One of the hazards of being a jewelry oriented metalsmith is a nearly fanatical attention to detail. The difference between a design that’s a flop and a design that grabs the dreams of everyone who sees it is attention to detail. Did that solder seam get soldered straight? Did the sixteen million proper steps of finish work get done in the proper order, and into every conceivable crevice? Are the prongs tightened down all the way, or is there a 1/132 of a gap somewhere? While this detail oriented-ness is fantastic for creating jewelry… it seems to extend insidious fingers into every other aspect of the studio, until there’s no “nearly” in the fanatic.
Take my quest for the perfect packaging, for example. I have lovely boxes. I’ve made lots of my customers happy with my various seasonal packaging designs. No problem… except…. there’s that darn attention to detail again. Which says that while good, the packaging could be even better. Especially with Christmas coming up. So I carefully studied all my options, and kept my boxes, but seriously upgraded my accents. Sumptuous satins, silk ombres, and 1000’s of yards of extremely fancy curling ribbon. Plus some fabulous new gift tags that will also allow me to put my studio name on the inside of the boxes… How’s that for attention to detail?
Then what should happen but I need to print new catalog-inserts for my latest work… which meant hours of milimetric adjustments to my files, not to mention the photos… and then updating the older photos… and then editing said photos… There’s a reason professional graphic designers are paid so much. Sheesh. I started seriously wishing I could just let it go. I mean, while I’ve always notice details, I’ve never really been this stubbornly passionate about them. My family was in despair, I promise you.
But I think it’s totally part and parcel of the kind of work that I do now that I’m all grown up. I am a handmade fine jewelry artist, and so my work in every detail should reflect that. I am not Tiffany & Co. I don’t have a fleet of designers to take care of my packaging, or my catalog, and I never will because that’s not the kind of studio that is Kaelin Design. But just because I am a small studio doesn’t mean that my jewelry is small, or that I should be any less professional in my presentation details.
I think this attention to detail is the curse of the small business owner… and I also think it’s part of the secret of our success. For every piece of jewelry I create, there are a thousand and one details that should be just so. From the time I pick up my hammer, to the last seal I place on the box when it makes it’s way out into the wide world, I will make it just as perfect in every way as I possibly can.
I only hope I don’t get lost in the details….
“The devil is in the details”. Don’t know who said that; probably some general somewhere. Maybe a scientist?
Anyway, I think you hit the nail on the head when you referred to “professionalism”. That’s what it’s all about. The broad strokes are important too, but I believe that once inspiration has hit and the design is firmly in your head, then getting every little finicky detail “right” is the name of the game, whether you are an artist, graphics designer, engineer or machinist. Of course there’s still the old adage “Shoot the engineers, it’s time to make parts”. Paranoia isn’t necessary (but it is really helpful if used properly!). I’ll be very interested in what other folks (professionals) think about this…
Oh, I totally agree. Every little thing that isn’t exactly the way I want it to be, every perceived imperfection in my mind, just SCREAMS at me to fix it. That’s when I call in my crack “realism” team – mom and sisters – who help me re-establish reasonable standards. Often they can point out that what to me is a glaring flaw, to others isn’t even noticeable. And when I still think the design or item isn’t up to snuff, they help me figure out a reasonable and realistic way to solve the problem.
But I don’t always listen to them… Sometimes I stress anyways until it’s perfect in my own eyes. I think you pegged it: the perfectionism is the common down-side to the attention to detail that makes some people good at running their own business. Part and parcel, as they say.
I always see the flaws in my own work, no matter how small or inconsequential. Other folks eyes just glide right past without noticing. Funny how that it is. I have to bite my tongue to prevent myself from pointing out the flaws!