Durango Silver

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

An American Jeweler's Story - A Life in Turquoise, Silver and Gold

In Brief, the Story of John and Estell Hartman - Occupational Silversmiths

We, John and Estell Hartman, self taught ourselves how to make Silver Jewelry starting 1973, We bought the book, “Indian Silver-Smithing by Ben Hunt” on how to make Navajo Style Jewelry and went for it. We worked a day jobs and came home at night to learn the trade. I, John, was mechanically minded and was presently working as a machinist for my father. My wife, Estell, enjoyed learning the trade as well and we worked well together, teamwork has been a real asset to our success.

We spent 6 months putting every minute we could learning the trade. I went to the local Rock Shop, who was very kind in teaching me how to cut stones. We watched several other Silversmiths and learned all we could from them as well.

At that point, we could make just about any small jewelry item we set out to make, and fairly quickly. All seemed great until we went out to show and sell my Jewelry, it was very discouraging, to say the least. We didn’t realize that the gallery/store owners already had their products and sources; we felt intimidated and discouraged as the merchants knocked our work down and often rudely told us they were not interested.

We had to be strong! We started going to tourist towns and high traffic locations where people were known to spend money. We studied on how to find a market for our Jewelry and we found places to sell it. It took a little time, but the harder we tried the better it got. We soon learned the designs people liked, that we could make, and we followed that path. It is important being an artist to realize that you must conform to the wants and desires of society to succeed.

We liked Turquoise and had built up quite a bit of Jewelry back stock. We decided to hit the road with it and we headed to Colorado, it was there that our Jewelry was appreciated and our career took off. We moved to Albuquerque which we knew was in the heart of the American Turquoise Marketplace. It was easy to network ourselves there as it was a Mecca for Jewelers.

Once in Albuquerque, it was easy to find as much work and people to buy our Jewelry as we needed. This was in 1973 and we were aware that a big Turquoise Jewelry boom was going on, so we decided to go for it. We found a lady in Old Town that bought enough Jewelry which allowed us to pay our bills and buy the supplies needed to keep us making as much Jewelry as we could. We set high goals and worked very hard every day. We would start work at 6:00 AM and work nearly strait through to 8-11:00 PM 6 days a week. On Sundays, we would cut our stones to be used the following week, then we got the rest of the day off. At the end of this winter, we had made a tremendous amount of Jewelry.

In May, we set out to do a tour of all the western tourism areas to sell our wears to Jewelry Stores, Galleries and where ever we could. In the summer season of 1974, almost everything we had made over the past winter. This one strategic move that we took by buckling down and hustling set us up for the rest of our lives.

You can imagine after making all of that Jewelry, we had become quite good at it. We moved back to Albuquerque and landed a major account to make high quality Jewelry for a great company. Our business took off!

We moved to Durango Colorado, bought real estate and continued making Jewelry, selling it in Albuquerque and many other places as we had built quite a following. In 1976, we found the perfect property to build our own Trading Post just west of Durango on the Hwy leading to Mesa Verde National Park. We opened our Trading Post in 1976 and began selling our Jewelry to the public for retail. From that point on our life story has been a continuing success with many eventful business experiences.

Looking back, the main keys to our success were;

· Finding something we that we would enjoy doing for a living.

· Learning how to make Jewelry from a hand on approach, being aggressive, assertive and believing that we could do it.

· Finding our marketplace by not giving up and working diligently in researching how we could sell our products and then following through.

· Seeing a major market trend and acting on it.

· Opening our own retail outlet for our Jewelry.

Please visit http://www.DurangoSilver.com to see where we are at today!