Sharing lessons learned with emerging artists

Telling a "Story" really can help a customer relate to and
hopefully purchase a piece. 

That’s what the retail salesperson should do. It’s their job. It’s
jewelry. Not a manifesto.

Have fun and make lots of jewelry.
Jo Haemer

I don’t understand the negativity either. Writing a statement
actually causes me to consider where I am going with my work. And
that’s the most important thing to me… if I am not progressing,
then I should stop (IMHO). But write em or don’t write em. Most of
the time, in a gallery situation, the creator of the art form is not
there. The work speaks for itself - but the statement speaks for the
artist when the artist is not there.

I’m on beer #3 – but here goes: as a long-time journalist and
four-year veteran of silversmithing, the basic rule of all artist’s
statements is subject-verb-object. Such as in: “I love
silversmithing.” Subject “I,” naturally. “Love” is the verb and
object – “silversmithing.”

Of course, you can do better than this, because if you are creative
enough to make fab jewels, you are creative enough to figure out a
couple strings of words.

Please, please, please don’t try to baffle your readers with artsy
B.S. Instead, keep it simple, stupid (KISS). (Google this.) Think
about communication (you do know how to talk about your work.) And
think about the myths you create everyday about yourself. Speak
about your work from the heart. Think of it as helping your
potential customers to understand where your work is coming from and
why they should buy it. Period.

In the 1980s, I wrote about artists and their works, and snob
critics claimed that artists, who are visual experts, couldn’t
express thoughts about their work in words – which are verbal.
NONSENSE. I interviewed tons of artists. They all have the same
wants and needs as you and I. I asked them basic questions about
their work and would ALWAYS walk away with a terrific story about
their lives and aims and backgrounds and art.

So, communicate to folks about your work – unless you have no
desire to sell it. Which would be stupid, wouldn’t it.

Betsy Lehndorff

Figure out what makes you different from your competition and write
about that. An artist statement helps potential clients and current
clients to know you better. If it is full of puffery then that is
what you project. If it is honest and current then you have done all
you can. Separating yourself from your competition and telling your
story makes you more interesting ( if you are!) and that is why
anyone would buy your work and not your competition. My competition
is all sorts of stuff, not just jewelry.

Sam Patania

That's what the retail salesperson should do. It's their job. It's
jewelry. Not a manifesto. 

Sorry, but that seems a bit myopic in my eyes. There are lots of
reasons that we make anything, jewelry included. As I have said,
sometimes it is about sales–maybe all the time for some. But not for
everybody and not for everybody all the time.

Is Orchid only for those jewelry makers who create for the sole
purpose of selling? I never thought so but perhaps I have been


Andy- My back ground is in fine arts. I make stuff all the time
that’s for fun/art. I just finished a life sized heirloom tomato salt
cellar and spoon in Sterling and 18kt gold. I’m about to embark on
another caprice involving some of Elizabeth Johnson’s stunning glass
work. Will these sell? I don’t care.

The reason I can do this is because folks pay me money for my
jewelry work.

My late father Alan Haemer was a portrait painter and book cover/
magazine illustrator as well as a professor of fine arts at the U f
O. From the 30’s to the 50’s he’d say “I have two prices. It’s
$500.00 or it’s free.” Later on in the late 60s he changed it to
“$1000.00 or free”.

Because of my family background in both commercial and fine arts I’m
very comfortable with both.

I don’t care if my art sells or not. I don’t care if I’m famous or
not. I DO care if I can’'t make a living in the trade. I just don’t
think that I should have to explain my work. It should speak for

I doubt that Van Gogh was ever asked by a gallery to write an
artists statement.

Have fun and make lots of jewelry.
Jo Haemer

I have to agree with Andy.

I’ve been making a living creating one-of-a-kind jewelry since 1984
(man that’s a long time). Even though I fabricate a living selling
the jewelry that I make I would still be creating objects even if I
didn’t have to sell to survive.

Without doubt I am a maker of things because I love the processes
and the problem solving that go along with creating.


I’ve been reading the parts about artist’s statements with great

I’ll go with Jo from way back when. Oh, get over yourself…
… You want to write some breathless prose about every bit of bent
sheet metal, go ahead and feel good about it. Just don’t act like a
petulantchild when people don’t respond to it, or your work, the way
you imagined they “should” have. Like Jo, I have my own brain, thank
you very much.

I consider most of them to be a measure of self-absorption more than
anything else. Now if your work is derivative of the native peoples
of the upper Maku Maku river, then that’s something else entirely.
But almost all of the things in this discussion simply are not.

When I first started making jewelry part time, I was very, very
blessed. The Birmingham News’ fashion editor, took a liking to my
work & myself. Any time I was doing a show, if I let her know in
enough time she put my name in the newspaper. Sheer luck.

The same month I went full time with my jewelry I was a featured
jewelry artist at Macy’s & someone had taken a good picture of me
sitting at the exhibition table. I saved it. A year went by, I’d
moved out of state and a large gift shop wanted me to give her a
picture of myself, with a written statement to use as a marketing
tool. I combined the two, had them printed at Kinko’s (we didn’t
have personal computers in those days) and laminated. I was able to
get two on an 8-1/2 x 10 sheet & used thatvery usefully as a
marketing tool for my wholesale customers for many years. Some
people cared about it, some didn’t. With wholesale customers I
always told them I give a lifetime guaranty on my craftsmanship & I
have an open exchange policy. If they think something isn’t selling
as fast as they’d like, I’m happy to exchange it for another style.
Most recently I framed a magazine article showing some of my work
along with my picture & am using these in two stores I am renting
display space. We all continually learn from each other.

Sharon Perdasofpy

I have a “themed” line of fun pendants that I was showing to a
jeweler to day. They liked them. The very first thing he asked was,
“Do you have the verbiage?” Meaning he wants the story that the
salespeople can tell when selling them. Not quite the same thing as
asking for an Artists Statement, but not that dissimilar either. It’s
true that it’s the salesperson’s job to sell the product, but they
can use all the help they can get. If I have a good story for them to
tell I want to give it to them. It’s up to them whether they use it
or not.

Is Orchid only for those jewelry makers who create for the sole
purpose of selling? 

Sadly I for one must earn a living, everything I make must be sold,
usually before I make it. But then, it certainly beats robbing
7-Eleven’s to get by.


I simply don’t understand why an artist’s statement needs to be
characterized as a product of self- absorption.

What does seem to be telling, in my opinion, is the strong and
intolerant tone of the negative reactions posted on this thread. If
you don’t believe in artists’ statements then don’t write one. If a
gallery requests one of you, politely decline. If a statement is
offered alongside a piece that you feel is lessened by reading it,
then don’t read it. And if you do see the value in writing one then
do so honestly.

But like so many gut reactions, such condescending and dismissive
comments say more about the poster than they do about the statement

Sadly I for one must earn a living 

And I must also. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t make things that
may either appeal to a much smaller audience or are designed and
conceived to communicate an idea.

Why must one invalidate the other?

I doubt that Van Gogh was ever asked by a gallery to write an
artists statement. 

Too true. Artists statements are another unfortunate byproduct of
the academic ART crowd. Who cares if you can actually make art as
long as you can rattle off endless reams of BS about your art.

James Binnion
James Binnion Metal Arts

Of course Orchid has members who run the entire spectrum of jewelers
from the most amateur to best sellers to the upper strata! But it
costs money to eat, to buy more stones, more metal, etc., etc., etc.
Let alone for health coverage and prescriptions! So lets not get too

I came to jewelry after many years of painting. I still paint, but
am delighted when I sell my jewelry for all of the above
considerations, but primarily because someone liked my work well
enough to buy it. And then I can afford to continue making it. My
only regret is that I am not a lot younger, with many many years
ahead to create.

Noralie Katsu

Too true. Artists statements are another unfortunate byproduct of
the academic ART crowd. Who cares if you can actually make art as
long as you can rattle off endless reams of BS about your art. 

Occasionally, though, one sees an artist who doesn’t quite play by
those rules. I recall one show where the artists statement went
something like this:

I paint.
my paintings speak for themselves.
What do you see?
Look at paintings for their meanings.
Don’t read artists statements

I didn’t put the above in quotes, because likely, I’ve not recalled
the wording exactly. but I remember smiling and silently cheering in
my head… I also recall that the paintings (intricate abstract and
colorful) were beautiful and quite fascinating. They didn’t need
written text to make them so, as their import was best communicated
visually, not verbally. Even titles of the works were non-descript,
such as “study #1” or the like. The absense of verbal directions
would also allow each viewer to arrive and his or her own personal
interaction with and interpretation of what the piece was about.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Sometimes, a thousand
words just hurts the picture.


Who cares if you can actually make art as long as you can rattle
off endless reams of BS about your art. 

Agreed. Less talking, more doing.


I am a talker type of person and I also enjoy writing as one of my
creative outlets, so I rather enjoy outlining the focus of a
particular line of work and giving a brief background about myself
when I am asked to do so.

Additionally, there are very specific reasons galleries like to have
your artist statement. Having worked in sales off and on before
returning to school for my art degree I totally understand it. It
helps the sales person tremendously when he/she is working a sale to
keep their customer engaged. Often the story behind the work or the
artist’s background adds interest in your work. And quite often the
customer enjoys repeating that story when they wear your work and it
gets noticed by others.

When a person puts on any given piece of adornment, or displays a
work of art in their home, they do it not only because they like the
piece, but in most instances they like it when others notice it and
comment on it, too.

I have a customer email to tell me about how she always has a chance
to share my story and the background of a piece I made when wears
it, and she said loves to tell people about it. For me, who strives
to making a living on my art, this is the type of word of mouth
advertising that brings me new customers. This type of “free
advertising” is very valuable to me.

I agree that often there is probably a lot of drivel out there aimed
at proving to the masses that an artist has intellectual capacity.
But who am I to judge? If an artist gets really involved in telling
their story, so what? It is not hurting me in any way, so I refrain
from passing judgment. I too like to talk, I enjoy writing, and
frankly I feel good when someone wants to know a little more about
the story behind a piece, about me, or about a specific line of
designs I have made. I will always try support the sales staff of a
gallery in any way I can if it helps them sell my art.

I highly value the word passed from customer to potential customer.
I am not looking to be famous, (although rich would be nice), but I
am very open to anything that will produce dialog about me, my work,
my focus. And if a few thoughtfully written lines on a piece of
paper is requested of me, then I will gladly supply it.


1 Like
I simply don't understand why an artist's statement needs to be
characterized as a product of self- absorption. 


Artists statements are another unfortunate byproduct of the
academic ART crowd. Who cares if you can actually make art as long
as you can rattle off endless reams of BS about your art. 

Why is this always an either or situation? Are All artists statements
bs? Does a well-crafted artist statement mean that the work is bad?
Must one exist at the expense of the other? Sorry, I’m just not
buying it…