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Non-jeweler designers at shows

I have an issue to raise for comment-- something I have never been
aware of til now.

A student of mine, a beginner at metalsmithing, is a jewelry
designer. I assumed that this meant she worked for a company, but it
turns out she is, apparently, independant (I didn’t want to
cross-examine her, so felt limited on how many/what questions I
could ask) and has someone produce her designs-- high end gold and
stones. All OK so far, I guess, but here’s what caught me by
surprise. She is in some of the same shows that I do, selling "her"
work like anyone else.

I want to tread carefully here, because this is not an issue that I
have a clear opinion about, and I have no idea how common it may be.
I have always taken for granted that, with a few pretty glaring
exceptions, the work at better juried shows was actually made by the
"artist", with maybe some studio employees. Am I naive? Do any of
you folks fall into the same category? How do any of you feel about
jewelry creators who created the design but not the jewelry and then
sell it at craft shows? The rules say the “artist” must be present,
and the designer is the “artist”… ??

I am very interested in your take on this.


This is a murky area. What is the difference between a “designer” and
an “artist”? I think that although the intent of the rules makers
might be to separate the two, that more specific rules need to be
enunciated and that they have to make the distinction between the
person who designs the work and the person who makes the work. It is
a sticky area, particularly for you in this case. I would clarify,
with the show promoter, what their intent is, and if they, in fact,
are making the distinction between designer and maker, I would call
the situation to their attention.


Joel Schwalb

Actually, it is refreshing to hear that at least one person at shows
representing themselves as a “designer” actually does create the
designs- when I hear this at an art/craft show, it is all too often
from somebody who is simply lying about the fact that they are
peddling purchased goods.

As to whether your student can or can’t legitimately sell at shows,
I think you would need to look at the exact language of each show’s
contract. If the contract for a show states “all items sold must be
handmade by the seller” then I think she is crossing the line by
participating. If the contract simply states that the artist must be
present, that is ambiguous enough, IMO, that she can claim she is
the artist by virtue of being the designer.

Lee Einer
Dos Manos Jewelry

How do any of you feel about jewelry creators who created the
design but not the jewelry and then sell it at craft shows? The
rules say the "artist" must be present, and the designer is the
"artist"... ?? 


I think the topic regarding whether one is qualified to be called
something leads into many grey areas which can be debated endlessly.
Perhaps, according to the strictest rules, this designer does not
qualify to be in the shows you have mentioned and she should
consider more appropriate venues for her work. On the other hand,
in some form in the wide marketplace, you are delving into the same

I began my artistic career crafting poems, moved to sculpture, and
have recently undertaken the pursuit of jewellery making - both as a
designer and craftsperson. Perhaps the individual you mention is a
very gifted designer - more power to her- in my opinion good design
is an essential component in jewellery - and not always easy to
find. Rodin sculpted most of his work in clay and craftspeople then
translated this work into stone and bronze. No one disputes that
the resulting sculptures were created by Rodin.

Well crafted work is not always easy to find - but what sets apart
one well crafted work versus another - isn’t it the design?

For now,
Donna Hiebert

I have some of the same thoughts Noel, and this was just one of the
factors that drove me out of silversmithing into enamels.

I too know a woman who “designs” jewelry and does competitive shows.
The designs are mostly found objects that are cast by someone else
and assembled by her. Antique buttons, small model items etc. are the
kinds of things she uses.

Just recently she at least learned how to solder and polish. I have
to say that I resented being next to someone in a show who had no
technical skills at all. Am I OK with someone else doing your
casting? I guess. My assumption though would be that you did the
waxes, or at least the original wax that the piece is being cast from
and if you had the time you likely had the casting skills as well.
The applications do say “hand-made” on them!

She would often complain about how the other artists weren’t so
friendly and she didn’t win awards. After many complaints I tried to
explain to her how an artist who makes everything from hand might
feel about her “work” and she ended our friendship. She told everyone
we knew that I was critical of her work and said she shouldn’t get
into any shows. What I had said was that she could see how a
silversmith would resent the fact that she was using the skills of
many other artists in her work rather than doing originals. She had
the benefit of somebody else’s skill in waxes, casting, tumbling and
the beautifully designed antique buttons etc. as well. I also said
that some juries understood how her work was made and it could be a
factor as to why she didn’t get into some shows or win awards. I
guess it’s not much of a friendship if you can’t speak honestly.



This is a big problem for shows and artists, perhaps not at some of
the more exclusive shows, but vexing at many smaller ones. I think
what it really comes down to is the rules of the show and the
determination of the show staff to investigate complaints and
enforce rules. Some shows require only that the items aren’t bought
at wholesale and simply resold as art. Some shows allow items
produced by studios and overseen by the “artist.” The most
exclusive shows demand that the artist be the manufacturer as well.

Sometimes it’s a matter of percentage. I’ve set lots of stones and
made bezels, clasps, hinges, alloys and custom tubing for jewelers
who get into shows like Philadelphia Museum of Art and the
Smithsonian Craft Show who can barely set faceted stones and have no
clue how to perform some of the technically challenging aspects of
the craft. But, overall, the work is definitely theirs. It does
frustrate me, though, that in some ways I compete with myself by
doing work for those who get spots in the same great shows that I
can’t get off the wait list for.

The questions are these; are you willing to be the one complaining
and will the show staff back you up? In my perfect world, Art and
Craft shows are supposed to be venues for artists who don’t have
other venues to sell their work in either because the market is too
small to support a retail gallery that could resell the work or the
work isn’t commercial enough, is too edgy or too costly due to labor
to sell wholesale to a local gallery. If this persons work is
derivative or otherwise common, and they are taking spots away from
someone who really could use the exposure for the reasons I list
above, then I encourage you to make a stink, if not the person
themselves, then to the shows that will listen!


The rules say the "artist" must be present, and the designer is
the "artist"... ?? 

noel -

i think you have a right to be ‘confused’ on this revelation! 'her’
jewelry is called “buy & sell” merchandise - she paid someone else
for these pieces & she’s selling it. every application i have ever
received clearly states that all of the work must have been done by
the submitting artist & where there was collaboration the other
artist must be listed & both artists be present in the booth.
designing is a ‘phase’ of the work but not the complete package that
juries will KNOWINGLY accept. an ongoing conflict has raged for
years about photographers & painters having copies or prints of
their original pieces for sale at shows - most higher graded shows
don’t allow them. artists have been expelled &/or banned from shows
for ignoring that prohibition because the copies/prints are not made
by the artist but by a commercial process. so when someone says she
has been skipping a vitally important part of the process, actually
doing the work, can only mean she has not informed the juries of the
reality - that is a blatant circumvention of show rules, known as
lying, on the application. when someone doing this is “a beginner
[student] at metalsmithing” it means she is not capable of the
caliber of work she is passing off as her ‘work’ & would never,
never, never have made it into any shows without cheating. anyone who
thinks this is something minor & not worth pursuing isn’t out here
competing for those precious slots at good shows & for the buyers’
money with designs that have come from our heads & personally made
into creations with our hands.

usually i am a ‘compromise’ person not wishing to cause innocent
people embarrassment but this situation is something i would not
hesitate to bring to the attention of every show director i knew she
has bamboozled - the word will get out to the other show directors.
and noel, i wouldn’t be surprised if you learn later that those
aren’t even her own designs but also bought.

who doesn’t care for cheaters, users or producers of dreck.

Noel and everyone–

This is a real issue for all of us who do shows and who design and
make all the work ourselves. There seem to be quite a few people (I
do refrain from calling them artists) doing shows who could not have
personally or possibly made all the work in their cases, and, sad to
say, those such as your student who have no “hand” in the work.
Never having served on a jury, it’s hard to say what the slides
looked like when these folks were juried in. My impression was that
the slides submitted should be representative of the work at the
show. We all know that some of the jewelry we see could not
possibly be what was in the slides–unless there’s something going
on in the jurying process that’s really underhanded–and don’t get
me started on that. Or maybe that’s something else we could/should
discuss. But I digress. The show producers all claim that the work
at the shows will be carefully looked at, etc.–but the repeat
offenders are often repeat exhibitors.

I don’t really know of a way to prevent those who aren’t being
honest about the work from getting into shows–especially the "good"
ones. It’s a real problem for those of us who are struggling to make
it in the depressed retail market of the shows.

Eager to read other comments.

Thanks for bringing this up.

Hi all, I have seen both at different shows. If the show states that
the work must be handmade and created by that artist, no mass
produced pieces. Then you have an issue. I would also bring it to
the show promoters attn. I have been to several shows as an attendee
and as an exibitor where mass produced work is shown with the artists
there . They explain the process and that the items shown in the
dispalys are all mass produced from artists originals.I guess your
still back to the original intent of the show and the promoters!!!


Dear Noel, I have been part of one juried show and have attended
many others. I personally feel what “separates juried shows” from
the typical craft show full of bought merchandise for resale and
items assembled from kits, is the level of artistry and
craftsmanship on display. The public should be able to enjoy and
explore the work of artists/craft-persons who have taken the craft
to the higher level of creativity and craftsmanship. One item
expected at such shows is “the artist/craftsman” who both designs
and produces the work. Sure, you might talk to his or her spouse
but sometime during the show the artist/craftsman is expected to be

One reason I attend juried shows is the very desire to speak with
the artist/crafts-person, to discuss techniques, to find common
interests, etc. Yes, I see something I like and I will purchase it.

AS FOR THE “DESIGNER” who does not produce, I see this as a
violation of the spirit of the juried show, if not a direct
violation of show rules.

On my unpublished website I ramble a little about “kinds” of
creativity. Some of what I say fits this subject. If you want to see
a very simple site and care to see my thoughts on creative work,
here is the address: Go to page 4.

There are those who design only. There are those who technically
reproduce only. Then, there are those who not only create from some
inner spirit and do the work to render with fine craftsmanship. That
third person is the one I want to see and EXPECT to see at a juried

I believe the student is going the wrong direction in this. Well, if
not wrong, perhaps askew from what should be. Then I would also ask,
are the works presented designed so well as to outdo all the self
designed and produced items of artists/craftsmen on premises? It
appears a problem the particular jury must work out in rules for the
show. Still, it violates my sense of what is expected of these
shows by the public.

God Bless.

Am I OK with someone else doing your casting? I guess. My
assumption though would be that you did the waxes, or at least the
original wax that the piece is being cast from and if you had the
time you likely had the casting skills as well.

I’ve always resented having “casted work” next to my hand made
(fabricated from sheet and wire) . Casting is nothing more than
reproduction work… and oh, I hate to say this, "similar to PRINTS"
There is only ONE original… the rest are copies! And I don’t,
honestly think that copies fit most of the descriptions listed in
the applications for shows. But, I’ve yet to see them being
excluded, whether it’s a low end or high end show. It seems that
casted work is what is featured at most shows. (Whether the
casting is done by the artist or by a mass producer.)

What is the difference between a “designer” and an “artist”?

In most cases, those who call themselves “designers” aren’t doing
the work, they send their drawings to someone who actually does the
work and usually, doesn’t get paid fairly for what they do.


Perhaps we are asking the wrong question, or focusing our attention
in the wrong direction. Is there something outstanding about the
design? Is it “cutting edge” and original or merely derivative? We
all use the labor of other craftsmen to some degree. I buy many
findings ready-made. I do not fabricate tubing or wire.

Unfortunately most people who say they “design” but have others
fabricate the work do neither. They are merely claiming the
creativity of others as their own. None of us are afraid of some
honest competition, but I don’t and won’t compete with some
10-year-old child in Taiwan.

This is something worth fighting for.
Batya Stark

I have yet to attend a show, but even I know what that person is
doing is fraudulant at best. I have both worlds to contend with I am
a wildlife artist (colored pencils and graphite)and am learning the
jewelry trade the hard way. One mistake at a time lol

self taught “the crazy american lady” to the Italians attending the
Torre del Greco School for Cameo arts. I have emailed pestered
students and would give my eye teeth for a video of those studios

I started out with Colorado alabaster because a miner took pity on
me and shipped me 40 pounds of scrap for $20. I had an x-acto blade
and a goal.

My first shell was buying ‘the ugly women brigade’ cameos sold in US
as beautiful (um get your eyes checked people) they are assembly
line awful. I figured if I destroyed them while learning to use
tools it was a service to mankind.

My first attempts at carving in hand cut shell took me 2 full 8 hour
days to cut 0ne 4" cassia rufa by hand. Shell must be the hardest
substance in the world at times and no I have tried all versions of
softening the shell to cut easier.

I have 3 antique gravers. that’s it… When my cameos are done they
are a work of the artist , blood sweat and tears and joy.

Someone told me I needed 300 pieces to enter a show…any idea if
this is accurate. If it is it will be an impossibility until I have
a diamond blade wet bandsaw that can cut a 4-6 inch shell. I can
only make 1-2 cameos a week right now.

and yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus , and it is my intention to
not give up my new found calling for any reason.

From the local stump anvil in north Pittsburgh,PA

Teri D


Talk about opening a can of worms!

According to most of the posts, we really don’t have notable works
of art. I say this because Benini and many of the other "great"
artists in the past have recognized their time limitations and
produced around it.

Here’s what they did – they designed the work and then had others
create the sculpture.

Is it wrong? I can’t say. We don’t call those works non-Beninis.
I’m sure Benini made sure that the work that bore his name was up to
his standards. We still do this all the time with books.

Under the terms of the juried show, if the jury specifically
requested and knew that there was a designer and “creator” then I
see no problem. But, if the work is being passed off as the
creator’s own, then that is at least troublesome.

Just my thoughts.

        Someone told me I needed 300 pieces to enter a show...any
idea if this is accurate. If it is it will be an impossibility
until I have a diamond blade wet bandsaw that can cut a 4-6 inch
shell. I can only make 1-2 cameos a week right now. 

Hi Teri,

This estimate isn’t unrealistic at all. Keep in mind, in order to
cover your show costs which include booth space, display, travel,
hotel, meals, cost of items made (which includes another long list of
items!), your time, etc. and hopefully… profit, you have to have
enough work to make doing this show worth the effort.

Keep your eye on the brass ring and soon you’ll be able to grab it!


 I've always resented having "casted work" next to my hand made
(fabricated  from sheet and wire) . Casting is nothing more than
reproduction work... and oh, I hate to say this, "similar to PRINTS"
There is only ONE  original... the rest are copies!  And I don't,
honestly think that copies  fit most of the descriptions listed in
the applications for shows

I agree with this whole thread but I have to take a bit of an issue
with the casting thing. Alot of the work that I do involves plant
life and the like that I have found and have cast in multiples. I
then create stories from these. I have a series of eucalyptus pods
that have hollowed out centers that I have enamelled in addition to
introducing fibers/threads into these holes. One particular piece
from this series is a necklace that is composed of about 150 of these
pods all filled in varying shades of red. There is nothing
"reproduction" about this piece. It is about repetition, not copying.
I highly doubt that you would see this necklace representing anything
occurring in nature as we know it. Why should I carve a wax of one of
these pods when what I really want is it captured “as it is” in
metal so that I may manipulate it.

I understand that what you most likely meant was casting to create
say, production pieces passing them off as “show quality”. And with
that I agree. But a generalization like the above can be read as a

Not trying to be confrontational, just fair.

Cheers from rainy season in Bangkok-

 Someone told me I needed 300 pieces to enter a show...any idea if
this is accurate. 

You only need 300 pieces if it is a long show and/or your price
point is very low. And even then, it is totally your business
(literally) and no one else’s. I encourage you to price your work
according to its quality and rarity, and go to any show you care
to/can get into, and get your feet wet. You probably want to have
your inventory worth more than your expenses…

If you’re not sure about prices, try checking high-end stores in
your area for prices on things as like yours as you can find. A wise
veteran of the biz once told me, “If your toes don’t curl when you
quote your price, you’re not charging enough.” I recently pretty
much doubled my prices, and I’m selling better than before. As long,
of course, as you’re realistic about your quality.

I would hazard to say that pricing is the hardest part of the
independant artist’s job, and that finding the right venue is the
second-hardest, at least if you are making something off-beat. With
cameos, obviously your competition is those awful off-shore things
you mentioned, so your target audience is one that sees and cares
about the difference. Not just your average Joe! Good luck!


Noel - this is definitely a problem for all art & craft shows. One
of our well-known large Florida shows had lots of complaints one
year from most of the jewelry artists. Seems someone was selling
component jewelry as their own. Also, others were selling Mexican
made silver objects and undercutting the other jewelers’ prices.
This is a high quality show that expects the work to be original and
produced by the artists. This show made the decision to always
include a jeweler in the pre-jurying process - selecting the artists
to be included in the show. The other panel members work in other
media and also don’t see the difference. I think the matter should
be brought to the attention of the show officials. Then it’s in
their ballpark.

Gini - who is very grateful that Charley didn’t hit St. Petersburg

Noel and all Orchidians,

this whole situations is very tricky because of the education
situation here in the US. There is no such thing as a regulated
system, everybody can call himself/herself an artist, a designer or
a craftsperson. In Germany for example you have to have a University
degree (MA of MFA) to be an Artist, which is the highest possible
degree, you also can be a Master Goldsmith (3-4 years of
apprenticeship + master school) or you can be a Goldsmith (3-4 years
apprenticeship). That’s it. Everything you finish will give you a
certification which you show with every application - no cheating
and pretending-to-be. This whole system makes it so much easier and
situations like Noel described will not happen - she would not be
able to attend a show.

Edith Schneider Jewelry
P.O.Box 52001
Palo Alto, CA 94303
(650) 813 9755