Although I know that starting the New Year isn’t really a clean slate, it always feels like one, and it’s a good time to set goals and plan for a productive year.
As a manufacturer of jewelry, you should have two overarching goals: ensuring you’re getting the creative stimuli you need to keep the ideas coming and, just as important, trying to get out before potential clients. In this blog and in the next, I’ll suggest ways of doing that for the New Year. First, your needs.
A very well-known studio jeweler once told me that “we all borrow ideas from each other.” In no way was she suggesting that jewelers plagiarize work. What she meant was that new techniques can appear and reappear and artists often incorporate those techniques into their work in different ways. In this case, she was talking about fusing different metals together which many artists are doing to save on money and to achieve different visual effects. More generally, she meant that artists learn from each other.
The remark gets to the point of this column: you must ensure you keep a steady flow of visual input coming your way. And, equally important, be sure that most if not all of that input is from artists who are at the top of their game. It doesn’t do you any good to look at work that is sloppy and/or poorly conceived. You’ve got to look at work that challenges and inspires you; work that has the “wow” factor.
Here are ways I stay interested and challenged:
- Magazine subscriptions – If I were to discontinue all my subscriptions, save one, I’d keep “Ornament” magazine. Devoted to wearable art, including jewelry, the magazine covers the best of contemporary work, but also looks back at ancient and ethnic work, including beads. The magazine itself is beautifully executed with stunning photographs. It will challenge, inspire and teach you.
- Museum shows – Many museums have caught on to craft, including wearable art, as worthy of notice. Here in Houston, the Center for Contemporary Craft was founded some years ago. In addition, the Art Museum of Houston bought the Helen Drutt collection five or six years ago. (Helen Drutt was a pioneer in recognizing the beauty and value of post-WWII studio jewelry.) Check exhibition schedules in your area and put them in your tickler file. Don’t neglect shows that may seem off-point such as gold of Roman or Greece-type shows. Those designs are more relevant than you might think. Also, if you’re planning trips outside your area this year, be sure to check museum shows in those locales and try to schedule trips to catch those that might be of interest.
- Trade Shows – Trade show promoters publish dates of shows at least a year ahead of time. Check their schedules. If you live in a big city, one or more of them are likely to have a show during the calendar year. Some of the biggest are the International Gem and Jewelry show and G&LW (Gem and Lapidary Wholesalers.) If possible, go out to Tucson for the big gem and jewelry at the end of January and beginning of February. Dealers from around the world come and it’s a terrific place to discover new gem finds and new trends in handling them. Best if you have your wholesale license, however, many of the shows are open to the public.
- Craft Shows – Unfortunately there are fewer of these. The best are SOFA, American Craft Show and the American Made Show by the Rosen Group. The Philadelphia Craft Show is good and I hear Art Basel in Miami Beach is fabulous although I haven’t been. Here is a link to a list of shows, however, be sure to also google your area, I don’t think this list is complete.
- Books – Lark Crafts does a good job covering the jewelry making scene with books. Be sure to browse their website, you may discover something you can’t live without. Books, especially art books, are expensive, so don’t neglect the possibilities of local second hand book stores.
The point of all this is to nurture and nourish your imagination. Frankly, it’s critical for your well-being as an artist and jewelry manufacturer.