Looking back on these past three + years at Elizabeth Sarah Collections I've learned a lot. More important than the actual skills that I've acquired, though, is a detail oriented and precision based mindset.
Before she founded ESC, and well before we even met, Elizabeth apprenticed for a jewelry designer in Aspen, which is where this determination and strive for perfection comes from.
Elizabeth was taught the art of jewelry design and production, and by practicing and perfecting her work she eventually quit and started her own company which continues to flourish and evolve.
In May of 2016, when I started working with Elizabeth she started with the basics, just like anyone training a new employee would.
The one thing to know before even starting, however, is that with this type of jewelry design and production, is that practice makes perfect.
So, Elizabeth began training by first teaching me how to make "wraps". A wrap is the foundation of the wire wrapping technique that goes into every piece of jewelry we produce. It's simply a piece of gold, silver or other material that varies by gauge (thickness), and that's bent and cut into the right size and shape. Using our tools and hands to feel that it's not overworked or compromised in any way, the wire is manipulated to bend around and secure precious gemstones, chain, etc.
Elizabeth holds the standards of her work to the highest degree possible, and doesn't let anything slip by her that might be imperfect. It could not only be upsetting to the customer to find their piece of jewelry with metal sticking out and pricking them, or breaking in the middle of a vacation, but it doesn't make the brand look good either.
Designing and creating a dependable product means that the people behind production need to perfect their craft and build trust with clientele.
I'm sure Elizabeth was worried at first, having about half of the accountability on someone else's hands, after being the sole producer/designer/employee of Elizabeth Sarah Collections for many years. Now that we've worked together for so long, we can not only complete each other's sentences, but also pick up where one another left off on any necklace that's being produced.
It took me several months to finally perfect the most basic wrap, and those were long work days of constant do-overs and much needed glasses of wine afterwards. But as with any new job, getting the motions down doesn't just happen in one day, especially when you're working with tools and materials for the very first time.
Every single piece of jewelry we make is completed with a thorough inspection to make sure no gem or pendant is compromised, and metal isn't exposed in a way that would ruin the piece down the road or harm the customer once he or she is wearing it.
Learning to train my eyes and hands to look and feel for the right shape, texture and quality of these materials is definitely a learning curve I wasn't expecting, and, to be honest, I'm not even sure what I was expecting when I took the job!
Making these small adjustments to thin wire for hours on end can make even someone with good vision get a headache. For those who don't know me, I have terrible vision and have gotten headaches since as long as I can remember ( I sure picked the right profession!) But consistency, perseverance and passion is all part of the trade, as well as the ability to grow and continue to learn techniques to better our craft.
A few times a week Elizabeth would remind me not to "gorilla grip" the wire by holding my pliers too tightly, and the same goes for the smaller gemstones that are softer in nature and easier to break.
To this day I have to remind myself of this, as you sometimes don't realize that maybe the stress you're holding in is being taken out on your tools. Being relaxed and focused is vital to not letting yourself "gorilla grip" your tools, causing them to slip and make gemstones and wire fly everywhere.
Trust me, this can happen every now and then, and it will happen, probably even ten years from now.
The key, however is having an awareness of the sensitivity of the materials we work with and practice, practic, practice.
Starting from day one with Elizabeth's constant push for perfection, it's now the standard for every element of the job. By ingraining the demand for precision and excellence, starting with the basics, this mindset is integrated by myself and Elizabeth daily.
Even as I write this blog, I know that it will take several hours of edits (and more wine) before the final version is just how I'd like it.
This attitude creates a sense of pride and can be seen in every step from start to finish. From wraps to photography, to detailed website descriptions, advertising, and finally the perfect bow on the box before the customer receives it, practice makes perfect.
Do you have a hobby, trade, or passion that keeps you practicing daily?