Years ago, I took a prospective student tour at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, my top choice school. As we walked down the gorgeous, tree lined streets, a guy leaned out his dorm window and yelled,

“Don’t go here, it’s too hard!”

A high school senior just posted on Orchid that she’s looking for an affordable jewelry school to attend after high school.

And I thought, “Don’t go here, it’s too hard.”

It depends on her goals and skills, but the road to being an employed by someone else bench jeweler is long and hard. She can certainly get there. And there was in interesting recent thread on Orchid about career paths for jewelers. Some guys (because it’s mostly guys doing bench work) said, “it’s too hard, don’t go here.” Some guys were like, “what ‘er you talking about, this is a great field, you gotta do it this way.”

The best path in jewelry is to be the owner. Own the store, own the business. The most successful financially are usually not the employed benchie, but the business owner.

So to that young high school student — whatever path she wishes to take, whether she aspires to be a benchie or wants to live the itinerant life of the crafts show artist — she’ll need to be a business owner.

In addition to being an amazing craftsperson, designer and creator, she’ll need to be an amazing business person, who gets as jazzed about marketing and sales and accounting as she does about making jewelry. Business is a creative endeavor. It’s a different kind of creative, but it is creative.

On the other hand, as Tom Hanks says to Gena Davis in A League of Their Own, when she says she’s quitting baseball because it’s too hard,

“It’s the hard that makes it good, if it weren’t hard, everybody’d do it.”

For me, that’s so true of metalsmithing. It’s really hard. It takes years to get good. (Yes, there are some annoying people who take to it like a duck to water, but for most of us, it’s a journey of effort and learning.)

An actor (I can’t seem to track down the quote as I remember it) was asked in an interview what advise he would give to young actors and he said, basically, “Don’t go here, it’s too hard.” He said something to the effect of, “if there’s anything else you can do, anything, then do it.” Only go into acting if absolutely must, if you must have it, must do it.

(anyone remember who that was? I’m hearing it in my mind as Steve Martin or Alan Alda. If you know, please post a comment! Thanks!)

If you’ve got that passion, that fire for creating jewelry, then nothing can stop you. Not logic, not reason, not people pointing out all the fine careers where you’re more likely to get health insurance and retirement plans.

To those who don’t understand your unwavering passion for your craft, you can quote and say,

“If you don’t know, ain’t nobody can tell you.”

Photo credit: Mary Gober.

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