Somebody wrote me off-list about that thread, and I just kept
thinking, "What is it they don't get?" Who is unimportant, and
it's a good thing to make public, here... And then my AHA moment -
they are stamp collecting.....
I have to pipe up here. For starters John’s talking about me, as
you’ve probably guessed, as it was the two of us who were banging on
about the “teaching yourself” thread. But I object to the comment
"What is it they don’t get?", as there was nothing I didn’t get. If
my posts were read carefully, it could clearly be seen that I was
actually agreeing with the vast majority of what John said.
I also vehemently object to being called a stamp collector. Yes I
said that you could learn the techniques in books - and you can’t
dispute that. But I NEVER said that once you’d read it and tried it
once, then you’d mastered it. For me, that is just the beginning. You
put it into practice over and over and over again, until you can do
it in your sleep. I said repeatedly that the journey I was describing
would take DECADES - that’s paying your dues. Whether by
apprenticeship, by classes or by teaching yourself, if you put the
decades in, you CAN get there.
There may be a few people on Orchid who are treating their own
personal journey as “stamp collecting” of techniques - I don’t know.
But I don’t for one moment think that the majority are, as has been
implied. I’m sure that the majority are taking their journey very
seriously indeed, and that they are not naive enough to think they
have it all mastered once the boxes are ticked.
Somebody said to me the other day that in their opinion, there are
only six to eight real goldsmiths who regularly contribute to Orchid
(including the person who said it), and that the rest of us are
making “tinker-toy” jewellery. This, I also found to be offensive,
both to myself, and to the vast majority of people here. In my
opinion (and I’m sure many others’), there are a great many very
talented jewellers/ goldsmiths (call them what you will) on Orchid.
People who are making beautiful, imaginative jewellery, which often
leaves me thinking “how do folks continue to come up with such
stunning designs?”. These people have got to where they are, by many
different routes, not all are the result of apprenticeships or formal
training, but they stand up there with some of the top people in the
There are people who will take classes all their lives and possibly
never be confident enough or good enough to be a “goldsmith” (I’m
beginning to hate that word). Then equally, there are people out
there (including many on this list) who are intelligent enough and
determined enough to teach themselves. Those in the latter group
don’t need someone else to tell them why something went wrong, or
what to do next. We have to learn quickly. Some of us ARE capable of
working out our own paths.
Mr Jim Miller spoke of his apprenticeship where, very early on, he
was asked to saw around a shape with a jeweller’s saw. His boss then
took what he’d done, and continued to saw again, closer to the line
and pinned it up on the wall next to his bench. I am NOT comparing
myself to Jim, as my work will never be of the callibre of his work -
but I have taught myself that lesson. The first time I made myself
saw out shapes and didn’t want to go too close to the line, lest I
accidentally go inside the line, I figured “I’ll file up to the line
afterwards”. Well, when I discovered that such filing took hours to
accomplish, I vowed, that the next shape to be sawn out, I would saw
to the line to avoid these hours of excessive, unnecessary filing,
just leaving the usual filing it would need anyway, to get rid of
the saw marks. I have taught myself many such lessons, and many more,
which I have then seen on Orchid, or in a book. And if Jim hadn’t
had the luxury of an apprenticeship, I’m 100% sure (being an
intelligent chap), that he would have taught himself the same lesson
too, and quickly.
I can use a saw (check), I can use a file (check), I can use a torch
(check), I can use a polisher (check), etc, etc, - but I am NOT a
goldsmith and won’t be for decades yet (I obviously need to say that
again because that point keeps being missed by certain readers).
Folks on this list are working earnestly to learn a set of skills to
become whatever they want to be. It’s very unfair to put them down
and make them feel like a “goldsmith” is some unattainable god-like
thing which they will never become in a million years. There’s no
reason why not at all. Neilthejeweler (who incidentally was on the
elite list of 6-8 real goldsmiths) has exactly the right attitude in
my opinion. He is encouraging, non-egotistical and he dislikes it
when others imply that learning to be a goldsmith is rocket science.
Yes it takes time, but it ain’t rocket science.
I was told that it’s not snobbery, but pride in what they’ve
achieved. How then can the same person be riled when beginners are
proud over small victories? Perhaps such folks have short memories,
and can’t remember their own small victories when soldering suddenly
worked for the first time, etc. They must have felt proud and I
wouldn’t believe them if they said not.
So let’s carry on collecting our stamps folks, and making our
"tinker- toy" jewellery, but remember, that we can’t just file away
those skills, or tick the boxes. We must practice them for decades
before we can use the illustrious title of “GOLDSMITH”!!! Me, at the
moment, I’m just a humble jewellery designer/maker.