Just a thought on this. Perhaps I could share with you my vision
from the perspective of my background in the history of craft. A lot
has changed since the time when I engineered my last price-point
production series for a couple of (now defunct) national department
store chains. I believe a new paradigm is presenting itself in our
field due to two formats intersecting.
Artist craftspeople making incursions into the retail jewelry
environment. These individuals are different than the inbred
industry producers of twenty years ago, when the craft schools and the
jewelry manufacturers were completely unaware of what the other was
Presentation formats that are the basis of web page catalogs and
structure themselves on the constraints of HTML and Java formats.
There is a style of topical segregation and layering going on that is
training the market on how to view product.
What I’d suggest is to peruse any number of gallery web sites to get
a feel for the organizational habits they are using. Retail
collections are going to resemble this more and more in the future.
Look at juried shows by organizations like SOFA and SNAG for occasions
where artists are invited to submit works around “themes”. This will
set you apart from the retailers who have bought into the "branding"
marketing gimmick, which, in my opinion, will further compartmentalize
our product and give the advantage to competitors with big buying
power and large advertising budgets. You may be looking at a choice
between either having your artists create designs to fit within a
framework you devise or to represent them within their own individual
personality formats and try to bring this under the larger image of
the store. This latter choice will be difficult. It works for the
NBA sometimes, but it will invite the chaos you fear. The old Bauhaus
is a good example of this. Better to have them try to work themselves
into the constraints of the store image, which will take REALLY
talented individuals. You must convince them that it’s a greater
accomplishment to contribute to a winning team than to try to shine by
themselves. Humility is supremely difficult for the accomplished.
See if you can find anything in the library on the "Memphis School"
and look it over. There was a case where this worked well. Here
might be some exercises.
Have everyone see if they could create one design each that would
look like it belonged in a book on Art Deco jewelry. (of course, they
will have to actually look at some Art Deco jewelry. Just an exercise,
you don’t have to make the actual pieces.
Then see if they can all contribute suggestions for elements of
their own shared “design style”, such as: organic, Hispanic,
mechanical, hallucinatory, whatever. Just so long as they can collect
all these “rules” and then possibly, by lottery or through the triumph
of dominant personalities (dangerous), select the criteria they will
then try to design for.
See if they can now create individual examples of the new style
they have contracted.
The particulars, like when and how you will set aside the time to
design, the format (notebooks, sketchbooks, whatever), how many
designs, who carves, who casts, who sets. This is trivial. If you
get them on board on this, they’ll be anxious to get these details out
of the way in order to see the actual product.
You’ll either get them to work together like the Beatles, separate
but equal, or you’ll have to satisfy yourself with taking the reins
yourself, collecting all their designs, and try to make a bouquet from
picking through the weed patch. In other words, probably continue
doing what I suspect you are doing now. If they could only see the
glorious possibilities that all those great minds and talents might
reach if they could work together on this. Go ahead, tempt them with
visions of power.
David L. Huffman