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When local artist Roberta Phil needed to fill a void after returning from the military, she found her passion in silversmithing

RAMONA MCCALLISTER - Roberta Phil is in her element, as she works at her bench on a texture plate for a customer.

Roberta Phil has always found pleasure and solace in arts and crafts, even as a young child.

Currently, she has a successful silversmithing tool business that she owns and operates out of her home. Phil is a mother of three, with two in grade school and one in middle school. As she talks about the evolution of her business, she juggles the daily operation of her household with ease—with the help of her husband.

Her husband, Jason, also helps with orders as well as her oldest daughter, Lillian. Her oldest has begun learning some basic silversmithing as well and demonstrates a great deal of her mother's talent.

Phil quickly pointed out that none of this has come easy. Growing up, school was a struggle at times, and the road to finding her passion was often windy.

Discovering her craft

After she graduated from high school, Phil joined the United States Army and served four years. When she transitioned from the military, she was having difficulty adjusting to civilian life. Phil found that beading was therapeutic, and it kept her hands busy.

"It basically progressed from there. I went from beading to working with wire, to 'how do I get the wire to stick?' As soon as I learned how to solder, that was it. I was hooked. I was so hooked; I didn't want to do anything else," she explained of the progression of her silversmithing.

"As I progressed, I found that some people were making their own tools. A vast majority of my business now comes from making tools for metal artists."

She added that she cannot make tools for people and not be able to make the jewelry, so that the customers maintain confidence in what she is doing.

"About five years ago, I finally cut the cord and started making my own tools. I started making metal stamps—they weren't very good, but everyone loved them, and everyone wanted them."

The start of her textured plate business

She quit the job she had been doing for two months, and her business took off as customers started to buy her tools. Approximately two to three years ago, one of her dedicated clients asked her to make a new, different kind of tool that was coming out of India.

"She wanted a local U.S. source; they didn't have one. I told her I would try, and six months later I finally came out with my first very first textured plate line. From there on out, it's basically a new kind of tool and it's taken off and people really seem to enjoy it. Ease of use and instant gratification for what it is they are trying to accomplish for multiple different designs," she explained of her first textured plates.

She noted that many of her customers also like that the product is from the United States. Phil has gone from a small business that helps sustain her household to being the main source of income. When asked about how many clients she has, she replied, "thousands." Phil sells to individual artists and some companies--worldwide.

"I ship all over the world, all over the United States. Not a single state has not been touched by my tools."

Phil remarked that she still makes jewelry, since that is her passion.

"Seeing the flash of solder flow when you are making something, and watching these pieces come together as you build the components—mostly by hand, you can use various tools. But you build these different components and you put them together, and when you get finished—for me it's just this massive amount of pride and love that I take in doing what I do. I find that it's easier for me to be able to segregate my work from my pleasure by making the jewelry for fun and making the tools for sale."

She emphasized that the two still go hand-in-hand, so her customers have confidence in her ability to know what she is doing. She also shares with other artists in her craft, and she indicated that they share back and forth and communicate what different tools and techniques work for them.

"Being involved in a community like this filled that massive hole that was left for me when I left the military."


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