First Trade Show? (long)

Hello group, I know everyone says it here all the time, but… I love
this forum. As I may have said here before, I am a microstructure
machinist by day, and aspiring part-time jewelry designer/fabricator
by night. Having watched my Germany-trained goldsmith friend doing
intricate work that requires skills, talent, patience, and dexterity
I simply do not possess, I am choosing to stick to my field and
machine my creations. I also seem to like the techie/modern look
often conducive to this form of fabrication. So… I have a few good
ideas for some designs (mainly functional). But… having built a
few rings that are “near” successes,I’m realizing I have not yet
acquired the “something special” necessary for the true
beauty/functionality mixture necessary in a great design.

Digressing- I have been going to the desert gathering known as
Burning Man for several years now. There, among many things, one
finds a vast supply of creative thinking and art exploration.
Thousands of truly amazing ideas that my brain would not have
thought up. When they are executed well, they are things not
forgotten. But… often someone builds something nice, then the wind
and/or dust and/or rain comes and topples it in a pile back on
earth. This place being my first large exposure to “artists” (while
I work in a world of engineers), started me wondering if it was a
rare mix for a person to possess both artistic creativity and
practical creativity.

Back to my point- I’m thinking that is my interest in this field of
jewelry (and forgive me if this starts to sound sappy). Here, in its
most successful cases, is the synergy of form and function. It is
something beautiful- but it can’t break, can’t cut or strangle you,
must not be too heavy or light, too expensive or cheap, small or
large. It is an engineering/art project. What fun!

But… I never took an art class. So, I’m wanting to get a crash
course, all the while learning more about the industry and meeting
some of its people. I want to go to a trade show. So… (thought I
would not get to my point), I ask those of you with opinions on the
matter, which one of these shows- Tucson, N.Y., Europe, other, would
you recommend to see the latest greatest and learn about “style” and
"design? Tucson seems very gem oriented (not yet my main interest).
Is there enough metal there to keep me interested? N.Y seems as
though I’d have to forge my way in. And Europe??? I’d appreciate any
wisdom on the matter. Thanks, Jeffrey McWhinney

Jeffery, Offering your goods for sale will give you more feedback
than you could ever imagine. Listen to the shoppers. What they say,
buy, and put back will leave you with a wealth of observations. I
have learned more about functionality, design, and art by being a
dealer than I ever learned in a classroom.

A jewelry show would give you a much broader look at what is going
on. MJSA or JCK are the two that come to my mind. Be advised that
dealers at these shows are there to sell. These dealers are
manufacturers and will not spend a lot of time talking to a casual
observer. Another way is to subscribe to the JCK Magazine. They have
a lot of very good pictures from many different manufacturers.

Gerry Galarneau
G+LW Booth 111 Feb 1-14, 2003

Hi, Jeffrey, Maybe I shouldn’t answer, since the only “trade” shows
I’ve been to are the International Gem and Jewelry shows, but my
advice would be to go to any top-flight retail shows you can get to,
from local shows to ones like Smithsonian and Philadelphis Art
Museum, ACC, SOFA, etc, and to subscribe to Metalsmith, Ornament,
Lapidary Journal, AJM, etc, and study the pictures. I also love the
engineering in jewelry. I’m not an engineer, but my father was, and
the genes are definately there. I love creative problem solving. I
was a potter for 25 years or so before I became a jeweler. Early in
my career, at a workshop, a student asked how you find your own
style. The teacher replied, “You just have to get your hands on
enough clay.” I think this was sage advice. Keep working, working,
it will take care of itself. Good luck! --Noel


If you want to learn more about the industry and the people, just
stay plugged in to Orchid. Ask whatever questions you have, you’ll
get a good representation here.

As to a trade show…I have never been to the JCK show in Vegas show
but I know most of the manufactureres who go to NY go to Vegas.
Don’t think there is really much difference other than location. Be
prepared to meet some resistance getting into any trade show if you
don’t have an actual retail location. Most of the trade shows try
to keep out people who are just there to ogle at designs. Though
there are many people who are innocently admiring great work there
are just as many people who use trade shows as a way to rip off
designs for commercial profit.

I think I would figure out how much a trip to Europe, NY or anywhere
else would be and use that money to subscribe to some good trade
magazines (JCK, JQ or Professional Jeweler). Go to Borders or
Barnes and Noble or an independent news stand and pick up some
international design magazines. Pick up a Town and Country magazine
every now and then. And don’t forget about the artsier magazines
like American Craft or Metalsmith.

Keep in mind that for artists the money is in innovation, not
trends. Get into a trend and eventually it fades and you have to
move to another trend. Find your own unique product and get it to
market, either by making and selling it yourself or through


Hi Jeffrey,

I would recommend some great magazines to get started. One of my
favorites is Architectural Digest. This is great for ideas in design
even though not jewelry oriented.There are also art and American
Craft magazines located at Barnes and Noble There are also some
jewelery trade magazines out that are inspirational, such as
International Jeweler (distributed by Europa Star) Many other trade
magazines include Professional Jeweler , JCK, and Modern Jeweler, and
National Jeweler. There is also a magazine called Niche and American
Crafts. The latter two might be available in the bookstore and
include jewelery as well as other design media. In addition, there
have been jewelry books recommended from Orchid members which can be
found searching through the archives. Another beautiful, one of the
most inspirational jewelery magazines I have seen is Metalsmith.
Their website can be very helpful

One of my favorite shows for design is the ACC crafts show which is
in Baltimore, MD in February. This show has three wholesale days,
then following some retail days. This is a juried show and the
designers there are unbelievable, in not just jewelry, but metalwork,
furniture, ceramics and other venues. The wholesale days are only
for retailers and not all vendors stay for the retail days. Some new
ones come in for retail.

The jewelry trade show I suggest is the JA show which is in New York
twice a year. This show has a designer section upstairs. It is a
smaller high end show and less overwhelming show than the JCK show in
Las Vegas.

There are also some great upscale juried craft shows in New York with
excellent designers as vendors. One of them being the Park Ave.
show. These shows are advertised in the New York Times as they come
around. This is open to the public.

In addition, I think that FIT and Pratt, two design schools in NYC
have shows from their students. They both have Exhibitions. To see
websites go to and

Best Wishes,

Diane Sadel

No one mentioned the SNAG annual conference. This year it’s in San
Francisco. Following years are in more affordable locations:

2004, St. Petersburg, Florida
2005, Cleveland, Ohio
2006, Chicago, Illinois
2007, Memphis, Tennessee

You can find out more here:

I always leave the conference feeling inspired and energized.

Jeffrey, have you found ArtMetal yet? Check out

Christine in Littleton, Massachusetts, who wants you to know that no
one deserves lung cancer.