01/14/2011

When artists hear the word ‘marketing’ our toes tend to curl up.  Savvy self-promoters are usually castigated within the creative community as sellouts, cynics and punchlines. Within the rarefied air of the ‘fine art’ world there’s big money to be had, but for the niche world of art jewelry it’s more like sink or swim. Rather than fret about the glossy plastic narrative of ‘making it big’ in the art world, why not subvert the idea and actually enjoy the process? There are some jewelers on the web who have found a way to play with self-promotion, lay the foundation for success and enjoy the process by playing with these expectations and carving out a place that is unique.

Phylicia Gilijamse, Tak, copper, enamel, cord One part infomercial and one part social experiment, I Want Tak is a project created by Phylicia Gilijamse, a student studying Applied Arts and Design at Fachhochschule Düsseldorf. Phylicia created 100 pieces of jewelry using affordable components and an eye on production to keep the price reasonable. However, the pieces are still handmade and the enameling process she uses leads to subtle variations within each Tak, making them individual. She’s also set a deadline to purchase (January 28) and a blog. Act now while you still can!

Nervous System, rings, rapid prototype, steel, botanical, biological Using industrial production methods, Nervous System has found a way to create unique and challenging production jewelry. They’ve written computer programs that mimic the growth patterns in nature as cells divide creating jewelry that is both futuristic and lyrical. And what I find most interesting is the feature where you actually design your own piece using the software they’ve created. You can play mad scientist and they’ll produce whatever you come up with.

Michelle Pajak-Reynolds, necklace, art jewelry, pearls Michelle Pajak-Reynolds is not afraid to use words like ‘marketing,’ ‘business’ or even *shudder* ‘price point,’ which has made her the subject of some conflict and also a hero to many of us in the art jewelry world who don’t have a nine-to-five job or a comfy office ensconced in academia. Michelle had been making, exhibiting and selling work for over a decade when she decided to focus more on the entrepreneurial aspect of surviving as an artist. Knowing that most working artists, myself included, would rather subject themselves to back-alley dentistry then enroll in an MBA program, Michelle has generously allowed us to share in the fruits of her labor. eMerge: A Business Blog for Creative People allows Michelle to share important insight and foster a dialogue about how to actually thrive, not just survive, as a working artist. 

As universities cut funding and positions dwindle, more and more of us are going to have to figure out how to actually make a living through art jewelry if we want to see this field survive. Why continue to pretend that academia is the last best hope for artists wishing to create compelling, challenging and experimental work? Here’s to Plan B, bank accounts, optimism and success, however you define it. There’s plenty of wiggle room between making a living and becoming the jewelry world’s Thomas Kincaid, so get over it and get out there.

Jillian Moore

Jillian Moore is a maker and writer who currently lives in Iowa City, United States, where she completed her MFA in jewelry and metal arts at the University of Iowa in 2008. She received her BFA in metalsmithing and jewelrymaking from Western Illinois University in Macomb, in 2004.

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