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UK Orchidians

Hi all,

I am a UK member of Orchid, but I have absolutely no idea who else
is a member in this country. Personally, I feel a little
disillusioned at the heavy US bias in the messages. US members have
the Santa Fe Symposium and other events to get together and know each
other better. As far as I am concerned there isn’t any UK equivalent.

I would be interested to see what other UK Orcidians think.

Richard Whitehouse

    I would be interested to see what other UK Orcidians think. 

Hello Richard,

From what I’ve seen there are several UK Orchidians but if you cast
the net a little further I think you’ll find that there are at least a
dozen more of us scattered across Europe. At least two in France, one
Belgian, same in Finland and Denmark, several in Spain, more in Italy.
Not trivial but not exactly the stateside numbers by any stretch of
the imagination.

If something was happening in the UK I’d be happy to make the trip.
Love that Eurostar!

Trevor F.


I can understand how Orchidians in other countries could feel left
out of some of the functions that we have available to us here in
the States. Hopefully, you will receive replies from all the
Orchidians in the UK. I suggest that you take it upon yourself to
organize a get-together somewhere in the UK. It might surprise you
how many will attend. Let the rest of us know what happens.


Joel Schwalb

I’m with you Richard.

One of the most difficult things that I find is that many products
that are recommended by members are unavailable in the UK, and I
can’t find a UK equivalent. I’d also love to be able to get together
with other Orchidians in the UK.

If UK Members are willing to email me off list with their name,
email address and location (town/county), I would be happy to put a
list together and post it on Orchid and a standalone web page.


Hi Richard

I am a UK member of Orchid, but I have absolutely no idea who else
is a member in this country.

It would be great to know how many of us in the Europe / UK are
connected to Orchid, it might be interesting to have a country of
origin listing in connection with the gallery entries? To increase
the non US contributions to Orchid we should encourage all our
contemporaries to participate, but I still have many friends that
just don’t use the Internet, I don’t know how they survive!!!

Carlo Verda

I think that folks outside the US may get a somewhat misleading
impression. While there is no question that there are many
opportunities for metalsmiths in general and Orchid members in
particular to get together, most of us, as individuals, are just as
isolated from each other as members in other countries. The US is
huge, and for me, for example, going to Tucson or Santa Fe is
totally out of the question, as it is as far as from London to Rome.
I envy those who can make it (as Michael Honeycutt expressed so
well), as well as those who live near Metalworks or the Revere

I think it would be interesting if people added their location to
their signatures, as some already do.

Noel in Illinois, USA

I know one other UK Orchidian, I would be very pleased to get
together with others, I have been making an effort to meet other
local working jewellers and I think some kind of social get together
would be a great idea.

The drawback I find with US members is that proucts they take for
granted are sometimes an unknown name abroad.

Tim in Gloucestershire.


Last summer I went to London to teach a course at Sir John Cass on
the hydraulic press. I’m planning to be back to do it again this
coming July. I deeply love the UK, lived there briefly during grad
school [in a very different field], and am thrilled at the prospect
of returning soon.

I was saddened but unsurprised by your post. As I got to know my
students and colleagues last summer, I was profoundly struck by the
difference in the jewelry culture between North America and the UK.
Your sense of isolation was expressed to me individually and
collectively by each of these folks. I discovered that the teaching
culture in the UK is fundamentally very different from North
America. The UK situation is further complicated by the migration of
so much of the industry out of the country and the dramatic changes
in the higher education system there in the past 20 years.

Out of 20 or so students I had contact with that week, only one read
Orchid. The others simply did not know it existed. [Hanuman, Ton,
are you listening? a mailing of the new flier, maybe?] By the end of
the week, most of them had started reading regularly and could not
believe what they found in the archives for free.

Pat Waddington’s post about difficulties getting tools and materials
reflects the vertical consolidation of the suppliers in the UK and
Europe. I asked my students to bring me every catalog they could,
and I was appalled by the bleak results.

Rio Grande helped to pay for my airfare over and sent along 40
catalogs – there were pools of drool all over the benches. I was
trading tools to one of my students for a wonderful little
watchmakers’ lathe. I asked her if she saw anything in the
pliers/cutters section of the catalog that she wanted and she said

“But there are so many, however could I choose?”

That remark just about stopped this tool hound’s heart. [Don’t
worry, I sent her gobs of goodies.] In class, I caused huge
consternation by asking about paste flux, which none of my students
knew existed [bringing a case with me this year] yet they were
battling terrible fire scale and overheating problems with sterling.

Rio Grande and many of the other North American suppliers are
delighted to ship orders anywhere in Europe. With the weakness of
the dollar and the generally lower prices [there were gasps when
folks saw HOW LOW the Rio prices are compared to what they were
paying] it makes a great deal of sense, even with duty, to order
from outside suppliers. Go to their web sites and request a
catalog! Sometimes the only way to get a local supplier to pay
attention is to vote with your wallet.

I have never had such a group of ravenous students as I had there.
I managed to shock, overwhelm, and delight all of my group just by
answering every single question they asked me [even if what I said
was “I have no clue, but let’s try this…”] for a solid week of
class. I went home hoarse every day but it was such an incredible
experience for all of us. They told me on the last day that they
kept trying to see if they could get me tweaked, or get me to flat
out say I wouldn’t share something, especially about my own work,
but it never happened. This was not at all their collective
experience in the higher national diploma classes, sitting for
guilds, or fine arts degree courses in London. I also saw that there
was a dramatic demographic difference between the students and the
teachers: the former were overwhelmingly women, and the later were
overwhelmingly men, usually quite near retirement. This was a marked
source of tension.

Overall, the impression I got of my students was one of
disenfranchisement – a whole group of talented, kind, intelligent,
skilled people who did not feel a sense of connection to a broader
community. There was also a stark stratification [probably due to
historical reasons involving guilds, education, and so forth]
between who learned what skills and which metals they worked on. Few
students even considered making their own tools or learning to
machine, for instance. Few students ever thought of getting together
with classmates to share ideas or solve problems. Few of them ever
considered banding together to have collective purchasing power for
things like large group orders from outside suppliers or hiring
someone to teach them the skills they wanted to learn in a way they
wanted to learn them.

And I heard “but that’s always how it’s been done” so often. I love
learning and sharing old skills, rare skills, things that we must
save from dying out. That’s Hanuman’s mission here, too. But I was
so saddened when I saw “tradition” interfering with curiosity or
evolution – I think that tradition can be a living, flexible force
in our field, a way of connecting what we learned long ago with what
is now possible and what will become possible if we keep on
exploring. Paradoxically, my London students would cite tradition as
both a good thing – they knew exactly what to do – and a bad thing
– they were stuck with that one technique, tool, or material.

When I was in London as a history grad student all those years ago,
I was struck by how many organizations, large and small, there were
for academics to join so they could share their work. This past
year, in the same city but in a different field, I was struck by the
sense of pervasive isolation and loneliness, the hoarding of scarce
knowledge resources, the intense competition in a very tight market.
It made my heart ache, and still does.

I know that there’s a SNAG-like organization in the UK because there
was a cooperative conference a couple of years ago. None of my
students could tell me what it was called and none of them were
members. Why is that? What can be done to fix that?

I apologize if my remarks have in any way offended. It is difficult
to put my outsider’s observations into words. If any of the UK
Orchidians would like to get together in London or elsewhere next
July, let’s plan something. I’m perfectly happy to scoot around on
the train to a more convenient meeting location. Please just let me
know. I can bring catalogs and all kinds of other good stuff. :slight_smile: We
all need to get to know each other better and share what we can for
the good of all.

Anne Hollerbach

Even though I’m from the States, I think a gathering of UK
Orchidians is a great idea!

If a gathering were held at some time in June and not too far from
London or Cambridge, I’d probably stand a better chance of attending
that than I would of getting to the Tuscon dinner anytime soon
:frowning:sniff). I would really appreciate the chance to learn more about
jewelry arts in the UK, especially as I would like to find workshops
to attend, or possibly an artist/studio to work for/with during my
husband’s sabbatical, about five years down the road. (I like to
plan ahead.)

Of course, I’d only show up if you didn’t mind a Yank crashing the
party :wink:

Rock on!
Jessee Smith

I think that folks outside the US may get a somewhat misleading
impression...The US is huge 

I agree with Noel…I live in the center of Texas and can drive
nearly a full day in almost any direction and still be IN Texas. We
drive to southern California every couple of years and it is 2000
miles (3200 clicks) of road to cover one way! Even as often as we
make the trip, the sheer scale of it can be overwhelming at times.

I sometimes feel isolated from other Orchidians also; in that you
are not alone. BTW, I buy almost all of my supplies online.

Dawn B. in Taylor, Texas (near Austin) USA

I agree with Noel that the impression may be somewhat misleading.
For example, it is a 10 hour drive from my location near Miami to
Pensacola, Florida, the same state in which I live! I, too, envy
those who are geographically closer to other places (like Tucson!).
We don’t have much in the way of rockhounding here either, but I do
take some solace in the calcite deposits upstate, and the occasional
piece of coral that washes up on the beach.

A lot of Orchid newcomers from the US don’t often realize how
wide-flung the membership really is, and consequently make posts
about products that are totally unknown outside of our country. I’m
sure that most of the language translators that members use don’t
work as well as needed, either. I try to make my posts as generic as
possible for just this reason, but hope that members outside the US
will tolerate the fact that no post will go unanswered simply
because a product is only available here. Even when that does occur,
a lot of members go on “fact-finding missions” to identify the
constituents of these products for the express benefit of those who
live outside the US. To me, that is at the core of what this forum
is all about - helping people, no matter where they are,

James in SoFl, where it takes the better part of a day just to leave
the state, but at least I don’t have to drive across Texas or Alaska
to get out.

I agree with the “US biased” contents (but then again, that’s the
case not only for Orchid). Yes they do have a lot of things going on
there but they are not limited to US citizens. So, last year I
decided to go to the SNAG meeting and I loved every minute of it:
made great friends, learned a lot and decided to go back this year.
It will be much harder to get an European reunion: language problems,
people don’t travel as easily, etc. But why not try it?

Linda from Belgium

Hi Richard

You can add me to the list of Orchidians living in the UK. May I
suggest the that the I.J.L. show would be a good place for people
from the UK and Europe to meet for a drink, and that will give us
until September to organise things. Let me know what you think.


I am surprised that the UK jewellers are not buying from the German
suppliers like Karl Fischer at the least. They have an excellent
catalog and range of tools and findings.

I had a conversation with Alan Place, a silversmith originally from
Scotland, now working with the Cordova Museum in Lincoln, MA. It
seems that the metal smiths in the UK at one point had their work
taxed at a rate of 67% added to the selling price. He moved to
Australia, then later to the US. Just trying to make a living
fabricating hollowware is difficult- Alan spent his time trying to
get commissions to keep his assistants working.

Rick Hamilton

This topic has been of great interest to me. I lived in Wales for a
year and a half in the 70’s. In fact, it was the US Bicentennial.
The locals were some of the most interesting people I’ve ever met.
We, in the US, tend to have very inaccurate ideas of what people
elsewhere on the planet are like. I had totally, well…stupid,
notions of what the people and country were like. I made it a point
to get well away from Americans whenever possible (within reason, I
was a Navy man on a RAF base) and get into whatever the local
people were doing. I learned, probably more than anything else,
that those people were just like me. They had similar relationship
problems among themselves, some of them were total jerks but most
of them were fine people. They lived, laughed, loved, cried and
bled just like me. It’s a time of my life that I remember with
great joy and I truly hope to go back some day.

It saddens me that our friends in the UK face such trouble with
"Traditional" notions and attitudes. I would strongly encourage you
fine folks to get together in any way possible (over a pint at the
local pub if need be) and compare notes. Any of you that have
access to the internet may be able to relay questions from your
contacts to this forum or some of us that frequent to Orchid realm.
Surely there must be some way for us to share whatever we can with
you. The Orchid forum is meant for such things.

I’m still quite new to the jeweler’s arts but I remember the great
friendships I had in Wales and I hate to hear of the state some of
you are experiencing. Please find ways to network with each other.
One way to overcome the restrictions of traditional biases is to
think outside of the box they try to lock you in. Discuss! Debate!
Communicate! Experiment with new, non-traditional ways of doing
things. Get together when you can and have a group play session.
You can feed off each others ideas and inspirations. I hope things
get much better for you all.


Good for you Anne Hollerbach! You are a great Orchid ambassador and
a resource to your students. Clue them to all the websites found on
Ganoksin, along with the catalogs and paste flux. This globe gets
smaller all the time.

You GO girl!
Judy in Kansas

Hi Richard I find it frustrating too sometimes that us guys in the UK
can’t attend things like the Orchid Dinner, or go to Tucson. However
I find that the wealth of knowledge available from all our friends,
both near and far, more than makes up the balance. I suppose if we
were very successful and could justify the trip there is nothing
stopping us visiting any event wherever it may be in the world.

I do think that a UK arm would be great and would be happy to join
in if such a thing ever existed. It is amazing how many UK crafts
people are unaware of Orchid. I do pass the site on to all that I

Best regards
Mark Vardy
Silvar Design

In reply to Anne Hollerbach’s recent mail:


As a UK Orchidian and a mature student at John Cass College I feel
that I have to respond to your mail as I did not recognise our
college from your description.

In addition to the spring /summer recess courses that you were part
of, John Cass, now part of the London Metropolitan University, has
full and part-time courses in silversmithing small and large work,
engraving, diamond mounting, fine jewellery, jewellery design and
presentation, and enamelling. The courses are designed to meet the
various student needs; some are degree based courses with students
coming from all parts of the world and probably stress the design
and development skills above the practical manufacturing skills:
other coursed based on the City&Guilds syllabuses stress the
practical skills required to design and produce bespoke items to
customer requirements and were originally conceived to give the
artisans a recognised qualification - four study years, one day a
week per subject. All courses at John Cass apart from the short
recess based ones are examination courses and include design, theory
and practical skills as measurable elements.

John Cass is a fully equipped facility with an outstanding library
that not only includes a vast range of books and videos but has a
reading room with relevant current journals from all parts of the
world. The library is in the Commercial Road campus, just five
minutes walk from Central House where you would have been based. You
should visit it next time you come to the college, I am certain that
you will be pleasantly surprised

In addition the notes issued to both full and part-time student when
they start refer to the Orchid website as a good source of
along with a list of recommended books.

So no excuses for John Cass students; they should be aware that in
addition to the UK jewellery suppliers there are some excellent
suppliers within both North America and Europe. Karl Fischer in
Pforzheim, Germany is a particular favourite of mine for tools as
they always seem to despatch on the day they receive the order and
never seem to have a back-order situation. In addition the college
is only 10 minute by the metro from the Hatton Garden, a centre for
jewellery manufacture for 500 years. You can get most common tools
and sub-contract services there.

So where do I get my tools and materials from: items made in the
North America are normally less expensive from North American based
suppliers, items manufactured in the UK or Europe are normally less
expensive from Fischers or if its matter of convenience ten minutes
by metro to Hatton Garden.

In response to your comment regarding those who teach at John Cass.
Yes some of them are mature but then you wouldn’t want to be
instructed by someone with limited experience. The college has a
high standard and only select from the most experienced. As to the
mix between male and female staff, both enamelling tutors are female
and so is the engraving tutor -all of whom are excellent.

As to flux and fire scale: yes the college normally provides borax
cones as they are cheaper than most powder or liquid fluxes. Most
of the more experienced students have a range of powder and liquid
flux and sometimes use them in cocktails to get the best results.
Powder fluxes easily make paste using either plain water, water with
added non-ionic surfactants [dishwasher rinse aid] or denatured
alcohol. An excellent fire scale preventative called Argo-tect is
available and I understand that John Cass developed in association
with Goldsmiths Hall an equivalent to the much mentioned Pripps that
you can mix yourself and spray on.

Do we share do we make our own tools and do we try new
innovative methods? Yes of course we do but you have to start from
the basis of one good method before you can go on to discover your
own particular ways.

Do jewellers, silversmith and enamellers feel isolated in the UK?
Yes I have to agree that those who are not fortunate enough to have
access to facilities such as John Cass have to rely on the various
guilds and associations that cover the UK and that is why websites
such as Orchid are so important. Is this any different in the North

As with all things in life, if we want to succeed we must
communicate - long live Orchid.

Mike Kersley
Hertfordshire. UK

Hi UK=England Orchidians

Why don’t you get a gathering of your folks together and have guest
speakers come in. This writer here has lotsa family "across the pond"
and would just love the opportunity in meeting and doing

"Gerry, the Cyber-Setter!"