So, my question to Orchid is is there a difference between an
artist and a bench worker? What is that difference? Is a craftsman
(craftswoman) a combination of the two? Can the two be combined?
Why are there no artists (that I know of) who come out of a
university setting who attempt pave' or set Princess stones? Is a
technique like pave' looked down on in academia? Is making and
setting a Tiffany mount really the pinnacle of jewelry success?
Sorry for the late reply, I’ve been busy.
Your questions opened up a medium sized cylinder of vermiculae. As
far as ‘what is crap’ work, I’d go with ‘work that could have been
better technically, but wasn’t, because the maker got lazy’. I’m a
whole lot more forgiving of someone who’s working right to the edge
of what they’re capable of, even if that isn’t much, than I am of
someone who could do better but can’t be bothered. Of course, there
are levels of expectation too. Even Faberge didn’t make every
piece as perfect as the Eggs. There was a show that came through
here 2-3 years ago of a wide range of Faberge work, and it was
greatly heartening to me to notice the screwups. Only someone else
who knew how the pieces were made would have spotted the repairs and
quick “change of plan!” marks, but it was a great relief to discover
that they were human too. Not every piece is an Imperial Egg.
For the rest (in no particular order)
Why no Pave? I think it’s out of fashion, or it was. The guys I
learned from in the US 20 years ago, some of them probably could
have done it, but it didn’t fit their style, so they didn’t do it.
Or teach it. So the current crop don’t know it, and can’t teach it.
(in the art schools) I spent a year in London, where I did learn
to do it, but I still don’t do it beyond once every few years just
to keep in practice. I don’t think there’s any ‘looking down’ at it
(at least from my point of view), but pave has a very distinctive
visual presence that doesn’t mesh well with other forms of
decoration. So for most of the art school folks, I’d say it’s lack
of training, but even if they had it (and I do) they still wouldn’t
do it, because its not the way their heads work, and it’s not what
they want to talk about with their jewelry. (generally.) It’s sort
of like answering the question: “Which is better? A battleship or an
apple?” To which the answer is “Better for whate” They answer two
totally different requirements. As does pave.
As far as the difference between artists and benchies, wow, that’ll
likely be loaded. I think my take on it comes from my time in
London: I studied with a bunch of very good technicians, but many
of them were so specialised that they had no sense of the greater
context of the pieces they were working on. The example that sticks
in my mind is my setting tutor (who kept a pave parrot on his desk
by way of a “That’s why I’m teaching the course!” ). I asked him
about a weird setting I was designing for a goblet I was working on.
I asked him if it would hold, and he said yes. I asked him how he’d
go about making it, and he replied “I dunno, ask a mounter, I just
set the things.” He could set anything under the sun, but had no
clue how the settings were made in the first place. That was my
experience with the Brits at the time: incredibly good technically,
but many of them couldn’t design their way out of a paper bag.
Fortunately, that seems to have changed a bit over the years.
Americans tend to be more generalists, which is good for design, but
not so good for technique.
To get back to the art/bench question, I think the artists are the
ones with the full, widefield vision of what they want to do, and
what they want to say. The craftsman is the guy who knows that while
the box catch may be 18KY, the leaf on the catch really wants to be
14K palladium white.
The distinction there is just a matter of viewpoint, so clearly it’s
possible to combine the two roles in one person, and to flip back &
forth between them depending on the needs of the moment, so long as
one has both sets of skills.
And that, of course, is the hard part.