By Llyn Strelau
My career as a goldsmith and designer began more than 40 years ago at the bench—well, essentially; my set-up was actually a bench pin clamped to the kitchen table in my basement. Regardless of what it looked like, however, it was a beginning.
My life was pretty easy back then. There was no pressure; just exploration and creativity. However, what began as a hobby soon transformed into a passion, a vocation, and, ultimately a business—complete with hourly employees, source deductions, bills, an advertising budget, and, like most other designers I know, a rather insatiable appetite for collecting gemstones.
Understandably, along with this expansion came an influx of responsibility. Gone were the days of the carefree kitchen table; to meet the commitments of my small business, I had to keep the cash flowing, which meant finding and (ideally) maintaining clients and keeping the wheels of production in motion.
From the beginning, my prime objective, beyond creating beautiful jewellery, was to make my clients happy at any cost. After all, despite what those working in the industry would like to believe, jewellery is not a necessity for life; that said, the pieces we create are highly personal and often carry great significance. Whether representative of a sentimental journey following the loss of a loved one, a symbol of love and devotion, or the commemoration of a milestone, jewellery is, above all, about celebration. As designers, it is up to us to inspire and connect with our clients. This hybrid personal/professional relationship is vital to keeping the financial ball rolling, as well as to maintaining pride and satisfaction in our business.
These two goals—achieving client satisfaction and maintaining a successful business—are inextricably connected and, in my experience, they occasionally conflict. In these types of cases, one small word becomes vital: ‘no.’