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Susan Cummins on Judging the Susan Beech Mid-Career Grant

“Jewelry-Adjacent Work Would Be Interesting to See,” Says the Juror


The $20,000 Susan Beech Mid-Career Grant offers prestige, recognition, and funding to the winner.

  • Recognizes a mid-career artist who has made a substantial contribution to the field of art jewelry
  • Open to makers aged 35–55 on the January 8, 2023, application deadline
  • Proposal should be about jewelry, loosely defined
  • Info here

The distinguished jurors for this grant cycle are AJF founder and collector Susan Cummins (US); curator and historian LaMar Gayles (US); and jewelry historian, curator, and author Beatriz Chadour-Sampson (UK). We will interview them all, starting with Cummins.

Susan Cummins
Susan Cummins, photo courtesy of Susan Cummins

AJF: How were you introduced to contemporary jewelry?

Susan Cummins: I was introduced to American craft in the 1970s and opened a small shop that mostly featured ceramics created by my partner, who was a potter. We did street fairs and sold wholesale. Eventually a gallery space came up for rent in Mill Valley, where we had our studio and shop, so we got that. I then started showing a variety of craft media, including jewelry. I was very impressed by the intelligence and abilities of the jewelers and began to be very interested in it.

This year continues to see a lot of disruption and uncertainty—epidemics, war, political unrest, and economic stressors—but we are also seeing enormous changes to the ways people work and interact. Do you expect to see different kinds of proposals given the changes we are experiencing?

Susan Cummins: Yes, I hope to see new and unexpected ways of approaching jewelry. Even jewelry-adjacent work would be interesting to see.

What do you think is the single most important conversation for artists to be having today?

Susan Cummins: How to survive.

Besides grants such as this one, what other ways do you think that artists can be encouraged and supported?

Susan Cummins: They need to be educated in promotional and marketing abilities and learning how to deal with manufacturing and distribution companies. Learning ways to support themselves while still making unique work is very hard. Yet there are many ways to do that. The artists of the past don’t really present road maps for this, so it would be part of their creative development, too. Ceramic and fiber artists have entered the design and art markets. I believe that jewelers will have to do that, too. The craft market of fairs and small galleries will not sustain them all over time.

Susan Beech
Grant founder Susan Beech, photo courtesy of Susan Beech




  • Marta Costa Reis

    Marta Costa Reis started studying jewelry in 2004, as a hobby, in parallel with other professional activities. She dedicated herself fully to this work in 2014. Costa Reis completed the jewelry course at Ar.Co – Centro de Arte e Comunicacção Visual, in Lisbon, and the Advanced Visual Arts Course at the same school, in addition to workshops with renowned teachers including Iris Eichenberg, Ruudt Peters, Lisa Walker, and Eija Mustonen, among others. In addition to being a jewelry artist, Costa Reis teaches jewelry history at Ar.Co, writes about jewelry, and curates exhibitions. She also serves as artistic director of the Lisbon Contemporary Jewellery Biennial and as a board member of Art Jewelry Forum.

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