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Opinions please?


I’d love some honest critique of a new line of pieces I’ve been
working on. I like them and am excited about them, but they do
represent a fairly new direction in my work. However, an “expert
juror” took the time to tell me that they represent “unresolved
designs that a first-year jewelry student could accomplish in their
first semester by melting the hell out of sheet.” Needless to say, I
was less than thrilled to hear her critique, but am always open to
looking at my work through others’ eyes. These are pieces that were
cast, by the way (the only exception is “House Party,” which is a
fused piece).

So feel free to go to town on the critique of them. What do you
think of them? Do they seem “fully resolved” to you or are they
lacking in some finishing element? Any suggestions? I’m trying to
balance the “jury of one” with a larger statistical sample, and you
guys are the best and most knowledgeable sample I know of.

The URL to the gallery of these pieces is: (sorry about the
frames, folks - was a quick-and-dirty way to get the stuff up there
for you to see).

Many thanks!
Karen Goeller
Hand-crafted artisan jewelry 

P.S. - These pics were taken with my new Nikon 8700 digital camera,
which completely rocks. In a few hours time (using a Cloud Dome and
some Ott-Lites), I was able to get these shots, using pretty much
standard features (macro mode, auto focus, auto exposure) - and I am
most definitely NOT a pro photographer (or even an amateur one). So
for those who are still looking for a camera, it’s one to consider.

I think they are gorgeous in every way: colour, flow, etc. I’d like
to know more about your “unresolved designs”…like size, how you
accomplished the patina and colour etc. Regards, Judy


After viewing your new pieces I went to your web site to look at what
you have done in the past. It’s always good to step out of the box
and do something different, but that could also be pushing the
envelope on your skills and go to the next level. It seems to me
that you have gone backwards in your designs, I have to agree with
the critic that any first year student could do the designs, ALTHOUGH
that does not mean they will not sell.

Bill Wismar


You are a brave person opening yourself to critique in a forum such
as this. Congrats. This would be very hard for myself to do, so I
applaud you.

You are working in a fluid, organic style, and using metal to
achieve this. Some pieces are very strong and I was immediately
attracted to them. Working with an organic esthetic is tough to
pull off, but in a few pieces you really hit the mark. What I
especially like is that you did a series. Find the strongest work,
and discard the rest. It’s the discarding or letting go which is
the most difficult.

I will go one by one.

  1. Dragon-Lyre. Was your intent to make this as a Dragon-Lyre, or
    did it come out that way and you titled after you saw it? There
    are two subjects which you are trying to push together, and for me
    this doesn’t work as well as your others.

  2. Fluid-Organics 1. The color and symmetry work well. The edges
    work well with texture in the middle, especially the negative space
    on the right.

  3. Fluid-Organics 2. My eye goes directly to the sharp, geometric
    negative space which works against the subtle color and flowing
    lines. Mixing organic with geometry often fight each other. Stay
    with one or the other.

  4. Fluid Organics 3. I like this piece. The line moves from left
    to right, and the dangling touch interrupts the piece in a
    provocative manner adding visual interest. The wires which run
    across the piece work well. You chose to cover up the negative
    space in the center and gave my eye something to do. Good decision.

  5. Grunge Bird Not sure about the title, however, this is one of my
    favorite pieces. The colors are beautiful, the form opens like a
    winding canyon. I the 90 degree angle at the left integrates well
    with the whole piece. This piece reminds me of music and Arizona
    landscapes. How about Canyon Suite for this piece" Grunge Bird"
    locks me into a visual that I can’t see. Organic forms are the
    toughest to title.

  6. House Party. Again, this title doesn’t work for me. This piece
    is figurative and abstract at the same time. The title trivializes
    its impact. The figures in the center are very active. This could
    be a piece of arguments and conflict as well. Not all work has to
    be happy. It can be dark and engaging. Don’t be afraid to go there,
    and let your title reflect this. When I see this, I think of energy
    and tension. As an artist, sometimes the title forces me to keep
    looking rather than to stop. What if the title was “Argument”. Now
    my mind is forced to think, “what are they arguing about”, there are
    three figures, who is in charge? I am forced to resolve the
    situation in my own mind and THAT is the difference between craft
    and art.

Good work Karen. Keep at it. Hope this helps.

Karen No way a student could produce such work. It must have set off
somthing in the judger,or envy,or maybe she/he is a compulsive
symmentarian/controled neatnick. In any case ,I think they are good
and interesting-Follow your Muse, Bill from Long Island


Took a look! Dragon-Lyre did not particularly appeal to me but I
love the rest. I especially like Snake Pendant. Neat colors and all.
Did you have as much fun making these pieces as I think you did? Most
of all they are loaded down with those boring old white stones, I
mean diamonds. I have several students experimenting in the direction
of your work. I will send them to your site. I have gotten good money
for those pieces that I have inadvertently "melted the Hell out of"
and the ones that were done deliberately. Though I must say that the
randomness of the inadvertent ones were much more appealing. Follow
your heart.

Hope to meet you someday.

Bill Churlik

Karen, I will take the time to look at your work but at the moment
I’d like to first comment on the “critique” you received: what a
NASTY and completely unprofessional commentary. It’s just an ugly
thing to say and I’m constantly surprised by how insensitively
people with a little power can behave.

Regardless of how your work looks to the “juror” or anyone else,
this kind of bashing is uncalled for and irresponsible. Shame on
them and kudos to you for taking it on the chin and being
resourceful and open enough to put it in Orchid hands. I have no
doubt that you’ll find far more fair and artistic evaluation here
from people without an axe to grind.

Karen, The subjective analysis of a juror whose personal history,
mindset, prejudices and preferences you know nothing about is worth
little,in my opinion ;-)Listen to those whose opinions you respect,
the rest are mainly noise … I’ve looked at the pieces, and I like
most of them a lot,and can appreciate what you’re doing in all of
them…Making any kind of judgement about anothers’ work is fraught
with difficulty…imagine someone who thought that only Mozart was
real music listening to John Lee Hooker…

I try not to let myself be upset by the subjective judgements of
other makers, but when such people wield the power to deny one a
commercial opportunity, I regard that as an abuse of their
position.The hypocrisy and pseudo-objectivity of jurors is legendary

  • their long time colleagues and associates tend not to be judged
    harshly, while a newcomer to their show gets the “full and objective
    scrutiny” treatment…which is what I suspect happened here.

The juror’s comments are also revealing of her negative attitude
towards “1st year students”, when personal experience teaches me
that the fresh eye and creative energy of a student, unshackled by
years of ego defensiveness and playing it safe to get by or fit in
with the established players, can provide new ideas and new ways of
working outside the box…those who seek always to teach will learn

In common with the comments of others in the group, I applaud your
bravery and self-belief in asking for our opinions, and reiterate
that it is the eye of the client/customer that is far more important
than a judgement that may well be clouded by envy, me(n)tal fatigue,
petty mindedness, or simply because she’d had a bad day…

p.s. I loved the colours too…really rich patinas…

Steve Holden
in sunny Ibiza.

Hi Karen;

First off, others are correct, the juror was tactless. Personally,
I don’t think the juror was very qualified for the job. Is this
unusual? Anyway, I think this work is a very important direction for
you and I enjoyed it. I like it more than anything else I’ve seen of
your work. But if the juror didn’t see the context of your work, as
I did when I visited your web site, they wouldn’t necesarily
understand that the techniques you employed were under control and
were choices rather than “happy accidents”.

Now I’m going to be a bit more candid, but not in regard to this
recent work, rather, in terms of you other earlier efforts. You have
a good degree of technical accomlishment shown in the earlier stuff,
but the images are all over the map and they are very calculated to
be appreciated by the audience. There is little risk in making a
bow, or a flower, or an anchor. This can make them trivial, in
artistic terms. Now you are taking risks, and you are getting what
is to be expected. People don’t always appreciate what you are
trying to do. So what? This new direction is more consistent with
the personal exploration one needs to undergo to define their own
direction and content.

You’ll need to find a better audience now. Mom might think this
stuff is wierd or ugly. Make Mom the heart shaped pendant with the
pink stone. I don’t try to get my kids to like anchovies, but I love
them on my pizza. And let’s not bring up the issue of Beauty. Beauty
is just one of many possible end results, and even then, we can find
it where we don’t expect it; in decay, in accident, in mutation, etc.

And you will need a considerable body of this work to establish the
new context, and then you’ll need to take it up to another plateau
after a while, perhaps by adding more deliberate technical refinement
and work in that manner for a while. But the titles are really left
over from the earlier way of working. You don’t need to help the
viewer “understand” anything about the work by placing literality on
it. If a snake appears in the work, or a dragon, let the viewers
discover it for themselves. So, if you need to title them at all,
let the titles emerge in the same manner as the form, in an
equivalent mental process of burning, melting, stopping things just
as they are about to fail. You will need to resort to the stream of
consciousness. If you wish to establish content in an allegorical
manner, then keep the references to yourself, perhaps obscure and
necesarily personal. This, of course, will sail right over the head
of the same sort of juror, but you will be able to be smug about it.

Best of luck, I hope this helps, and keep us informed of any new

David L. Huffman


Sounds like the judge was having a bad hair day!! I looked at your
gallery and was quite impressed…not only by the designs and patina
but the composition as well. Sure a first year student MIGHT be able
to make something like that…if they have attained some
sophisticated level of torch control, metal manipulation and
composition, but I find most do not progress that rapidly. In other
words, the overall process is not as simple as the judge judged and
only the best would reach that level that quickly.

Remember, that which you create is yours…no one elses! If it
feels good to you and 50% of the people who see it give favorable
input then you are already at 51%. I personally like things that are
simple but elegant. Yours are more embellished than what I might make
but I love the textures and the combination of flowing lines.
Perhaps the outlines are a bit sharp but that gives good contrast
with the internals. I believe you are on a good track and would
encourage you to develop it further.

Cheers from Don at The Charles Belle Studio in SOFL where simple
elegance IS fine jewelry! @coralnut2


My favorites are the first, second, and fifth from the left. The
colors are amazing on the latter two. However, they remind me of
some of my paintings. Overall in some paintings of mine that were
not successful, I could find wonderful moments here and there. I
thought that if I could only cut those moments out and reframe them,
I would have a successful painting. But this strategy didn’t work
because the best moment could not be extracted from the overall
picture. This series of your work reminds me of best moments
separated from a larger picture. I don’t think each piece stands on
its own merits. Some greater context is missing.

I have looked at your other work and am amazed by your broad ranging
artistic talent. These pieces look like an extension of your
"Grunge" series, but the series you ask about would not be easily
identified as “your work”.

Thank you for the opportunity to comment. You are truly brave
beyond most of the rest of us and I appreciate you for it.


Karen, It is a shame that you had to be subjected to such negative
criticism. The judge making those comments to you is a mean spirited
person, with little or no understanding of your work, and no
sensitivity as to the feelings of young artists… I assume you are a
young person, if not in age, then in spirit because there is such a
youthful happy energy in your work. I was impressed by the freely
flowing, fluid lines, and the energy expressed in the work. Some of
the pieces could stand a bit of revision, but there are mighty few of
us whose work can’t stand further improvement. On the whole, your
work is creative, and original, and there is a nice sense of unity in
the collection. Don’t let the opinion of a hyper-critical negative
person dissuade you from following your own instincts. Alma In
Portland, Oregon, where my garden is in full bloom, and calling to me
to glory in its rebirth and regeneration.

Writing as one who only recently recieved a BFA, None of my
contemporaries would have created such unique and asemetrical of
designs as these. (I am one who considers symmetry as "Fresh-manic"
rather than the opposite).

I enjoy ,especially, your careful use of patinas to be refreshing.
My wife, who visual needs lean to symmetry, was not as sympathetic
to your fresh, flowing designs that I personally find provoking and

Never let one critic discourage you, or most all of Art’s “Masters”,
would have become common laborers. Also, don’t feel the need to
apologize for your web presentation, at least on my set-up it is a
very convenient format to view all together and each individual
piece readily, use the tools you have and be proud of your
presentation as well!

Humbly yours,

karen -

one can trust one’s own inner gyroscope to steer each design until
it evolves into the desired final form or one can consult a
committee and come up with an aardvark or a platypus. ideally, a
good design should have only one signature; if you listen to
yourself you do not need other voices. shakespeare’s words have
endured because they are timeless: "to thine own self be true …"
or, as the admiral shouted, “full speed ahead and damn the …

good luck -
think, people, think.

Hi Karen,

Regarding professional techniques, I’m probably one of the least
knowledgeable of everyone here so do take what I say as a personal
opinion only and excuse my non-pro terminology!

Just on an intuitive level, I really like them. I love the organic
shapes and what I’m going to call the “oil-slick patina” look of
these pieces. Comparing to your other work, for me this collection
feels more “flowing” - You know how you might see a drawing which
looks tight because it’s been too overworked or almost TOO
well-thought-out? This work seems to me to be very honest and natural
and free and it has a good feeling to it. At least for me it does.

I’m wondering are the dimensions and what are your plans for the
pieces? (Will they become pins or necklaces or fill-in-the-blank)

I congratulate you, by the way, on your career transition. It’s very
brave, exciting, freeing as well as encouraging for others to hear.
We artists tend to love doing so many different things that it can
get mindboggling when we try to decide “what we want to do when we
grow up” and the risks that come with leaving the corporate world can
feel like too much to manage for many people. I’m glad to hear of
your self-affirming choices and I wish you all the best

Jewelry Reborn ::
Raphael’s handmade jewelry!


I’d like to come to her defense of the juror who criticized Karen’s
work, even at the risk of alienating those who have made negative
comments. First let me distance myself from the juror’s exact
wording; this is not an attempt to agree with her tact or use of the
English language.

Whenever you ask for opinion, you open yourself up to much risk.
For this I commend Karen! It’s not easy to remove yourself
emotionally from your work. If Karen were a person who was creating
work for the sake of her own personal pleasure, rehabilitation,
personal exploration or emotional therapy she would have no need to
get any outside opinion. Obviously this isn’t the case, as she
asked someone with a degree of professional experience in judging
other art jeweler’s work; someone for whom she most likely has (or
had) a good measure of respect. If the juror took Karen’s request
to mean she needed to judge the merits of the work in relation to
the jewelry she ordinarily sees on juries, she would be remiss not
to be frank. Especially if she wasn’t a friend, patron or supporter.
Competition at highly rated craft shows is incredibly high. The
artists who get into these shows present a high degree of
sophistication in their work. Production companies look to attract
buyers who have a great deal of aesthetic discrimination. So, the
jurors they use have to have the same tastes. Call it snobbery,
academic or otherwise, it’s a reality.

Personally I like patinas, but not the forms. The forms aren’t
sophisticated enough to be contemporary, yet too consciously
manipulated to be considered Folk, Outsider or Naive.

It can take a long time to find an artistic voice that resonates
well with both professionals and consumers. Even harder if you
don’t want to compromise your personal aesthetic or taste. I know
that I have been working at it for over 10 years. We all would like
to have our first (second or third?) efforts rewarded, but more
often than not we have to keep tweaking our work until we finally
come up with a formula for success. Keep up your efforts, Karen.
The harder the struggles, the more rewarding the victories.


Well, Orchidians, all I can say is “WOW.”

In the last couple of days since I posted my request for a “group
crit” of my newest design approach, I’ve received a ton of responses.
Some were brief, some were lengthy; some people liked the work and
others didn’t. Some agreed with the juror that it needed further
development to be “complete,” others liked the pieces just as they

But what is truly overwhelming is that you folks took the TIME and
ENERGY out of your own busy creative worlds to not only look at my
work, but write to me with your comments. Many of you obviously took
a great deal of time and put a lot of work into replies that really
went “beyond the call” in specific critique, suggestions, and
ideas/resources to help.

Every one of you had something productive to say, and the
supportiveness of your responses was completely awe-inspiring.

I posted my original plea with some trepidation – the artistic ego
can be fragile at times (ha!) and with a design approach so new my
insecurities were definitely showing. But I felt the need for a
large sample of objective and knowledgeable opinions – honest
opinions (not like family/friend "that’s really nice, dear"
opinions). And that’s what I got!

THANK YOU ALL. You’re helping me become a better artist and better

Karen Goeller

Hand-crafted artisan jewelry

PS :: May I comment on something you did not ask for opinions about?
Something just occurred to me and I wonder how others feel about it.
You mentioned that you’re open to honest critiques so I’m going to
add this and hope for the best!

By the way, please understand that what I’m about to say is
something that I, myself, am guilty of so my comment is really more
of an “I’m curious to know what everyone thinks” as opposed to a
"something is wrong about what you’re doing."

When I visited the rest of your site, I had a certain feeling and I
couldn’t put my finger on why I was having it. Then it hit me. When I
saw the incredibly wide range of styles on your site, I got a sense
of “I can’t phrase it properly” I felt like it weakened some of
your more creative pieces. I’m just talking from the gut and giving
you my impressions.

Some of the styles looked very unique and inspired whereas others
looked standard, like something you’d pick out of a catalogue as
opposed to something handcrafted. There is nothing wrong with this
and I totally understand that you do all different types of work and
I’m sure you want there to be something for everyone but I felt like
the wide range somehow took away from the work.

Artists’ sites which I’ve really felt were strong and where I
thought “this person is a true professional” seem to contain work
which all has a common thread or where you can easily see that all
the pieces belong together.

Does this make any sense? I wonder: What do other people think about

Again, I really like your work and I’m absolutely not saying you
should change anything. It’s just something I’ve noticed from time to
time, both in my own work and in the work of others, and I always
wonder what’s the best route or what people perceive as the
positives/negatives of each route.

Thanks for being open to discussion, Karen, and humoring me with
this question!

Jewelry Reborn ::
Raphael’s handmade jewelry!

    Karen, I will take the time to look at your work but at the
moment I'd like to first comment on the "critique" you received:
what a NASTY and completely unprofessional commentary. It's just an
ugly thing to say and I'm constantly surprised by how insensitively
people with a little power can behave. 

We do not know what the intention of the juror was. If it was an
honest statement based on that jurors perception, that juror took a
risk to be honest. Is an unqualified rejection better? Has anyone read
"Loving What Is" by Byron Katie. Fascinating book on how to
investigate the truth about our thinking process. A truely
enlightening book for me. One of the best I ever read. Simple easy
process to investigate if my thoughts are the truth. I am aware now
that a lot of times they are not. Could be better than crystal
therapy, might take more personal responsibility. Watching the
postings and observing the criticizim of the jurors criticizm is

I try to accept other’s forms of insanity, for I have worked so hard
to achieve my own.

Richard Hart

End of forwarded message

Karen, It is a rare occurrence to receive an explanation-- whether
you agree with it or not-- as to why one’s work was rejected. I’ve
only had that happen once in a career that has included a number of
rejections. Listen to what the juror said, consider its merits as
objectively as you can, take to heart what resonates and discard the
rest. I don’t believe that the juror was being nasty, mean spirited
or particularly vicious, just candid. Opinions are like navels:
Everybody has one, some are deep and some are shallow. I applaud
your courage in laying your work out there and seeking critique.

Keep working, Andy Cooperman