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Sharing techniques

do people have abilities, discoveries, or techniques that they don’t
tell to this forum because they don’t want to divulge their trade
secrets?, kind of like not showing all your best work on a website
so people can’t copy your designs, and speaking of that, do people do
that also?, or is everyone relatively sure they are unique enough,
oriented in a philanthropistic, didactic vein etc., and have nothing
to lose by giving it(info) all away, i have many carving techniques
and design motifs that i consider telling, that i feel are
undiscovered, i sell the works that utilize these principles at
craftshows, and give them away, but so far, haven’t told many makers
about them, am discovering more everyday, seems neverending, i
feel that this happens to everyone that has put 10 - 20 years in,
or am i just making all this up in my head?,dave

is everyone relatively sure they are unique enough, oriented in a
philanthropistic, didactic vein etc., and have nothing to lose by
giving it (info) all away 

First, I’d say, if you (I) aren’t getting rich with what you’re
doing, you don’t really need to worry about being copied… Second,
I’d say I try to sell it (getting paid to teach) rather than give it
away… Even things I discover and think “I should keep that to
myself, that’s pretty cool”, if I think a student could use it, I
blab it right out. Most of the time, they don’t see the potential
anyway! Last, I will say that lately I’ve had some experience of
students reproducing my designs to sell. I don’t like it, but it
cannot really change the way I do things. I don’t even tell them not
to, because if they don’t see the issue in the first place, I’m
wasting my breath. I love to teach, and it isn’t my nature to hold
back or be secretive. I’d say you just have to have faith that your
unique combination of talents will make your work special, and hope
for the best. So, share your discoveries if that is your urge, or not
if you choose-- it is your right to do either.


Dave, IMHO, he who gives away the most, is the richest. This “close
to the vest” attitude, was before Orchid, the norm. When Orchid
began, quite some years ago now, the veil began to come down. A
simple question, or a “what did I do wrong” question, brought forth a
torrent of replies. Yes, at times contradictory, but then, opening up
new dialogue.

That has benefitted most of Orchid members in several ways, gained
knowledge, teaching techniques, communication skills, and new

There is a big world out there, and lots of ways to put forth
production, were I to learn your techniques, would I then be a
competitor, I doubt it. Will certainly have a few “Ahas” and love
every one of them and also say to myself, now why didn’t I think of

Sharing is caring, and that leads to fuzzy warm feelings.


I have gained a lot from others (the whole idea behind schools and
etc), as to the self discovered ‘tricks’, anyone who can use mine is
probably bright enough to figure them out any ways.

The only knowledge withheld is about flaming dangerous stuff or
techniques too far above the skill set of the seeker. No mercury
guilding, and no step by step instructions on setting large expensive
stones (with points) to some one with only a few months silver
experience. But convince me that my advice is not going to kill you,
leave a large crater, or result in a lawsuit and it is freely given.

Old, old trade, there aren’t many secrets which haven’t be discovered
many times

Demand Designs
Analog/Digital Modelling & Goldsmithing

Well, I’m into the sharing.

I have received so many helpful tips here that I could never, ever
pay it all back, so I have shared my one little self-devised
technique, which is: Press fresh green leaves into pink sheet wax
with a screw press, using silicone spray as a separating agent. It’s
not totally new, of course, but it took me a while to work it out.
Unfortunately for me, it is now taken to be metal clay work rather
than the lost wax casting that it is, so I am moving on towards
engraving instead. But for you casters out there, it is an easy way
to get a gorgeous impression of the back of a leaf. Then you can
manipulate the sheet wax in various ways to make domed shapes, boxes,
or whatever you like. Customers have really liked the look of it. I
pick maple and oak leaves in the early spring, to get small ones, and
make a bunch of sheets at that time. Later in the summer, raspberry
leaves are pretty, and ferns are great. I try to make judicious use
of plain, negative space in the design of a wax sheet, too. I hope
someone else enjoys this!

It is a big world out there, and I feel more camaraderie than
competitiveness towards other metal-smiths. Those of us who are
creative and try hard and use some business sense and don’t expect
or require huge riches, can all prosper.

M’lou Brubaker
Minnesota, USA’louBrubaker

Ya’ know, Dave, Orchidians seem to be the kind of folks who are
willing to help each other out. I’ve been grateful to have questions
answered and even assistance offered. Reading the discussions is also
instructive and I’ve learned about new tools, materials, and metals
that would otherwise remain unknown to those of us in the

Thank you Orchidians. I respect and admire your skills and
abilities. It is a blessing to repay your generosity by sharing my
tips, tools, and modest finances with others. Isn’t that what society
is about?

A special thanks to Charles, Hanuman, and Ton. Their vision and
dedication make Orchid and Ganoksin possible.

Judy in Kansas, who has finished the garden seed order and hopes to
be planting soon… gotta’ warm up again though.

I love to teach, and it isn't my nature to hold back or be
secretive. I'd say you just have to have faith that your unique
combination of talents will make your work special, and hope for
the best. So, share your discoveries if that is your urge, or not
if you choose-- it is your right to do either. 

Well said in my opinion! Nobody should be or feel “exploited” but
the nature of teaching or sharing to me is a fundamental one and a
sign of a healthy field and a robust pursuit. I teach professionally
(not in the jewelry trade, I’m a Neuroscientist) and hope fervently
that a student or students will thrive and advance beyond me.

That said, I understand a reluctance to share indiscriminately if it
can result in direct and serious competition (and I do protect
patentable things or things subject to security concerns), but
frankly if it were as easy as just knowing some key techniques the
human mind would discover, and rediscover them repeatedly. So, part
of my teaching in my field that imparts techniques and capacity also
involves trying to engender respect, professional ethics and a sense
of responsibility.

I hope I can individually add something of unique value that
transcends the techniques, no matter how sophisticated those might

In jewelry I am deeply grateful to those who I have learned from
(informally as I am a lurker, reader and advice seeker self taught
which is a laughable concept since I still learned key things from
others and have it turns out rediscovered many things the hard way),
and I still can’t touch the unique creative productions of most of
the folks who offer their techniques. I can only hope to develop
over time a signature or style that is a wee bit of my own,
independent of the “secrets” of the craft.


Old, old trade, there aren't many secrets which haven't be
discovered many times 

Jeff says about all there is to know. I’ve found that those who think
they have “secrets” are people who don’t know as much as they think
they do -perhaps some are stingy by nature, too. The fact that you
might be using niobium, which is a contemporary material, is
immaterial to the fact that you are bending it, hammering it, and
fastening it - Like the Greeks and Incas did. In jewelry, NOBODY
knows anything that somebody else doesn’t already know, maybe better.
So why treat them as secrets, I say? You’ll never be me - that’s the
"art" of it, so what’s to worry about? It is true that there are
experts/specialists that have deeper knowlege than most - Jim Binnion
has taken Mokume to depths that few others have. Even that is mostly
just labor-saving, though. Mokume is layer, press, heat, forge and
form - that fact that Jim {might} use a titanium press and a plasma
oven doesn’t alter the fact that he’s pressing and heating, just like
in antiquity… Sharing isn’t a big deal to me, till someone wants
to hang out all day and just soak it up…

Dave - I think there are artists out there who keep their secrets.
What a shame and kinda silly since I don’t believe there are any
secrets. I had one teacher tell me “I’ll tell you that in the next
class” which I thought was mean. (The next class was all the way
across the country.) It was a simple question. Most of my instruction
has been pure pleasure with trades people that want to share - that
want you to grow and grow beyond them. They want you to be as excited
as they are about something they love to do. I teach some very simple
classes. I leave nothing in the dark and am always willing to devulge
all I know. I find most students have their own design ideas and
don’t want to copy things. The students that are copy cats don’t stay
with it for the long haul because they don’t have the same

I would say that 99% of us don’t do it for the money. (We do need to
eat however.) The copy cats do it for the money and then fizzle out
and move on to their next money maker.

Good luck - Take some workshops and be inspired. In one of my
workshops I met a very generous woman who taught me more just by
sitting next to her than I learned in the whole 3 day workshop.
(thanks annie morgan) You never know where your next teacher will be.

Joy Kruse

I’ve been lucky enough to meet some goldsmiths through the years
that took me under their wing and showed me things to improve my
work. I went in to a job interview with one jeweler many years ago,
and he was impressed with my filigree, though I’d not learned proper
polishing. He needed some extra help during a promotional period and
hired me with the understanding that when I wasn’t doing sales, I was
to learn polishing or other work in the workshop. I’ve kept in touch
with him for years and he’s always been willing to give me advice and
suggestions. I’ve tried to return the favor via other jewelry people,
which is part of the reason I wrote my book on filigree work. Yes, I
was a little concerned about ‘giving away’ my trade secrets, but
decided that while I could teach the technique easily enough, my
flair for design was my own and not so easily taught or taken on by

Jeanne Rhodes-Moen

do people have abilities, discoveries, or techniques that they
don't tell to this forum because they don't want to divulge their
trade secrets? 

Honestly, I think the biggest obstacle involved in relating
techniques on this or any on-line forum is that you can only
communicate with the written word. In our daily lives these
techniques are past on visually for the most part. We say hold it
like this, not like that and you need your flame like this, with
your piece like that and heat until it looks like this but if it does
that you went too far…and never ever do this!

That’s a much bigger problem than any secrets that might be


Often, those who have the least to share, think that they have
something to protect and share the least. Those who are the most
accomplished are will ing to share because they know that there’s
more to their success than techniques and designs. Artists with
superior skills will always have a competitive advantage.


I am curious as to those who sell ideas and techniques at workshops
and then turn around and complain (on this forum) that some one is
stealing thier ideas when those who have paid for the ideas start
thier own weekend technical workshops.

but seriously what about the sanctity and value of knowledge? in the
"mythical past" during which time knowledge meant you were at the
level of magician people did protect thier secrets. the people in
the european are a of the world have guilds isnt that a sort of
intelectuall protectionism?. then again, on the flip side in todays
world, who you know is somtimes more important than what you know.
do artists really try to fool themselves into believing everyone is
not clamoring over one another to get to the top.


Sharing techniques is important to us beginers, yes we may have been
to college and supposedly learned the trade, but many college
teachers, especially here in the UK, are not trade trained jewellers
or goldsmiths. I am lucky because I have a new mentor, James Miller.
Not only is he willing to share his manufacturing techniques with me,
but also his tools. Recently I moved my workshop, which is now in a
garage at my parents home. Before I go on I must say that I miss
having a window in front of my workbench, it never occured to me that
daylight was important to aid a working day. Well I moved workshops
at the end of March and James visited me this weekend with a large
box full of some of his old tools. He assured me that they were
surplus to his needs. These tools included a lead block, some chasing
tools, a chasing hammer and five other shaped hammers, a leather sand
bag, a set of doming punches and some gravers. James told me that
some of these tools were given to him and belonged to a silversmith
who was apprenticed at Garrard the crown jewellers back in the 1930s,
the tools were given to James by this silversmith when the
silversmith retired back in 1980, and now James has passed them on to
me. I did write on a previous post and told how James visited me at
my old workshop and spent the day with me, giving me a masterclass
and showing me his techniques of making flowers in silver. Well this
weekend he spent another four hours with me, showing me how to use a
graver and also his methods of cutting textures on metals with
gravers and scorpers. He showed me a great method of cutting a silver
bead, with a polished scoper/graver, cutting the beads so that they
appear to be like facetted stones.

I am sorry if I have gone on a bit, but I just wanted to give credit
to an orchidean who is prepared to share his trade secrets, or
should I say his trade expertise, working methods learned over a
lifetime of his working at the bench. I have ordered his book this
weekend from Amazon, as it will be published at the end of next month
and I look forward to inviting James to come and sign it for me.

Jackie M.
wishing her new workshop had a window near her bench.


I am one of those jewelers who learned to make her work as a result
of the generosity of those more experienced in the craft. I didn’t
attend art school or trade school when I wanted to learn techniques,
as I was a single parent with two kids at the time. Nothing wrong
with learning in school, just couldn’t find a way to do that then.

So I embarked on my career with the hope that I could learn on the
way. There never was a jeweler I asked who refused to fully explain
a technique to me. I also took workshops and found the instructors to
be generous with and techniques.

As a teacher (for the past 13 years) I have continued that method of
teaching…sharing it all, at least as much as the students can
absorb in the allotted time. Of course, as has been mentioned in
this thread, it’s necessary to pay attention to the amount that
students can absorb safely, recognizing their skill levels, etc.

And, when students become inspired by techniques, their creativity
level increases, too, and, when that happens, I always learn
something from them. That’s a great experience.

Linda Kaye-Moses

There is a TV show over here which tells the secrets of magic tricks
so now I know exactly how to saw a woman in half (volunteers
anyone?), how to make an elephant disappear before your very eyes and
all kinds of close-up tricks. Do I want to do these things - no;
could I do these things - probably not well enough to be effective.
My wife always asks “Doesn’t it spoil it for you when you look at
other magicians” and the answer is always “no”. I have learned one or
two of the close-up tricks to amuse the kids at the school I help in
but, most of all, I can now fully appreciate the artistry, skill and
talent of any other magician I see doing the tricks I think I know
about. I think its pretty much the same in any creative field. Anyone
can copy your designs and, who knows, some may actually improve on
them, but the majority will, more than likely, get the proportions a
bit wrong - make the whole design a bit heavier or weaker and so miss
out on the artistry which makes your piece unique. Let’s face it,
there’s nothing new under the sun and, whether you admit it or are
even aware of it, your design will almost certainly include a large
proportion of elements from other people’s work that you have seen
over the years.


I am curious as to those who sell ideas and techniques at
workshops and then turn around and complain (on this forum) that
some one is stealing thier ideas when those who have paid for the
ideas start thier own weekend technical workshops. 

Regarding complaints about stealing ideas etc…it’s one thing to
learn a technique, it’s another thing to take a design or idea and
pass it off as your own, giving no credit where credit is due. If I,
for example, suddenly saw a big company mass producing and selling
one of my designs from my book and saying it was designed by someone
else (one of my readers) whom they bought the design from, I think
I’d be a bit miffed! It’s like I say in my book…it takes so little
to change the designs and use the technique to make your own designs,
there’s no excuse for outright copying/ripping off another artist.


Hello goo,

level of magician people did protect thier secrets. the people in
the european are a of the world have guilds isnt that a sort of
intelectuall protectionism?. then again, on the flip side in

i am from Germany/Europe. Yes, we have guilds. But i can’t
understand, why this circumstance is a “intelectuall protectionism”.
The opposite is true, we do a lot to share and publish knowledge.

Every jewelry-piece, that left our studio, is made by hand. We don’t
use CAD/CAM. There are no tricks nor it is mysticism. It is a real
craft, everybody who wants can learn. We have students and annually
we give young scholars the chance to have a look over six weeks in
our studio - for free!

Before 2004 you have to be a master-goldsmith (here in Germany) to
open your own business-shop. But since 2004 it is free to everyone.
That means, you don’t need any education to produce and sell jewelry.
Now it is free in Europe no matter where you go. If you take the
chance of an education under a master over three and a half jears,
you get payed for it (not much of course). The student get money, not
the master.

I do this craft since 1984, the education only took me five and a
half jears. In this time i never met someone, who wasn’t willing to
share his knowledge with me.

So i can’t see any kind of intelectuall protectionism.

Mario Sarto

I am curious as to those who sell ideas and techniques at
workshops and then turn around and complain (on this forum) that
some one is stealing thier ideas when those who have paid for the
ideas start thier own weekend technical workshops. 

I am puzzled by the above statement. So, when you purchase an item
you have the right to produce this item and market it as your own?


At the risk of beating a horse that has been whipped many times
before, I think that there simply are no blacks and whites. It seems
to me that each situation needs to be considered. It really depends
on what is being taught.

If you are teaching soldering skills I don’t see anything wrong with
your student going out and teaching the soldering skills that they
have learned-- once they have mastered those techniques…

There are, however, workshop, classes and educational scenarios that
are more specific and emblematic of the individual who is teaching.
The offered in these classes is often specific to that
instructor’s style and approach. Students are, most often, offered
that for their personal use in the hope that it will be
applied and tailored to the students’ own work. This is all good.

The line is crossed, I believe, when a student --who was not
proficient at these techniques before they took the class/workshop–
offers the same or a very similar workshop on their own. It is unfair
to the instructor and to those who enroll in these classes and

There is a difference between a complaint and the presentation of
one’s opinion.

Take care, Andy