Starting Out

Hi everyone:

I know there are many people on the list with much more experience
than me, but I wanted to share the following just because there might
be someone it may encourage (and my husband drops into a slightly
comatose state when I talk about jewelry).

I show my work at a local art center at the holiday time. I have
been doing this for 3 (?) years, with little success. This year was
different for me and, although it may seem to be an extremely small
victory, I am in the clouds today. My first year there I was set up
all the way in the back corner, facing the wall. At the opening, I
did everything I could…whitened my teeth and flashed neon smiles,
jumped up and down, etc etc…to get people to notice me. The second
year, I tried a little less, got a little discouraged, but put on a
brave face (at least I had better spot in the gallery). This year, I
didn’t go to the opening. I told my husband, “next year, the kids go
to school full-time, if nothing happens for me, I will go back to
being an accountant” He said “don’t go back to working for the man” I

Things changed. I priced it right. I caught on to what the ladies
wanted. The work “sold like hotcakes”. They asked me to teach. I
walked into the gallery yesterday to deliver my first order and there
I was. My work is now front and center. You walk in the gallery and
there I am, right in front of you. The best spot. Maybe, if I do
well, I will make 100 or 200 a month plus my teaching, but that’s not
how I feel. I’m building a business, from the very start, all by

Today, you could push me over with a feather. I hope to not have
bored anyone into a semi-comatose state. I just wanted to send a
small note of encouragement to anyone who has ever been put all the
way in the back corner facing the wall.

Best regards and I wish you all success in the coming year

Kim Starbard
Cove Beads

Hi Kim,

I understand you completely. 2 years ago, when our first wholesale
order for abroad company was finished (parcel with ceramic beads was
sent and money arrived in our account) we both (I and my wife,
Kremena) was in almost same frame of mind, as yours. The months
before this happened were really hard for us, we all the time
thought and hesitate about the way that we choseSo when this
happened, it made us really happy! Sometime it’s hard to follow the
chosen way, but from my experience I can say that if somebody is
enough staunch in this, results will come for sure. So keep the good
work, and all other will happen in proper order. There is a proverb
in Bulgarian language; old craftsmen used it often. I’ll try to
translate it heRe: You should feed the craft 5 years before it
starts to feed you. From my present point-of-view I’m sure in their
truth. I’m curious, how about other Orchid members? How long you
“fed” the craft before it starts to “feed” you?

Best wishes to all,
Vladislav Ivanov
Golem Design Studio, Bulgaria

Congratulations Kim!

Have you taken some photos of your pieces? Put them somewhere on the
web and show them to us!


Congratulations Kim!

Have you taken some photos of your pieces? Put them somewhere on the
web and show them to us!


Bravo Kim,

Yes,as I speak for myself & possibly other metalsmiths, we have been
through this situation too. This seems to be the start of a very good
year for you. It sounds like your work is maybe better done
technically, more in tune with the market place & probably at a
higher level of quality-along with the pricing…I’ve been doing this
for 27 years along with my husband, had my share of rejection,
acceptance and can now say I have sold a major piece at the California
Museum in Oakland Ca. It was a combination of brooch, pearl neclace &
enhancer. It was a collaboration of an idea (stone & metal were
chosen by me, John & several metalsmiths). I’ve enclosed two
attachments of the item. Although I am a working jeweler for stores &
private clientel, I have shown for years in various local shows and
have also faced the back of the room, tucked in the corner. I’ve been
critiqued for the positive & negative aspects…For shows now,I make
the design to please myself first, but I keep in mind the potential
buyer & try to make the item appealing to them too and give them a
bang for their buck…They are after all, the ones who will wear this
art…Again, congratulations & carry on!!!

Cheers, Jo-Ann Maggiora Donivan

Congrats Kim! That’s so exciting. It just goes to show that you have
to keep your mind open and continue to grow, learn and respond to the

Hello Vladislav;

How long you "fed" the craft before it starts to "feed" you? 

I’m sure I’m still “feeding” it. After I got my first metals degree,
I found all I could qualify for was a minimum wage job in a trade
shop. I got another higher degree and then I worked at the bench for
another 20 some years before I got close to a decent wage for the
skills I had. Then I went out on my own. Now, three years later, I am
making a little over half of what I had made when I worked my last
job for somebody else. My employees will probably rise much faster
that I did, and if that happens, I will be happy. Keep the picture as
big as you possibly can because life is short and we never live long
enough to really be certain our choices were the right ones.

David L. Huffman

I'm curious, how about other Orchid members? How long you "fed" the
craft before it starts to "feed" you? 

I was a college student with the support of my parents when I first
started making and selling jewelry. I sold it by sitting by it on a
blanket outside the college dining hall in the evening. I put most of
my earnings back into tools and materials so that I could do more
jewelry with more techniques. But I remember my mother asking me on
the phone, “don’t you need us to send you some more money?” because I
quit asking her for money to spend on books, clothes, or other
necessities (my room & board in the dorm were being paid by my

I remember that I bought my first tools at the local hardware store,
and they were a ball-pein hammer, 2 pliers, an end cutter, a file,
sandpaper, and a small ASO (anvil shaped object). I made money with
them. Sterling was $4 an ounce, I think. Or maybe $3 something. This
was in 1968.I soon bought a pencil-flame propane torch at the
hardware store, which I used for about the next 5 years, with the
tall propane cylinder cradled in my arm. I am not telling anyone to
do things this way, but if they have very little money, they could
get by with adding on tools and techniques only as they can afford
them. There is plenty to learn using just cold techniques; sawing,
filing, riveting, polishing, forging, stamping… You learn to be
very clever with your designs.

After finishing my studio art degree in college (they had no metals
department) I made my living solely with jewelry, but I lived in
city apartments with multiple roommates, and had no car for a few
years. It was worth it to me, to be able to work on my craft and not
take a day job. But I don’t know if kids today would be willing to
live without all the goodies they want, like cell phones, iPods,
cars, nice shoes, etc. And if you are supporting a family…well…I
was living in what one could call poverty. I wouldn’t change a thing,
except for maybe buying a better torch sooner, and following what we
now know to be good safety practices regarding polishing dust and
soldering fumes. That was 38 years ago, and I seem to have lived
through it, so far.

Wow, 38 years! I didn’t realize it was so long, since I count my
actual business start just from the time I got out of college and
supported myself on my own. I’ve had a good time, and it isn’t over

M’lou Brubaker, Jeweler
Goodland, MN

Hi Everybody:

I had no idea I would get this kind of response. Thank you to
everyone for the many kind and thoughtful comments!

I look forward to a busy year of learning, working, and selling.

Here’s to never hearing things like “It’s time for annual review” or
"congratulations, you’ve been awarded a 2% raise" or the best “I
noticed you took a 32 minute lunch break, company policy only allows
for 30 minutes”

My best to everyone and, for those who are going to Tucson, have a
great time!

Best Regards,
Kim Starbard
Cove Beads