Throughout my entire 43 years as a jewelry designer and manufacturer, I’ve practiced a process called sole authorship. This means that for nearly every piece of jewelry that I make, I solely perform every aspect of its creation, from concept to final finish. In today’s world, this is mostly an anachronism.
Even most handmade jewelry items are created in a collaborative process these days. One person does the design, another person or another shop entirely does the casting, another does the gemstone setting, and sometimes yet another applies the final finish. Certainly, an argument can be made that this process is effective, and may, at least in some cases, provide the client with the best possible work. Since a specialist is performing work at every stage, doing something that they do exclusively every day, I can see the logic in that reasoning.
I feel differently about what that might mean for my own work. When it comes to executing my jewelry designs, I may not be the absolute best at any particular process. But I’m very good at all of them and I put my heart into each one in a way that I feel makes the outcome of the whole better for it. The sum is even greater than the parts, so to speak. There are a few others like me making jewelry, but the concept of sole authorship is much more prevalent in among my knife-making friends.
Master Bladesmith Test
For example, to achieve the status of “Master Bladesmith” within the knife making community a journeyman’s work must be executed as the product of a sole author and pass several stringent tests…
The following is from Wikipedia:
The tests for Master smith include using a forged Damascus steel blade with a minimum of 300 layers and fashioned as a “stick tang knife” (as opposed to a full-tang) to cut a free hanging rope, chop through 2 2X4″ pieces of lumber, and retain an edge capable of shaving hair. Lastly, the knife is placed into a vise and flexed for 90 degrees. The knife must spring back without breaking, must remain functional, and must not slip from the handle. Once the performance test is passed, the applicant must submit 5 knives to a panel of judges, all knives are judged on balance, beauty, and symmetry, but one must be either an “Art Knife” or a “European style” dagger. The first smith to receive the Master title under these requirements was Wayne Goddard.
I think a good argument can be made that knifemakers are producing some of the finest metal work in the world.
Sole Authorship = Soul Authorship…or Ego Trip?
The following comment, “I feel “sole authorship” is fine, but ultimately a destructive ego trip for craftspeople…” was a response I got upon mentioning sole authorship as a possible category of makers within all jewelry makers. I should clarify that this comment was made by a good friend of mine with no intent of bashing…and I can see her point, to a degree. At the beginning stages of learning and making jewelry, for a student to be obsessed by the concept of sole authorship may impede their learning. I’m an advocate of students building skills as their interest leads them and some may never get around to creating within the parameter of sole production.
The other side of this is that a designer with no concept of downstream processing of the designs they produce will often make engineering mistakes. This can lead to outcomes that are, at best, difficult to produce and sometimes inferior in terms of structural integrity, durability, and comfort.
The Force is With It
At peril of seeming a bit new age woo-woo, one of the important things in my service to my clients is my intimate familiarity of each process that goes into the design and manufacture of each piece and my innate knowledge that the energy that goes into a piece of jewelry stays with it. I have written about my concept of “conscious intent” and how it plays into how I work with my clients. Working as sole author on most of my pieces allows me to direct and control that energy in ways that both I and my clients seem to appreciate. To find out more, or start your project with Gary Dawson Designs, use our convenient contact form, found here!