This Is Not a Book (Part 2)

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Contemporary jewelry is doing OK. It does not need another pat on the back in the form of a 300-page book of images. When taking on the task of editor in 2010, Damian Skinner decided to treat Contemporary Jewelry in Perspective as an opportunity to examine jewelry as a mature, fully developed practice. Rather than propose yet another set of justifications for its existence, he led a project to provide instruments to navigate the spaces in which jewelry lives (part 1), to understand the history of the field (part 2), and to grasp some of the contentious issues that animate jewelry today (part 3).

This joint lecture by Benjamin Lignel and Namita Wiggers—both contributors to part 1—looks at the history of contemporary jewelry through the lens of some of its defining moments. Why was the critique of preciousness so important? What exactly is de-skilling, and does it herald the end of bench-based craft? Why is inheritance an issue for long-term preservation of contemporary jewelry?

Lignel and Wiggers also discuss how the seven spaces of contemporary jewelry, as defined in part 1 of Contemporary Jewelry in Perspective, are both found environments and discursive products: such spaces are determined by makers’ willingness to appropriate them and to challenge the limits of what is historically “given.”

While Lignel and Wiggers share some assumptions about contemporary jewelry, their positions as editor/maker and curator have colored, and to some extent polarized, how they think about the field. To some degree, the lecture’s aim was to leave the audience with the strange urge to burn, and then redraw the plinth on which contemporary jewelry sits.

To purchase Contemporary Jewelry in Perspective, please visit AJF’s bookstore.

Sponsored by the University of Oregon and Art Jewelry Forum.


  • Benjamin Lignel & Namita Wiggers

    Benjamin Lignel first trained in philosophy and literature, then in art history, at New York University and finally in furniture design in London. Most of his time is devoted to creating jewelry, but the laws of gravity have recently been steering him back towards desktop adventures, including, but not limited to, curatorial, associative and writing endeavors. In 2007, he co-founded La Garantie, Association Pour Le Bijou, a French association with a mission to study and promote jewelry. He became a member of Think Tank: A European Initiative for the Applied Arts in 2009.

    Namita Gupta Wiggers is Director and Chief Curator at the Museum of Contemporary Craft in partnership with Pacific Northwest College of Art. Her work combines her experience and training as a curator, an art historian, a museum educator, ethnographer and design researcher, teacher, writer and studio-art jeweller. Through exhibitions, programming, and writing, Wiggers considers how craft and design function as subjects and verbs, as simultaneously distinct and intersecting practices and how the exhibition operates as a site and space for cultural inquiry. She is the co-founder of Critical Craft Forum and serves on the Board of Trustees, American Craft Council. 

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