
business manufacturing gold chains. Gold was around $150 an ounce and
he said he would pay me $300 to make the bracelet in gold, the
bracelet weight was 1 ounce. I bought 2 ounces of gold that day and
made a bracelet for him and for myself.
I fell in love with working gold it forged like butter and never
questioned becoming a jeweler after that.
7 or 8 years later doing my first JA trade show in NYC I had my back
to the cases and I hear a gentleman say to me “excuses me I am
looking for the artist that made this bracelet maybe you can help me”
To my surprise I turned to an outstretch arm with that forged
bracelet. Mr. Manning explained he had never taken it off and got
permission to enter the manufacturing plant with it on (all employes
and CEO had to remove all metal items before entering the plant, as
they went through metal detectors) I know he wore this bracelet every
day till he passed away. I lost my forge bracelet I as I started
taking it on and off rather then wearing it all the time.
Thanks for let me remember the pride and happiness of what I do
My first time was at the Arts and Crafts Center, Fort Hood Texas in
1985. A friend of mine, Lon Putman, handed me a sheet of paper and a
pencil and told me to design something. So I played for awhile and
came up with a design for a pendant. He then walked me through
carving it out of a piece of wax and over several days we invested,
burned it out and cast it with a scrap brass fitting I took out of
the trash in my motor pool. I was so proudof it so I wore it all of
the time! A few years ago I gold-plated it and it is now framed and
hanging in my library as a reminder of where I started.