Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The Customer is Always Right

It is magical, in my opinion, to take an idea and turn it into physical object. As I've said before, I really enjoy making things for people. I love collaborating with a client to create a piece that they will cherish. Most of the time, the design process goes really quickly. I am able to capture the intent of the work relatively quickly, draw up the design and then I'm on to fabrication.

I have had one especially tricky customer. She has such a clear idea of what she wants that it should be simple, but for some reason, it usually isn't. You build a relationship with a person in the process of creating. In this case, the relationship predated the creative process by about 10 years. I guess that has something to do with the added challenge.
This summer, when River and I were going to get married, (again, this time legally, for the time being anyway) I wanted her to have a wedding ring that I made her. (Besides, I lost her last one on our trip to Hawaii.) So I asked her what she wanted.
Of course she had a perfectly clear picture of what she wanted. Something "butch" but also with "bling". She picked out the ring stock, and the stone. I told her, 'there is no way that will look good.' We discussed it further and I decided I would give it a try. (I buckled.) I was sure it was going to be a disaster. She wanted two big thick rings next to each other, but not touching and a great big white topaz on top. It would look heavy and awkward and would be a never-ending embarrassment to me, or at least until death do us part.

The concept was simple but the execution would prove to be rather challenging. The rings were formed on a "finger-shaped" mandrel which is a sort of rounded square. This would add to the already boxy design we had going. If you're going to do it, you might as well go all the way.
So, to attach the rings together, yet not allow them to touch, I used the setting for the stone as the only point of contact. I had a heck of a time getting those rings attached to the setting with proper contact, straight and evenly spaced. It took about 6 tries, soldering, unsoldering and re-soldering, but eventually I got it right.

During the finishing process, I had a lot of cleaning up to do around the setting and that left the bands pretty scratched up. I filed and sanded down any stray solder. Then I brushed the whole ring on a bench grinder. I liked the look. The brushed finish saved me the drama of having to polish it to a perfect shine and I liked the contrast of the brushed metal and the shiny stone. So, I set the stone and showed River. She loved it. I had to admit that I liked it when it was finished. It certainly suits her and she has gotten more compliments on that ring than on the expensive diamond rings we had made for us years ago.
One evening when we were out to dinner a woman approached us as we were leaving the restaurant. She actually grabbed River's hand and said she had been staring at her ring all through her dinner and had to get a closer look before we left. So, I guess River's idea was a good one.

Didn't they use to say, "The customer's always right"?

Yes, Honey, lesson learned.

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