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Skills and Discipline


#1

Was: Gravermaxes for engraving startup

This is a branch off the thread "Gravermaxes for engraving startup"
inspired by David Phelps’ comment about discipline:

...If one wants to get past a rudimentary result in any artistic
field, but especially engraving, one must be disciplined... 

Jonathan Holt was an educator in the 70’s who went to a rehearsal
hall at 6 A.M. every day to practice the viola. People told him he
must be incredibly disciplined to get up that early, summer and
winter, rain and snow… He said there was no discipline involved,
he wasn’t forcing himself to endure anything, it was the only time he
could practice and it was a joy to him.

I’m not sure I can put this in words well, but I feel the discipline
is not imposed by the person, you must not ‘be’ disciplined, the
discipline comes from from the materials or the task. I will broaden
that to say the discipline comes from the desire to get proper
results from the materials, but it comes back to the materials and
the design.

Properly bezel-setting a cab and soldering a bail to it does require
a level of discipline, but that pales next to more advanced work. In
my limited view of the craft I’d say there are two levels. One is
more free-form. You set cabs; you roll out PMC; you do fabrication
that does not have to be critically exact. As examples I would
suggest (using instructional DVDs I’ve seen as my focus) Alan
Revere’s Japanese Pattern Earrings DVD; his Turquoise Pendant DVD;
and even his most demanding Hinged Box DVD. There are Ronda Coryell’s
Argentium fabrication DVDs. Not to denigrate filigree as inexact or
free-form only, I would put Yehuda Tassa’s Yemenite filigree DVDs and
Victoria Lansford’s Russian filigree DVD in this group. Valuable
instructional DVDs all, but somewhat less demanding of discipline -
at least to get initial pleasing results.

There may be other examples, but the only DVD projects I have seen
that demand a much higher level of discipline are Leonid Surpin’s
Eternity Ring DVD and his new Coronet Ring DVD. ‘Free-form’ and
’inexact’ levels of discipline don’t cut it with those projects. The
metal, the diamonds, and the designs demand precision and accuracy.
To define those terms, a thermometer reading in tenths of a degree is
more precise than one reading in whole degrees only; but a precise
thermometer can be off, and the less-precise can give a more accurate
(true) reading. Leonid’s projects are the only ones I know of that
require a high degree of precision and accuracy.

So if you want to do one of those, the materials and the designs
require, force, demand discipline. What I’m trying to say is that
you do not come to these projects with discipline (necessarily), but
you will not finish them to your liking without it. If you are
motivated to learn the skills, if you really want to complete the
projects well, then the materials and design will draw the discipline
from within you. Your desire to do well by the materials will compel
you to do disciplined work.

This is by far the greatest value I personally get from Leonid’s
DVDs. You do it exactly right or you don’t get the acceptable
results. There is no ‘boss’ but the materials and the design. You may
not have the discipline, but the materials and the design make you
develop the discipline.

My way of looking at it right now, anyway.

Best wishes,
Neil A.


#2
and ~must~ take some certain path and stay in "the box" is simply
bizarre. 

However…sometimes I see work where technique without discipline
results in the style I would refer to as a hack job.

Sometimes the discipline of working within the box allows one to step
out of the box and do work that is much more of a creative expression
when the technique is mastered.

Some people are quite happy with their mediocre work and sometimes do
not seem to be aware of how mundane and boring the work is. If they
are selling work and getting complements, they seem to consider
themselves a success. I have not seen mediocre and mundane technique
financially rewarded the same as fine quality work. For me it is true
for many techniques, wax carving, casting stone setting, fabrication.

Regardless of how good the design is, without skill and the ability
to master a technique, the work suffers. The customer might not know
the difference, but the person doing the work might not be evolving
to be the best they can be. The way I can be objective is to have
some idea of how I would feel showing my work to someone who is
really good at whichever technique and if I know I can be proud of my
work, I can feel I have succeeded in learning and mastering a
technique. Otherwise, I send out the piece to someone who is
competent and I keep practicing until either I get good, or I realize
it ain’t gonna happen. I took a two week class 33 years ago at G.I.A.
and after many repetitious lines of alphabet script letters on brass,
each done till approval from instructor, I realized that engraving
was not for me. I use the knowledge to probably do the same type of
work in the same way John uses his gravers. I would not call what I
do engraving. I remove metal…

Richard Hart G.G.
Denver, Co. 80210


#3
However....sometimes I see work where technique without discipline
results in the style I would refer to as a hack job. 

Very true Richard.

Learn to do almost anything “in the box” very well and then stepping
outside can work really well and be fun, resulting in good work. It
just does not work the other way around. Bad habits are usually hard
to overcome. Know the rules and reasons and skills first before you
break them.

jeffD
Demand Designs
Analog/Digital Modelling & Goldsmithing
http://www.gmavt.net/~jdemand


#4
Sometimes the discipline of working within the box allows one to
step out of the box and do work that is much more of a creative
expression when the technique is mastered. 

Richard points out the greatest value of working in the trade, at
least for a time - it widens one’s horizons and shows you what
"good, better and best" really can mean.

Let’s look at a unique situation as a great example - polishing.
Generally speaking, there is “The University Polish”. Start with 220
grit carborundum sandpaper (the mind reels…!) and take it from
there, as many know. Fact is, that method of finishing only exists
in universities, and it’s based on the fact that files are expensive
and laborious to learn to use well, and that polishing machines are
scarce and dangerous for novices to use. Those methods were used at
one point in history, I guess - pre-electricity…

Today’s world of jewelry includes many, many tools and methods that
didn’t exist even 20 years ago. The smart person doesn’t have to
embrace them, but they certainly need to be aware that this is
today, and this is the real world. Electricity changed the whole
world, and it changed jewelry dramatically (no more bow
drills…) If power assisted engraving changes the way people
engrave, and also opens up the field for some who might not have gone
there by the traditional paths, then so be it. Skill and discipline
is actually another topic - those are things that will never change,
regardless of the equipment. “You got to suffer if you want to sing
the blues…” Use that polishing machine - it’s your best friend.
Don’t use texture as a mask for the fact that you don’t know how,
learn. And if the best tool for the job is a laser, then use a
laser. It’s 2010. Today’s jewelry.


#5

Richard

Being a 14th generation jeweler (big deal!) and starting when I was
10, I have had the pleasure of meeting craftsmen far better than I
over the years.

My father described himself and myself as a “good mechanic” and I
agree.

In my late 20’s I met a German hand engraver here in Atlanta. He
went to Scholl in Switzerland to learn Hand Engraving. A 4 year
school. To get into school (which was from 8 am until 2pm) you HAD to
have a job as an apprentice from 2 until 6, 5 days a week.

That said, on his first day of school, everyone was handed a steel
ball bearing about the size of a baseball, a flat bastard file and a
90 degree T square.

They were told

“Come back to class when you have it as a perfect cube.”

Took him 1.5 months.

He was an excellent engraver.

David Geller
www.JewelerProfit.com


#6

I’ve only recently “finished” being an apprentice. By which I mean I
haven’t really finished - what’s changed for me is that I’ve become
more independantly minded about my work. I exercise more judgement,
instead of just listening to my dad (my master), and I’ve finally
started to feel the first glimmer of real discipline in my work.
Sure, I’m proud of what I’ve done before, but the first 5 years of
my bench career (I’ve been involved in the trade in other ways for
half my life, since I was 14) were spent doing things because my dad
told me to. Trying not to argue, trying not to get annoyed and
stressed out.

Putting the work first is important, and it is necessary to learn
things the traditional way before anything else. Yeah, you can be an
"engraver", a “setter” or a “polisher” using only modern equipment,
but if we’ve got a ring worth UKP 15,000 on the go, I’m going to
seek out the old fella with a box of gravers. No question. Why? Is
his work better? Maybe, maybe not. What’s different is that I know
he’s put the work before himself. He’s cut his hands to shreds
learning, he’s made every mistake already, so he won’t do it again.
And he’s in total control of the tools.

What’s changed for me personally is that I’ve started to put the
work before myself. When I want to eat my sandwich, or finish early
and go down the pub, I used to just make do. Get the job finished by
any means, and go and enjoy myself. But now it’s different, and the
difference started with little things. Almost silly things. Like
cleaning every item between tripoli and rouge. It annoys me, but the
jewellery likes it. Doing things over and over again until they are
right. Treating the tools with the respect they need (like
hand-cutting all your gravers from tool steel). The setter we use
spent the first 6 months of his career doing star-setting before his
master even let him look at anything else. Anyone without patience
would have given up by the second month. So I know he has the
patience.

I’m not an engraver, I don’t know the in’s and out’s of the
gravermax system, but I know what I’m looking for when I need an
engraver - it’s a little man (or woman) in a shed, down an alley,
with a little box of gravers.

I started my blog because I felt too dependant on modern technology.
We use a laser welder to assemble our work, and attach the solder to
it. I might be faster than anyone with a soldering pick, but am I
better at soldering than them? Categorically not.

Jamie
http://primitive.ganoksin.com

PS. Sorry for such a rambling post. It would have been more concise
and relevant if I’d written this on vellum, with a quill, and posted
it to you by horse-courier :wink:


#7
That said, on his first day of school, everyone was handed a steel
ball bearing about the size of a baseball, a flat bastard file and
a 90 degree T square. They were told "Come back to class when you
have it as a perfect cube." 

I often wish this were the case with more schools, for many reasons.
Independent thought and problem solving is important.

Dinah


#8

when i took some classes from Gary Noffkee @ university of Georgia
he said that in order to make somting that looks rough have
legitimacy as good work, " you have to first make it perfect, then
you apply the texture and the crookedness and the bent up aspects,
now you have art" where as if you make something rough and it was
never perfect at any point in its creation you have as in the wise
and observant words of Richard Hart " a Hack Job " and he is correct
because you were never in control of the piece it was in control of
you. skills and discipline… keep trying until you hone them to
perfection. A winner would rather fail in their attempt at doing
something great than achieve success at doing something mediocre

  • goo

#9
it's based on the fact that files are expensive and laborious to
learn to use well 

Gee, I hope that Uni doesn’t have the same standards in its medical
school.


#10
I was taught the old fashioned way by an instructor with a very
narrow idea of how it should be done. 

I pulled John’s quote from the Gravermax thread, and pasted it here
with Geller’s story about turning a sphere into a cube, in order to
take it deeper…

Students tend to be process oriented. Leonid, who’s been prominent
on these threads, is process oriented. “First you do this, then you
do that, and that’s the way.” Leonid said something like, “You MUST
do it this way…” Process…

Here in the professional world, we don’t care… We are results
oriented, and often design oriented. Instead of saying, “Let’s do
some etching…”, we say, “We have this design, what do we need to
do to make it real.” And most importantly, elegant, stylish and
saleable.

If you do some work for me, I will give you the job and expect to
get beautiful work from you when it’s done. I don’t care how you do
it, and I’m not going to look over your shoulder, either. It’s your
job to know that… We might have some discussions, and maybe
I’ll learn something from you. The only thing that is important here
is the thing you hold in your hand, in the end - how you arrive at
that is of no importance.

We send out the sort of engraving John mentions - calligraphy.
Sometimes machine engraving is fine (meaning pantograph). If people
want hand engraving we send there. Whether he does it with a
Gravermax, a Lindsay, or a sharp stick is of no importance to me.
What’s important is beautiful, elegant work - again, work that’s
saleable too.

This is not an excuse for lousy work - if you don’t prepolish that
part, you’ll get a lousy polish overall, if you don’t make that part
straight, the whole piece will be crooked. And etc. and etc. But
it’s after you get the processes straight in your mind, and your
hands, and they become second nature and THEN you can work with
style and freedom - that’s when you have something. It’s all about
results… This isn’t school.


#11
The engraving community is one of the most helpful, optimistic and
creatively dedicated group of people I have ever known. Ask, and
you shall receive. 

I would say they are like other groups of people. Sometimes you ask;
and sometimes you’ll receive poor advice.

I unlike John love doing script or lettering of any kind; but like
John I believe "you likely will become a more complete

craftsman". That is, if you have the discipline. More than any
other quality, discipline is required. 

Perhaps what Leonid says about sharpening gravers applies here. You
need lots of discipline to learn to sharpen gravers by hand.

I’m way beyond the age when one begins learning engraving. But I love
the discipline of it; to sit down and spend a couple of hours each
day engraving. This practice has improved my work in both lapidary
and metalwork. I’ve seen pictures of the work of Belgium and Italian
and American engravers that is amazing. It caused me to reflect on my
own work and to ask myself “is this the best I can do. Have I set my
standards high enough?”

It’s very personal but has changed my attitudes about almost
everything.

kpk


#12

Jamie,

Don’t even think of what you wrote as rambling, or somehow not as
concise as it could be. Yours was a beautifully written story of your
craftsmanship, and a slice of your life that went straight to my
heart. In your descriptions, I saw elements of my own background, and
the years I’ve spent working in the jewelry trade. I too, know of the
blood, shed trying to perfect our craft. Discipline, patience, hard
work, and a real love of metalwork is what it’s about. It can be a
brutal trade, miserable on your hands, shoulders and eyes, but what
amazing objects we can create with what we’ve learned.

There is nothing like the feeling of imagining an object, then going
into your studio and making every part of it with your own hands, and
finally, holding that finished object in your hands. Can there be a
better creative feeling than this?? If I can help teach others even a
little bit of this magic, which has meant so much to me, then I will
gladly pass on what I know.

I wish you all the luck in the world. If you’re not already a
fabulous craftsman, then you certainly will be!

Jay Whaley


#13
Here in the professional world, we don't care..... We are results
oriented, and often design oriented. Instead of saying, "Let's do
some etching...", we say, "We have this design, what do we need to
do to make it real." And most importantly, elegant, stylish and
saleable. 

There is no division between the process and the result. If I were
to draw a demarcation line, it would be between a school of thought
that good results impossible without good process, and others, who
are thinking differently.

Let’s look at few examples, not necessarily from goldsmithing, but
from more commonly encountered.

Golf - all we care is to be under par more than another player.
Could we ever do it without proper swing ? The answer is NO!

Piano - the first 3 to 5 years of training are dedicated to correct
hands position and playing scales.

If all we care is good music, why do we spend so much time and
effort on the technique ? Because the former is impossible without
the later.

I can go on and on citing examples from ballet, fly-fishing, martial
arts, and etc. In each and every case, mastery or even modicum of
proficiency is impossible without developing solid foundation in
basic techniques. Then why do some of us think, that goldsmithing is
different ? Can a horologist ( watchmaker ) practice his/her art
without knowing how to use screwdriver without scratching screws ?
Can a surgeon save life without studying anatomy for many years ? Can
a singer sing without mastering technique of voice control? In each
and every case, the answer is resounding NO!

My apologies to those holding opposing view, but the theory, that
good results are possible without good process, simply is not
supported by the experience, common sense, or any evidence
whatsoever. The only things that other side has is the desire for it
to be true. I understand the desire, but wishing it so, does not
make it so.

Leonid Surpin
www.studioarete.com


#14

Leonid,

Of course you are 100% correct, and there should be NO argument. What
you have is the difference in attitude developed over the last 30 to
40 years, therefore the baseless arguments, Instant Gratification.
Even with the eye to hand skill necessary for the IMHO mindless
computer video games, it takes practice and many hours to
successfully traverse the many layers of skill. How anyone thinks it
does not take practice to make perfect is more the mystery.

I also think it is cultural as well, there is probably less argument
from Europe or Asia.

Hugs and Thanks
Terrie


#15

I have a friend who is a diamond cutter in Belgium. When he graduated
from school at the top of his class he thought he was pretty good.

He immediately got a job with a reputable firm. He cut his first
diamond and took it to the owner for inspection. The owner, holding a
fountain pen, told him, " I will mark each area of this stone where
you have made a mistake", and then proceeded to put a drop of ink on
the stone which covered it completely.

Many years and hundreds of diamonds later, he now specializes in
stones of 10 carats or larger. He’s never forgotten his first
diamond.


#16
 If I were to draw a demarcation line, it would be between a school
of thought that good results impossible without good process, 

Leonid misunderstands. I scanned his video of a "coronet cluster"
yesterday, which is why I talked about being stuck in process to
begin with. It’s a fine, workmanlike effort, but this:

http://www.langantiques.com/category/30/4/item/30-1-471/

Is a coronet setting that has style, beauty, and elegance. That
maker has transcended process and become an artist. What Leonid
misunderstands is that his video IS playing scales on the piano, to
use his own analogy.

What has maybe been lost in translation on these thread about
gravers and skill is that witth or without power assist it’s still
going to take you 10 years to become a great engraver, and that’s if
you have talent. You still have to pay your dues and cut thousands
of cuts. It’s darn difficult, engraving.

Eventually all of those things you learn to become a jeweler become
second nature, and that’s when you have something - when you don’t
have to think about it, it just flows off your hands. Kind of like
learning a foreign language - first you think, “How is this
conjugated…” And there comes a point where you just speak…

It takes a long, long time…


#17

Dear Leonid

I think I’m a little more toward your way of thinking.

I had taken piano lessons for years during my childhood… I hadn’t
wanted to learn but my parents had made me.

Because of my childish lack of enthusiasm I am quite the duffer at
piano playing… but on the other hand I still retain perfect pitch
and I understand enough music theory to be able to transpose written
music to a different key. I also understand the correspondence
between pitch and frequency and that understanding had served me
well in my later career as an engineer.

I had tried to take Okinawan karate for a couple years in college. I
can truly appreciate what a master practicioner can do with his
body… and I can clearly see that there is no substitute for the
years of specialized training that it takes to even reach First Dan.
I myself had flunked out of white belt (the lowest) for being so
overweight… put I still remember my basic punches and blocks and
have passed them on to my six year old daughter.

I had a mentor who had been in the Marines… and once upon a time
she had told me that while every Marine is by definition a rifleman
there are very few riflemen who are also snipers… and the level of
proficiency needed to be rated sniper tooks years of supervised
taining to attain.

My opinion is that while book learning and self training are
valuable things they can only take you to the level of tradesman. I
believe there is a different and undefineable quality in results
that comes only from the supervised passing down of skill from one
generation of master to the next… I call it The Masters’ Touch.

Part of the price for attaining The Masters’s Touch in any given
profession is the willingness to spend a significant chunk of your
life, perhaps even the majority of it, staying at the same place and
doing the same thing, watching and learning the skills needed not
just to become a tradesman in a craft but to also attrain true
mastery.

But the rest of the price of attaining that Touch is the realization
that once the Master says he has nothing more to teach you, you then
incur the obligation to teach whoever seriously and earnestly
approaches you for training.

I am a software designer. I approached the field as both a trade and
a craft as well as a profession. After I finished my basic education
in computer science, I then studied at the feet of several master
engineers, learning how to write clear, readable and error free code
on several platforms, several microprocessors, several operating
systems, for all kinds of applications in science and industry. I
have fifteen years of experience after finishing graduate school,
the which entitles me to have the confidence to declare myself as
having mastery at software design as a trade.

I know have The Master’s Touch at software design. But I have not
worked for 5 years at the field due to issues I had already touched
on in this group long since. But even so my skills remain hardwired
and timeless and when it comes time again to use them they will
remain evergreen.

At the age of 48 (today is my birthday) I have become too old to
devote a new phase of my life to attaining mastery in another field
because by the time I can accomplish that I will be dead of old
age… and I would still have the same issues in being hired as I do
now… so what is the point?

But I spend perhaps a dozen hours per week in expanding my horizons
and attempting to learn new skills. My hope is to attain at least
the tradesman level in many more skills and to thus combine them to
create unique artifacts and discoveries for which I will possibly be
remembered. That is my motivation for wanting to learn to create
jewelry.

I may never attain The Masters’ Touch as a jeweler. But as I am
barred from working, let alone working in the field I once
considered my life’s work, I hope I can still have some recognition
for at least being willing to learn what I can the short time I have
left.

And so, Mr. Surpin, I would humbly beg of you if I could someday
when my circumstances permit, that I travel to your studio and spend
to be tutored in the very basics of engraving, just enough to
develop a small amount of confidence?

Best,
Andrew Jonathan Fine


#18
I can go on and on citing examples from ballet, fly-fishing,
martial arts, and etc. In each and every case, mastery or even
modicum of proficiency is impossible without developing solid
foundation in basic techniques. 

I have got to come down on Leonid’s side on this one. My father
always maintained, “You can’t teach art; you can teach technique.
Art comes from within.” His point was always, that if the technique
was not at your disposal, then the art could never emerge. Technique
needs to become “second nature”; it needs to be something you don’t
give any thought to, once you’ve mastered it. It is the medium, out
if which expression flows.

I have grown weary of people who look at my work, only to exclaim,
“Oh, I wouldn’t have the patience to do that!” I now tell them, that
the good news is, that patience is the least of the qualities
required to accomplish this. All they need is innate artistic
ability, the talent required to achieve it in the first place and
years of dedication to developing the skills to bring it about. The
patience is easy. For me it’s meditation. I have my general design; I
start in on the metal, and I pick my head up some hours later ask
myself, “Where the hell did that come from? Did I do that?” I’ll bet
I’m not alone in this experience.

I don’t consider Leonid’s view as one opposing mine, and I’ll bet I’m
not alone.

I find this interesting.
Hans Rohner


#19
Leonid misunderstands. I scanned his video of a "coronet cluster"
yesterday, which is why I talked about being stuck in process to
begin with. It's a fine, workmanlike effort, but this: 
http://www.langantiques.com/category/30/4/item/30-1-471/ 
Is a coronet setting that has style, beauty, and elegance. That
maker has transcended process and become an artist. What Leonid
misunderstands is that his video IS playing scales on the piano,
to use his own analogy. 

Thank you John. Comparing my modest efforts to such a fine example of
craftsmanship is the best compliment I could ever hope for. But can
you elaborate on your point of my misunderstanding.

What I don’t get is how is my video contradicts what I am saying. It
took me quite a few attempts, before my coronets started resembling
jewellery. And it only happened after I dissected the whole process
and practiced every phase of construction as separate task.

I also do not recall ever claiming perfection. Coronets are not
easy, and have many pitfalls. The reason for my DVD is not stake a
claim that the best ever Coronet Cluster has been created, but to
make learning of this difficult style is a little easier.

I do claim, that my DVD is the best presentation of technique of
Coronet Cluster, and gives someone who is willing to devote time and
effort, the best chance of success. For more about the
DVD follow link bellow

http://www.studioarete.com/StudioArete/Coronet_Cluster.html

Leonid Surpin
www.studioarete.com


#20
And so, Mr. Surpin, I would humbly beg of you if I could someday
when my circumstances permit, that I travel to your studio and
spend to be tutored in the very basics of engraving, just enough to
develop a small amount of confidence? 

Your confidence in my teaching abilities is very flattering, but if
you are looking for the very best instructor - it is yourself!

Mastering engraving or any other skill is like making a chain. A
single weak link make the whole chain useless. The only way to make
strong chain is to make sure that each and every link is solid.

The same applies to skill acquisition. Start at the very beginning
and do not take the next step, until the previous one is mastered.
Engraving is like a handwriting. Everybody is taught the same thing,
but everybody will develop different style.

What affects engraving is your wrist and elbow anatomy. You need to
find set of angles for your graver, which works with your body. It
requires experimentation and time.

Your guide should be the ease of cutting. When graver works with you
body, cutting will be effortless, smooth and bright. It will be
enjoyable and can even become addictive.

Very good book is by R. Allen Hardy “The Jewelry Engravers Manual”.
It is still available and has all the necessary. Do not
let price of this book fool you. It is very affordable, but
presentation of the subject is excellent. The key is not to rush.
Simply enjoy the process.

Leonid Surpin
www.studioarete.com