Wato wato the end of the ring project.
This is a great example of wanting to make something but not having to hand the tools to realise it. As time goes by, I understand more and more why I’m not currently able to sustain myself in this craft. I spend far too long procrastinating on designs, making tools to realise far too many failed copper models before coming up with something I think will appeal. Only to discover I’ve barked up the wrong tree. At best a niche item, nowhere near commercially viable.
I now, with huge regret and not a little embarrassment, view my metalwork/silversmithing as a hobby only now. All ambitions of being able to support myself financially through my chosen craft showing as unrealistic at this time. I feel the clue here is in the realisation that I associate myself with the term craft, rather than designer or artist. As I become ever more bewildered as to what is marketed, I come to realise my place as fairly and squarely a maker in a world than no longer needs makers. Concept appears to be king. I feel its akin to being a computer, fantastic at maths; however it takes the genius of a mathematician to make beautiful equations. I aspire to be more conceptual in my approach to the craft. However my first love is the love of learning more about past masters and the techniques they employed to achieve wondrous constructions. The past machine age is pure romance to me. This is lost in a new era where, at the push of a button, designers/artists realise three dimensional objects, made by unseen operatives with mass production machines in such vast numbers as to make pretty much anything commercially viable. I have neglected to fully understand what is fashionable, wearable and viable. That’s the negative. The positive is that now I am no longer attempting to make a life for me and mine using just my hands. My resulting, more relaxed attitude towards this craft will, with luck, result in a positive re think. Trying to become a ‘mathematician’, not concerning myself as much with the mechanics, ‘computer’ aspect of creating wonderful objects. Working towards becoming a creative designer, rather than just as a solver of technical challanges. Watch this space 🙂
If you look at the bolts I modified for this job, I looked at stakes from established tool supply houses. Here in the U/K it is becoming ever rarer to source forming tools, the ones that are available are prohibitively expensive for a hobbiest. As we use very soft, non ferris metals, even a common or garden bolt will suffice for forming. If you wanted to make a more permanent, planishing stake from a bolt you can buy/salvage hardened steel bolts and fashion them to the shapes you desire. Cylinder head bolts work very well, you can look up through fastener suppliers, the hardness rating of a bolt, if you wish to purchase new.
I used a metal lathe to make these. I was thinking though that those of you without access to such a machine could use a drill and a hand file to create a similar stake. Chuck up a bolt that you have founded off best as you can in a vice, then spin it in the drill, rounding as you go with a file. Finish off with coarse to fine paper whilst still spinning in the drill. Be careful as the bolt will get hot. Try to use a drill stand so as to keep it all steady and have both hands free for proper filing. I also add chalk to the file and paper. This gives a better finish as it prevents the build up of metal particles in the ‘tooth’ of the file or paper.
My aim with the next post is to introduce you to my garage machine shop. Fair warning to those of you not interested in such things.
If you have any questions about the ring, or anything else, as always, please don’t hesitate to ask. Thank you for looking.
All my very best wishes.
Stu Art 😉
It sounds like a common jeweler’s problem: I sometimes spend hours and hours on a prototype, making all the components by hand, meticulously executing the design and then, at the end of the day not only feeling lazy (like I’ve accomplished nothing), but realizing that what I want to do is so complicated that it will never be commercially viable. This week I did this (sometimes I suspect it’s my way of procrastinating) with a bracelet that I hope to post on my blog. I was so stubborn about making all the parts myself, but then did a little research and found that I could buy a leather bracelet to attach it to for about US $3.00. In the end, if I want to sell this item, I will have to go this route. Not as satisfying, but I do have to make some money!!! I applaud you for what you are doing and how you are carrying on. I love reading your posts!
Very many thanks for that, it’s a real comfort to read others experiences of similar challenges. I do feel I have made many more misjudgements and mistakes than I could have had I been more aware of my surroundings. I have been guilty of a fixed mindset that is paying its dividend now.
I explained to people on my course through an analogy that I truly believed to be the most productive way to progress, not fully realising what others were aiming for was quite different from my own goals.
I used a quote, alas I don’t remember where it came from, a great jazz player once told he spent years and years studying form, composition and scales. Now they were internalised, they spent the rest of the time ‘forgetting’ them, creating a style now to be classed as their own. Another, a concert pianist, after a gripping rendition, is approached by an appreciative audience member; “I would give half my life to be able to play like you’. To which the pianist replied, ‘Madam, I already have’.
Recognition and the acquisition of a recognisable qualification, projecting a saleable addition to a CV is, I now better understand, the role many educational establishments appear to cater for.
Just as Jazz and, to a lesser degree Classical music is a very small part of the commercial music world. Taking as they do, huge levels of practice and discipline to make a mark in. The popular music world is far less demanding of technique, more leaned towards concept, image and popularism in targeting what the consumer may wish to hear, rather than composing a piece from the heart, attempting to communicate something unusual. The public appear more appreciative and conditioned towards this lighthearted approach, this I know I lack personally.
Don’t get me wrong, amazing things come from free form music, punk rock perhaps the best example. Mastery of technique is nowhere near as important as I first thought. Seeing and hearing from customers in The Jewellery Workshop, I fully understand I am playing ‘music’ to myself. Very few people are interested in ‘listening’ to my tunes when so many far more attractive tunes are available to just ‘hear’.
I need to better understand, not many people like Jazz 🙂
I’m thrilled to hear you enjoy my posts. Many times I write, look back and cringe at what I have written. I have striven to live as authentic a life as I possibly can. This has caused me numerous problems as I try to communicate with others as openly and honestly as possible. Just as in jewellery, what people may say, they don’t necessarily mean. I’m now starting to see things less naively. I hope to be able to share with you the next stage of my making journey.
All my very best wishes.
The most important thing, Stu, is to just keep metalworking. We all have “too much going on inside our minds” and sometimes, just hunkering down in your garage machine shop may be just the best thing (when it’s possible and not interfering, of course, w/ daily life, etc.). I would love to see pics of your garage shop! Also, what a clever way to make a handy forming stake or tool – using the heads from simple bolts! Sometimes, it’s the nice intimate size of handy hardware that is better for a jewelry-scaled project. I am always one to modify my own tools also – so thanks for the tip! Hope your summer is treating you well!
Great to hear from you. Fair to say I get huge inspiration, I’m bound to say also frustration and wonderment as to how to have an attitude more like yourself to enable me to be in a place I see, alas having little idea how take steps to get to.
Very well done on your recent achievements, I wanted to write something, however feeling very much not able to. You have a smashing style that I admire, thank you for sharing it with all of us.
As I have previously written, being in possession of a butterfly mind is not much fun when you have aspirations for a more linear existence. My departure, in the short term, concentrating on ‘just making’ rather than deliberating on getting my message across through design. I hope this will be as a rest to my struggles, leading to a more natural, less forced approach to designs in future.
Its amazing what you can use around you to press into service as tools. When I started to repousse and chase bracelets, I was struggling to hold and hammer at the same time, chasing the piece around the bench. I found an old rolling pin, covered it in pitch, attached the bracelet, clamping the handle in a vice, allowing me to hold it secure and freely turn it as the handle allowed it to rotate in the vice. Who would have thought it, I find myself looking at many unrelated things and seeing if an aid or tool can be made. If you ever feel like sharing your modifications, I would love to see them, just a thought.
I will take pictures of the ‘dirty’ (engineering) workshop and post soon. I’m trying to find a way to make it interesting to silversmiths, rather than an off topic boring diversion that some who read this blog may find irrelevant to their aims/reason for reading this blog.
You’d be pleasantly surprised, Stu – people are really interested in learning about tool making and tool modification (esp. when it’s toolmaking on a limited budget or doing as you’ve been – modifying items from around the home or basic workshop.) Not sure if you use Facebook, but there’s a good group on there called “The Metalsmiths Coffee House” where peeps from all over the globe share their in-process projects AND their toolmaking. Some ppl are early beginner jewelers and some are killer goldsmiths with 30 yrs. experience. No one talks ‘arty concepts’ there – it’s pure technique and tool making. I think you can search for it and as long as you have some ‘publicly viewable’ photos on your personal profile of metalwork – the admins approve you to join. You would fit in nicely. I am just a lurker in this group – not posting but rather enjoy reading what everyone else is doing. Check it out, it’s a great way to feel less isolated when alone at your bench, least I feel that way. And thank you for the kind comments re: my recent posts. I realize my writing (and metalworking) style is not for everyone but I’m not stopping anytime soon. Hehehe. Glad and happy you are continuing with your lovely rings, and I look forward to your future posts!
Wow, what a treat, thank you very much for your thoughtfulness and kindness in passing on The Metalsmiths Coffee House, I have submitted a request to join, posted a link from this blog on my personal page, fingers crossed. I have two FB pages, one for jewellery, the other personal. I was surprised to see I couldn’t post a request from my jewellery page. I guess this was because it wasn’t a personal page.
You are right, isolation is a bit of a nagger to self confidence, especially when things are tight. It’s smashing to get your input, thank you again. Quite right, don’t stop the writing, and thank you for the positive comments on the rings. I look forward to your upcoming creations.
Very best wishes.