Soft enamel production work

Part of this thread, thanks to John, has gotten into the business of
selling your work. For what it’s worth, here’s my two cents.
Everyone’s path isdifferent. But basically the thing to remember is
that the better you are at doing the most difficult and complex
work, the more you separate yourself from everyone else. The more
’rare’ your skills are, the more you can charge for your work. While
the more routine your skills are, the moreyour customers will just
look at the price.

I think it’s the basic bench skills that you have to perfect. Too
many people skip trying to ‘master’ the basics of soldering, sawing,
shaping, setting, finishing, etc and want to jump to custom work too
early. Being able to do absolutely undetectable sizings and repairs
along with immaculate setting work will lead to beautiful custom
work. All that routine stuff that the first, second and third year
goldsmith is doing every day are the same skills you use later when
you do the trickier work. It’s just that the work gets morerefined
and you’re making the whole thing instead of working on only part of
the piece.

The other thing you need is to be the kind of person who naturally
thinks about the big picture, not just what’s in front ofyou. Think
about how all the pieces of the business you work for now need to
fit together to keep things running so the bills get paid on time.
Observe and think about that everyday, think about how it might run
better. That will help you understand what it will take to go out on
your own and it has the added benefit of making you more valuable to
your current employer.


My view on this subject, vitreous vs. resin, and the one I use when
selling my wife’s work, is that what many people think of when they
hear the word “enamel” is “acrylic enamel”. So names because it was
a paint that had a finish similar to “true” enamel, i. e. gloss glass
like. It takes a little extra time to explain this to the buyer, but
I also explain that the pallet of usable colors is limited because
they have to withstand the temperatures necessary for the melting of
glass. All those pretty colors that are used for canvas painting
would not stand up to the kiln temperatures. I go on to explain that
the painting is done with finely powdered glass and sometimes the
color is different between the powdered form and the final glass
after melting. It takes some doing to explain difficulty to make the
pieces, but that helps explain why the prices are what they are, and
how well the items will hold up in use. As the sales person, my job
is education.

Hi Mark and others

I think it's the basic bench skills that you have to perfect. 
Too many people skip trying to 'master' the basics of soldering,
sawing, shaping, setting, finishing, etc and want to jump to custom
work too early. 

Two very true statements.

If you do not master the basics, you will NEVER make precision
jewellery. Yes you can write an “artist statement” and say it is
supposed to look like that. But you will NEVER impress someone who
has mastered the basics. And you will NEVER sell to a jewellery
educated customer. The design might be good but inferior execution
will always be a limiting factor. I see some very basic designs, but
the quality of execution is very impressive and gains my admiration.
Someone has worked hard and done an excellent job.

It takes time and hard work to get on top of basic/fundamental
skills. If you do not do this you will eventually hit a brick wall
with the customers.

When I was at jewellery school we were being asked to do repairs by
customers. Our teacher told us to wait ten years of bench time before
we did. Sage advice. Those who ignored it soon found out why
experience is necessary. It did not end well. I really admire people
who can repair jewellery, personally not for me.

Do not rush, keep within your skill level and when you have achieved
precision, extend your self.

The internet is full of people who self-promote their jewellery and
do not make good designs or quality of finish.

Looked at a site the other day and there was the self promoter with
a picture of them with a hammer. Choking the hammer, does not even
know how to use a basic tool but the artist statement was all about
how brilliant a crafts person they are.

I saw a demonstration by two blacksmiths. I was standing next to a
tradesman and asked what he thought.

“Can’t use a hammer what a joke.” One had a big bandage on his hand,
while teaching LOL a class had picked up a piece of hot iron. A basic
mistake. Don’t know how to use a hammer yet teach, how sad.

Went to an exhibition of jewellery with my class mates, one of
Australia’s premier government run Art jewellery schools.

We all agreed our teacher would have told us to take it apart and do
it properly. But had great artist’s statements.

It may not be exciting, at times incredibly boring and frustrating,
but ultimately mastering the basic skills will pay dividends.

There is not ONE quality crafts person on Orchid who has not done
this. I think many could not write an “Artist statement” but
certainly make fine quality precision jewellery. And out sell the Art

Decades ago I was at a friend’s place who had a Warhol silk screen
print of Mick Jagger. I did not think much of Warhol till I saw his
work first hand. On close inspection I could see he had mastered the
basics of screen printing and combined it with quality design.

So newbies by mastering the basics of this craft, you will be able
to extend your design skills and make quality.

On the business aspect if you make plain rings bands or twisties or
like me specialise in bezel set solitaires as well as plain bands and
twisties you will make a profit. Because the hours spent mastering
these aspects of the jewellery craft will pay you back in the long

Keep practising you will improve and then you can extend you design
skills into actual pieces.

Jewellery is cheaper than therapy

Hello Thomas,

Very good on you, educating your wife’s clients about the
complexities of enameling. I have to pat my hubbie on the back for
the same thing. He lets me deal with visitors to the booth, but when
things get busier, he talks eloquently about some of my signature
pieces. and makes many sales!! I’m proud of him, and of you too.

Judy in Kansas, where the deep freeze outside brings the birds in to
the heated water bowl and feeders.

The Enamelist Society can provide copies of our newly designed
brochure to use as an educational/sales aid.

Marianne Hunter

Thank you Judy for your kind words, but the woman I was defending
was just a friend I took a class from. She was just one of those
people that was meant to be a teacher. Always a kind word for anyone,
and had answers for everything, but usually helped the student figure
it out on their own, with the appropriate nudge in the right
direction. She passed away fairly young, and I left her name out
because I think she would have preferred that.

My wife own the other hand, worked with me at the shows for over ten
years, even though she could barely stand the ups and downs of
living with a self-employed jeweler. She would have been suited to a
guy that had, even a blue collar job, as long as the bills got paid.
But she stuck with me and did all the things your other half does for
you. She would remember the customers (especially the important
spenders), and all the things they talked about, while I would only
occasionally remember the pieces they had purchased. Many times she
greeted the customer with “Hello Mrs. whoever, did your daughter pass
her bar exam?”, or whatever was appropriate, and remind me of the
name as she handed the sale off to me. She helped me tear down and
pack up, then unpack and set up, kept my applications to the shows we
wanted in, straight, and did the book keeping. If you remember from
my earlier post I admitted to being a lousy businessman, that was not
hyperbole. I wasn’t a bad teacher when we hired the apprentices that
worked with us over the years, but she was definitely the boss in the
shop. She kept my mouth closed when I would begin to teach things not
necessary to the work being produced. We were, after all, paying them
to produce, not getting paid for me to teach.

When we finally began to get some security with the shows and
galleries, and make a little money, she got to give her dream a shot.
She went back to school at 40 and got her RN. In the intervening
years she has worked her way to an ICU nurse at one of the local
hospitals. She is one of the biggest reasons I’m still alive, long
after the docs thought I would be gone.

For those of you who find my life story boring, I do apologize!
Believe me when I say I could easily make it even more like a soap
opera and still be telling the truth. Having said that, if you took
the time to read this, don’t make it even more of a waste. There is
much to be learned, if you can read between the lines. One of the
biggest joys in my life has been the friendships I enjoyed over the
years with a much smaller community very like this forum.

The people that post certainly do it for common interests that we
all have, and the opportunity to share with people of like minds, but
if you use this one thread as an example, you can see that it has
taken all sorts of directions. Most of us (just my opinion) don’t do
this for the money, there are certainly easier ways to make a secure
living. The Donivans are a singular couple with hard earned success,
but see how they share. Richards post today sounds like him thinking
out loud about how to deal with a problem every newbie that sells
from a booth will have if they work hard and hang in there. Marianne
explained what enameling is about in a way that anyone can
understand, and in another post pointed out that working for yourself
allows you to draw your own particular line about just what you will
do for money. If you have been reading these posts very long, you
will know that Judy can deal it out with the best of them, but
usually voices encouragement, and “keep on trucking”.

I’m self taught, so I have read about art and the how tos for 45
years now. Lucky enough to have been taught by many of the best in
that way. I can personally attest to the fact that not many books say
the things that get said everyday on this forum. Plus you always get
to critique what we have to say! Then, of course, I always sign it,
so just hit delete. Thomas III

Thomas, thank you for writing the wonderful tribute to your wife.
You are so fortunate to have each other. It sounds like you both
fully support each other and offer unconditional love. Yours is a
rich and blessed life. Alma

You are so fortunate to have each other. It sounds like you both
fully support each other and offer unconditional love. Yours is a
rich and blessed life. Alma 

I am sure that there are many boyfriends/girlfriends-wives and
husbands (not to mention the same sex equivalents) that work along
with, and help support the efforts of their significant others to the
best of their abilities. I would guess we could spend days on this
forum thanking the many life partners that just want us to succeed at
our chosen direction. Your post brought a very large smile to my
wife’s face, thanks for that Alma. Thomas III