For six years my son played the up-right bass in his school’s orchestra. Ms. Lansue, an incredible woman, was his conductor. She never failed to amaze me, as I sat in the audience, watching and listing to 60+ children produce the most wonderful sound. Sometimes they produced more than just a sound; sometimes they electrified the air and caused goose bumps to appear on the arms of those around me.
I have always had a deep seeded admiration for her. The hours of rehearsal, lost sheet music, forgotten resin, broken instruments, sick students must make for some serious craziness. I find it hard to understand the hours, days and weeks of preparation that go into a 1 hour performance.
Then comes the performance – the long awaited heavily prepared for performance – and the spot light is on her. She stands before for the crowd. Her name is forever printed on the program – she is the “one” – the conductor. Her success or failure now depends on the next 60 minutes.
Will it be a success? That answer depends on two things – the students and the audience. WAIT – her success is in the hands of the students and the audience – how is that? How is it that her own success really has nothing to do with her? Now you’re beginning to see why I have such a deep seeded respect for her. What drives a person to an end goal to which the failure or success is still beyond their control?
I am drawn to music because it epitomized the word TEAM. It takes a group of musicians playing their PART exceptionally for a combined pleasing sound. They must enter the song at an exact moment with the correct tempo and strength of sound. They must exit on cue and await their next opportunity to shine. I cannot read or play music, myself, and I still do not know for certain what Ms. Lansue does as a conductor, but I can certainly identify with her.
As a custom jewelry designer I am the conductor of a team that drives for that one grand moment when we deliver that long awaited, imagined piece of jewelry that a client has chosen us to produce. As the conductor I will interface with the client. It is my name clearly and permanently printed on the door. I will do all the stone work and appraisal work, but most importantly I will assure that each of my teammates play their part flawlessly (or at least that is what the client will think).
To take a piece of jewelry from imagination to a finished piece involves several experts doing their part perfectly. As the conductor I have attempted to find the best of the best to be part of my orchestra. I have hunted the best wax carver and or CAD/CAM designers, the best casters, the best jeweler, the best bead stringers, the best photographers, the best packaging and I always stand accountable to doing my best gemological work possible and most importantly it is my responsibility to listen and work with the client to set the correct expectations.
Just like Ms. Lansue, I will suffer the excuses. I will suffer the excuses the exceptionally talented computer person will give for the CAD design not accommodating the characteristics and capabilities of the metal and gemstone requirements. I will suffer equipment failures of the casting firm and the mood swings of a gifted and creative jeweler. I will endure the hours of selection, arrangement, and stringing that the stringer requires. I will tolerate the perfection of the photographer that requires perfection when working with a dynamic subject such as gemstones. I will stress over the appropriate packaging that will enhance the grand presentation without distracting from the piece, and I will work diligently to assure that the paperwork is in order to ensure the wearer of the piece can wear it confidently, knowing that it is protected by the appropriate documentation and insurance.
Although there are several similarities to the job that Ms. Lansue and I do, there are some differences. I work with adults, and with adults come egos. My casting firm knows that they are good and shove me around with the, “you are a small fry” attitude. My jeweler knows that without him I would not have a business because few people purchase gemstones to carry them around in papers. My CAD guy fails to understand that just because the computer says that it is possible doesn’t always mean it will work.
I also feel that Ms. Lansue has a huge advantage over me – peer pressure. Imagine the looks that a bass player will give the violist who cannot join in on cue; or the tongue lashing the cello’s will give the bass players when they cannot keep a steady beat because they are having an off day.
I am currently working on a piece for a client that will be entered in a design competition. Due to organization and equipment problems with my casting firm I am 4 1⁄2 weeks behind in my project. Not only is the client unhappy, but now my jeweler, stringer, photographer and I have been seriously impacted. Our time with the piece has now been cut in half.
At this point I would love to have the ability to put them all in a room together and allow them the opportunity to tell the casting firm exactly what they think of the performance of their PART of this production. I would love to hear how the casting firm is going to make it right with the stringer that has 20 hours of work ahead of her and only 2 days in which to do it. Will they come and feed her family dinner and tuck her children into bed while she burns the midnight oil? Or do I have to accept less than her best work? Today it is the casting firm that has marched to their own tune, tomorrow I am sure one of my other teammates will fall short of an exceptional performance.
I cannot speak for Ms. Lansue, but I think I understand what drives me. It is the opportunity to do what nobody else will or can do. I am also driven to that one moment in time when I deliver to the client and the client is thrilled. I think I am a “challenge junkie.” Some might say I am a glutton for punishment.
On another note, I think if you look hard enough you will find that whether you do custom work or not, whether you sell jewelry or not, there is a team in any store that operates. If the person taking in a repair does not do it correctly, the jeweler has been set up for failure. No matter the position, it is a link in a long chain that eventually ends in success or failure; and no matter the chain there is always a single person who’s name and reputation rides on the performance of their team.
Today, I hope my team and I make beautiful music.
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