AJF member Ron Porter recently asked Sergey Jivetin, winner of the 2005 AJF Emerging Artist Award, to give us his thoughts on the award. When the award was first established in 1999, the monetary value was $2000. In 2009, through membership growth and donations, AJF has been able to increase the value to $5000.
Sergey Jivetin: I remember when I got the news of the award it felt very special knowing that someone outside of academia, from the real art world, appreciates the work and illuminates the real path to doing what you like to become a professional in our area of art jewelry.
The AJF award is one of the very few geared towards helping emerging artists continue their endeavors at the most vulnerable point in their career. After finishing grad school, it is really important not to lose the momentum to make art. It is difficult to do in our field, since the more experimental and innovative work may not be immediately marketable and collected. It takes time to establish a name and trust in the potential of the artist. Awards – and AJF’s in particular – are the best way to let the art jewelry world collectors focus on the work that is truly innovative, rather than simply new and flashy. It also definitely helps to announce the award at SOFA and have lectures by the artists.
As far as the financial aspect of the award, it is hard to judge. Compared to the fine art disciplines, the money is far too little, but for the art jewelry field, with its lack of dedicated big foundations and art institutions, it is better than nothing. The increase in money to $5000 is a great improvement, but could very well be doubled or tripled to really make a difference and enable further real exploration.
So overall, at this point and in this amount I consider the award money to still be more symbolic of the belief and trust in the potential of the artist than an actual solid financial backing. I think both need to happen if an award is to really matter. That is not to say I am not thankful for getting the award – I am. It does help immensely in the absence of everything else, but there is room for expansion.
Financial realities for an art jewelry maker
It costs the minimum of $10,000 to set up a basic working studio, so it takes a long time and effort to collect funds and equipment to start working after school. That is not to say everything has to start immediately, it is just that paying rent and buying food usually takes precedence. A lot of people either have to do production work, start teaching, or do everything else to simply survive. That, however, is when experimentation is put on the backburner and most of the ideas simply take the form of the most potentially sellable, or none at all. Momentum is lost and is then very hard to recover. There are very few artists in the field that don’t have full-time jobs and still do consistently revolutionary work.
Even for a more established artist, the costs can be daunting. In order to come up with a half-decent solo show, I and many of my colleagues use up most of our savings each time, even in non-precious materials and sales are not immediately reciprocated, by any means. For the last three of my shows, the material costs alone ran about $5000 to $7000 and I use recycled materials! (And my investment of time is about three months of dedicated uninterrupted work just on the show.)
What I’m doing now
Currently, I am working on a new show with Ornamentum, which most likely will end up titled Accumulus. It should open sometime in April 2010 and a portion of it will travel to SOFA New York that same month. In this show I am departing from my previous working methodologies quite a bit, both in terms of scale and of materials. From something very tiny to a piece that is six inches tall, every one of these new objects will be composed of different materials, from the eggshell and bulletproof vest padding to the broken porcelain handles, fishing hooks and shipping filler material. I am also hoping to transform a gallery space into a whole experience where the objects will be understood as a part of something larger than just jewelry, but still be approachable, physical and tactile.