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A new way to market jewelry

Just thinking aloud again: What if artisans nationwide began a show
circuit that was kind of a co-op arrangement? Instead of
participating in the shows sponsored by non-artisan and commercial
groups, artisans would have more control and the public would know
they would see true artisans at the shows rather than "artists"
leaning toward crafting.

I have been to juried shows where the entry forms specified only
this and that and only the other would be allowed and then get to
the show and find that things were allowed that they said were
prohibited. Also, I have a really hard time finding enough indoor
fine arts festivals here in Texas. It would be great to have that
kind of venue to participate in.

J. S. Ellington

First and foremost where would you draw the line as to term ARTISAN
and at what point do you separate that term from CRAFTSMAN, is this
like some new gene pool manipulation gimmick The idea sounds
good but in reality, I believe that you are being rather
discriminatory, your phrase “artists leaning toward crafting”, then
also the thing about WHO is going to select and judge who is and is
not an ARTISAN. I do how ever agree whit the part about when you
have to sign a form specifically stating what will and will not be
allowed, and when the show starts up, they are there. Then you start
to see that main business for most of these show promoters is to
sell the floor space, I have been to shows that will ask the vendor
(read) ARTIST to remove the items or to just plain leave, for
violation of their contract. Unfortunately these promoters are fewer
than we as ARTISANS, ARTISTS and CRAFTS PEOPLE would like. Oh there
is one other thing that I wondered who? would determine and judge
what was art and what wasn’t?

Thank you, and now I’ll step down
Kenneth Ferrell


You may have hit the nail squarely on the head when you exclaimed
that the main business of the show promoter is to sell space. A
friend of mine recently participated in one of the largest shows in
the state of California and was accosted by the management for
having mass produced commercial goods in direct violation of the
shows’ bylaws. After a commitee meeting he was allowed to continue
selling his stock. At the end of the show it was announced that the
show was up for sale. While there is no suggestion that the demise
of the show was connected to its policies, it does suggest that
commercially produced shows might lack the independence that other
shows seem to have. ( Casting internal politics aside…) Ron at
Mills Gem, Los Osos, Ca.

There was a time, oh say a century or so ago, that it was easy to
tell the difference between an artist and a craftsperson. Artists
made purely non-utilitarian objects, craftspeople made functional
items, even if the function was only to be decorative. Then the
line began to blur; those traditionally seen as artists began to
find it less stigmatizing to create decorative work, and as industry
took over the role of the traditional craftsperson, craftspeople
started making work that was less functional and more artistic.

Today, just about anyone who brings some creativity and skill to
their work can call themselves an artist. We no longer require a
university, governmental entity, museum or patronage system to
anoint a person with the title “artist.” It has perhaps sullied the
term somewhat, but I prefer it.

In regard to art, I agree with the Supreme Court jurist, who
pronounced that even though he couldn’t define pornography he “knew
it when he saw it.” I think we all have seen work that we know in
our hearts is art, we don’t need someone to tell us that it is.
Equally, we have seen work foisted on us by museums that creates a
great deal of debate as to whether or not it is art.

The fact is that craft shows and galleries don’t necessarily look
for artists either. They are much more likely to choose people who
are professional and reliable in their field, and therefore a good
reflection on them, as they are to choose someone who is an
"artist." So, it is up to the individual viewing the work
themselves to decide whether or not a person is an artist. This is,
I think, probably one of the unique things that America has done in
the history of western art.

So, you can be an artist who is a craftsperson, or a craftsperson
who is an artist. But you could just as easily be a non-artistic
craftsperson, more akin to a tradesperson who exhibits no creativity
in their work, or an artist with little ability in their craft, such
as a designer who can design great work but has little or no ability
to make it. Perhaps in your post you mistake the word “artisan” for
"artist"? In the traditional sense of the word, an artisan is a
person who does work associated with art, but not the creative work
itself. An artisan, for example, would be the person in the foundry
who creates the rubber mold (a specialized technical job that may
require artistry to perform it and is crucial to the work but not
seen as a part of the creative process) of a sculpture that an
artist (who has little or no desire to learn this specialized task
apart from having enough knowledge to understand it’s impact on
their work) has created.


This is sort of in reply to Larry’s post, but it is directed to all
– whether you consider yourself an artist or craftsperson or not.
These terms are almost always self-inflicted. I know that it would
be wonderful to be proclaimed an artist by a museum, or a historian,
or even the jury of a craft show – but none of these things make it

It is only seems true by inner dialogue – “I believe my self to be
an artist (craftsperson)”, and so it is.

It is akin to being “a good person”. (I’m sure that the guy who
just confessed to killing 48 people considers himself to be “a good
person”.) It is an internally subjective choice that leans a lot on
the ego for support.

I have come to terms with this, and ceased to actually argue it,
because I’ve seen a lot of wasteful garbage in my life produced by
artists and craftspeople. Art is subjective, and being an artist is
subjective. Rather unfortunately now, being a craftsperson has
become subjective as well, since quality and durability disappeared
as societal hallmarks.

Without a judgemental guild system, or an equally restrictive
apprenticeship system, we have the freedom to proclaim “I am an
artist/craftsperson” without without skill, without acheivement,
without inspiration, without good reason.

Hence great art must speak for itself.

I totally agree with Larry on the question of what is an artist and
what is a craftsman. You did a great job of defining the issue. I
just attended the Santa Monica crafts show when I went to the
Southern California Orchid Dinner and the variety of work there
reflects all the categories mentioned. It seemed that all the work
there was hand-made, but it ranged from very common un-creative
crafts to very fine art. There were a few jewelry booths that had
work that looked very similar to what you could get at a mall jewelry
store, with maybe better craftsmanship in the making, and there was
jewelry that fit the category of very fine art. The same was
basically true for most of the other categories of art and crafts.


terri, whether we(artists) like it or not, all the alleged art that
people propose(make) has at least some of the characteristics below,

we have the freedom to proclaim "I am an artist/craftsperson"
without without skill, without acheivement, without inspiration,
without good reason. Hence great art must speak for itself. 

Who will it speak to?, a buyer that needs to show something off to
others, a wearer that feels a sense of fashion when it is worn, or
security!, is there any interest in art anymore by artists or non
artists in this money monger country(usa), other than buy sell
situations? As far as most jewelry goes,a cutesy design with a
"look", an “idea” behind it, the boring,"how do i put a bunch of
stones in with this metal, so it looks interesting to the consumer,
and do it over and over so there are different pieces to sell!! WWD
an Town and Country is full of them, stephen webster, tiffany
designers, bvlgari, robert lee morris, dweck, leighton, cartier and
let’s not forget the boredom of the yurman empire, pathetic, banal,
advertised to death, yecchk. And when you run out of ideas on how to
litter the surface with stones, then make the shanks out of stone
and compliment with more diamonds/set stones on that surface,
diamonds everywhere dahling, looks like little drops of glittery
water, ugh!, and give the collections, names like the azure, and
charge thousands and thousands, it is so rediculously out of hand,
funny they are all so obviously assembly line created, constructed
and cast, mostly findings with stones, made as cheaply as
possibly, no art intended.

No one cares about ornamental design anymore, for the sake of beauty
or art. Art you say, I’m not familiar with jeweler history, but
Gaudi, Van Gogh,Horta, Soutine, guimard… Art cannot be made with
the intention of selling, it can only be made with the intention of
creating and inventing. dp

    No one cares about ornamental design anymore, for the sake of
beauty or art. Art you say,,, I'm not familiar with jeweler
history,, but Gaudi, Van Gogh,,Horta, Soutine,, guimard... Art
cannot be made with the intention of selling,, it can only be made
with the intention of creating and inventing.  

This is the basis of my definition of the difference between an
artist and an artisan/craftsperson…the artist creates work to
present an interpretation of his/her experience and perception of
inner/outer reality with no thought of making money by his
activities…the artesan must always have an end-user in mind,and be
producing work that will appeal to that person in order to live by
his/her work…the artist either doesn’t need money (already
has enough) or doesn’t need money (which is generally a cause of pain
to his/her family, as they are forced to suffer voluntary/involuntary
poverty, or agree to work on the artist’s behalf to provide material
comfort), the artesan/craftsperson needs to work and create within
the economic sphere in order to earn a living for himself and
family. Steve Holden

I have got to retract alot of my last nasty post, after having
viewed the agta winners from past years, a few minutes ago, such
beauty, and so unusual!!! I’m looking in the wrong mags, i guess, dp

        No one cares about ornamental design anymore, for the sake
of beauty or art. Art you say,,, I'm not familiar with jeweler
history,, but Gaudi, Van Gogh,,Horta, Soutine,, guimard... Art
cannot be made with the intention of selling,, it can only be made
with the intention of creating and inventing. 

I’m a camera nut…aka photographer… Vabn Gogh did light…be
it Starry Night or flowers… Hits to the core…


It’s gotta hit me…move me

Otherwise, it’s just pretty stuff…

Gary W. Bourbonais
L’Hermite Aromatique

Interesting definitions. I must admit, though, that I am a bit
uncomfortable with broad statements that begin with “An artist
is…” or “An artist makes…”. Also, proclamations that state that
an artist makes work “with no thought of making money by his

The truth, as I see it, is that artists make work for a variety of
reasons-- maybe even including the generation of income. Perhaps
what an artist is most UNconcerned with is whether what he or she is
making would be called art or something else.

Just my 2 cents.
Andy Cooperman

The idea that art cannot be made with the intention of selling is
pure unadulterated BS ! I do not claim to be an artist but the ones
I know all want to eat and have a roof over their heads just like
any other person. This idea of the artist as being so focused on
their creations that they don’t give a damn about the rest of the
world or day to day realities of existence is a myth perpetuated by
people who do not see art as a valuable asset to society. They see
the artist as non-productive or possibly immoral (or both) and
therefore they must be crazy or somehow incapable of fitting in in a
way that would make them able to hold down a real job and be a
useful part of society.

Artists are just people that create for a living.

Jim James Binnion Metal Arts Phone (360) 756-6550 Toll Free (877) 408
7287 Fax (360) 756-2160 @James_Binnion
Member of the Better Business Bureau

what an artist is most Unconcerned with is whether what he or she
is making  would be called art or something else. 

Andy, I couldn’t agree more, just like I don’t give a hoot if I’m
called an Artist, a Craftsman an Artisan or a Metalsmith, just don’t
forget to sign the check Ken Ferrell

Sorry if I gave the impression that I don’t recognise the value of
art…nothing could be further from my intention.When I speak of
artists I mean people such as William Blake, Van Gogh, Rembrandt,
Renoir, D.H.Lawrence, Dylan Thomas, Picasso, Jackson Pollock, Dali,
Hemingway, Coleridge, Leonardo, Michaelangelo, Vonnegut, Brautigan,
Bernard Leach, John Updike, James Joyce,William MorrisI could go on.
If the artists of your acquaintance are of similar stature, then I
bow to your opinion…and to be defined as a Republic-style
Platonist is a new experience for me, since I’ve never had a “real
job” myself nor have I fitted into any version of “society” in any
"useful" way ;-)) In the end I don’t really care how people define
themselves. I simply have observed that many who regard themselves as
artists rather than craftsmen, are unable or unwilling to actually
earn their living by their work…either because they don’t want
money,or don’t need itmaybe the self-styled artists in Ibiza are
different, I dunno. So ultimately I suppose it comes down to the
difference between your experience of artists and
mine…p.s. I think your work is absolutely amazing… Steve

        No one cares about ornamental design anymore, for the sake
of beauty or art. Art you say,,, I'm not familiar with jeweler
history,, but Gaudi, Van Gogh,,Horta, Soutine,, guimard... Art
cannot be made with the intention of selling,, it can only be made
with the intention of creating and inventing. 

I missed who originally posted this message. At best, you are
misguided. Please name One famous, recognized and lauded artist who
never tried to sell any of his or her artwork in his or her
lifetime. It’s not possible.

Now, you are stating what you see as a moral “should”, when you say
that the intention of creating and inventing must be the overriding
purpose. (First, let me say that I agree with you, but…) Let’s
take for example a master artist like Lalique. You may not like
what he created, but it is art, even by your definition, given his
innovation. Historically speaking, he intended his work to be
saleable. (He created art with the intention of selling.)

If you cannot grasp the Lalique example, let us look at Van Gogh.
After deciding to be an artist (self-infllicted “title”), he created
many many works, and tried and tried to sell them, to no avail – no
one wanted them – save one sale during his lifetime equivalent to
about $40 USD. He created, trying to sell, and you can always study
his sad biographical if you doubt it. He was looking
for external validation and wished to be proclaimed an artist.
(Just in case you can’t tell, I like some of his work, but that
doesn’t mean he wasn’t trying to sell it.)

How about Gaudi? Are you actually trying to say that an architect
had no interest in selling his designs? (You don’t know many
architects, do you?..) Architecture doesn’t get built without
selling, and architects want to see their designs built – until
it’s realized, it’s just a dream.

Now another concern to me is your statement, “No one cares about
ornamental design anymore, for the sake of beauty or art.” I
suppose before disagreeing with this statement, I should consider
what you meant by ornamental design. Since the artists that you
later listed were not strictly ornamentalists (Lalique used mystical
symbolism and Van Gogh was an abstractor from reality, etc.), it’s
hard to even look at the statement fairly. If I disregard the other
sentences, and take your statement out of context, then I would have
to direct you to the magazine publication “Ornament”, as well as the
many many contemporary art and craft museums around the country, as
well as the hugely successful fashion and jewelry industries, etc.
Just because you don’t like the pieces, it doesn’t mean that it
isn’t beautiful or it isn’t art. It certainly is ornamental since
the primary purpose is decoration!

Since I missed your original post, obviously this entire rebuttal is
based on a paragraph taken out of context. I apologize if I have
mis-interpreted what you meant – I just have a problem with a
statement of misgoing out and possibly coloring what
others will say in the future.

Art is out there. There is no litmus test to assure it – no matter
how many people you think should agree with your own taste. There
is good art and bad art and everything in between. But if you
believe that innovation is the true measure of art, well, I’ve seen
some really gross and disgusting art…in museums…blech.

–Terri, who studied art for a really long time…

Hi Steve, I think if you look a little closer at the histories of
the artists you mention you will find most if not all were very
involved in creating work to sell. Whether they were successful or
not is a different story. A couple of them did probably suffer with
a form of mental illness and this did affect their behavior and to
some degree is the basis for the idea of the definition you used in
your post, but even Vincent Van Gogh wanted to sell his work. And
Dali was a shameless promoter of his work in a commercial vein.
Michelangelo and da Vinci were both paid to create many of their
greatest masterpieces as commissions.

 I simply have observed that many who regard themselves as artists
rather than craftsmen, are unable or unwilling to actually earn
their living by their work...either because they don't want
money,or don't need itmaybe the self-styled artists in Ibiza are

Well those that claim to be an artist and then use the definition
you put forward have a good excuse for not working but I don’t think
it has anything to do with their being an artist. Most of the
artists I have known are very driven people who work a great deal,
and more often than not are looking to sell their work to get money
to purchase new supplies. But again that is my experience with

btw thanks for your kind words about my work.

Jim James Binnion Metal Arts Phone (360) 756-6550 Toll Free (877) 408
7287 Fax (360) 756-2160 @James_Binnion
Member of the Better Business Bureau

Love the response Ken! If you haven’t clicked through to Ken’s
website ( ) you should do so, and read the comment in
red near the bottom. Does it qualify as a jeweler’s joke?

As a practicing artist for over 20 years who has fairly recently
added jewelry to her list of media used, I have to say that I LOVE it
when pieces sell, but I don’t make them because I KNOW they will
sell, I make them because something inside me insists they be made.
I do some preliminary sketches sometimes regardless of the media I am
using, but for the most part the materials I am using “tell” me what
they want me to do with them. I am perfectly aware that this sounds
really strange, and probably makes no sense at all to most people.
It is, however, how I work. Quite often I start thinking the print,
or painting, or handmade paper, or jewelry, is going to look and end
up a certain way…only to have it inform me as I proceed that I had
it all wrong, and that is not what it is going to do at all!!! When
I listen, I wind up happy with the end result. When I try to force
it to do what I had in mind, I wind up with trash. So over time I
have learned to listen!

That said, I am not anyone’s “typical” artist type. I live in a
small Southern town in the US, I am an overweight middle-aged mom who
is a Girl Scout leader and active in community affairs. I am an avid
gardener, and have been president of the local garden club. I work
with severly disabled and handicapped children (just finished a month
long residency with a special ed class in a school 1 1/2 hours from
where I live). I have homeschooled my dd. So I don’t fit any "mold"
for much of anything - never have!

Personally, most of the artists and craftspeople I know do a mixture
of work for themselves and work to sell. The main difference being
those who consider themselves craftspeople tend to have one or more
"lines" of work that they produce in multiples. Those who consider
themselves “artists” tend NOT to work in multiples or “lines”. This
includes jewelrs, painters, potters, printmakers, fabric artists,
photographers - I’m probably leaving someone out, but it seems to
cross the lines of media. The other difference is that you find
primarily “artists” teaching at the colleges and universities (the
teaching pays the bills leaving them free to create as they choose -
I have always thought that probably matters a lot!). The
"craftspeople" tend to have small studios and/or do lots of crafts
fairs to pay the bills. Quite possible more a matter of economics
than semantics.

Out of curiousity, how many on the list consider themselves to be
"artists", how many to be “craftsmen/women”, how many to be
"artisans" (that tends to be more a business term in my experience),
how many something else entirely?

Beth in SC

Beth; If I had to have someone put a label on me I think I would
prefer Artisan, Metalsmith doesn’t cover it because I work also do
most of my own lapidary work, and do some Dichroic as well. Artist, I
don’t know, that seems to truly a title reserved for the likes of
people like Picasso, Rembrandt, Faberge, and Harry Winston. Oh and
thanks for the plug on my site, not to cross threads but all
the pictures on the site were shot with my mega buck actually when
new 4 years ago 229.00 1 megapixel HP camera and my either my
Rubbermaid Cake server (kind of cloudy dome) $ 5.47 at Wal-Mart or
the milk jug diffuser both are very useful I do have closeup lenses
for it so I can focus down to about 1/2 inch,

Ken Ferrell

Those who consider themselves “artists” tend NOT to work in multiples
or “lines”.

There have been far better responses on this overall question than I
could ever make but this particular comment is a little weird given
that there are many recognized big name artists who did lithographs
and other types of numbered multiple reproductions and they were
still considered artists. I believe someone named Picasso was among

Daniel R. Spirer, GG Spirer Somes Jewelers 1794 Massachusetts Ave
Cambridge, MA 02140 617-491-6000 @spirersomes

I think that it’s very important to remember that in the field of
jewelry and metalsmithing craft is integral to the success of any
piece. In this case, I define “craft” as the making, or execution of
an object. A piece that is poorly crafted will never be as
successful in communicating a theme, idea, concept, commentary,
observation or formal investigation as one that is well made.

That being said, I’ve encountered many objects that were very well
made and thoughtfully designed. While I’ve certainly admired them,
I have found very little reason to return to these objects and
continue a dialogue or explore and investigate them more. (Unless
there is something overwhelmingly compelling in the very level of the
craftsmanship itself: a mystery of precision or the particular
perfection of a design element-- which borders, then, on drama.)

Conversely, I’ve seen conceptually driven, topically oriented or
thematically fueled work whose concept or intent stimulates me but
that is so poorly made the ideas behind the work are never
communicated lucidly. On pieces conceived around formal issues or
investigations of beauty this technical (craft)/ conceptual (art)
disconnect is of huge import.

But all this is really unimportant. Over the years I’ve read
letters in publications or posts on websites bemoaning the elitist
side of a variety of Art worlds (that’s Art with a capital “A”).
People obviously feel marginalized by what they may consider to be
the contrived quirkiness or obtuseness of the art school crowd.
Perhaps if the eternal and overwrought argument about art vs craft
were shelved for a few generations we could get on with things and be
happy. The problem, as I see it, is that we place art and craft on a
hierarchy, with craft somewhere below art.

If you have little interest in making objects that go beyond
conventional (classic) ideas of beauty or composition or wish to
explore only formal dynamics then revel in the fineness of what you
do. Please don’t heap on a bunch of retroactively generated themes
or meanings to work that is really about fine craftsmanship and
thoughtful design. (I am in no way discounting inspiration…) You
simply don’t need it.

And if you are driven to make work that is confrontative,
challenging or intellectually thematic then for Pete’s sake take some
time and make it well. We may be surprised, delighted and even
transformed by your particular insight, but we can’t understand what
you’re writing about if we can’t read your scrawl.

I realize that this has gotten far off the topic of the mass
produced schlock that is supposed to pass for “Art” at some venues.
But this argument is as old as the hills and keeps coming up. If you
feel somehow marginalized or judged by the “Art World” than either
stop reading “Art in America” (or whatever), make work that somehow
fits their mold or understand that what we call the objects we make
is of little significance: It is the making of it and the connection
that people make to it. I’ll close by again saying:

People who are driven to make things, for what ever reason, make
things. They make these things for a variety of reasons, but-- if
they are excited by what they do-- they don’t spend (waste) a lot of
time assigning a definition to what it is they are doing. It would
get in the way of the making.

Andy Cooperman