It is sometimes
useful to have criticism of one's work in order to develop it. While studying
as an apprentice or an art school student if one is lucky one learns the
most from such criticism, preferably put in a positive manner. However when
one is on one's own after this experience or has been self taught there
is usually no honest criticism of one's work available. One therefore most
of the time has to rely on one's own judgement. It is difficult however
to objectively deal with one's own work. This short paper will attempt to
offer ways of developing an objective attitude to one's work.
It is important to consider as many aspects of the work as possible
as well as the more obvious as well as less obvious subconscious reasons
for your aesthetic decision making; your designing. By applying this kind
of analysis to one's work in a postmortem manner one begins to learn how
and why one works and what one likes to do. It also leads to more control
of one's work and creative decisions without sacrificing spontaneity.
It does not mean that one is tied to a design structure but instead allows
one to consciously discard the structure when required which permits one
to freely choose an intuitive approach to working without being forced
into it by a lack of conscious choice. Pose questions of oneself and one's
work. Later there is no-one to criticize one easily.
It is very important that one develop an awareness of the intent of
the work, whether it is a commercial ring that should appeal to a given
target audience and be within specific price ranges, material costs and
making times or an art piece which refers to various subjects that may
evoke a reaction from the viewer. By thinking about the intent and content
of the work it becomes more successful. What follows are comments that
if carefully considered will help one develop a more conscious attitude
to making one's work. Note that once you have done it a few times one
can discard the rigid side of criticism of one's work and develop an ongoing
critical level comfortable for yourself while working which tends to produce
better resolved work more consistently. The approach may be from the artist's
often intuitive, referential angle or from a design and business oriented
In order to criticize one's work one can try tricks like letting one's
eye wander freely over the lines of the object while it is rotating slowly
on a rotating table (like a ceramics trimming table or a small Lazy Susan)
until one notices the eye is jarred or stopped. There will be either a
weak point or a place requiring some kind of decision as to it's resolution
there. Another trick is to look at the object in regard to some gauge,
such as holding a sawblade to bisect it from different angles while looking
at it or to look at the object through a frame like a slide mount. One
can fuzz one's eyes slightly by narrowing them in order to more easily
see the masses of the object. Side lighting can point out surface decisions
and other lighting or even projected lines and grids can give understanding
of the form of the object. If it is reflective one can dust it lightly
with an underarm powder spray to see the form more clearly. One can turn
the lights off for a bit, turn them on for a moment or two while looking
at the object and then turn them off again to get a fresh view of it,
or open and close your eyes for a similar effect. One can imagine the
object in a stream or water or smoke or air to understand it's occupation
of space through imagined turbulence past it and through it. One can try
to reverse figure and ground, imagining the holes in the object as solid
and the object as hollow space so as to better understand positive and
negative space in relationship to the object. There are many such tricks
to see it in a new light and get past one's experience of making it in
order to evaluate it freshly.
There is an entire formal level of evaluation of the object. This refers
to relationships of mass, volume, plane, surface, color, form and shape.
Issues of balance and symmetry are dealt with in this examination. One
can experience visual mass as weight in order to see the 'balance' of
the object. Empty space next to mass has a 'weight' value also, as does
implied mass where part of the object guides the eye abruptly into space.
There are a number of design systems for formal composition and these
can be found in libraries. They are not much taught in art schools any
more in my experience, perhaps because the teachers were not all taught
by their teachers. Whether commercial or not the formal composition of
the work is what one does when designing it., the composition of relationships
within the work.
There is a level of functional evaluation in formal terms, that is how
it will work in use for it's intended place, whether a emerald encrusted
bracelet or a piece to be displayed on the wall or table.
There is a level dealing with context and references. This is the social
function of the object, the level at which it and it's component elements
evoke references in the viewer and it occurs with all objects whether
a standard diamond engagement ring or a piece or wearable art. Here too
is where one examines the references and implied references an object
evokes. I once built a ring which I liked until someone said 'It looks
like Mickey Mouse' which ruined it permanently for me. It is important
to be aware of implied and historical references when creating a piece.
Most of these are far more subtle than the foregoing.
What follows are some hints for making work and working towards ongoing
conscious choice in working.
Never put marks into the metal surface unless you want them there, whether
by using too coarse an emery grit on a scratch or a plier or hammer dent.
Consider function in use and wear. Consider context. Consider the correct
sequence of steps in making and forming it.
|Function in use:
||Does it rip the wearer's jugular or wrist? Is it sharp?
Would you want to be wearing it in a car accident? Dirty? Heavy? Bright?
Will it tear clothing? Tarnish quickly? Leave stains on skin? Will
it balance well or slip in use? Does it function socially and aestheti-cally?
||Where is it to be worn? How? By whom? What for? What
does it say about the wearer? The viewer? How will it function aesthetically
when off? When worn? What is it's role in our culture? What information
could the piece convey to the an observer or user?
Thought should be given to mass, volume, balance, symmetry and asymmetry.Remember
that in all formal compositional decisions both real and inferred perceptions
Consciously use positive and negative space. Realize this will be different
in the finished metal object and on and off the body.
Consider material strength and type in relation to function and with
the structural strength relative to the piece's function.
Consider protecting metal surfaces at all times during making to avoid
damage, one can use a 3M ® paper tape which does not leave residues on
the work. Label making stock functions in a similar manner. and one can
draw on it as well.
Again, if you don't want a mark in the metal don't put it there.
Always consider edges carefully. Because metal is thin edges function
as important framing elements and transition elements between one plane
and another. They often need burnishing, thickening or emphasizing to
obtain a effective resolution of a piece.
Consider transitions in plane, form and surface carefully.
Seek to relate all parts of the work in some manner; it is a whole object
and is experienced in the round, from all sides and the back.
Consider touch carefully. The intimate scale of jewellery and the way
and the number of times it is touched during the making make tactile qualities
a special integral part of the field of jewellery making.
Consider context in relation to the parts of the work: what does it
look like? What buttons is it pushing in the viewers and wearer's mind?
In your own? What are the implications and reminders that a surface finish,
an edge, shape or form can give? The references that color, shape and
form evoke are vital to understand and consciously make decisions about.
Is light and shadow of importance to the surface life of the piece?
What role and references does color have in the piece? How does it modulate
What role does line (both real and inferred) play in the vitality of
What does your texture do? How does it modulate color, tone and form?
And again, what about your edge quality? Your edge transitions?
Is sound and weight and movement important to the work? How and why
and what is the context the piece exists in again?
Surround the work with your thoughts during it's making. Touch it in
every place with your mind to approach a cohesive solution to a work.
One can usually tell if a work has been carefully thought out and mentally
and physically touched by the maker, if it was carefully considered during
Whether one makes commercial work or art-metal conscious decisions about
the intentions of the work are vital. Work may be made for the artist
or for an audience but the intentions should be sincere and if possible
carried out clearly in the artist's and designer's terms. The increased
level of involvement with the design of the work may also lend more fun
to the creative process, as it allows more conscious play, risk taking
or goal oriented control to exist. Many of the above comments hold true cross media.