GREEN LAKE VISITS CHINA: Owner Jim Tuttle connects with local silversmiths

February 3rd, 2012
Categorized under: Jewelry

When one of my key people in the shop up and moved to China with her husband who was working on an extended project there, I arranged for her to work and design with the Seattle shop remotely. That was no big deal – keeping talented people who really know their stuff in the Green Lake family continues as one of my biggest priorities. But since this person was literally family, my daughter, not having her in the day-to-day business was starting to bum me out. So I flew out for a visit…

Her Shanghai home was tucked into a megatropolis of vibrant bright lights and awe-inspiring sci-fi skylines. But with so much hustle and bustle, I was starting to get a slight ringing in my ears and it was time to hit the quieter surrounding countryside. We headed out to Tongli, a picturesque canal town that can only be described as the ‘Venice of the East.’

There we found a narrow back alley of artisan metalsmiths – my kind of town! One silversmith and hand engraver, named Feng Linhao, was happy to let me have a hand at what he was working on. I thought it would be easy. It wasn’t.

I thought it was pretty darn cool I was working at this tiny bench in a metalsmith’s shop in the Chinese countryside. The little girl pictured in the background, however, clearly thought her Yo Gabba Gabba show was much cooler than me.

With so many of the precision tools we’re accustomed to within the shop, it’s easy to forget how these things were originally made hundreds of years ago – all with crude tools and steady hands. It’s amazing! Setting precious gemstones into platinum is no easy feat either, don’t get me wrong, but getting my hands dirty in an old world craft brought home the skill this man was very capable of too. His engraving was top notch and I can appreciate the time he put into the center piece of his shop. Of course, I had to buy it!

This place was full of so much life and color. China may never be a place that will fit with our business model – but, man, it will make it on my travel itinerary again!

In the end, I returned to the shop. Not long after that my daughter did to. And as for that engraver Feng – not that he’d want to move, but we got to get him out here! Ha, ha…