Tuesday, July 17, 2012

A Question For Those Who Make Jewelry...

For those of you who make jewelry and include beaded jewelry in your repertoire, do you get criticism for making "beaded jewelry"? I ask this because I continue to get criticized for my jewelry that contains beads--independent of whether they are commercial or handmade art beads. There have been times that I have felt like I could only show certain pieces of jewelry to certain people. PMC people like PMC items, metalsmiths only respect pieces made through traditional metalsmithing and have an immediate prejudice towards PMC and sneer at anything beaded, silversmiths look down on those who use copper, etc. I know that those stereotypes don't apply to everyone who works with those materials or in those fields but I've encountered a lot of people who have openly exhibited those prejudices.

Why can't a person like to make items using *all* those methods?

I've found that even people who I've considered friends see nothing wrong with saying things such as "I hate that beaded sh*t" straight to my face.  I've been told that PMC artists have "brought down the quality of silver jewelry".  And, my favorite was when I was told that making PMC jewelry "doesn't require any skill". 

What have you experienced as a jewelry designer?  Or, if you are a person who buys handmade jewelry, do you have strong feelings about certain types of jewelry and why?


  1. I find your question fascinating. I'm in an experimental stage myself, inspired by the many jewelry makers who use different techniques and materials. Like anyone else, I have my preferences, but I enjoy seeing what others are working with and how they do it. Many have far more skills than I’ve yet developed (or may ever develop), but I don’t condude that a silversmith (as much as I’ve always loved silver work) is “better” than a beader. It depends what the maker has done with the silver or the beads--and of course, on my own taste. Jewelry is such a personal matter—and therefore, I’m finding, really difficult to make, especially if I don’t learn to block out to some extent the expectations of others with tastes or interests different from my own. I do think that using beads is often associated with “costume jewelry;” for instance, my sister just told me something I’d made (with pearls, no less) looked like something our rather gaudy grandmother would have worn, while two friends chose that same piece as my most “fashionable”—even though it didn’t suit either of them in the end. Go figure. I kind of want to give up when I hear contradictions like that. When we’re busy experimenting with new styles, it can be a real downer if even friends and family seem to dislike what they’re not used to wearing. Another example: I think it’s wondrous what can be done with PMC, by my sister-in-law thought those splendidly crafted earrings I recently bought—just to admire the handiwork--were “no great shakes.”

    So much the worse when it comes to what you described. I guess I’d expect more from the ones who are creating jewelry, but then, maybe some feel threatened by so many newcomers trying our hand at various techniques. I work with international students and professionals, and I’d hate to tell those snobbish metalsmiths you mentioned that a good part of the world wouldn’t even dream of wearing anything but gold. And I sure bet they aren’t working in gold.

    I’m happy to join your tribe of jewelry makers who appreciate skill wherever they see it and try to hone the skills that most suit them. Sorry my two cents was longer than your post!

    1. I'm glad to be in your tribe, Gale! I feel I'm in good company. I really appreciate getting to read how you feel about what I've come to call "the jewelry situation". It helps to know I'm not alone.

  2. I know it isn't easy, but take their opinions with a grain of salt. And I think it's rude to insult ones choice of beads or the medium they choose to work with. I wonder what they would say if you bashed their work...? Where would we be if everyone chose the same type of clothing, the same home decorating, the same medium in jewelry, or the same automobile? Just listen to your heart and do what you like to do.

    1. I will, indeed, take your advice.

      I can only imagine the responses I would have gotten if I had dared to bash their work...

      I'll continue to listen to my heart. Thanks so much, Alice. :)

  3. Like you, I too work in a variety of mediums. I mostly work alone and don't have a ton of in person contact with other artists. I'm still pretty new to the jewelry world. I would be dumbfounded and not really know how to respond to those types of comments. Maybe with a smile and a "gee, thank you"?

    You can like making items using all those things! That's what makes you, you. And your style unique. I encourage you to keep stretching and growing! Your work is beautiful.

    Society as a whole doesn't seem to be polite as it used to be. Most of our mothers taught us "If you don't have something nice to say, don't say anything at all." But some seem to have forgotten the lesson along the way. Way back when I taught quilting I used to tell people, if your friend examines your stitches with a magnifying glass and critiques your work without being asked, maybe you need new friends, lol. We should all learn to support, appreciate and encourage each other, rather than stomping on each other.

    1. Thank you for your kind words, AliMc. I totally agree that many more people are impolite these days. I try to not let it get me down but it is hard!

      I will always support & encourage other people who make jewelry--or work in any medium! I'm not capable of stomping others in order to feel superior or gain advantage. :)

    2. Hopefully our positivity and that of other will catch on and spread itself throughput the arts :)

  4. hi, I follow you from Italy.
    my opinion is: people who think that a metalsmith is “better” than a beader aren't so smart.
    both things are difficult in different way!
    I make both kind of jewels, depending on inspiration, and I love to make them all! I appreciate all people who make something beautiful (sewing, crochetting, polymer clay, jewels, all craft things!) with their hands!
    sorry for my bad english, I hope you will understand my thoughts

    1. Hi Jo,

      I absolutely agree! And, your English is so much better than my pitiful Italian ;)

      I really enjoy your blog and all the different kinds of beautiful work you feature on it!

      Thanks :)

  5. Oh my...not very nice to say things like that about beads!! What would the world be without them ??? :)
    My experience is that it shows how much the person speaking knows about the work...
    If they think only silver smiths is ok they do not know anything about polymer clay or ceramic or metal clay..
    So what they express is who they are not the skills they see ( or actually do not see)!!
    What I met most are people who do like my artwork and some who does not see that aspect in the jewelry and find it "STRANGE" Jewelry for some is a chain of silver and gold with a pendant or a string of freshwater pearls...Lots of Swedes are afraid of colors but that does not stop me from doing what I love :)
    So just go with Your own heart..every body can not like it or understand it but it is from Your heart and soul and THAT is the importand thing !

    1. I definitely think you're right. It's really much more of a reflection of them rather than the work they are disparaging. So, let's keep on making what we like and using as much color as we want AND any medium we so desire! :)