All the other stuff you have to learn

by laurie jane kern on October 2, 2010

Choosing Silversmithing as my future (third) career by it’s self requires you to learn quite a bit and I am not just talking about how to hammer the **damn** metal.

You have to learn and know:

  • Math –  which includes doing geometry;  weight (grams, ounces and troy ounces);  area (inches, metric and those pesky fraction and decimals after the whole numbers), and gauge conversions.
  • Metallurgy – what are the different alloys and how the metal reacts and behaves when heating, quenching and the material is manipulated. Plus what metal to use for hammers and your tools.
  • Chemistry – pickling and patinas all come down to how chemicals react with your metal. There is also plating, if you go down that road.
  • Art/Drafting – drawing and rendering your idea with dimensions – there’s that math again.
Most of these I can do because I had training as part of my engineering degree. Learning specifics particular to the craft will happen with time.  It is after these basics, that there are many other skills which have to be learned, just to support your craft in this day and age of technology.
  • Using the computer – with out this you can’t do any of the following items
  • Email – to correspond with your suppliers and speaking of suppliers… how do you find them?
  • Googling/Web searches – how do you write a good query (that is what your text in the search box is called) and how to refine the query to find your materials and equipment – the best quality and/or the best price.
  • Web Security – how not to get a computer virus and keep your personal information safe.
  • eBay, On-line vendors, and On-Line Payments – ’cause you know 9 times out of 10 there is no one local that has the item you want.  PLUS knowing when to purchase from out of state to save on sales tax but pay a higher shipping cost (again math!). Signing up for news letters for sales and coupons too.
  • User Group, Communities and Mailing lists – to get support from like minded people.
  • Time Management – because you are now on line, you have balance the craft time with the computer time and knowing when to stop using the computer because your husband wants dinner and it is your turn to make it ;=)
I can do these things – easily but it is beyond learning your craft and making things when there comes a time when you want to sell your work which take you to a whole ‘nudder area of learning:
  • Naming your business – does it reflect you, what the business is, and what you sell.  Will people know what you do from this name?
  • Actually setting up the business – getting a business license or not.
  • Logo and/or letter head – Colors and what font to use also reflects your business. You may not actually get stationary printed but having these is important so you can have business cards printed; put it on mailing and shipping labels;  a banner for a street fair; tags which will go along with your work for display and shipment;  or use your logo with electronic correspondence and your on-line presence.
  • Marketing – Will you have a physical store, get your work into galleries, have an on-line store or just a digital gallery/presence telling people where they can purchase your work.  I
  • On-Line Store or Gallery – Etsy, ArtFire, or other website to host your store or go it alone and set up your own. Each has its pro’s and con’s and costs (more math!)
  • How to price your work – labor, material, and over head costs then determining your wholesale and retail pricing and what to do if there commissions.
Again, all of this I know how to do having been a business consultant. Though, having gotten this far, now you have to actually display and sell your work which requires these skills
  • Web Design (if you have an online presence) – Yes you can use ArtFire or Etsy and let them do the User Interface (UI to a web designer) but you have to understand web page layout, color, flow and so much more. If you go it alone you have to know how to select a web designer and convey to them your vision and everything that goes along with a website PLUS what kind of shopping cart you want.
  • Copy Writing – How to describe your work and appeal to the potential buyer so they DO purchase your work.
  • Photography – You have to display some pictures! First getting a camera that will do what you need to take pictures. Then you have to learn how to use a digital camera beyond its AUTOMATIC settings; how to light the object and the aesthetics of layout.
  • Image Processing – Learn Photoshop, Photoshop Elements or other image manipulation programs so you can cut, crop, straighten, correct blemishes, adjust image colors at a minimum, and what size and format to save your pictures as which all depends on what you are going to do with them. Even going so far to learn Camera RAW so you can control everything about the image
With this last list, again I am not just knowledgeable but highly skilled in these tasks. If you don’t want to learn these you can always farm them out to professionals – heck I am in someways I am that professional except for the photography. Yes, I can take digital photographs, look at all the images I take just to show you all the work it takes to raise a vessel. It is these advanced skills I do not have. So for me right now, in addition to learning the silversmithing stuff at the top of the list, I am learning all the features of my camera I did not know I had, plus how to take pictures with camera RAW. I also know the basics of image processing but with camera raw it is a whole different ball game which is why I just purchased a new version of Photoshop Elements and I shall be updating and expanding my knowledge here too. In a few weeks after I get all of this under my belt, I will have new, better,  and more pictures to upload.
It is amazing just what skills you have to amass just to accomplish your goals. They all look quite simple and clear at the start, don’t they! But as you progress, for every step you make in the right direction, you discover that there is more to the next step than you realised. And it is really the equivalent of several small steps (or not so small!!) but you didn’t see those …. kind of like looking up a mountain and not seeing all the dips and ravines and diversions and sub-peaks along the way. So the final journey is many times more complex than what you first thought ;o)

But it is FUN isn’t it

laurie jane kern

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Laurie Jane Kern October 5, 2010 at 4:26 pm

I was not offended as a matter of fact I was trying to point out that things now are not as simple as they use to be! [Yes, what happened to simple and just setting up a booth at a craft fair and having fun]

Bentiron October 5, 2010 at 2:10 pm

“Too many opt for the easy way out, and never bother to find out how good they can be”
There is no easy way to create good art but there are decidedly pleasurably ways to do it and for me that was and is through hard work. We all have different styles of learning, some by pursuing education in institutes of higher education and some from books and some from watching and working with a master of the art we are desiring to learn. No matter the path it still takes hard work and dedication to accomplish our goals. You have done that and if by my previous post I have sounded denigrating of your accomplishment I sincerely apologize for that. I meant no offense.

Terrie Masters October 3, 2010 at 7:29 pm

Laurie,
Clear, concise, honest. Come to think of it, that is just who you really are, and the Laurie I know.
What too few understand is, there are no shortcuts, until you learn the right way, then being clever, you may design your own.

Too many opt for the easy way out, and never bother to find out how good they can be.
Not our style.

It is a pleasure to know you.

Hugs,
Terrie

Bentiron October 3, 2010 at 3:04 pm

It used to be a lot more fun when you just went to scrap metal yard and bought a big ol’ square of scrap copper for $5, started to work and didn’t need to worry about a whole lot. Now you need a degree to make an object of art out of it, market it, collect the money and then dispose of the hazardous material it took to make it. What ever happened to simple?

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