When do you stop?

Dear Timothy, I too spend a lot of time on the finishing of my
pieces, as you may have been able to guess from my posting on
polishing flat surfaces. It also takes me quite a while to produce
a given piece. This is true while I have two hands with which to
work. I tend to be a meticulous perfectionist. This is not always
a good thing although in jewelry making I think it is more good than
in some other areas. In other areas I have had to learn to reign in
that tendency. If I were to follow my true nature all the way I
would never finish a piece. This is why I have to make my own
decision when it is time to stop. I do this on the basis of several
things. One thing is, what are my own standards for my work? I
have seen others’ work which is not up to the standards that I set
for myself but they are satisfied. I like to ask myself when
working on a piece, “Does this look like it was made by a skilled
craftsman?”. Of course this takes place at all stages not just
during finishing. Judging this with a biased eye is not always easy
however. I look closely with a loupe but I also stand back and look
as others would and under different lighting conditions. Sometimes
when I am not getting the results I want and I am getting
frustrated, I put it away and wait until the next day to look at it
again. It usually looks better the next day although it may still
need a little more work. Sometimes I also just have to make a
practical decision and ask, “If I keep screwing with this am I going
to make it appreciably better?”. If not, sometimes I decide it is
better to leave well enough alone and move on. I then resolve that
with more practice and experience I will be able to do better next

To decide entirely within my own head at what level my work is at is
a dangerous place to stay. Therefore I seek out feedback from
others, both those that make jewelry and those who don’t. Some
people I know, and some I don’t (actually most I don’t). (Did I
mention I like to show off my creations?) When you show your stuff
around enough, you can get a pretty good feel for when someone truly
likes it and when they are just shining you on. Just don’t be
confused by a poor reaction because the design doesn’t appeal to
them. There are also those who just aren’t big on jewelry in
general. There are few things more gratifying than walking in to
one of the chain jewelry stores and making a sale to one of the
employees. I would say that is pretty positive feedback.

I also look at jewelry wherever I go. Pictures just aren’t the same
as looking at it up close and personal. I have seen poorly made
jewelry that looks as though three hands would not have helped. I
have also seen much very finely crafted jewelry. These are what I
try to emulate in my own work and are the basis of the standards I
set for myself. I may not be able to make a piece very quickly just
now. I believe that with practice and education such as I get from
our generous fellow Orchidians that I will learn to become more
efficient and confident in my methods and learn new methods.

In closing (Whew! You were wondering when I would get to that,
huh?), I commend you for tackling making jewelry despite your
physical condition. I sometimes feel challenged with the use of two
hands. (Usually the brain is more the problem). I find it a very
rewarding undertaking to create a thing of beauty (hopefully) from
raw materials and an idea whether I sell anything or not. Although
selling them also is much preferred. I think as you gain confidence
you will be less concerned about others perceptions of you. I do
not find this to be a strange question at all. I actually find it
to be a quite practical question and perhaps not as unique as you
might think.


I agree with Alan. It is, “when I have to”

When my husband complains that it is 2am, and “aren’t I ever going
to sleep?”, or I just can’t ignore the ringing phone any more. Or I
will be late for an appointment, delivery and life is interferring
with my working…lol.

I go on vacations, and spend hours in the museums
researching/looking at every piece of jewelry. I loved it in
England, where fancy department stores had antigue jewelry. I could
look at it, turn over and see how it was made. Yes, I brought a
loop… Some of the mass produced Victorian stuff had sharp edges,
poor solder joints, and very shoddy workmanship, IMHO. But, I could
still learn from it. I am passionate about jewelry. I love it. And
I constantly want to learn new techniques, make new designs, find a
better way to express myself with it.

And when I make it, I want it to last forever. I want it to be
passed down to children and grandchildren, and if it is not well
crafted, it won’t. I want it to be special. And when I see someone
walk into my shop/booth, and hear that intake of breath, as they see
"the piece", the one they can’t live without, how they lite up like
a christmas tree as they put it on…that makes every hour,
minute and any frustration I spent making it melt away…that is
what I strive for everytime I sit at my bench to create. ok, AJ now
gets off her soap box…LOL

But, still, I think a lot of you can relate…

Gemini Dreams
St. Paul, MN

Time to chime in on this thread. 2 thoughts on the quality issue.
In spite of rumors to the contrary, I don’t really believe that
quality and craftsmanship has a generation. I have seen many a piece
from the antique category that isn’t great quality. I think each
generation had it’s top quality work and it’s low end cheap junk. I
also think that today (and I know it might catch me some flak to say
this), that we often apply different standards to different work. I
want all my work to be the best I can practically do. The key is
sometimes the word practical. When I am creating a one of a kind
piece, I will fuss over it much more (and charge a lot more for it)
than I will a production charm that will retail for under $10. I
think the secret, and I am still trying to find it, I think, is that
one has to find the most efficient way to get a decent product out
at a fair price, therefore drawing sales and making a living. For
those who aren’t counting on their craft for food and shelter, you
are lucky. You can be much more idealistic in your endeavors.

When it comes to doing repair work, which is my bread and butter
income, I think other issues come into play. For one, the initial
quality of the piece in question. For another, the
willingness/ability of the customer to pay for our time. I probably
do more than I get paid for on about 75-80% of the pieces I see, but
most could still use a lot more work, too. As for when I am done -
when I feel that messing about any more with the piece is not going
to improve it in any real way. It may not have come just the way I
envisioned, but sometimes I need to just call it ‘done’ and move on.
I find it more useful sometimes to accept the shortcomings in a
piece and learn from it, so that the next time I head in any
particular direction, I won’t have the same mistakes crop up.


I always think back to what a friend, another jeweler named Dennis
Lingo, once said was his motto: “The worst enemy of a GOOD job is a

Basically, I just look for anything wrong. If I can’t find anything
that bothers me about it, it’s finished and I move on. Few are the
days anymore when I agonize over a piece. I’ve tried to work out my
production methods where I can employ quality control at every step.
If I do each step as well as I’m able, then the end result is
generally as good as it can be.


typically i think you’ll notice much more than the customer will
simply because you know the ins & outs of crafting the piece- so
don’t be too bad of a perfectionist- but answer all the questions
that are in your head when you don’t think you’re done- is that
stone set right? is one side even? should i have soldered it that
way? would it look better like this?.. all that- i learned in art
school that you can either ignore those nagging questions or answer
them- its always best to answer them. when i ignored them, usually
someone in my critique brought them up the next day, and then i’d
kick myself for not taking that extra step…you really do know when
you haven’t done enough and when you are overdoing it- just pay more
attention to what your gut is saying to you. o.nelson