Artists statement

I recently heard about someone who gives workshops on how to write
the artist’s statement, but it won’t be for a while.

Does anyone have any suggestions on this difficult task? My
artist’s statement is pretty lame.

Elaine Luther
Chicago area, Illinois, USA
Certified PMC Instructor

Elaine try checking around some of your local arts notprofits.
Galleries etc and see if someone doesn’t have a class scheduled or
know of someone who will assist you. Artists are usually very helpful
to each other and willing to share expertise In my experience. Frank

Does anyone have any suggestions on this difficult task? 

Hi Elaine, Here’s a link from the National Association of Independent
Artists Web site:

You might find some other useful on the site if you dig
around a little!

All the best,
Dave Sebaste
Sebaste Studio and
Carolina Artisans’ Gallery
Charlotte, NC (USA)

Hi Elaine, Writing an artist’s statement, I feel, is important on
several levels. Certainly the pieces that you make should be strong
enough to stand on their own, sans text, but a good statement opens
another dimension into what you do and the processes that you employ.
Such a statement gives more such as subtext or
specifics relating to content or source material, to those who are
interested in your work.

More importantly, perhaps, writing a statement allows you to clarify
just what it is that you are doing; to hone in on your inspiration
and refocus on what is important to you. You need not show it to any
one. I rework my statement every 3 months or so, making notes
whenever I have a moment of clarity or insight.

That being said, there are some things to avoid when writing a
statement. I always shudder when I read the words “celebrate”,
“nature” and to some “organic” and “fascinate”.

It’s not that there’s anything wrong with being inspired by nature
or fascinated with organic forms-- my work certainly is and I am.
But these words, I believe, can be sloppy and blunt. It is
better-- for both a personal statement and one targeted to the –
to be specific and spend some time figuring out just what it is about
the natural world or organic forms that makes you want to expend the
effort it takes to “celebrate” them by manifesting them as
sculpture, jewelry or two dimensional work.

The devil’s in the details, and the more you understand what it is
that drives you to do what you do, the clearer your vision will be,
the cleaner your writing and the better your artwork.

Hope this helps, Andy Cooperman

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an artist’s statement is like a personal essay, focussed on the body
of work being presented…how does the art relate to you? you to it?
where did you get your ideas? be forward, frank, and dare to be funky!

You can read artist statements from various jewelry designers at the
Taboo Studio web site.

Steve Brixner

That being said, there are some things to avoid when writing a
statement.  I always shudder when I read the words "celebrate",
"nature" and to some degree "organic" and "fascinate". 

Hi Andy,

After reading your comments on artist’s statements, I couldn’t help
but think about mine with the words organic and nature in the
same sentence! I think I’ve also used fascinate somewhere on the
Internet, but I definitely draw the line at celebrate …hah…

For years I was a bench jeweler toiling away in the trenches of
retail stores. I figured that if the work had to be propped up with
some kind of hyperbole, then there was a good chance it probably
wasn’t the type of jewelry that I could relate to. But as I’ve gotten
older, I’m more open to the work of jewelry artistes. I might even
loosely define myself as one, now :slight_smile:

In transitioning to CAD jewelry, I’ve felt that I needed to explain
my “process” (another word that sort of makes me cringe). It’s just
that there seems to be a certain amount of bias against CAD jewelry.
In my artist’s statement, I basically wanted to convey the idea that
CAD jewelry doesn’t have to look cold, blocky and lifeless.

When I’m creatively inspired, I don’t deal with it on the lower
level of the intellect. It just flows…Honestly defining creative
inspiration in tangible terms can be like trying to describe your
understanding of God. Words diminish the awesomeness of that which
you attempt to define. It’s more accurate to say what it isn’t than
what it is. Kabalistic thought refers to infinite nothingness
(no-thing-ness). Buddhism has similar concepts.

My current artist’s statement on my web page may be a bit clich=E9d,
but I needed to have something. I guess an artist statement is just
part of the game, more or less, high-flautin’ marketing and

I’ve admired your work over the years, so I’d like your opinion of
computer generated design in the art jewelry world. The work coming
out of art schools is interesting, some of it beautiful, but it a lot
of it seems to be in the realm of abstract sculpture rather than art
jewelry. But then, I might be limiting it’s definition to the
parameters of traditional jewelry forms.

On the other hand, CAD jewelry technique for commercial purposes
must conform to certain industry standards. It requires an aesthetic
eye combined with a technical and structural knowledge that can be
best executed by an experienced hands-on jeweler. I don’t know if an
arts institution would ever give a grant to a working-class
craftsperson, even if he or she were capable of producing jewelry
with artistic value. I’m not saying my work is on that level, but
since it seems highly unlikely to ever get a subsidy to cross over
into the art jewelry market, I design for manufacturers and other
jewelers. I like what I do, but I think a lot of us have dreams of
being acknowledged as a “certified” jewelry artist!

Jesse Kaufman
CAD-CAM Technology
Handcrafted Originality

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When I write profiles, the standard questions I start with are often
the same as you’ll try to answer with an artist’s statement… what
inspires you, what do you try to express through your art, etc. The
key is to go beyond the easy answer: Not just, “I’m inspired by
nature,” but the journalist’s Who, What, When, Where? Why? How? …
Who taught you to appreciate it? What is it about nature that
inspires you… the symmetry, the aesthetic beauty, the sense of
communing with God, what? When do you encounter Nature? Where? Why do
you go there, and why does it inspire you? How do you translate it
into your art?

One of my favorite interviews was with an artist who expressed her
frustration with not being able to give me a nice pat answer to the
"what inspires you" question. As we talked further, though, I
discovered she worked in a very tactile way, and her inspiration was
less visual, and therefore easily defined, and was more from the feel
of the metal in her hand and the way it took shape. Listening to her
describe how she worked, I knew I had hit on a wonderful statement
about the artist’s inspiration, one that she didn’t realize existed.

My idea if you’re struggling with a written artist’s statement would
be to draft a friend, preferably one interested in what you do but
not necessarily deeply knowledgeable about jewelry making technique,
and ask him/her to play “reporter.” Put some of your favorite pieces
on the table and let her/him ask questions about how they were made,
why you chose this stone or that pattern, where you learned to do
such and such, etc. DON’T stick to a pre-written list of questions,
though. This should be a conversation, and should range as far
afield as it wants to. Starting questions are helpful to get the
conversation going, (or get it going again when it stalls) but the
best interviews are those that go WAY beyond the anticipated
questions (and answers!) Don’t worry about giving the "right"
answers… just try and talk about your work and why you love it.

Tape the conversation, and then listen to your answers later. Listen
for “sound bites” that perfectly describe what you’re trying to do,
and write them down. You may want to listen a couple of times, just
to pick up the points that are obviously most important to you AND
most interesting to your friend.

Many visual artists are a bit uncomfortable expressing themselves in
writing. (And there’s no reason to feel bad about that: you should
see me “express myself” in the visual arts ) Writing can feel
foreign and awkward to a creative person who, when handed metal or
clay, simply FEELS the creativity flow. If that describes you, verbal
conversation with a friend may get the descriptions and explanations
flowing in unexpected ways. The feedback and questions from your
friend can also take the conversation in new directions, and offer a
rich source of material. You may or may not “quote” yourself
directly, but it can get you thinking in new ways about what
you can share with the viewers of your art.

Oh, and just one additional side note: I’m with Andy on the
"organic" “nature” etc. terminology. I’d like to add “inspired” to
the list, at least when it’s not described further. For example,
“Mary Smith is inspired by the stars and the Cosmos.” Yeah, aren’t
we all. Better: “Mary Smith draws on her nightly ritual of star
gazing to create jewelry that expresses the limitless possibilities
of the night sky.” I’m still not sure what the jewelry might look
like :-), but there’s concrete activity that gives me a sense of HOW
the artist creates – she goes out every night and looks at the sky.
BTW, the more unusual the activity, the better. Frankly, I’m
fascinated by artists who say they look at medical journals or
engineering texts to find inspiration, versus those who sit on the
beach or take nature walks. But no matter what you do, the more
concrete the image you paint with your words, the better it will stay
with the reader, and the more he/she will understand the source of
your, well, inspiration. :slight_smile:


Suzanne Wade
Phone: (508) 339-7366
Fax: (928) 563-8255

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I can personally live with “organic” and “nature,” as these both
refer to legitimate sources of inspiration for design. I also plead
guilty to using the word “fascinated” in my artist’s statement (soon
to be published on my up and coming commercial website.) What makes
me wince is the attribution of one’s artistic sensibility to an
astrological sign, as in " I am a Libra and this is reflected in the
balance and harmony of my designs." I have seen this kind of pap
several times over the years in the LJ.

Lee Einer

hey guys:

chiming in late on this one. when writing my bio or artist statement
I stay away from words like: ORGANIC, SCULTURAL,WHIMISICAL… and so
forth because these words are used so much that they almost lost
their meaning. I think its extremely important to paint an accurate
picture of your work in words. Really convey what makes your work
standout from the crowd and over used words like the ones mention
does not help you stand out. What is it about your work that is
organic? Find a more specific way to explain that…

PR 101 for Jewelry Desigenrs

Lee, A very legitimate goldsmithing course I took in Los Angeles
began by the instructor asking us to complete index cards with the
usual and to also include our astrological sign. He
explained it allowed him to better understand the student. I certainly
attribute my life style to my Gemini birth, I am a born vagabond and
love it. Teresa

      I never could understand why I had to have a statement ...
an explanation a reason for being for my art. I never had a reason
for doing what I did. I just created. 

Hear, hear! I had the same reaction when I had to prepare artist’s
statements for pieces in my first juried show. I looked at a few
statements others had made, and thought most of them were a lot of
pretentious drivel, (unlike the fine pieces that they were
describing) But hey, when in Rome so instead of saying “the setting
for this stone evolved as the result of a happy accident with a
torch” I wrote something like" the slumped and textured metal
embraces the irregular stone in a harmonious melding of two
dissimilar elements, creating an illusion of balance " What a crock!
It is my belief that the only pieces that need an explanation are the
ones we look at and say “What IS that?” The rest are largely
self-explanatory . Just my 2 cents Dee

Much thanks Suzanne Wade for your generous post on writing artist’s
statements! I love your insight on how 3-d creative types often have
a hard time expressing themselves with words on paper. I your idea of
getting a friend to help with an interview is brilliant. There are two
writing books that have helped me immensely with writing, other
creative endeavors and life in general: Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
(ISBN 0-385-48001-6) and Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg
(ISBN 0-87773-375-9). A valuable insight from these books is that
writers and artists almost always start out with really crummy rough
drafts or rough sketches. Instead of censoring and questioning every
word we put down (or every design decision we make) work freely and
banish any limiting thoughts or criticism. One books says to 'puke’
on the page- stream of conscious- dumping every thought on the page.
Now it’s time to read through this rant you just put down and pick
out the good bits. Start playing with them- expounding on them and
rearranging. Play, play play… When your tiring of this or feeling
done with it take a break. When you get back take a look at what
you’ve written without emotional attachment and with an editors
eye/ear. Look for phrases that sound trite, redundant, choppy or
long. Often we need to pare down what we’ve written to make it have
more impact. It also helps to read what you have written out loud. HTH
Kate Wolf in Portland, Maine hosting quality workshops by the bay

There are a few reasons that a person might write an artists
statement. It might be one of the requirements for submission to a
juried exhibition or a competition, to include one with your entry
materials. Or, it might be for the benefit of the venue representing
the artist’s work, to give the audience some insight into what the
person behind the work has to say about it.

It is a good creative exercise to write an artists statement, and it
is also an opportunity for the artist to express their feelings
about their work in their own words. For those who haven’t done it
before, just think about how you would respond to someone who asked
what you do, and why.

The following suggestions might be helpful: try to write it with 100
words or less, that way it won’t become too rambling or abstract.
Write with short, clear sentences and a modicum of adjectives. It
doesn’t need to be too philosophical or over loaded with artistic
vernacular. Describe what you do, if there is a particular technique
or material you use that makes your work unusual or unique, be sure
to mention it. It is fine to reference how you feel about your work
and what inspires you to create it, but keep it relevant to the work
itself. It isn’t a biography after all, its just a paragraph (or
two) making a statement about your work. The work itself should be
making the artistic statement.

Michael David Sturlin, jewelry artist

480.941.4105 Scottsdale, AZ USA

 A valuable insight from these books is that writers and artists
almost always start out with really crummy rough drafts or rough

Oh, the garbage I’ve written… But this brings up another very
good point: the value of an editor. Once you’ve beaten your work into
a shape that doesn’t embarrass you, ask someone else to read it.
(Preferably someone with a strong grasp of grammar and spelling!)
Even professional writers benefit from having an editor go over their
work. When you’ve spent hours trying to get it just so, you stop
seeing some of the obvious errors. A fresh set of eyes will spot
those mistakes and help give it that last bit of polish – and
occasionally, keep you from looking like an idiot.

Suzanne – who has frequently been saved from looking like an idiot
by her editors

Suzanne Wade
Phone: (508) 339-7366
Fax: (928) 563-8255