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Thank you for your kind, and thoughtful comments.  I can see where you're coming from, and it's pretty clear that I could have phrased a few things better.

The "Chicken and egg" thing as it pertains to generating a following, by being the best, is where craft crosses over into promotion.  History is full of celebrated artists who died in poverty because they weren't "discovered" in time.  Many of these artists submitted their work to the "cultural experts" of their time, only to be rejected because people of the time valued things differently than later generations.

It was, and still is, possible to be "the best" in any given field without ever generating a name for yourself.  Working from the opposite direction, would be promotion.  Getting a buying audiences attention might require educating, or entertaining people enough that it makes some aspect matter more than other considerations.

For example, people might buy an S hook for way above market value because it's a memento of where they watched the entertaining maker during a craft show.

It's a chicken and egg scenario whether the work or the maker will attract buyers attention.  Marketing exists because the "unaided income and/or demand" for a given service/ product is too low.

History is full of undiscovered geniuses and snake-oil salesmen.  The "chicken and egg" scenario is very limited because it assumes that this is a two factor equation.  It's entirely possible to sink tons of marketing into an excellent product without actually selling anything.  For example, if customers can't find you because you've got a poorly-chosen business name.

This is where my "nerding out" comment needed to be better explained.  Experts have to specialize, which naturally means they're putting a lot of effort into unpopular skill or knowledge.  There are often  pivotal bits of knowledge to the expert, that define the experts worldview.  That is what sets them apart from virtually everyone who would pay them for their work.  

In my opinion, "Nerding out" is where the experts pedantic interests overtake the utility of what they're saying to the public.  There's an excellent article about the NASA Columbia disaster.  There was one slide in a power point presentation that should have told the leadership that the damage to the shuttle was life-threatening.  There were something like ninety words on the slide, with different font sizes, and spacing.  The most critical information was thoughtfully buried in the smallest text.  The heading and the conclusion statements were very optimistic and bland.

Some of the smartest people in their field had an opportunity to tell leadership "This will not survive re-entry" but instead, wrote ninety words in such a way that were easily misunderstood by fellow scientists and engineers (all at the top of their field).  All the skill, knowledge, and experience of those engineers was effectively negated by their inability to put the needs of their audience first.

This is the crux of what you identified to as my attitude towards craftsman.  There's this pervasive notion that if you're chasing a high-minded pursuit, money, power, privilege, and prestige should just flow your way.  Those NASA engineers probably console themselves by saying "it was technically in my report".  No, it was an abhorrent waste of ability, and a tragic demonstration of what happens when experts communicate so poorly.  

As for the "Plenty of room at the top' argument, I think there's an underpinning assumption which provides critical support.  There was once a "worlds best hunter" of Mastodon.  Things were probably pretty great for that hunter, for as long as it lasted.  Following that hunters advice today, wouldn't be a good idea.  Even so, if there's a market for five smiths operating at that level, by all means, strive to be among them.  If you're successful, you'll make the world a better place.  If not, you'll probably become a better smith, which also makes the world a better place.

The central theme I'm objecting to is the assumption that the customer's concerns are secondary to the pedantic aesthetic interests of an expert expecting said customers to reward them in a highly competitive and comparatively small market. 

Just think about the engineers involved in that slide.  They had to watch the greatest achievement of their lives end in tragedy, entirely because they communicated from the wrong point of view.  It breaks my heart to think about the grief and frustration they must endure.

A failed business can cause a lot of hardship for everyone involved.  The world can't afford to see valuable skills and knowledge earned over a lifetime squandered.  Take the customer(s) seriously.  Anything that "faces" the customers should be putting their needs first. 

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I'm sorry, but no one is saying that any of the smiths looking for a name for their business are experts or tops in the field of blacksmithing.  I have seen many a new smith with talent in one facet or another and have also seen where there is a lot of room for improvement but yet the person sells their wares for a modest charge or fee.  If we talk about simply a " business name"  vs  " a professional business" vs a "Hobby" vs a "Hobbyist" vs, etc, etc, etc.  This is a totally different field or topic vs "Naming a forge" or naming something you might or might not want to sell.   I personally don't think most need a name for what they are doing, but it gives some sort of connection and when people look around and see what others are doing they want in.. 

I fully understand that and drank the cool aid myself time and time again.  With this said.  Using your own name is not a way to Succeed but it is a way to establish a common denominator amongst the thousand others with so and so's blacksmith shop, or so and so Forge. Or so and so hammer works. etc, etc.  If you are John, frank or Leslie, or Rupert Smith, It is still your name and your name only..   John Smith ( Blacksmith specializing in colonial forged hardware).  Leslie Smith (specializing in Archutechial forged ironwork).  I'm sorry but you keep coming back to a business model vs a Business name...   LOL..    Years ago something catchy was indeed all the rage as it is today.   Instead of looking at businesses involving other entities just look at the videos list or look at some of the more successful people in the forging industry.   It's not a chicken or an egg.  It's not which came first or second.   

I am happy to stamp my work with my initials and if my name was short enough and I was talented enough to have a name stamp I  could make myself,  for sure that is exactly what I would use.   I've said my piece and based on my experience and what I have seen in the industry of blacksmithing over the last 42 years as well as what I have seen from other successful artists in woodworking, ceramics,  Blacksmithing, and bladesmithing I stick to my original recommendation of Using you name and clarifying what it is you make/specialize in.   There is a reason why I post up the mistakes I had/have made and it's so others can learn from them.  No one and no one answer is correct for all, but the information is just that. Especially because it's free.   As an example just look up books on blacksmithing.  The author lists their name. Not the forge or business name. .  Videos are a different thing entirely as is forums and such.  Well at least for those that do not use their names though it would make things easier and this comes from using a business name vs personal name.  Success in business is never guaranteed nor is a success in life.  Not every shot taken will hit the bullseye. 

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2 hours ago, rockstar.esq said:

The central theme I'm objecting to is the assumption that the customer's concerns are secondary to the pedantic aesthetic interests of an expert expecting said customers to reward them in a highly competitive and comparatively small market.

I've been trying to stay out of this, it's been discussed so many times to no conclusion and I can't help getting carried away. 

The above statement is seen often in other words among the blacksmith and heck most artist communities.  "we have to educate the public in the value of hand forged/traditional work." NO, the craftsman MUST educate themselves if they want to sell product. 

Aesthetic decisions have a cost, I have a friend who forges blades but won't have electricity in his shop, it's not traditional. Unfortunately he can't make 1/2 minimum wage on a $300 knife. I think he gave up rather than just use power tools. Maybe if he'd made a name before making a philosophical production decision he'd be well known and his name be worth the $. Unfortunately he didn't and just could NOT educate the public about why they should pay him 10x as much for a blade apparently no better than a commercial one.

It's a cognitive disconnect when what we believe turns out to be wrong. We all experience it and life goes on, IF we adopt, adapt and overcome. Evolution describes the change or die nature of the universe. 

rockstar is running into the very thing he's trying to describe. He's nerded out on trying to put a technical statement in lay terms and language. I'm following but I used to get the same message from Father when he'd drag me along to bid jobs and bankruptcy auctions. Companies make or break in the bid. PERIOD. I had this drummed into me from childhood. Sooo, while I know what he's saying I often skim past what he's saying, there are often too many examples and they bury the message.

Sound like what he was saying in his last post? Ayup and that's why I'm jumping in now, I've been waiting for him to broach this one so I could point out he's as much victim as the craftsman who expects the public to think the same way about things as they do. 

They don't, the buying public and the craftsman usually have different values. 

Let's stop using the term "nerding out" it has negative connotations for lots of folks. How about "tunnel vision" instead? For the purposes of discussion it means the same thing, being focused to narrowly on a given issue and we can ad an adjective as needed. Will that work for a zero negative connotation term?

Almost on cue Jennifer!:) Your most recent post is a good example of specific examples in argument to a general statement. You're tunneling on a very limited list of examples. It's not a criticism, it's you Darlin it's your tunnel and it's okay. Your statement actually makes his point for him.

Where rockstar lists the general traps with examples to avoid in choosing a business name, you're making his point using as an "tons of examples" statement. For a new comer this isn't viable, they don't have name recognition to stand out from the throngs (tons).

Name recognition ONLY works if your name is recognized and it has to be distinguishable.  Then it has to be recognized in the specific category to do the craftsman any good. 

Is that wrong? Can anybody dispute the statement without losing themselves in nit picky details? 

Trying to chose a business name before you have a business is kind of cart before the horse isn't it? Heck, lots of these guys don't know if they'll ever be good enough craftsmen to make black let alone a profit. One exaggerated example to make my point. Tommy the Blacksmith is the chosen business name but after 15 years he can't break even so shifts over to house painting which has been paying the bills while he tried to open blacksmith business. By now he's earned name recognition, heck everybody within 100 miles knows Tommy the Blackmith is the best house painter to be had! 

A good name is important, VERY important, it deserves careful consideration often well beyond what WE want. I hate to say it but our personal aesthetic falls pretty far down the list of important factors for name choice. 

A person's aesthetics are for the person and have a price. Some shop wisely and or luckily and their aesthetic turns out to be marketable. Most of us not so much, especially if it's part of a common mythos. That is where the, "blacksmiths shoe horses" mythos comes to the fore.

Better slip out of my tunnel, it's almost dinner time.;)

Frosty The Lucky.

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Are there any forge shops that you know of otherwise? 


I dont know a one outside of 20miles.


I do however know a bunch outside and inside USA borders by name. 

Frosty's point about the painter is well taken and maybe it's my own personal experiences that go the other way.

I get contacted both via emails and phone calls and run into people on the street as well as people coming to my home asking if I'd forge them something.

Its by name that the people track me down. 

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Search for my name and the word blacksmith, and you will find numerous pinterest links to images of or from a professional (architectural?) blacksmith named "Chris Williams."

Below that, you can find a different Chris Williams' (knife maker) business page. 

I assure you, I am neither of them. With this in mind, I read through Steve's recent thread on Trademark infringement with interest. Other than misuse of legal business names or filed trademarks, how does one defend a reputation if one party has as much of a legal claim to a "name" (i.e. given, not business) as the other? 

I don't have a blacksmithing business, but I won't limit the name to mine if/when. 

Edited by Chris Williams
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Ha ha, I love how everyone is gone esoteric and metaphysical and the OP has gone walkabout with not one name suggestion. Oh well ...

Just in case he is still within earshot. The best advice of the lot is to come up with something that can be sold. 

I say "Crush Hot Iron" by Brucellaneous and associates ...

Also ... "Riveting heat" ...  "Smashithot" ... :)

It is true that a person's name can become a trademark and an asset to be sold, but only if you are Calvin Klein or Colonel Sanders


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1 hour ago, jlpservicesinc said:

Its by name that the people track me down. 

Yes it is and they're directed to you by locals, yes? 

When I got myself well enough established in Alaska to start thinking about hobbies I started looking for the blacksmiths in the area. Not one yellow page listing and farrier listings were to the local feed and seed who would refer you. I finally got a name by going Sherlock on the problem and reduced it to basics. Blacksmiths needed steel so I asked at the steel supply and got two numbers.  

It's like they were hiding, all their business was name recognition, word of mouth. Talk to me? :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: I offered to sweep floors and run errands for a chance to stay out of the way and watch. Not even a look past the office door and they didn't have time to talk. They were busy and I didn't have enough to offer. S'okay, I understand.

These guys lived on their names and word of mouth but were virtually invisible to the every day world. If a home designer wanted custom iron work done they had to know who to ask. Years later I attended the estate auction of one of them and have some of his tools though I have no idea what his name is. All the good stuff had slipped out the door before the auction, I know where one of his power hammers went. For what that was worth, I lived in a trailer court. :rolleyes:

I'd be happy to list them as examples of successful name recognition business practices but almost nobody knows their name.

I'm approached regularly and not just by some Chinese scam site, I get those daily but individuals looking to have something made. I'm too disabled to take on projects anymore but I'm known.

It's a whacky world. 

Frosty The Lucky.

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Your points are well made, and appreciated.  "Tunnel vision" is definitely less derogatory than "nerding out", and you're right, I'm certainly guilty of both on this topic.

I think the reason I chose "nerding out" is because on some level, the expert knows they're sacrificing social conventions when they intentionally avoid giving a straightforward answer to their patron.  

There will always be "expert" reasons for this evasion, mostly summing up to degrees of "truth".  The NASA engineers in my last post literally "showed their work".  Perhaps they did this believing that the language of mathematics would convey an incontrovertible truth.

From the bystanders point of view, the experts behavior appears self-serving, evasive, elitist, and arbitrarily difficult. 

The resulting animosity is why experts get labeled "nerds".  Everyone involved is losing something.  

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Thanks, I see different things standing outside the box. You deal with evasion and the "not invented here" syndrome as a matter of course, it's your profession, it colors your view.  I saw similar in my 30 years as a state employee. Large businesses and bureaucrats have different job priorities. In a bureaucracy protect your job is much higher on the list than do the job so passing the buck, "plausible deniability" is only slightly behind avoiding chances. Passing decisions around to subordinants insulates from blame. Hmmmm? 

NASA is as good an example of a GVT. organization as you'll find. To avoid a chance of blame management studies problems endlessly then rushes to an answer once the deadline is so far past they can't give it proper consideration. The Challenger explosion is a better example of my point, Engineers on several fronts were screaming it was too cold to launch, the O rings would be too stiff to seal properly. However launch had been delayed too many times so bureaucrats made a decision to avoid blame for another scrub. 

There is a good chance the engineers couldn't put the situation in lay language management could understand but we . . . No comment on management. (see, Frosty 30 yr. state employee) 

You're running into the same problem, jargon and professional references. Most of us are lay with little or no direct experience with what you do professionally. Everybody falls back on tools they know when confronted with new situations, given time we adapt the old and develop or learn new ones. You have to describe concise terminology you use daily and not being a "word smith" Jennifer has to fall back on describing examples she knows and understands. 

It turns into spoken goulash that often seems and too often turns contentious. Sometimes, more often than not, you're both agreeing just not in the same language. Long esoteric discussions are intelligent folk seeking a common jargon to discuss a subject. Flippant interjections are worth the attention their contribution deserves. Zip.

A good rule of thumb to follow, especially in your job rockstar is. "Never attribute to malice what can be explained by incompetence."  Another I like is, "More explanation is rarely the better explanation." If someone doesn't understand you don't repeat yourself, say it a different way and reduce it to points if that doesn't work. Less is more. Think of it like learning blacksmithing by making a sword. Too many learning curves to be quickly successful. Reduce it to it's components.

We are ALL ignorant and incompetent but it can be cured IF we admit it and fix it. Stupid on the other hand is forever.:(

If when we don't understand what someone else said or feel they're taking a shot at us we can step back and look at their statements from different angles or read other folk's comments we more often than not learn something. Often it's just another way to say what we were tying to in the first place. 

Make sense?

Frosty The Lucky.

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On 6/3/2019 at 12:31 AM, Frosty said:

Yes it is and they're directed to you by locals, yes? 

No and yes,  it's actually been an interesting ride both years back as a pro and in more recent years coming out of retirement. 


Back when i  was a pro,  I not once ever did or was involved with ABANA or any online group or local chapters yet was getting calls from Boston, and even a few From New York.  I would do 4 or 5 local demo's a year but I also think people would do more research and way back then I had a phone listing but being a decent smith was a pretty big buzz as it was much more rare. 

In more recent times since moving to Rutland, even though retired from forging,  I would have people stopping, it was by word of mouth within 25miles or so but had not done any smithing for years at that point,  but the largest factor today is again demonstrating, the youtube videos and now being involved with ABANA and NEB and other groups. 

Today it is so simple to make decent coin doing forgings just within the blacksmithing communities on their own right. 

I've been asked to make 5 or 6 hammers, several axes,  tongs, knives. etc, etc.. All by other smiths who want to own something I've made.  I don't take on commissioned work very often now so turned down all the requests offering instruction on how to forge the item instead. 

There is a real connection in the blacksmithing groups and communities,  and many now with retirement incomes are willing to buy others works and it seems that people are willing to pay 100-250.00 for a single hammer. 

Whatever someone decides is the perfect decision for that moment in time.  

I every so often will get a phone call from someone I met 30 years ago at a demo and grabbed my card,  that will call me and ask if I still do smithing.. They just found my card again.. LOL.. 

My old card Read " Jen's Blacksmithing Shop".  specializing in colonial hardware, wagon repairs, tooling, and lessons.   full name, address, email and phone number.  Had a hand drawn picture of an anvil with a hammer resting on top. 

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My old card read. The Frostworks. Stuff done with metal. A simple graphic and contact info.

A good friend kept telling my card made it sound like I was some kind of duffus, I REALLY needed to list out what I could do so people would know. I told him a broad sheet was too cumbersome replace a card and finally listed in brief what I knew how to do with metal. Just steel took up the better part of a sheet of 8 x 11 and I didn't touch on non ferrous. 

He stopped by at a demo I was doing at the Scottish games and remarked I didn't have cards out. I only give them out on request or kids just take them by the handful. I've only ever gotten work from a requested card, never handouts. Anyway, we were chatting while I was demoing and maintaining a patter with the audience and someone asks if I have a card. I flip one out of my pocket while the stock heats and the prospect asks me a couple specific questions. Then exclaims about doing stuff with metal is right and we discuss a commission and he pays a deposit on the spot. 

It wasn't a blacksmithing commission the gentleman wanted to know if I could repair a piece of bronze jewelry and I told him I could do it tomorrow I needed to pick up the correct rod. I forge brazed it for him and touched it up with some file work. He happily paid my asking price and tipped me double. My buddy had returned to watch me do stuff with metal and stood stoically as I did my thing and my satisfied customer walked around showing off the repair and crowing about how a REAL blacksmith can do stuff with metal.

It couldn't have been better if I'd scripted it and no it was a RARE occurrence, happened maybe 2-3 times in my life. 

It's still a good motto IF I still did much stuff with metal.

I believe most referrals among local blacksmiths if from other blacksmiths. Either as overflow or for specialty. We send folk to the smith who does THAT best.

Since FB, Youtube, etc. I get a LOT if interest online and I eschew FB as much as possible, I''m sure my personal info is plenty harvested and sold. Thank you very much.:ph34r:

Frosty The Lucky.

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