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Why is it so hard?


#1

This is a question I’ve had for a while. Why does it seem like it’s
so hard to “make it” as a metalsmith (read: to support oneself, and
perchance, a family)?

And why do some of the people who’ve “made it” regret it, as they
are worn down by constant travel to shows?

Or, is the perception erroneous?

Part II: design

Here’s another question I’ve had for a while, but for some reason
was having trouble verbalizing.

It seems to me like it’s harder in metalsmithing than in other
fields to come up with a unique voice, a look in one’s work that is
recognized.

Of late, looking at some very, very beautiful work, technically
flawless, yet, yet, it still didn’t have that personal style. I
could not pick it out from a line up and say, “oh yes, that’s the
work of (name goes here).”

Is it true? Is it harder in metal than in other media? If so,
why?

Is it the material? The stones? The process?

Perhaps I just don’t look at work in other fields as closely, I’ll
admit.

Furthermore, how does a young person go about finding their artistic
voice? Or does one simply have it or not?

Elaine
Elaine Luther
Metalsmith, Certified PMC Instructor
http://www.CreativeTextureTools.com
Hard to Find Tools for Metal Clay


#2

Few in the US want to pay a living wage to those who make anything
"by hand!" Especially in today’s economy of Walmart thinking.


#3

First problem is we deal in disposable income. When times are hard
the independent suffers! We don’t have the means to promote
ourselves and juried shows are mostly a joke or nonexistent! We
compete with the Chinese and India, who will work for little and
exploit their children! To bad there are not more juried shows for
independents where our name could be made. Many of the interests of
people have turned from outdoors to being couch potatoes with little
or no goals! I have seen the decline in not only the frequency but
participation also of local rockhound clubs and shows. We are no
longer encouraged to seek the mineral oddities of the earth and the
government is effectively shutting down our ability to make wealth
buy what we find and manipulate into beauty. Gold dredging cleans
the ecosystem of debris that man has polluted the rivers with.
Rockhounds are not generally obese! Big Brother doesn’t want
individuality unless your in the organization that you are but a
speck and some other fat cat takes the $ and the credit! you are
anti establishment and a danger by free thinking!

Ringman


#4
Furthermore, how does a young person go about finding their
artistic voice? Or does one simply have it or not? 

Hello Elaine,

I’m certainly no expert and offer these words only as the opinions of
an enthusiastic amateur.

Having failed in a number of other artistic fields before I came to
jewellery making and metalwork I’d say the finding one’s voice
applies to everyone, young and not-so-young alike. And the other arts
are “so hard” too. For every successful --as in making a living at
it-- artist I know, in whatever field, I’ve met hundreds who are not.

As to how to find that voice I think it only comes through great
effort, it emerges from that effort. Let me offer a few examples.

A friend of mine is in the movie biz, as a writer/producer, in both
TV and film. He’s probably written 20 or more feature length scripts,
dozens of TV episodes, and probably assisted on hundreds of others.
He’s just getting there now.

Another friend is a reasonably successful novelist. Basically the
same story. 5 published books now reprinted in several languages,
several others unpublished, dozens and dozens of shorter works stuffed
in drawers, etc etc. Just getting there now.

From what I’ve seen no matter how much natural talent one has it
doesn’t become a “voice” until it’s been used a lot. Work, work,
work. Produce a dozen things and you’re a dabbler. Produce a hundred
and you’re an experienced amateur. Produce a thousand and you’re
getting there, if you’ve got a “voice” in your art it’ll probably be
showing up at this point. Produce ten thousand and you’ve arrived,
whether you like the results or not.

Cheers,
Trevor F.


#5

Hello Elaine;

   Why does it seem like it's so hard to "make it" as a metalsmith 

I can guess that it’s partly because the field is so technically
demanding that it’s hard to also spend the time necessary to learn
what one needs to know about marketing and business in general.
There’s a lot of product out there proportionate to the number of
venues, so it takes a pretty good knack for thinking outside the box
to find new marketing angles and alternative venues.

    And why do some of the people who've "made it" regret it, as
they are worn down by constant travel to shows? 

This, I think, is another example of “Gersham’s Law” or “bad money
drives out good money”. If you’ve got a show with 400 artists, and
100 of them are “jewelers”, the competition is tough to begin with.
Why so many jeweler? Because there is so much that can call itself
"jewelry" compared to what there was a few years ago, and so many
people putting on shows, eager to fill the booth space. Glass artist
making wearables, bead artists, etc. Now if there are 100 "jewelers"
in this hypothetical show, and half of them are making stuff that’s
easy to turn out and can meet lower price points, pretty soon the
audience changes to people spending on those lower price points.
Less money to go around, all coming in as small sales. Now enter the
guys who are simply marketing mass manufactured stuff, purchased
overseas, and the price points get even lower. There are plenty of
booths with vendors who are making a living going to twice as many
shows, selling at half the price.

    Or, is the perception erroneous? 

Depends on your expectations. If you were in the craft market
business 20 years ago, it must seem pretty discouraging by
comparison. If all you’ve ever done is peddle cheap junk, and you
live in your car . . . well . . . it’s a living.

        Part II: design It seems to me like it's harder in
metalsmithing than in other fields to come up with a unique voice
Is it true?  *Is* it harder in metal than in other media?  If so,
why? 

That question I feel very qualified and confident to answer. The
art schools have been teaching only technique for decades, especially
in the metals classes. And I find that the faculty and curriculum
these days is markedly devoid of design theory, unless you are in the
3-D design department, and those courses are not required for metals.
Nobody takes them either outside of design majors, because they are
commercially oriented and perceived as non-art. Many of the art
schools have separated themselves out from the old system wherein to
get a metals degree was to get not only a fine arts degree, but to do
that within the liberal arts curriculum. Now these schools call the
departments “fine and performing arts”. They’ve dropped all the
requirements. If I listed what I had to take before I could even
enroll in a metals class, you’d be astonished. Lots of design,
drawing, painting, life drawing, anatomy, art history, all on top of
the liberal arts group requirements of hard and soft sciences,
foreign language, English, etc. Top it all off with a philosophy of
aesthetics course, taught by the philosophy department, not the art
department, and finally, an English proficiency exam which, if not
successfully completed, forestalled one’s graduation. The private
schools teaching skills for the industry aren’t very interested in
design, but more in job preparation. There are “design” schools like
FIT in NY, RISD, etc., and although they may have stronger emphasis
on design in their curriculum, they fall a little short on the
technical end. I think they see hand crafts as a little too blue
collar. They are also a little enamoured of the fashion industry,
which is shallow aesthetically, in my opinion. Now if you look at
the jewelry industry, where in Hades are these folks going to learn
design unless they are lucky to land next to some true talent who is
an anachronism of traditional training or they take the initiative to
learn by themselves? The retail jewelers are largely picking each
others pockets (actually the fine arts people are not doing any
better). My point is this . . . you can’t find your own voice unless
you develop some vocal cords. Individual expression is only as good
as one’s ability to recognize it, develop it, and express it. This
takes a set of tools, and we have so few who are willing to teach,
even if they know how and what to teach. My suggestion is to go to
the local library, start picking out books on design and historical
jewelry or metals and pour over them. Get a big, fat sketch book
and start filling it with ideas. Then, select a few pieces. Take
one idea, make several variations on it. Do that again and again.
Every time you recognize a borrowed idea that you didn’t consciously
acquire, edit it out. Fall out of love with all your heroes, unless
you can be a good iconoclast about them. Your own voice is right
there with you every day, you just can’t hear it for all the
impersonations your ego is trying out. But you won’t get other’s to
hear it even when you find it unless you can equip it with good
diction and ability to project on stage. Get the training, whatever
is out there, from there, it’s all work and a lot of patience.

David L. Huffman


#6
It seems to me like it's harder in metalsmithing than in other
fields to come up with a unique voice, a look in one's work that
is recognized. 

I see this from a different perspective. From time to time I see the
work of artists who are known for a very specific look or theme, and
wonder if they ever feel trapped within their own cliche, and
whether they long to do things which are totally uncharacteristic of
their recognized style.

Lee Einer
Dos Manos Jewelry
http://www.dosmanosjewelry.com


#7

Elaine, What a great question, I wish I had and answer! We do
commercial casting, specializing in small lots, and fast return, and
still have trouble making ends meet, we ceased doing shows because
of the fierce competition from imported jewelry.

I think that most people that buy low to mid price jewelry really
don=92t care if it=92s made by a single craftsman or made by a mass
production slave labor or sweat shop.

I think it=92s all about price, if you add in the cost of travel,
lodging and meals it costs about 30 percent more this year than
last, who pays the increase?

When I had my shop in New Mexico, I always blamed it on the fact
that the Indians could sell there work for less, because they were
partially subsidized by the Government and didn=92t have the same
expenses as for housing and such, but still the bottom line was
the answer. Now it seems we are fighting against Maquilliadora(sp.)
style companies from Central America.

As far as the recognized artist aspect, If you ask someone who their
favorite metalsmith/ artisan is chances are unless they are family
members you will get a very strange look or get told it=92s the guy
that straightened out the front fender on their car.

Most people have no idea what a metalsmith is, a very small
percentage can equate metalsmith to Jeweler, some to a blacksmith,
but most just give you a blank stare when you tell them you are a
silversmith or metalsmith.

At least in the old days in New Mexico most people knew what a
silversmith was, but it was still hard to make ends meet, Perhaps we
need to promote the craft more, possibly a formal guild that
advertised and educated the general populace! I know we already have
several fine organizations for metal/silver/goldsmiths, but when was
the last time you saw an advertisement in a mainstream publication,
something like the New Yorker,or 17, or a campaign launched in News
Papers. No they advertise in trade specific magazines which the
general population has never heard of, I think they advertise to
increase their membership, and also to give the people who attend
the large wholesale shows the impression they are educating the
public, Problem is the ones they are educating about metalsmiths,
ARE METALSMITHS.

Some how, some way we need to get through to the rest of the world
that we are artists and artisans, We know it now lets let them know
it. Ok I will now step down from my soap box

Kenneth Ferrell
www.shadras.com


#8

Wow, Elaine, so many issues to deal with in one post. I think
answering the quote below though sort of sums it up for me.

It seems to me like it's harder in metalsmithing than in other
fields to come up with a unique voice, a look in one's work that
is recognized.

It’s hard to come up with a unique style. You can’t argue with
that. In a culture where so many of us basically have similar
cultural experiences and exposure to visual stimulation, it’s no
wonder that working out something unique is problematic. It’s not
necessarily limited to metals artists, but we do have some unique
situations to deal with.

For example there hasn’t been a hungry audience for cutting edge or
new/unusual jewelry work either on the wholesale or retail level for
several, perhaps many, years. That makes the work harder. Add to
it that what market interest there is mostly seeks the lowest cost
alternatives while refusing to see jewelry as anything more than
merchandise (which, granted, most of it is) or else so much
bling-bling and having your efforts actually produce successful
results is even more remote. Then add two more levels; there are so
many jewelers out here demanding the attention of buyers and the
cost of getting the attention of buyers when so many competitors are
highly capitalized, great at self promotion or both. That gets you
to the place where we are now.

So, even though this is rather depressing, it should cheer you up.
Coming up with a viable, market oriented, beautiful, profitable line
of jewelry is indeed damn hard. It’s not just you! Almost every
aspect of the arts is this competitive and difficult. My wife is an
opera singer…talk about ultra-competitive and complex! I also
have graphic arts and fine arts friends who struggle as hard as we
do.

Furthermore, how does a young person go about finding their
artistic voice?  Or does one simply have it or not? 

It’s complex and pretty difficult. Usually you have to educate
yourself as to what others are doing so you know when your work
isn’t unique, but not always. Some people do indeed have a natural,
recognizable style. You may also have to spend a lot of time
working out multiple techniques so that you can actually perform the
necessary manipulations and arrange them in innovative ways. Or you
could, more simply, focus on one aspect of design or technique until
you find a way to do that unlike any one else. You may start out
combining diverse designs and techniques of others whose work speaks
to you until you find a way to make it unique unto itself. But the
drive and passion to come up with your own unique statement must be
constant and compulsive or else you risk becoming content with
mediocrity or copying.

Of course if it weren’t hard and if you didn’t devote so much effort
in it you may end up losing interest when the hard work of marketing
and production come in to play. That is also where the drive and
passion come to be an advantage.

Larry


#9

Elaine,

I liked your post. Here are my thoughts.

A question I ask myself every day is, “What will make students come
to Metalwerx than other schools?”. A very good friend of mine often
speaks of the “added value” which translates to either jewelry or a
school. Why would the average jewelry buyer purchase your jewelry
over somebody else? What do you offer that is different or unique.
What you are asking are questions directly related to marketing.
With regard to Metalwerx, my added value is:

community atmosphere
personal attention
small class size
top teaching talent
state of the art equipment
competitively priced

Look at your own jewelry line or at shows. What is your added
value? What can you offer that is different?

The “made it” is a double edged sword. True, you do travel to lots
of shows, but you can also saturate the market with a particular
look. Do you change your look or do you explore other markets?

Boris Bally, a very famous metalsmith known for his traffic sign
jewelry and functional work is teaching a one day workshop at
Metalwerx on this very topic. Surviving as an Artist. He has some
very good points on this. Look for the posting soon for his workshop
on our website. Tom Mann is another metalsmith whose Techno-Romantic
series has become market saturated. He is also looking for a new
style to sell his work.

With regard to design, I have to look at the studio jeweler. I can
name many who have a distinct look, Don Friedlich, Marcia McDonald,
Michael Boyd, Michael Good, Deb Karash, James Carver, Cynthia Downs,
Charles Lewton Brain, etc. For distinctive styles of work I would
look at some different shows like Smithsonian Show, Art Ryder in New
York or the Philly Museum Show.

There is more to making a “look” than manipulating some silver and
plopping on a stone. Jenn Mank, one of my studiomates, is one of the
hardest working people I know. She was accepted to the CT Guilford
Craft Show, a rather well known and prestigous show in New England.
For six straight months she made thousands of dollars in inventory
while working part time. She hired students to help solder and
finish her work. She had a website developed, had great slides taken
from Robert Diamante. She attended some local shows and made notes
on booth design. She created a “look” for herself which is
distinct. Jenn has marketed herself very well. On her first show,
with slightly lower price points, she managed to pull over 8K in
three days. I think Jenn will agree, that working in a cooperative
studio made a huge difference.

Honestly, all the answers to your questions have to do with good
marketing skills. Work smarter, not harder. While I frown on
stealing others designs, I do condone stealing marketing techniques.

Your questions are good Elaine and worth asking. I will be curious
to see how others respond to this thread.

-k

Karen Christians
M E T A L W E R X
50 Guinan St.
Waltham, MA 02451
Ph. 781/891-3854 Fax 3857
http://www.metalwerx.com/
Jewelry/Metalarts School & Cooperative Studio


#10

This is a difficult trade, no doubt about it but, artists in other
media struggle too. I feel it has in part to do with the nature of
jewelry. To me jewelry is a powerfull media. A painting can be
bought and left on a wall, light it well, keep it out of the
sunlight and you and it are happy. Jewelry involves engineering to
be functional which sets it apart from most other arts. If it is to
be enjoyed for a long time, engineering is a big part of the piece
in order to avoid constant, bottom line eroding repairs. Following
your heart in metal is a hard row to hoe. It requires allot of
business skill, marketing skill, manufacturing skill not to mention
the art itself. All the time I operate on faith to be perfectly
honest, that is all I have sometimes. What else can I do? I am in
love with the work. A unique voice is difficult to but it is more of
an art matter in my opinion and I would look for help from teachers
of art. Karen Christians is such a teacher, to get you out of your
head and working. I have decided that I make pretty jewelry. I don’t
have content in my work, little to no meaning is derived from any of
my jewelry. I have come to peace with this idea, I’ll stop fighting
it and just go with it, hell, I enjoy making pretty pieces for
people to enjoy and wear. The meaning in any piece must be brought
in by the purchaser who in many cases is not the wearer. It has to
mean something to who ever would spend their hard earned money on it
and hope who ever it is given to can enjoy it for the same reason.
If that is the same person, the purchaser and the wearer, I have no
better high than having my work bought and enjoyed for what ever
reason.

Sam Patania, Tucson
www.patanias.com


#11

Hi, Elaine,

I don’t really think it is any harder in jewelry than in other (art)
fields. In fact, I think it might be a little easier than most. I
think more people buy (art) jewelry than buy (art) ceramics, for
example-- the one other area where I can claim some knowledge, after
20-some years of it. The only artist I know personally who ever made
a really good income was a mixed-media mostly fiber artist who did
large, semi-3-D corporate commissions. But those dried up a few
years ago, when the “bubble broke” and now she has an antique store.
But people go on buying jewelry. For one thing, you can show it off
a lot easier than a “sofa-sized oil” or a porcelain bowl.

As for the design question: About 30 years ago, I was at a ceramics
workshop, and, in the conversation that went on during the up-close
demo, a student asked how you develop your own style. The artist’s
answer has really stuck with me. She said, “You just get your hands
on enough clay.”

However, I know you’ve been doing this long enough that that seem
too simplistic an answer. So I’d add this: I think that when you’re
in your prime, and you’re trying to have a life-- husband, kids,
aging parents, etc-- it can be very difficult to get into the studio
enough hours to reach and maintain that “critical mass” that allows
you to come into your own, style-wise. The people I can think of who
have really distinctive styles, and that I know anything about, are
single, or at least childless (including empty-nesters), or male.
Please don’t jump on me for sexism! There really are differences
between men and women, socially and inborn, and men seem to find it
easier to go work their buns off and not be distracted by family,
etc, while they are doing their necessary work. This is, of course,
a two-edged sword, and a different subject which I hope we don’t
have to explore exhaustively.

Anyway, my own suspicion is that for those of us of the female-- and
maternal-- persuasion, full realization of personal style may be one
of the (few) benefits of our crone years.

Meanwhile, it may help to ask yourself, What combination of skills,
abilities and interests are most unique to me? What can I bring
together that others may not? What do I enjoy (have the patience
for) that others find maddening (way too much trouble)? These
questions may help sort out what parts of what you do are best
focused on.

But when it comes right down to it, I really believe it comes back
to that original answer from 30 years ago, taken more metaphorically
than literally. “You just have to get your hands on enough clay.”

–Noel


#12

Right on David,

You hit the nail on the head. Not enought good instructors. When I
went to school I also had to take courses I thought at the time
completely unnecessary. Chemistry? why did I need that? Well, I now
know why, but I also had to take every art course from design theory,
art history and anatomy. But, gee those were so helpful in the long
run. Now adays students barely learn anything outside of their study
of choice.

Life has changed and so has selling, creating and teaching.
Thankfully you are I are still of the old school. Hard to think of
"old school" 30 years old, but gee I guess we are getting older
although I don’t feel that way.

Jennifer Friedman
Ventura, CA
jenenamel@sbcglobal.net


#13
    Furthermore, how does a young person go about finding their
artistic voice? Or does one simply have it or not? 

It seems to me that some have it, others do not. Many find it by
developing it. That is, learning everything they can until their
"voice" is fluent. Some are naturals, others have to work hard at
it. Looks like its back to work for me.

James in SoFl


#14
        Few in the US want to pay a living wage to those who make
anything "by hand!"  Especially in today's economy of Walmart
thinking. 

And why should they? After all it is THEIR money they are so wisely
and capably choosing what to do with.

James E. White
Inventor, Marketer, and Author of “Will It Sell?”


#15

Hi Ken

As a 20 machine shop owner I know what you are talking about. You
wouldn’t believe how many people see no relationship between
machining and the things they use in everyday life. We are fast
becoming a consumer only society. I know in my generation that
someone that works with their hands and brain is looked down upon by
people that claim to use their brain for a living. Someday soon this
country will pay a very high price for this clean hands and empty
head attitude.

Harry @ Metal Arts Ent.


#16

Hi Elaine – “Making it” (supporting oneself and one’s family) in
any business can be difficult. Entrepreneurship is a way of life
that not all people are cut out to handle. Add a "creative pursuit"
to the mix, and most people will ignore that a business is a
business – even in the arts it needs to be treated as a business.
It’s not like the freedom of Kindergarten and Play-Doh; an artistic
business won’t survive if all the person wants to do is play.

My guess is that those who regret their “success” are those who
wanted to be an “atelier artist” and were forced to work in the
trenches – selling their own work via shows and all of the mundane
work that comes with the business side.

Obviously the questions you asked were geared to a very particular
type of metalsmith, one who makes and sells his/her own work to the
end-buyer. There are other options.

Now the concept of “voice” – this is a “fine arts” topic. A
recognizable style or “voice” is choosing a particular approach to
materials and a particular sequence of expression derived from a
narrow range of choices. What this means is – the more focused and
limited you artificially make your field of choices, the stronger
your “voice” is. If, for example, a metalsmith only allows themself
to work in tagua nut and anodised niobium, then limits themself to
only patterns derived from popular culture’s “tribal tatoos”, and
decides that they only want to make wearable, comfortable pieces –
voila! We have a “voice”! This person’s defined, focused set of
parameters has blossomed a recognizable style.

A truly eclectic artist will never have an easily recognizable
style. A person can be eclectic in their choice of materials and
very specific in their visual approach, or stringently defined in
their specific materials and diverse in their visual approach –
either of these methods can be successful expressions of “voice”,
but neither will be as successful (or as recognizable) as the style
of the person who artificially limits both materials and visual
approach.

It is no more difficult in metals to express a true “voice” than any
other creative medium. Really.

There are young people who have a clearly defined artistic "voice"
from an early age. They have a limited manner of expression, and
choose to focus on specific subjects. It actually is funny to me
that having innate, internally limited views and choices is
celebrated as “voice” in the very young – it stunts their artistic
growth. A person needs to be capable of expressing a wide variety
of visuals and be able to work in many different materials before
he/she can make an informed descision as to what best expresses
his/her personal “voice”.

If Michelangelo had never touched stone, and only expressed himself
in frescoes – yes, we would have the Sistine Chapel frescoes, but a
world without the massive David would make a different art history
indeed. His frescoes are great, but his sculpture in stone is
marvelous.

So in answer to your question, a “voice” can be innate, learned,
chosen, or artificial. It only needs to comply with a set of
limitations – a focus – and frolic within it’s own self-imposed
boundaries.

Hope this helps.
–Terri


#17

I didn’t follow this thread, but I must say that there are some
pretty good instructors around.

Personally I believe I had the help of some of the best in the world
(one even is a member of orchid). They won prices from gemcutting,
through De Beers designs, though whatever you can imagine. Were they
hard to find? No they are around and spread their knowledge for
nickles and dimes, only for me to find out later how important they
were and are.

For those who are not as fortunate as me; there is Orchid.

Off to bed for me, night

Alain


#18

Dear Elaine,

I suspect that the harder we try to “make it” (with all that implies,
i.e. name, fame and fortune) the more we look like everyone else. It
is all too easy to be seduced into following what made that other
person successful and overlook what we as an individual can create
when we simply work out of our own integrity, experience, and
aesthetic.

Some of the most successful artisans are often bemused by the
unexpected recognition their work receives. They have been so intent
on following their own muse, seeking the perfection of their own
techniques (knowing full-well that this is unattainable, but enjoying
the journey), and learning as much as they can about their passion,
that they don’t really care much what other people are doing, much
less wanting to copy their works or their ways.

As gently as possible, can I suggest that by actively, purposefully,
seeking to have your “voice” recognised, you may merely be pandering
to ego. A genuine voice will be self-evident and recognised. Some
have a natural talent to greatness. Some achieve greatness through
dedication and determination. Some simply hire an expensive PR hack
and pay for their moment of fame.

Your final comment about the importance (for you, and too many
others) of not being able to put a name to a work, no matter how
beautiful or technically flawless, is sad because it reflects the
superficiality of most contemporary arts practice where the name is
more important than the work.

Alas it is ever thus, because the really good artisans and artists
don’t have the time or the inclination to play the “name game”. They
just get on with what they do best, and if they are acknowledged,
it’s a bonus. I know.

Kind regards,
Rex (name goes here) Steele Merten.


#19

Elaine,

It’s hard to make it in any business as a solo practitioner. This is
because you have three to ten part time jobs and only one of them
pays.

You are shipping and receiving, web master, printer, accountant,
janitor, salesperson, bill collector and driver. Oh yeah, and the
artist.

The more you can be the artist, and the less you can be all of the
others, the more money you will make and the more fun you will have.

Outsource or hire people to do as much of the nonproductive work as
possible and free yourself up to do the work you love. This can’t be
done overnight and it isn’t easy but lots of people use printers,
bookkeepers, sales reps, etc.

I outsource all of my casting, all of my production line etching and
most of my photo resists. This leaves me with the finishing, forging
and niobium coloring work that I love. My sales rep keeps me more
than busy. It took years to set this all up.

Finding your own recognizable style can be tough. What do you love?
Can you bring it into your work? Most people, artists especially,
are passionate about something. Guitars, horses, flowers, equal
rights, quilting, surfing, Renaissance poetry… something really
catches your interest. Your uniqueness isn’t all that unique and
lots of other people will recognize and respond to your vision.

Look at the artists whose work you can easily recognize and I think
you’ll see a fairly narrow theme or a focus in most of their work.

Look at other types of metalwork for some inspiration. Like custom
knives or blacksmithing. Don’t ever walk into Zale’s or Walmart.

Your own work can be your best source of inspiration. I bet that
there are some types of work that you love above all others. Why not
focus on those? There are lots of artists who are recognized for one
style or technique. Mokume, reticulation, weaving, granulation…

Above all, make it fun for yourself and this will always come
across.

John Flynn


#20
And why should they? After all it is THEIR money they are so wisely
and capably choosing what to do with. 

Hello James,

I am neither an economist nor a sociologist but still it occurs to me
that there may be many reasons why they might want to consider doing
so and almost all of them come under the heading “end results”.

My observation is that the eternal quest to buy everything at the
lowest possible price results is exactly what you’d expect it to: the
lowest possible prices. Of course everything else is likely to be
sacrificed to get them but the customer will get what they want.
And by the time they discover that that attitude has left them with an
ocean of shoddy goods and few alternatives --not to mention a host of
other socio-economic ills-- it will be too late to change their minds.

I live in a country that is, simply put, considerably more expensive
to live in and operate a business in than the US. Taxes are higher,
prices are higher and so on. Yet all the ex-pats we know here say the
same thing: it’s more expensive but quality is higher. And I agree
100%.

In this country, especially this city, I can find in some abundance
the artisans that no longer exist in most US or even North American
cities. I, for one, find that to be a good thing because it means you
can still buy the goods and services that made those products
desirable in the first place. And even more important to me
personally is that there survives here something of a respect for
those who create and the care they take in doing so.

The end result, as far as I can see, is that to be an “artist” in a
"lowest price rules" economy means that you are generally thought of
as an eccentric fool at best or a parasite at worst. In an economy
not driven by that lowest common denominator a greater diversity of
goods and services can survive and so too the people that offer them.

And so I come to my point: these are precisely the reasons why the
consumer might want to think twice about their purchasing strategy.
Just because a people have become habituated to demanding everything
for nickles does not mean that that policy is wise nor their choices
capably made. Any fool can spend money. Since when has that come to
mean that he has wisdom and capabilities worthy of praise?

Cheers,
Trevor F.