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INTERVIEW WITH ETHEL

     Whether you're working at home through the pandemic, or you have a routine for working or doing art or crafts at home, this Workshop has been structured to teach you the same course we've conducted for years in hotels and conference centers.  Nothing replaces being in the room with other people, but we've come close by the steadily improving teleconferencing process.  
     In January, 2019, a woman called me and sounded as though she could have been calling from across the street.  She told me she had researched this site and decided she had to learn my hand-engraving method.  I told her we had openings in an upcoming class in the Texas hotel we've used for years.  "No, I cannot come to Texas," she said.  "I'm in Lagos, Nigeria on the west coast of the African continent.  I'm 6700 miles away, so can you teach me online?"
     Like most other challenges I've tackled in decades of doing and teaching my skill, my reply was, "Yes, I'm sure we can blaze this new trail together!"  She was delighted. I did the research and found that zoom.us seemed to offer a way to do it easily.  Within a couple of weeks we were set to begin.  We started in February and had about 15 'hookups' as we called them.  
 
    In each visit, she saw my hand forming the practice letters on her laptop... and, eventually, I saw her practice and forming the letters on my desktop after she got a special HoverCam camera that made all the difference. She went through the practice with markers on our special practice sheets, ordered her equipment, and within a couple of months, she had her engraving system so she could begin to use the drill on flat glass with proper guideline sheets glued to the back of flat glass sheets.  IT WORKED!
 
     By the time she had done a lot of flat glass, she was ready to tackle a wine bottle.  Then other objects. I could see to critique her work as though she was standing at my side.  The same for her as I did my work under my HoverCam professional document camera.  She had the same setup on her end.  It was simply amazing how we could communicate so well, so clearly, in both audio and video.
     Below is how these classes will be rolled out beginning May 18, 2020.  Three different Workshops will be taught.  Each class will have a maximum of 5 students.  For 4 consecutive weeks, the session will be three hours...3:00 to 6:00 p.m. on Monday and Thursday. In eight three-hour sessions we can cover a lot of learning the letters and how to use the drill to engrave those beautiful letters on just about any surface of any shape.
     But first a long discussion between Ethel and a friend of mine who is a writer and editor.  The interview was about 8 months after Ethel completed the course in a time zone 6 hours ahead of mine!
 
INTERVIEW WITH ETHEL

Editor:  Ethel, what was your motivation to learn after you found information about Ken Brown's work?

ETHEL:  I had come across hand engraved perfume bottles and wine bottles in year 2017 and they looked pretty nice.  By my nature, I am a creative person and I like trying new things, so I always thought it would be something nice to give a try.  That's what led to my research on hand engraving, however, I didn't contact Ken until early 2019.  

 

Editor:  Tell us a bit about your business and how you planned to introduce engraving 6700 miles from Texas where you were getting Calligraphy instructions? 

ETHEL:  I run a luxury experience service firm in Lagos, Nigeria; it's called "Äurelia's Basket."  We specialize in creating unforgettable memories for our clients through a variety of our offerings. Two of our key products are our premium food trays and our elegant pine boxes.

 

The food tray has a variety of food spread, nicely presented and most times used for gifting or self-indulgence. The pine box made of pine wood and glass.  It carries items such as personalized bottles, perfume bottles, flowers, chocolates, etc. The pine box was actually made after we included engraving options as part of our services.  

 

After my engraving skill picked up, I opened a company called Ëxterus Persona", they actually specialize in everything about engraving and personalizing, so that part of the business handles the engraving parts of the gifts.

 

Editor:  When did you and Ken first talk?  

The first time was January 7th 2019.

 

Had you ever taken an online course in anything, and if so, what was it?

I have taken several online courses but not "live" online courses.

 

Tell us how you got your supplies and equipment to begin the course.

The first basic materials I needed were Ken's specially-lined practice sheets and specific markers.  I found the markers locally and Ken emailed the pdf of the practice sheets and I had them printed here.  Ken recommended the type of markers I needed to purchase. 

What was your impression after the first online session?

Ken is an AMAZING teacher! (I'd bet all his students would agree!) The communication was excellent. However, it was a lot of struggle for our first online session, but Ken was able to navigate his way around everything and it worked great.

How did the first few sessions go, from your viewpoint?

At first, I had trouble with the tiny web cam...separate from the one in my laptop.  Ken needed to see my hand and my work as I did the practice letters.  The tiny camera on the tiny tripod kept falling over or gave Ken a backward image.  That was frustrating.  We finally decided to chunk the extra camera and I held my work up to the laptop camera.  Very awkward and clumsy, since Ken needed to see the live action of me forming the strokes and letters.

What was the solution for that?

Since Ken was using a presentation camera, the HoverCam, on his end....to show his work extremely sharp and closeup... it was obvious I had to have the same thing. Ken had an extra HoverCam and I purchased it.  THAT made all the difference in the world!  

Now, it's great to connect with Ken when I have a question or an issue with the drill or whatever....I merely hook up the HoverCam and it's like the issue is on his desk for his suggestions and help.

Before the HoverCam, I had to take pictures and email them to Ken or send them via iMessage. The immediacy of feedback from the HoverCam is essential!

Give us an example of how the HoverCam helped with making the letters.

As Ken watched me, in real time, making the letters with the markers on the practice sheets, he could see when my spacing was incorrect.....or when some of the letters were not made right....or not connecting properly.  It was fast and easy for me to see exactly what to do and Ken could watch and correct me as I worked.  It's the ONLY way to communicate his teaching since the web cam on the computers can't capture his pen and drill work.

After you had spent 3-4 weeks learning the lower and upper case letters, how did you get your engraving equipment?

The engraving system, consists of the dental drill, compressor, regulator, hoses, foot control, cases, and other materials.  Fortunately, it was brought to me by a friend who was in Texas, and was returning to Nigeria about that time.  Ken helped me by shipping the equipment to my friend in Texas, and he brought it to Nigeria.

How easy was it to get your equipment set up and running?

Quite easy, we had our regular video call, and Ken instructed me on what to do and how to connect everything. I had my machine up and running in less than 10 minutes.

How often were your sessions and how many did you have together?

In all honesty, i don't remember the total number of sessions, but we had a session at least once a week for about three months straight as we learned together, this new approach for both of us.

 

How was it different than you expected? 

I thought it was going to be a herculean task as I had zero knowledge about calligraphy or engraving. I always thought it would take forever to learn, however, the learning process was quite fast.  Learning the letters was easier than I had anticipated. Ken's letter breakdown into simple strokes make it SO easy!

 

What was the most difficult part of the process learning the letters with a pen?

Holding the pen in the right way and remembering when to increase or decrease the pressure. Ken couldn't really see my hand in the first few sessions because of the tiny camera and tripod I was using.

 

Did you use tracing paper over the lined instruction sheets as you practiced the lower and upper case letters?

Yes...that preserved the lined sheets that I could use over and over by just writing on the tracing paper. In about a week to two weeks, i had made some pretty cool letters and sentences, it was an amazing improvement especially as I had zero knowledge on engraving, i think it also taught me we can achieve whatever we set our mind on.

How much time did you practice with pen and paper before you got the engraving system?

Several weeks since I didn't have the equipment for about 2 months.

 

What was the most difficult part of getting accustomed to the drill, making the letters on flat glass?

Practice on flat glass was easy....a bit more challenging on curved surfaces and irregular shaped bottles.

 

When did you begin incorporating your engraving on bottles in your gift baskets?

After about two weeks, someone asked if i could put a message on a Glenfiddich bottle, and I gave it a shot.  The customer was very happy, although my work was NOT as good as it is now!

 

What percentage of your gift baskets have your engraved wine and Champagne bottles?

About 35% of the gift baskets have personalized wine and Champagne bottles.  However, with the ''pine box'' I talked about earlier, about 95% of those have either engraved wine, Champagne, or perfume bottles.  Some even have personalized Champagne flutes.

 

Tell me about your first on-site event engraving in the public.

My first onsite engraving was fun. It was an evening event and people came to look at what i was doing; a lot of people were excited about it. I wasn't nervous or shy, Product team members for the company were all nice and supportive.

Who was your first event for?

Diageo brand (Johnnie Walker)

 

What is your fee for doing your live events in the stores?

$150 - $200 per hour, depending on the vendor hiring me.

 

How many fragrance events have you done and where were they?

Four events so far. They were all for the fragrance line, "Lancome.' Several customers bought single perfume bottles and some brought beverage bottles for engraving!

 

How many wine and spirits events have you done and where have they been?

Also 4 at this point. Each went really well. We also have clients who walk in to our business to have their bottles done there.

Now that you have the HoverCam, what would be your advice to new students wanting to learn online? 

Since Ken now requires the HoverCam to be a part of his online Workshops, it's not really a decision students have to make.  It's a requirement to assure the student gets immediate feedback during the teaching/learning process.

 

What caution or encouragement would you give anyone considering an online experience learning Calligraphy and doing it with the drill?

I would say they should go for it, and like most things in life, consistency in what you do always yields a better result. Practice as often as you can.

 

What next step would you like to learn to enhance what you’re currently doing with your new skill?

I have currently been working on just glass surfaces. I tried ceramic once. I would like to work on a lot of more different surfaces and add patterns and designs to my work.

 

Would you like to tell us anything else about you learning experience and quickly earning income from your new skill?

Yes, Ken and his wife Gail are a huge support system and awesome cheerleaders all through my journey. Also... learning engraving led to the birth of an independent company called ''Exterus Persona'', which simply means EXTREMELY PERSONAL. That part of my company is solely responsible for the engraving during events.  They handle everything about engraving and personalizing items. You can check out my works and progress on instagram @exteruspersonsa 

 

Learning engraving has also exposed me to working with various international brands and multi-nationals like Moet Hennessey, Remy Martin, Glenfiddich, Johnnie Walker, Lancome, Nescafe and several other brands.

 

Thank you Ethel.  You've been a great help in sharing your story about your learning the process of hand-engraving with a dental drill....ONLINE! 

Your success is admirable.  Good luck!