I feel conflicted right now. I know this is a conversation that many jewelers have with themselves. It's a debate that people have been engaging in for a very long time, especially in the fine craft community. Artists of all types all have to decide between trying to make their work with the sole intention to sell it or making their work for the simple sake of making it. Because the ultimate purpose of the piece (art for art’s sake, or art for money) affects how you design and create it. Even though it shouldn't, it does. (Let's be real)
When I hold two of my pieces— one that I made for the simple sake of making it, and one that I made to sell, they have very different feelings. One feels like it has a soul and significance, and the other feels almost like a waste of space in some regards. I feel like I have sold out, like its lacking the meaning and importance of the other pieces I am absolutely in love with. I don't challenge myself nearly as much with the pieces I want to sell. I make “safe” choices rather than daring ones.
The more I try to make work to sell, I just feel uninspired, unmotivated, and devoid of any passion I usually feel when Im making jewelry because I want to make it. I feel like my artistic choices are constrained. I feel like I am making certain choices that reflect what I think will sell and be appealing to the most amount of people in my “target audience”. I choose materials and stones that will be the most affordable and design pieces to be as simple as possible while still making it “me” to keep costs down. Often this does not allow for my materials & stones to be ethically sourced, or my metal to be recycled. I need to change this. I feel like a “sell-out”*
While making work in more of a production style may be positive for many people, it currently does not work for me. I am not shaming those who actively engage in this type of art production, I am just making the observation for my own work and my own life.
Now that I have a full time “big girl job” at a Goldsmithing and repair shop, my time in the studio feels even more precious than it was before when I was only working part time. I am in a place of financial security and stability for the first time ever, which feels very good, but also very strange. Before, I was trying to make as many pieces to sell so I could cover rent and food, but that is no longer a requirement for me or my art making. I still want to sell my work, but from now on, it will no longer be at the forefront of my mind when I generate ideas and proceed to execute them.
I want to spend my spare time learning new techniques and grow as a jeweler, goldsmith and metalsmith.
I want to spend the extra money to ensure that all stones are 100% ethically sourced.
I need to use ethically sourced gemstones.
I want to use recycled precious metals.
I need to use recycled precious metals.
I want to go back to my artistic roots.
I want to rediscover what makes me tick.
I want to infuse traditional methods of making with a contemporary sense of aesthetics and modern perspective.
Ultimately, feeling passionate about what I do is the most important thing. So my plan is to do that and to follow that relentlessly. My goal is to find the equilibrium between planning and making, between concept and form, between challenging myself technically and maintaining my personal aesthetic.
* Again, I want to re-iterate: I am not shaming those who make art to sell and make artistic choices based on that. I am not placing a hierarchy onto the different methods and intentions of art making here. I am simply making statements about my personal artistic expression. Each artist has a wildly different approach to the ways they make art and jewelry, and this is just one person’s take.
What a lovely way to start the new year!
Farrah Emami, the wonderfully talented photographer that took the photos below, was a classmate with me in undergrad at CSU. We had talked about doing a photoshoot over a year ago, and I am so glad we finally figured it out in our schedules to make it happen. We opted to go into the "wild" for this creative endeavor. I am so glad we did.
A little bit about the location we chose:
Horsetooth Reservoir is one of my absolute favorite spots in Colorado. It has a unique beachy, yet still wild and mountainous feel, and only takes 15 minutes to get there from the middle of town. In the summer it is an amazing hiking/paddle boarding/ swimming spot-- and its the best spot to watch the sunsets all year. The history of this reservoir is really interesting too. It sits in the hills above Fort Collins on the western side of the Dakota Hogback foothills, which contains the reservoir along its eastern side. It was built in 1949, and ever since the creation of the 6.5 mile long body of water, the biodiversity of the area has increased dramatically. The ecosystem was totally altered at the time, but now it has come to a equilibrium. Horsetooth is lovely, and peaceful and will remain one of my favorite places for a long time. Some of my favorite memories in college take place at this place: the countless hikes I have been on with friends and loved ones, the time I went skinny dipping with my boyfriend at the time, the many times that I have gone to this place a source of inspiration for my art and jewelry at a time where I felt stumped. Etc. Etc. Etc. Long story short: I feel a deep sense of connection to this place and I am so glad to have involved it in my life in yet another way.
A little bit about the models:
The models were also an absolute joy to work with: Alexa Dalrymple, Suzi Hummel, Callie Downing and Lauren Wang. They braved the cold with Farrah and me and it was absolutely magical how they each transformed less-than-ideal circumstances into an expression of their unique personality. It was cold. Like really really cold. The wind was brutal, and as soon as the sun went behind the crest of the hills to our west, it felt like the temperature dropped 20 degrees.
It was sunny, but the wind was frigid--the wintery Northern Colorado day was excellent for the vibe that we were going for though. I am so happy with how these photos came out. It almost seems like it's summer in some of them. The sun is so warm and bright in these shots; I love the way it makes their hair and skin glow like they are being illuminated from within. The intensity of the light comes across so beautifully in these shots. I love how the barren and snow-patched earth compliments the color of the silver and allows the colored gemstones to stand out.
I love how these photos tell a story. The way the models styled and wore the pieces allowed for a total transformation to occur. The jewelry totally changed based on the context of how and who was wearing them. This photoshoot reminded me why I love creating jewelry so much: making people feel beautiful, promoting self-confidence and expressing aspects of yourself, among many other themes are something I love interacting with. Jewelry is meant to be worn and lived in and loved and changed. It ultimately has an amazing story to tell. And everyone has a totally different method of self-expression that truly comes across in the ways that we adorn ourselves.
These themes and the location we shot at are both something I feel very connected to and I was truly reminded of these aspects when Farrah and I worked together on this photoshoot. I am so grateful I have these strong, beautiful and talented women in my life.
See more of Farrah's work at: www.farrahemamiphotography.com
Alexa Dalrymple: (https://www.instagram.com/alexa_dalrymple/)
Suzi Hummel: (https://www.instagram.com/suzihummel21/)
Lauren Wang: (https://www.instagram.com/lvurenwvng/)
Callie Downing: (https://www.instagram.com/caldowning/)