Metalsmith's Exhibition in Print

Has anyone else read the latest Metalsmith magazine, which is the
annual exhibition in print?

I’m just curious to see what Orchidians thought about it. There was
some very non- traditional work, some of which I liked and some I
didn’t…but seeing as how metalsmithing is something that I’ve just
barely started learning, I wondered what some of the more
experienced jewelry makers thought about it.

Do you like the fact that people are using so many non-traditional
materials, or would you prefer to see more precious metals and
well-cut stones? What about the piece that was actually a virtual
piece projected onto the model? I remember reading a comment
somewhere from someone who was bothered by the inclusion of so many
non-metal pieces in a recent issue of Metalsmith (which doesn’t
really bother me, but I do see the point).



Leah - this is just one person’s perspective. Metalsmith is a
publication of SNAG. SNAG is populated largely by metalsmiths and
jewelers with a “University” or academic background: ie, MFA’s in
jewelry or metalsmithing, (some of whom are members of this list).
Much of the work shown in the current edition is created by people
who teach in Colleges and Universities and not in vocational
programs by persons whose primary income comes from teaching and
only secondarily from their art production.

I would estimate that most, half or more, of our list members have
been and are proud to be bench jewelers, trained in an
apprenticeship, through schools such as Revere Academy, GIA, Blaine
Lewis’ School, etc. and who earn their entire living (not just a
part of it) from the production of jewelry. They cannot afford to
be so conceptual because there is not a sufficient market for such
work. There are also many who participate in Orchid in my opinion
who are somewhere in between. There is a huge divergence in
approach between the “academics” and the rest.

Personally, I find much to be learned from all of the above
catagories and I am certain I have omitted many such categories. The
current Exhibition in Print is more conceptual than any I have seen
for a long time. Remember that the curators for each “Exhibition in
Print” are selected a year or two in advance, by the Board of SNAG,
based upon a proposal for the Exhibition, submitted by the
prospective curators. The winning proposal, and thus the Exhibition
in Print is different every year. One year they had “Small Studio
Jewelers” and the work was signifigantly more functional. I will be
interested to see what others have to say about your question.

Sheridan Reed

Well, I guess this is the kind of thing I can’t keep an opinion to
myself on. I felt a sense of vertigo looking at the stuff. Not that
it’s so sophisticated or far out. It’s that it’s so naive.
Commercial jewelry is usually about fashion and expensive materials,
one or the other or both. Metalsmithing from the craft perspective
has always tried to arrive at form via technique, at least for the
last 40 years. Whether it’s successful or not can be observed on a
case by case basis. Now for the last two decades, some craft artists
have been trying desperately to enhance their credibility, with whom
I’m no longer sure, by embracing what they perceive as the “fine arts
dialogue”. I think their attempts are reaching way beyond their
intellectual powers. This stuff isn’t covering any ground that
hasn’t been gone over for the last half century, and it’s making them
look like amateurs, frankly. What I suspect is that this stuff is
mostly the latest wave of graduate work out of the academic metals
programs. And it doesn’t speak well for the graduate committees, let
alone, the instructors. And what’s worse, I know for a fact there is
much better stuff out there. Now Helen Shirk can be forgiven, I
guess, for repeating herself for the last 15 years, she’s earned
that, but I’m waiting for her next sabbatical accomplishment. I hope
she will forgive me, but she was pretty stringent when she critiqued
my work years ago (and I suspected then that it was in reaction to
the fact that her students were so taken with it).

I could come up with a dozen names, off the top of my head, of
people doing what I think is working within the best framework of
metals form and methodology, but maybe they are now considered old
guard, or maybe they’ve just got better things to do these days. At
this point I’m going to have to lay blame squarely on the editors.
Craft has much, much more power than this stuff.

David L. Huffman

Well, my own reaction was different as well. I didn’t find much to
relate to personally but I don’t think that’s what Metalsmith is
about…seems more about pushing limits than
just plain ole beautiful metalwork.

dear Leah, so far the issue stinks…but am having a terrible time
getting thur it…I glanced at it at first and now am reading it but
… still makes no sense with all the great metal work in the us…
and after that disgusting ,sorry ,but it was the issue with the
porno I have a hard time even thinking about looking at the it goes…

I LOVE the weird, non-jewelry non-metal pieces in the mag. as well
as the unwearable metal work. I feel that just like the couture
fashion work seen on the runways that the art pushes the industry,
perceptions of the public and the market. With out the art work we
would be stuck trying to make the best “right hand ring” we possibly
could which would bore the crap outta me. I often have both my
personalities offended by the art world with unwearable " jewelry"
and the Tiffanies/DeBeers and their crass commercialism so I figure
that between the two I come out alright and can at times appreciate
the ends of the spectrum.

I was accused of making “safe art” for the one museum show I was
involved with which really got to me. I have been struggling to be
more dangerous but it is difficult. I made a bracelet I called
"Unsafe Sex" which never sold and was renamed by my sales person. I
made it in response to 9-11 and came to realize making art was much
more difficult than it looks, MUCH more difficult. I have time to get
crazy though.

As someone just starting out maybe you can appreciate all the
avenues which you can explore and not be scared to try any of them.

Sam Patania, Tucson

Wow. This is great. Finally some good discourse on art, jewelry,
critique and pushing boundaries.

There is another form of art which parallels jewelry in both camps

  • the wearable and unwearable. Look at fashion. Each Spring in
    Paris, fashion designers trot out their creations with skinny models
    doing the “walk”. Often the outfits are outlandish, barely
    unwearable, and use untraditional materials like plastic or even
    metal. It is that boundary pushing which is later extrapolated into
    prete-a-porte (ready to wear). The same happens to jewelry. New
    materials, new combinations like mokume-gane, reticulation,
    bi-metal, keum boo, rubber, etc., all add to new and innovative
    jewelry combinations.

In my years of working for the Harvard Bio Labs, my lab, like
everyone’s research survived on government grants. For several
years, outcries from bureaucrats complained that the research we
were doing, circadian rhythm studies, had no real practical
applications, and therefore, pure research should be disbanded.
Unless the research had proven conclusions, like drug research, no
money should be spent. From this pure research came Seasonal
Affective Disorder and understanding issues of sleep apnea, a
syndrome that afflicts me.

My point of this, is, that we look at all aspects of jewelry,
metalsmithing, art, adornment, embellishment, like fashion, or pure
scientific research, it is important to look at all of it with an
open mind. Dadaism, Surrealism, abstract art, Cubism, etc. were
publicly criticized. I couldn’t think of a world of art without the
work of Brach, Picasso, Dali and DuChamp. Why should jewelry be
different? I am glad to see artists taking chances and bending the
rules. I am glad there are publications like Metalsmith to
represent rule breaking, and equally glad to see magazines like
Jewelry Connoisseur which celebrates embellishment.

I for one refuse to live in a world where mediocrity rules.

Thanks for letting me rant.

Karen Christians
50 Guinan St.
Waltham, MA 02451
Ph. 781/891-3854 Fax 3857
Jewelry/Metalarts School & Cooperative Studio

  Well, my own reaction was different as well. I didn't find much
to relate to personally but I don't think that's what Metalsmith is
about.......................seems more about pushing limits than
just plain ole beautiful metalwork. 

Bingo. I’ve been reading responses to this thread and have been
shaking my head in dismay as, once again, the rift between the
"Ivory Tower" and the “In the Trenches Working Jeweler” is
illuminated. There seems to be so much indignation on the part of
the those who wrote on this thread towards “1000 Rings” (which I am
in) and “Exhibition In Print” (which I am not). I think that the
above passage really sums it up. I believe that a large part of the
function of “Metalsmith”, “Exhibition in Print”, “American Craft”,
etc. is to push the conventional envelope both formally and
conceptually. No one is really saying that this is the only valid way
that jewelry should be. Rather, by challenging our notions of what
jewelry IS by looking at the thin, conceptually stretched out end of
the envelope, we can perhaps make small, incremental changes in our
attitude and work and redefine what “In The Trenches” jewelry CAN be.

Scratching my head in Seattle,
Andy Cooperman

     Remember that the curators for each "Exhibition in Print" are
selected a year or two in advance, by the Board of  SNAG, based
upon a proposal for the Exhibition, submitted by the prospective
curators.  The winning proposal, >and thus the Exhibition in Print
is different every year.  

Actually, it is only every other year that the Exhition in Print
(EiP) is curated; in the alternate years it is juried. The
methodology Sheridan describes above is used for the curated EiPs
and the chosen curator’s proposal must be based on a particular
theme (such as enamel work in the 2003 issue and, as it was recently
announced, flatware for the 2005 EiP). This year’s EiP, however,
was juried from all submissions of all kinds (which will again be
the case in 2006). The jurors (who are selected by Metalsmith, but
not on the basis of proposals) choose what they believe to the the
best/most interesting pieces from all the various entries.

I often wonder if more traditional metalsmiths no longer bother to
submit considering Metalsmith’s bias for the academic and avant
garde. I know that I don’t.


Exactly, but here’s some of my own frustration re: current jewelry
publications…where’s the magazine/s with the cool “in the
trenches” stuff? Seems to me that with so many magazine publishers
following the beading trend, metal art jewelry has been more than a
little bit left behind. I continue to hunt for European magazines to
fill the gap (I live in San Diego now where bookstores and most
shopping is as vanilla as it gets, ugh).

Signed, Stretched but still starved (for practical inspiration)

Sam, you gave me the right opening to share the following thought,
sent to me by another Orchidian. We would all do well to keep it.
Don’t know the origin.

“Never be afraid to try something new. Remember that a lone amateur
built the ark. A large group of professionals built the Titanic.”



I have been holding my tongue, I will try and make this short, for the
past five years every time my subscription comes up for renewal for
SNAG ,it turns into a huge dilemma because of alllllll the biases
that this group has. I have been a member since 1982. let me also
remind you ,that at this point in my career I can confidently say
that yes I did get my degree from PCA now university of the Arts; all
through the years since 1983 my self and classmates have been
plagued by the biases…

I did decide to stay away from academia, I did decide to run my
studio, I don’t consider my work to be traditional at all ,but I do
work in the traditional craft minded set of rules , and equipment. I
really don’t want to stretch my statement any longer then this ,so
I will add to that statement of ,I too did not bother applying ,and
haven’t been for the past couple of issues of EIP.

It seems it is the same type of work that is chosen most of the
time. it also seems that it is the same people that are in the
metalsmith more often then anybody new. it is a guarantee that
certain names will always be found in every or every other issue…

with all that said ,I entered a German show this year around April
and a few weeks later the pieces were all returned with a letter
stating that the jury had actually found the body of work of all the
entrants internationally not to be of the quality expected, and hence
the cancellation of the show! could you imagine doing that here…?

if the work isn’t up to par than the show can’t go on. How about


Atelier Babikian 54147
Philadelphia , PA.19105

okay I guess I am still in this mode ,Just reading Andy Cooperman’s
message and Karen Christians, For the record , my work is in the 1000
Rings Book, I work in the goldsmiths craft ,but I am a sculptor
first. I personally do feel the need for experimentation ,the
sculptural works, the non wearable jewelry and beyond ,but I don’t
agree with it when the work is week, even in it’s experimental
format. you could be making pieces that are made of Styrofoam and
duct tape, there are some incredible examples of this genre work, but
you can still separate the better done ,better thought out /and
meant pieces , I don’t have any problems with ART jewelry Vs the
Trenches Jewelry. I have a problem with the weak ART and experimental
works that get status of well done art by being presented in the

very disappointed in Philadelphia
Atelier Babikian 54147
Philadelphia , PA.19105

Karen, I agree with you. I am firmly behind pushing the envelope. I
am happy you did the discovery work, as I am waiting delivery of a

I enjoy what I see, I am just asking for a defined intent for
competition and/or a separate category for avant garde design.

I would never want every flavor to be vanilla, I would love to see
Beth Rosengard’s outstanding jewelry in publications or
competitions. Why should artists hold back thinking there will be no
opportunity for wearable jewelry?

I would love to have a necklace with a recirculating water pump, the
wires running through one side of the chain and the water through
the other, and in the pendant a Neon Tetra idly swimming in a hand
blown crystal bowl.

I’d even love to wear a real waterfall pendant with the rocks being

Hey there are a lot of things I can imagine, and why not.


Andy, et al, I believe I started this with my define jewelry
question. As mentioned before I had not yet opened Metalsmith, so my
question was not based on that, nor of 1000 rings which I also now

I only ask that there be a clear definition when announcing a book,
(bracelets coming up) or a competition, so that persons considering
entering can know what they are up against.

Fantasy is fantasy, wearable is wearable. That is not to punish
those with flowing imaginations, bravery in mixing media, nor
creating motion, balance, or extraordinary trompe l’oeil.(sp)

Bench, seat of the pants trained artists, have shown great
creativity and imagination, as have the academically trained, shown
perfection in fabrication.

We are a community and as such open to all. Ego should not be a
defining characteristic. Judges should be selected based on the
intent of the happening, avant garde for unfettered creativity with
no need to be wearable, as well as those more in tune with wearable
value and interest.

I only appeal that if a publication wants the sensational, wearable
or not, that all submitters know what they are getting into.

There is a difference between “Coffee Table” books, and those meant
to teach design and/or method. I personally buy both, but like to
know up front what I am paying for.

A recently released book which has received praise on this list, is
far more limited in scope than appears at first glance. I may not
have purchased it had I known that.

Once again, I ask when is jewelry not jewelry, and who makes that


    Once again, I ask when is jewelry not jewelry, and who makes
that decision. 

Terrie, You make that decision and I make that decision and all of
the rest of us, individually, make that decision. That is what makes
it all so interesting.


    Andy, et al, I believe I started this with my define jewelry
question. As mentioned before I had not yet opened Metalsmith, so
my question was not based on that, nor of 1000 rings which I also
now have. 

I just read Terri’s comment and yes, as usual, she is right on
target. So I will ask my other question. Who is jewelry for? Is
it for the wearer, or the viewer? Do you wear jewelry to enhance
your image, or do you wear jewelry because you just plain like it.
Is it sentimental, an heirloom with ties to your family? Do you
wear jewelry because there is a secret buried within that only the
wearer knows about, like a piece by Andrew Goss which has opals
buried into Portland cement. Can jewelry be art? Can art be

Who wears jewelry and why? I am reminded of Madeline Albright who
always wears large brooches when dealing with heads of state. Helen
Drutt from Philadelphia commissioned, “Brooching it Diplomatically”.
What I loved about this particular show, is that Ms. Albright wore
all of these brooches during her years as Secretary of State.

"USA Weekend, Lorrie Lynch, Sept. 1996

I notice that Secretary of State Madeleine Albright always wears a
beautiful pin on her jacket or dress. Does she collect them? Lois
Gates, Ridgeland, Miss.

Yes. And she often lets her jewelry speak, wearing a tangled spider
in a web, for instance, to Mideast peace talks. Her penchant for
pins is so intriguing that Philadelphia craft-gallery owner Helen
Drutt paid homage by commissioning “Brooching It Diplomatically: A
Tribute to Madeleine K. Albright.” The traveling exhibit of 71 pins
designed by 61 artists in 16 countries is in Honolulu now and moves
to Philly in December".

In the current issue of Metalsmith’s EIP, there is some work that
doesn’t resonate with me. I struggled with what the jurors saw that
I didn’t. What is important to me is that I keep reading, looking
and find my own voice.

Karen Christians
50 Guinan St.
Waltham, MA 02451
Ph. 781/891-3854 Fax 3857
Jewelry/Metalarts School & Cooperative Studio

Mr. Hauffman, I agree… it is a terrible effort on the part of
whom… the teachers or the schools I don’t know… I was in a school
down town yrs ago, Parsons. and the work I saw on the bench was
terrible… and then again at penland… can’t figure it out… just a
few miles away at wild acres the work is so exciting and beautiful
and accomplished… But I am getting tired of these awful pictures
and articles etc. in the metal smith maga ine( my key is broken)
and the porno jewelery pictures a while back was TERRIBLE…I have
beautiful metal smith maga ines that one can cherish, with great
jewelery and how to’s and interesting people and articles… We
really need to do something about getting those kind of articles
back… calgang

Dear Pat loved the comparsion…titantic and the ark… wonderful…
hated the article as I did the porno one… calgang

I agree with Karen Christians’ reaction to the EIP. Initially I was
very turned off by most of the examples chosen. My first thought was
"Where on earth (or elsewhere) would you WEAR something like that.
But after thinking about it I have revised my opinion. I am
relatively new to metalwork (although I have wanted to do it for a
long, long time), but I come to it with a background in 2-dimensional
art. I considered a career in illustration very seriously for a
while. While I was what I termed “hopelessly representationalist”, I
came to appreciate what the world of so-called modern art had given
all of us. A way of seeing colors differently, a way of bearing our
souls in a manner we had not had before (e.g. putting raw emotions -
how we felt- down on paper without being constrained by the need to
represent “something” ).

While I cannot say I like or would purchase most of the items
displayed in Metalsmith’s EIP (there were a few exceptions), I found
myself saying “what it you did THAT your way”. They challenge how we
see things and prompt us to try things we have not tried before.We
need artists who push the envelope beyond the traditional accepted
bounds. So I guess I fall into the camp which says there is a place
for work like that AND work like I do (or try to do:-).

Now I’ll get off my soapbox and give someone else a turn. Thanks for

Cathy Rokaw