Educating the Masses

Weldon47

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You are an Engraving Ambassador!

Hey Guys (& Gals),

This was my response to a thread on another forum and I thought it would make for good discussion here too. I was responding to a thread entitled "You don't use a machine to do that !" . The author of the thread was sharing the difficulty of having people he encountered beleive that his work was done by hand. (This is not a tool war discussion so please don't go there!) Lets assume that we are all (by whatever means) creating engraving art and proceed accordingly!
Here's the post:

I have been involved in this field as an engraver since 1979. Prior to that I accompanied my dad (who taught me to engrave) on many a weekend excursion into the gunshow circuit throughout the South Texas area.
Many time things went well but I too know how frustrating it can be to spend a weekend (and a lot of $$ and effort)at a slow show. At times you get a lot of tire kickers and rubber-neckers coming by. It is always amusing to listen to some guy with his buddy (in this case the buddy is usually the "expert" on everything) as they discuss your work while standing right in front of you. Big signs and business cards all over the table give little clue to the fact that you are the ONE WHO DID THE WORK! As "Bubba" & "Skeeter" recoil in shock over the price of your work, one of them always brings up old Mr. So & So over in Othertown who is a "Master" engraver (& doesn't charge nearly that much!!!). No matter what you have on display, it is absolutely nothing compared to what Mr. So & So does. Grab a fork and hep yoself to a big bite of humble pie, all you can eat! At times it would make me wonder who the idiot in that picture really was, (them or me!). It can be even more fun to pack up after one of those weekends having done exactly zip $$ worth of anything except spending money and wondering why you chose to do this. What's that Bible verse about "casting your pearls before swine" again?

Because we (engravers) spend a lot of time, blood, sweat & tears developing our skill and because our work is a reflection of that passion, it is difficult not to take something like this personally as a rejection of sorts (when that is not really what is intended by the person you are interacting with).

Over time I have come to view things from a little different perspective. (By the way, except for the once in a blue moon kind of thing, I no longer do typical gun shows as I found that few if any of my clientel will be there. That may not be true for you, that's just where I'm at, we're all different).

I have since realized that there are:
1. People who don't know and don't care how it happened (H&C, burin, machine, etching, etc, etc...), they never will care, and they may or may not like the work - now or ever.
2. People who are really interested in how it is done but may never be a client due to a number of reasons.
3. People who (think they) know how it's done and still won't be your client for a number of reasons.
4. People who are interested in learning about stuff other than what they already know. These folks may eventually become your (or someone else's) client. (This may be a much larger group than we realize!)

If we adopt the attitude that we are ambasadors for our art and approach our interaction with others based on that concept we will do better (in my opinion) in the eventual encounter with the uneducated. Yes, your work will definitely speak for itself but taking the time to visit and share with someone (who is genuinely interested) builds relationship which helps with understanding, credibility, confidence and finally, trust in you and what you do. Because of the ripple effect, as more folks take up the art of engraving, more folks become aware of and exposed to engraving and the market grows accordingly. You may be the one and only engraver a person (or for that matter, your own friends) has ever encountered and therefore, in their eyes, you are the expert and when they eventually learn of other engravers, you are still the reference point!

Recently I heard some interesting advice from a well known minister & it went something like this:
25% of the people you meet will not like you no matter what you do.
25% of the people you meet will like you but could be persuaded not to like you while
25% of the people you meet won't like you but could be persuaded to like you and finally,
25% of the people you meet will like you no matter what.

In a world of computerized/machine made everything, it is a little hard to believe that a person can take a little bitty tool in hand and actually do what we see here on this (and the other) forums.

Taking the time to share your passion will eventually pay off, maybe not for you right then and there (or perhaps it will) but definitely for the art and eventually I believe, it will come around for you too!

Please forgive the rambling thoughts!
My two cents worth,

Weldon
 
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qndrgnsdd

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#4
Yessir Weldon you have it right. The most important thing is to NOT take it personally. I know how passionate we are about our art, but if you take what people, especially ignorant people say, you are in for a world of hurt! I had a good friend, another goldsmith, excellant artist and craftsman, who could not turn loose of his work or hear anything derogatory. He was at a charity bazaar with some of his work and a woman cam by picked up one of his peices and said "That's just ugly". Fortunately two guys were standing next to him to keep him from killing her, but they had to take him out! Needless to say he was not invited back! We say in my studio "There is no accounting for taste or the lack of it!"..............Owen
 

Ron Smith

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Right on the mark Weldon !!,.................. and spoken by one who speaks from wide experience and is familiar with that butting wall; the wall of ignorance that we butt our heads against every live long day of our lives. The only way it will change is when people; particularly those who try it, will begin to spread the word and relate to others their own experiences with that ignorance. That is happening now. Understanding is begining to bloom because of those that want to become involved, the students of the art.

But you can never educate those who are completely seperated from those creative spirits that are within all human beings but have been lost to other interests. You will inspire them however, if they see how you do what you do. Respect is usually the result. Point being, you are in the wrong invironment early in your carreer, not to say that those at that level can furnish you with some volume of work. And that is all it is worth, and maybe necessary at that low point in your carreer. One of the mental adjustments is to know when to take a step. The lure of comfort finally gives way to that passion to rise higher and so it goes.

The fact is however, this is where we all start, and part of our journey is the mental processes and skill changes we must go through to advance into another realm. This is the thing that the new comers are not aware of. It looks glorious and it is. It looks beautiful and it is. But it is... h a r d.... getting to somewhere that you gain some respect, but then again, isn't that irrelevant? A force arising and burning,that seems to come out of nowhere compels and drives you onward. This is something that you must learn to live with, and that comes from knowing that you have what it takes to overcome all odds against you, and that you have greatness in you. If you do, you don't wash out along the way or give up.

The greatest ones have payed the greatest price and those with this experience can relate to these words. And the most profound detriment to success is having to make a living while supporting your passion. But in my generation, and yours and your dad's Weldon, things were very different as you know. It is easy to be a champion when you are getting rewarded with million dollar pay checks. It is not so easy when you must trade or sacrifice your welfare to pursue this art. And that is why Monk was right. We all must be a little "off center"............ I know I am............ I also know that you cannot push a train with a volkswagon. Therefore you must make such an impact on the world that they cannot deny you. You can do that by showing them what you can do with your bare hands. They usually go away flabergasted and with a greater respect, even though they will never understand it. Sometimes things don't move without radical forces behind them.

Thank God for the students of the art!!!! They will be the ones that know the truth about this art and they are the only ones that really matter anyway. But they are also "the firstborn of many brothers" and our family is growing because of them. Standards will come up in this world because of them, and one day maybe the engraver will have earned the respect that is so rightfully due him. He put aside his own economic success for something greater than himself, and that is grace. What a worthy pursuit. And that is also the power of passion. Not many around us will ever understand it. That is just the way it is.

And that is my two cents on the subject....................Okay, maybe two dollars.

Forward!
 
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#6
Hi Weldon, I was just reading your post "over there". Sums things up very well ... very well indeed I might add. Aside from being in complete agreement and re-posting my posts, I would "adjust" the well known reverend's percentages but that's simply because of the differences between what's taught at divinity school and at the school of hard knocks. It's different for every individual.

I gotta take "My Ol' Lady" to a ride in bike show this evening. It's at a beer joint and I'll get plenty of exposure to "tire kickers". I'll only stay as long as my smile and sales hat stay on my head. Then it's time to fire up "My Ol' Lady" and ride off back into the hills. Gotta "keep the faith" (as Kent said over "there") and keep smilin'.

---------------

Quite a few folks posted in that thread on the "other forum". The entire thread is well worth the read. A lotta interesting and ORIGINAL views. I think ya all know what that "other forum" is. Happy hunting (and reading) folks.

http://handengravingforum.com/showthread.php?t=1955




Ron ... Your advice is worth a heckava lot more than 2 bucks!! Keep raisin' ... cause you'll win every hand.

Well, what more could one possibly say when posting right after the "Godfather"?

Gotta go...

Catch ya all later,

Chris
 
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CJ Allan

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#7
Learning to recognize the difference between "Ignorance" & "Stupidity" is one of the basic things we need to learn in life..........

Ignorance can be cured with education, and a little patience..........
Stupidity is terminal..........and best ot recognize it, ignore it, and move on.knowing it's not worth the time to bother with........

Or at least that's the way I see things.......
I like "simple"... :) :)

Chris.
What is this "other forum" I keep seeing referenced to..........??
Just curious........or is it unacceptable to say the name here. ??


>>
 

ddushane

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I haven't read the comments on the other forum but I agree totally with what is written here. A lot of the same goes in the knife world. You just have to do the best you can do and grow as much as possible with what the gracious are willing to share with you and stay out in the shop at it as much as life allows. I'm blessed to have a decent paying job with great benefits so I don't have to suffer with most beginners like you & Weldon have had to do Ron. But the Passion Is there for me. I love the Art of Engraving and all sorts of Arts & Craftsmanship, and I so admire all of the Masters work, Let me change that, Most of the Masters work, I admire all the beautiful work until I have a chance to meet or speak with the one that did it, then it depends on what type of Man or Woman he or she is to weather stay focused on their work. That's probably wrong of me but, Like that old saying, :D We healed in your name & we cast out demons in your name, but the response was "Depart from me you workers of iniquity for I never knew you" I love awesome work from people that strive to be awesome people, knowing few of us obtain it here on this planet but the striving is the inspiring part for me. Thank you guys for all your posts always, for us green horns you guys are a gift from above. I think it's in Exodus 32 where God told Moses to use certain men because he had given them the ability to do all forms for crafts and engraving and everything else of beauty. "I'm paraphrasing of course :rolleyes: , Thanks for yalls time, Dwayne
 
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#9
Hi CJ, you crack me up buddy.

The thing about ignorance is that it is bliss. They have no idea that they have come by your table at the show and insulted you. We, on the other hand, will stew about it the entire way home.


Regarding the "other site" ... it's the other tool guy's site you're on also. (I just can't say it ... no more tool controversies for me)


How's that S&S engine engraving coming along? Can't wait to see it. I only wish I could afford one.:)

Chris
 
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#10
OK, I’ll chime in here as a moderator.

First of all……………..Weldon, an excellent topic of discussion thank you.

Second……………..â€The other forumâ€. Yes indeed it is the Steve Lindsay forum and yes, you can call it by its proper name. There is no competition between the two forums as a lot of the members participate on both.

Steve has set his site up to as a marketing strategy to promote his tools etc and allows discussion about all topics related to engraving and related subjects.

This forum is bi-partisan in its approach to tools and allows discussion about anything to do with engraving or related subjects. In fact we quite often drift into some really interesting areas and discussions.

So lets get back to the main topic of discussion :)

Cheers
Andrew
 

Weldon47

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Sorry,
I should have mentioned Steves Forum by name in the beginning instead of being ambiguous! (My Bad!!)

Thanks for all the comments: I hoped it would inspire some thought provoking discussion! Sometimes we need a little something to get us focused for the competetion. With that I do not mean to compete against one another in our pursuit of excellence: our competetion is against ignorance!
Share the passion you have for this artform!

WL
 

KCSteve

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Weldon

Actually had a busy day at work today so I didn't get a chance to comment over there - Well said!

I learned long ago that people who can't (or at least don't) create often have no understanding of it. You know what the number one response you get as a photographer? "Wow, you must have a nice camera!"
Actually, I do have a fairly nice camera but I've gotten that response from shots I did with every camera I own - full auto wunderbox to full manual cheapo - including point & shoots in full-auto mode. Photography isn't so much about taking the picture as it is about seeing the picture.

With engraving we have the advantage and setback of having to create every line. Sure, that lets us leave out the telephone poles if we want to but it means we (well, you guys - I'm not good enough yet) have to draw every blade of grass and leaf we want in a scene.

One of the first things I learned about engraving is that it's easy to learn to make a line - especially with powered gravers. The tricky bit is learning what to do with that line.
 
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#13
Well said by all. But one reason we have to deal with many of the problems stated is us, no not all of us but many. As many of you know I'm more of a jeweler than an engraver but I'm catching on. I have been a jeweler for nearly 30 years. I'm as guilty as anyone. For years when selling a customer on a custom piece or even a repair, the question was can you do this and the answer was ya no problem. Wrong answer it makes it sound like the answer a auto mechanic gives when he puts brakes on your car. Ask a kitchen designer the same question and you'll defiantly get a very different and detailed answer. He'll tell you every little thing he has to do and every item he has to use. What I'm saying is the more you educate the consumer of your product in this case engraving and the skill and dedication that goes into it the more they will respect it and see value in it.
I had a customer just the other day, she told me I was pretty expensive and I was more expensive than an other local store. I flat out told her you were quoted the price up front and went into detail of the repair and that i am so confident of the work you received I offer a one year guarantee, I put 30 years of experience into everything I do, and I know you got a better job than the other store could offer. And further more I don't try to be the cheapest around I try to be the best.
I guarantee she'll be back, She had a good feeling of value when she left. She even apologized.
 
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#15
Hello.
My name is Tony Medlin and I am the person who started the thread, over at Steve's site. I say to all; thanks for all the useful insight to this seemingly touchy thread. It was not meant to ruffle feathers but, someone has to get the egg out from under the chicken before it can be scrambled. :D I might have opened a can of worms that can't be closed? I guess one of the things I was wanting to find out, was how do others respond to the statement and what do they say in order to convince the person in question that it is possible to cut metal with a hammer and chisel. They act like I'm telling them a lie straight to their face or calling their education into question, "I own a Bridge in New York and I'll sell it to you cheap." is their take on the hammer and chisel answer. I have not read any of the new post at the other place yet but I will make my way over there after reading the new posts here. I have learnt lots of stuff on both sites and I can say that I love both sites and do not own either machine yet but hopefully will be able to afford one or the other someday.:D
 

Roger Bleile

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#16
Fellow enravers,

One of the problems we freelance gun engravers in America have to deal with that is not expierienced by jewelry, custom knife, or bit & spur engravers is the "Is it factory" thing. For those of you outside of the gun trade, what I'm talking about is the fact that some people who collect guns are really ate up about any engraving on a gun being done in the gun factory when the gun was originally made and not at a later time. "Is it factory?" is the collector's way of saying was the gun engraved within the manufacturing plant at the time of manufacture. This is especially true of Colt, Smith & Wesson, and Winchester but can extend to Ruger and other makes. It is so pervasive with some that, upon looking at a Smith & Wesson I had engraved the collector told me I had ruined the originality of the gun. Now this was not some rare #3 model a hundred years old but a garden variety S&W made in the hundreds of thousands. We run into these types at gun shows as indicated by Weldon in the first post. When I was an occupational engraver and had to do gun shows I would have a large sign attached to my table reading C. Roger Bleile, Gun & Knife Engraving. In spite of the sign and my business cards on the table I would experience the kinds of interaction with some collestors as I described in the following post copied from Steve's forum:

I've mentioned this somewhere in another post but it applys in this discussion. When I used to display my work at gun collector shows I would have guys walk up to my table and look at a Colt, S&W or Winchester, point to it and say "Is it factory"? When I indicated that I had engraved it they would stick their nose in the air and saunter off as if they had just smelled a noxious odor. Then there was the guy who walked up and snatched up a Colt from my table and said "Is it factory"? and when I said that I engraved it he dropped it onto the table as if it was crawling with germs as he walked away without another word. Then you get the guy (and sometimes it is one of the "is it factory" guys above) who will quietly ask if you can do an exact copy of a Nimschke complete with signature. They always say it is just to have a representative sample in their collection but you know what they intend to do. And of course this same collector wants you to do it at a bargain price so that when he sells this fake for ten times its value he will make even more $. I've never done it but I've been tempted to just to put one over on one of those "is it factory" guys!

Here's another good one: Back in the 70's my brother Carl and I were displaying at a big gun show. He had engraved an Italian shotgun with impressively detailed bank note scenes. We had it displayed under a large magnifying glass to show the detail. A husband and wife walked up looking at the work and after looking through the glass the wife said to her husband as they walked away "Wow, that was really some magnifying glass"!

Let's face it guys, this is one of the most obscure trades, crafts, arts (pick one) there is and most people will have no idea what you are talking about. Back when I was an occupational gun engraver I got to the point that when someone asked me what my occupation was I just said "gunsmith" to keep from having to go into a long explanation about engraving. That's one of the wonderful things about the engraving forums, we have an exchange where we all understand what we're talking about.

Well after I wrote the above post and looking back I realized that these collectors knew full well that the guns I was displaying weren't "factory." It was just their was of saying "I'm a know it all collector and you ain't squat in my book." Forget about educating these types. They would rather own a 73 Winchester that looks like it was dug up from the bottom of a river bed than one of those fabulous 73's that Ron Smith did. To those types of collector all he did was desacrate an original gun.

I hope that those who know me personally will tell you that I'm not as bitter and angry as I sound in this post but these "is it factory" guys are a sore spot with me:(

Roger Bleile
 
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#17
Hello Tony, I was very interested in your origional post. I can relate to every thing you talked about. I used to set up at the gun shows for many years and made a living out of it. But, I eventually came to the conclusion that only about one out of a thousand attendees were possible serious customers. I eventually started advertising in the Gun list and the Shotgun news where I had much better success. I spent time answering corrispondences of serious customers instead of spending weekends and money with people like you mentioned in your origional thread. And later I added my web site to the addvertisement. To answer your question about persuading people that you really do engrave metal with hammer and chisel is to show them. I always did engraving at the shows to pick up extra money and to draw attention to myself. Now when someone comes into my workshop and they say they have never seen anyone engrave I take out a nickle silver dog tag that I buy from GRS and engrave their Initial on it real quick. Then I give it to them. Made a friend for life.
Good luck

Ed DeLorge
 
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#18
Hi Roger,
I mostly do jewellery, but I know what you mean when your talking about customers asking "is it factory".
Normally this revolves around knock offs of designer jewellers. "Can you make the exactly like so and so's
ring in this magazine. I personally find this annoying. Sort of insulting also.

A funny thing happened today, one of the jewellers I do custom work for asked me to make a copy of the ring I did myself. I do a lot of rings and I don't always remember exactly how I've made them.
This customer got engaged and broke up, "twice". So, I made the same ring a couple of times.

The lady returns the ring and the Jeweller sell them in about two days. He likes the fact they sell well.
So I'm making the same ring for a third time. I get the privilege of knocking off myself. Go figure.

This isn't the first time I've been asked to knock off my own stuff. I think it's because I don't wear a
spandex designers suit. Oh well.

Jim
 

Ray Cover

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#19
I have been wondering what to do about this kind of thing myself. I have been kinda pushed into the situation.

Lately I have been pondering the idea of moving my school and studio to a commercial space. I could use the extra space, More natural light and Holly does not always feel comfortable about having people she does not know real well in the basement of our home (which is where I have the studio and school set up).

I know that when I do this it is going to put my business more in the public eye and I am going to have to start having these type of interactions with the public again and I am not sure yet how I will handle it.

I am blessed to have a good following for my work so I am not really interested in taking in local engraving work. I can't keep up with what I get from several repeat clients so I don't need to be taking on anything new. At the same time I don't want to alienate anyone locally who might be interested in taking a class through the school. It is sort of a Catch 22.

Like Roger eluded to, folks don't READ so posting a sign on the door (or a show table) spelling out what you do and don't do isn't likely to help. I could print a sign on the door with letters 6" tall stating that "I do not do restoration work" and "We do not accept walk ins By appointment only". I almost guarantee it would not stop a single person from banging on the locked door to ask if I would fix their old junk gun that survived the house fire (Well around here it would be house far.:D).

As I see it there are three things at the root of it (CJ pointed out two). One is a lack of knowledge. Another is stupidity, or to be politically correct an obnoxious willful lack of knowledge. The last is, some folks just aren't interested. The problem is being able to tell which is which and deal with each appropriately.

I have thought it would be an interesting experiment to let people watch me work and see what came of it.
I could rent my store front with north facing windows. Place my bench in the window and set up the camera I use for class demos and a big TV so folks walking down the sidewalk can see what I am doing. It would be a very similar set up to what I use at shows. I wonder how many people would get it and how many would walk by there everyday and remain totally clueless.

Its late. I'll stop rambling and go to bed.
Ray
 
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Marcus Hunt

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#20
This really is a most interesting thread. Engraving is a tough game to be in. Being creative types, we are sensitive souls and it can hurt when something we may have put many hundreds of hours into is criticised by someone who knows nothing about engraving.

However, the opposite can also be true as in when someone, who may have no qualification, says how good they think a certain engraving is, they can also do the engraver an injustice. Any good, experienced engraver would be able to pick it to pieces and tell the engraver how to improve the piece but, the inexperienced or ignorant critic may backslap and say how great and wonderful it is. Now that is not to say they can't 'like' something (that's a very different thing) but to give a critique when they may be a very inexperienced engraver themselves is like 'the blind leading the blind'.

So, imho, the only way to go is education. Talk to people about what you actually do. I know it can be a pain in the butt when you have to tell the same thing to the zillionth person (boring I know, been there and got the t shirt) but don't say you're a gunsmith when you're actually an engraver. The more people understand about engraving = a potentially greater market.

I was talking to a neighbour whilst walking our dogs the other morning. She asked me what it was I actually do when I said I was snowed under with work and had to get a pair of guns out for the grouse season next month. When I explained that I put fancy scrollwork and also grouse scenes and heads on the metal part of the shotgun she looked at me blankly and asked 'Why?' So, thinking on my feet I took it to her level (knowing she is into interior design stuff). I said that when you've decorated a room quite often you want something on the walls, for example a picture. Now if you haven't got a lot of money a few cheap prints may do. But then, if you have a bit more to spend and like a particular picture, you move up to the limited edition prints. Finally, if you really appreciate art and don't want anything that hundreds or thousands of other people have, you go for an 'original' or commission a painting. I then went on to explain that when someone has the money to have a gun or rifle hand made for them, these people are in the megabucks league. No ordinary Joe can afford $100,000+ gun and for those that can they want it to be something really special and the two things that do this are nice wood and good engraving and get this, for this sort of money you can get to choose exactly the subject you want engraved! She then saw my point.

The thing is, most engravers/artists are not good business people and we do little to promote our art. We do a job for the client and they go away happy and may, if we're lucky, show family and friends. It does not get seen by the greater world at large and hence, the ignorance. I am convinced that the more people who see 'good' engraving, the greater the market for it will be but we have to market engraving properly as other arts do. Promote the fact that every piece, even if it's the same design, is unique. Promote the fact that it's 'hand done' and that they're not getting the same bracelet as a million other people. And above all promote 'quality'. Don't go selling stuff publicly until you are good enough or it will come back to haunt you and if you get a reputation as a poor engraver it can be hard to shift.
 

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