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.