Some years ago I moved to Kelowna. I was in need of a change and so, for a time, put island life behind me. Kelowna’s bigger-town vibe and vivid arts community were interesting to me, its geography and flora a complete change from what I’d been accustomed to in my small town island home.
Shortly after my move, I went to work at The Titanium Workshop. It was unlike anywhere I'd worked before. The business was, at that time, located in the owners’ home. All customer interaction was through email or by phone. There was no dress code and, although regular hours of business were observed, there was no time clock.
Although the workshop was a manufacturing business, producing titanium rings for sale through a website, the business was (and remains to this day) very much an artistic endeavour. It started with a single ring, made by one of the owners as a gift for the other, and grew from that simple design to be much, much more.
Titanium rings were not common at the time the workshop started and there wasn’t equipment purpose-built for making them. The workshop’s early rings were hand drilled and individually lathed, using equipment designed for making machine parts. Their designs were, of necessity, simple but the workmanship was excellent. The rings were precisely made and beautifully finished.
I soon realized that work at the workshop was a collaborative effort. Although each member of our very small staff had a specific job, product creation was a collaborative effort to which each team member brought their own special skills.
Frederique had training in graphic design and a strong visual aesthetic.
Roy had crazy-good lateral thinking skills that enabled him to adapt equipment and develop techniques that were completely new and amazingly innovative.
A number of talented machinists brought their technical skills to bear on solving production problems, coming up with new and better ways to carve titanium.
Brain used his CAD skills and design savvy to bring customer ideas to life and to explore ideas of his own in three dimensions.
Customers brought their ideas and requests to the workshop, affording our team an opportunity to step outside our own limitations and embrace concepts that would not otherwise have occurred to us.
As titanium rings grew in popularity, the workshop faced new competition in the form of rings cheaply manufactured in countries like China. Frustratingly, the rings these overseas factories produced were often direct copies of designs that had originated through our hard work and, although they were mass produced (often from inferior materials) and finished to a much lower standard, their price tags had customer appeal.
Despite these challenges, The Titanium Workshop has retained its market niche, mostly through the original thinking and innovation that have characterized their business from the start.
They made titanium rings with gold inlays, then carved the inlays.
They found a way to carve rings with prong style stone settings.
They made the first titanium ring with a multiple stone setting
and have gone on to extrapolate those techniques into some amazingly creative designs.
They developed and executed amazingly detailed carved designs,
made specialized coatings, added bright accents of anodized colour,
and executed a myriad of custom designs, made to their customers’ requests.
Now they're working on developing a line of pendants, including this brilliant, Steampunk inspired design. (The gears in this pendant actually turn!)
I worked at The Titanium Workshop for more than eight years. As is often the case in a business where a number of creative people who work with different visions share a workspace, the path was not always smooth. It was, however, always stimulating, always challenging, and always a learning process.
My time at the workshop changed forever my outlook on what work can be. It helped me to understand that there is more to employment than just earning a wage and that, while everyone may have a different vision, it is possible to work at something important to you and still find a way to earn a living.
At first glance, making rings may have nothing at all to do with writing blogs, but there is an interrelation here: It’s about finding your one thing and working toward it. It’s about meeting challenges and finding a way to make your vision work. So, thanks Fred and Roy for the lesson. I’m grateful to have worked with you.
Please note: This blog is not a paid endorsement. Although they knew I was writing a piece about them, The Titanium Workshop did not see the contents of the piece until after it was published.
All of the images in this post are property of Arnell Workshop Inc. d.b.a. The Titanium Workshop, and are used with their permission.