Lapidary Journal Article-Hot Topic

Dear Orchidians, Please help me understand. The last part of a three
part article in Lapidary Journal, December '02 on casting concludes,
and each time I look at the piece that represents what is being
created, I wonder how could someone “design” something that would be
a better example of a complete lack of design. I understand that
beauty is subjective…? Nowhere in any book on the history of
jewelry, Art Deco, Art Nouveau, Etruscan, Egyptian, ect., can I find
a piece that would or could be an inspiration for that piece.

There are critics for art, books, movies. Where and when does anyone
dare to be critical about poor design or poor craftmanship of
jewelry? My understanding is that in Europe, if you were in a
jewelry program, you could be sent to melt your piece and start over
if it does not meet the approval of the teacher for design. I am at
a loss to understand why a magazine that has such incredible artists
such as Carrie Adell, Judith Kinghorn, Jeff and Susan Wise, Andy
Cooperman, Todd Reed, Michael Boyd, and Harold O’Connor to name a
few of the metal artists, not to mention the exquisite work in
platium and gold that grace the pages of that magazine, can show work
like that. In my not so humble opinion, that design depreciates the
intrinsic value of the materials used. Can anyone who has a retail
store show work like that, and have any expectation of selling it?
It would not sell in my store. I truely am concerned if this is a
representation of what someone hopes a “newbie” can aspire to.
Scares me if this is an example of what someone wants to see more of.
This is an answer to the question of why there is no apprenticeships
in the U.S. People can produce work like that, and there is no
standard that we are held to for design. Just get by on technique no
matter how poorly executed. So, someone please present something I
can grasp about the value I am not perceiving. Thanks in advance,
Richard in Denver

Dear Richard in Denver: I agree with you about the design of the
object, but was reluctant to be the first to say so! With all due
respect to the designer and the people who selected it,in my eyes it
is a rather unattractive piece of jewelry. Although design is
relatively subjective, there is usually a consensus about what
constitutes good form in both two and three dimensional art. I have
seen many pieces at Juried Craft Fairs that display excellent
craftsmanship and beautiful gems, but look (to me) like the gems
were thrown at the gold with little attention to the form of the
entire piece. I think most of us are reluctant to critique another
artist’s work unless asked to do so–and even then, tread carefully
for fear of hurting feelings, or of appearing really stupid if
everyone else says they like it. I think this is a valuable
discussion, and hope we hear more from our colleagues. I also would
hope that we can discuss this honestly without,in fact, offending
Sandra in New York

Well Richard. The design in an article on casting in the December
"02 really set you off into a vitriolic tirade against one of the
pieces displayed. You state, “Please help me understand.” I’d
like to, but the problem is that in the December 2002 Lapidary
Journal there are two articles on casting. On page 41, the
article is part IV of a continuing series, on Page 64, the article
is part II, of a continuing series. According to your email, the
article that you refer to is “the last part of a three part article
in Lapidary Journal,” which would make it Part 111. I’d like to
discuss this further with you, and perhaps help you understand the
aesthetics of the piece in question, but, It is difficult to
ascertain just which design offends you. Therefore, it is not easy
to respond to your cry for help. Before you begin to so
thoroughly lacerate an artist for their creation on the basis that
it does not fit into any given criteria of design, you should at
least make certain that your references are correct so that
we will be talking about the same item. Alma

Richard, Perhaps the author wanted to focus on the technique…not
the thing itself. Take the technique and add your own good design.


Lapidary Journal, December '02 on casting concludes, and each time
I look at the piece that represents what is being created, I wonder
how could someone "design" something that would be a better example
of a complete lack of design. 

Hi Richard, I had a very similar reaction, I think it was a year ago,
to a project in Lapidary Journal’s Step-by-Step section. The S-b-S
editor, who admits she is just now learning about jewelry (how did
she get the job?), made a star shaped Christmas bauble by wrapping
silver wire haphazardly around some form, and randomly threw some red
and green beads on it. Truly ghastly. I wanted to write Merle White
(the LJ Editor) and ask, “What the h***?!?”

I privately wrote to an Orchid member, who has written for LJ in the
past, and asked her reaction. She hadn’t seen it yet but promised to
get back to me. Her reaction was like mine, but in conversation I
decided, “Different strokes for different folks.”

Bearing in mind that LJ is geared more toward the hobbyist/amateur
(certainly no disrespect intended) than the professional, it could
be argued that the presentation of the techniques is more important
than the specific design. In essence, learn these skills and apply
them how you would, to your own designs.

I don’t think the project is being presented as an example of how to
design a piece to be cast, but to expose the reader to a series of
techniques they might add to their repertoire of wax working skills.
Sure a Spectrum award winning design would be nice, but would it
present the series of different techniques exposed in this project?

Maybe you could write a Step-by-Step article about good design
practices and techniques to counter the influence of those less

As a side note, LJ sure is getting much thinner these days, but
through the ups and downs, I still look forward to the arrival of
each month’s issue.

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

I can’t see the beauty in it either Richard, but as you (and they)
say, “beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” So I don’t question
it. It looks to me like a sick jellyfish! Ha! Tom

 Can anyone who has a retail store show work like that, and have
any expectation of selling it? 

Richard, the answer is yes. I don’t under stand it, I don’t
necessary like it, but there is a niche.

The pure artist will look at a work based on it’s perceived (by that
viewer) artistic value. The technician will look at it based on the
skills required to make it. The businessman will look at on a “Can I
sell it basis?”

So, who is right. The answer is all of them. Few of us can afford
to sell just what we like. Therefore, to survive, we must sell what
will sell.

To sell only what we like, we must cultivate a customer base of
people who like what we sell, or change what we like to sell,

The technician’s view of the quality of work and unique approaches
used to make the work don’t necessarily fit into either of the above
categories. But for a gifted technician, it is more important to
them than either the artist view or the businessman’s view. It has
nothing to do with marketability, but technique.

The Artist’s view is based on what they like. Boy, what a spread
there is here.

The business view is what is the bottom line, can I turn it quickly,
can I make a profit? If it gags me , so what as long as I make
money on it.

So, who is right? Depends on your point of view.

Don (a mix of types, I hope)

I subscribe to Lapidary Journal because it’s one of the few places
where I can find current “how-to-do-it” articles (in their “Step By
Step” section). I get ideas that save me time, money, and open up
whole new areas of jewelrymaking for my consideration. I do not
subscribe in order to look for great designing.

Anyhow, it’s good to look back at LJ 10 years or more and see how
much the designs (and layout, etc.) have actually improved a great
deal. In addition, LJ has at least two foci – one on lapidarists,
who think too much of the magazine is dedicated to metalworking, and
the other on jewelrymakers, many of whom are less interested in how
to facet gems. Then there is the amateur vs. the professional. LJ is
always walking these (and other) tightropes.

Some of the designs which professionals fabricate are discouraging
to amateurs because the design’s complexity implies that the field is
too difficult for the amateur. This is not true. In addition, as
someone else has said, "different strokes for different folks."
Someone out there will buy, love, wear, and look terrific in that
casting on p. 64. It’s not quite my thing, but neither are a lot of
the award-winning designs that professionals do. We are all
different, which is what makes life (and jewelrymaking) so much fun.

Happy Holidays, Judy Bjorkman

Richard -

You started out by asking for help to understand what could be the
justification for the poor design of Sara Sanford’s piece. You felt
that even a piece intended as an example that would present casting
challenges for the student/reader should also be a thing of beauty.
Just for the record, I agree. The only reply to your plea for
understanding is that LJ is willing to settle for less than what we
want from their staff. The ultimate “critic” we’re missing here,
has to be the editor of the magazine.

Yes, LJ is a “hobbyist” level magazine, but hobbyists more than any
other kind of producers of jewelry need to learn to distinguish the
difference between well designed creations and “other.” That piece
is a fine example to show how to cast an oddly shaped piece, but LJ
missed an opportunity to do their part in encouraging good design by
using it.

From the California foothills, where it looks like a White
Christmas. Charleen Tyson Weigel @Charleen_Tyson_Weige

OK, here we go again. My 2c!

First, I would like to agree with the member who reminded us that
liking or not liking a design is a very subjective process. That is
why ‘fine’ jewelry and ‘art’ jewelry normally appeal to quite
different groups. We can even be philosophical about it …sort of
like the ancient Chinese question of “how can a white horse be white
and a horse at the same time?” You know, “how can a piece of jewelry
be ugly or beautiful and still be jewelry?” I say, lets not even go
there. The Chinese wrote thousands of pages on the former question
and never did resolve it. Instead let us direct our attention to the
two related questions of ‘design’ and ‘engineering’. I believe many
designers simply design …giving little or no thought to how the
piece must be made to achieve whatever concept they render. This
often causes a disconnect between what the design artist had in mind
as a finished product, either because the maker could not adequately
engineer it’s intricacies or components as seen by the designer or
the design just would not come together in reality. Balance may be
lost, symetry over stated or not achieved, and other effects lost
because of lack of contrasts, differences in sizes, etc, etc. I
don’t know about you, but I have a nice collection of ‘designs lost’,
items I conceived and began but never quite finished.

The bottom line is…while I did not fall in love with the LJ
project from a design aspect…in my mind it did make an interesting
statement and is a nice little piece to engineer…whether amateur OR
professional (and Sara is a professional). On that issue alone it
performed a useful function, something not all designs do.

Besides folks…it really ain’t that bad is it? Come on now,
haven’t you experiemented a bit with the avant garde? Where is your
sense of adventure? Where would we be if some of our greatest musical
composers did not experiment? What if they gave up or returned to
the mundane when one of their now greatest pieces fell flat to the
ears of a 17th century audience?

The LJ editors did not miss an opportunity! I bet a lot of their
readers DID enjoy (if not love) the piece and perhaps are already
toying with the basic design to cast it into their own image.

Cheers from Don at The Charles Belle Studio in SOFL where simple
elegance IS fine jewelry! @coralnut1

We have seen Lapidary Journal slim down quite a bit during the last
few years. I miss its hayday when they covered several jewelry
artists in one issue.

I’ve thought that they are now trying to mimic the success of the
jewelry making magazine I believe they also publish. I’m refering to
the one that appeals to the craft maker (children and adults) who
can go into a hobby shop and purchase glue and paint and other odds
and ends and make fun things to wear. This would certainly be a
wider audience and this magazine may sell many volumes but I think
it’s a shame for Lapidary Journal to go this direction.

I really miss the old Lapidary Journal. I’m afraid in the future
I’ll see it go so far in this direction with “how to” articles
featuring sculpy, beads string and wire, wood, paint, etc that there
won’t be anything left of the LJ I used to love.

I prefer there be a wide seperation between the hobbiest and the
artist jeweler. I may be closer to the hobbiest but I want to see
the artist jeweler and their work to aspire to. If I were learning
to play a musical instrument I’d want to listen to recordings of
Mozart played by the masters not recordings of the guy down the
street who’s also just learning. Annette

Just a few thoughts. Three main points of good design are
Structure, Function, and Beauty. Any well-designed object must be
well made, must do what it’s supposed to do, and look good, too.
There are a lot of objects out there that fail on at least one of
these points, sometimes on all three. As designers and makers of
excellent things, it is our responsibility to adhere to these
principles to the best of our ability. Many times we have all seen
things that might be well made and work, but they are just plain
ugly. And there are things that could be more beautiful, if only
they were better made. It’s a balancing act. That’s what keeps it
interesting. My two Alaskan cents. -BK in AK

    let us direct our attention to the two related questions of
'design' and 'engineering'.  I believe many designers simply
design .giving little or no thought to how the piece must be made
to achieve whatever concept they render. 

Ah, yes. and haven’t any of us ever had a positively smashing design
that somehow wouldn’t ‘sit right’ when it was worn? When you make a
large pin, will it drag down the fabric of the wearer’s garment? Will
elements of the design itself make for an unbalanced piece or an
unwearable pair of earrings? Avoiding engineering problems is most
desirable, but solving the unexpected ones successfully can be a
challenging and rewarding experience.


    We have seen Lapidary Journal slim down quite a bit during the
last few years. I miss its hayday when they covered several jewelry
artists in one issue. 

Annette - I’m with you! I commented recently on another list that
the changes at Lapidary Journal are clearly being reflected in the
decrease of their subscriber base - down several percent in the last
two months compared with the last year, and far lower numbers than
even 5 years ago. The character of the magazine changed most
dramatically with their move east from California over a decade ago,
and continued to change when they were purchased by Primedia. I’ve
been a subscriber since the early 1960s, and am seriously
considering letting my subscription lapse.

Jim Small
Small Wonders