Studio Multiples/Portfolio

The works presented in this portfolio were selected through a challenging jurying process. Space constraints forced us to eliminate many noteworthy objects by talented metalsmiths and jewelers; we could have easily filled a publication twice the length of this one with no compromise in quality.

In making our final selection, we did not apply a consistent set of criteria. Some work was chosen because it illustrated a particular aesthetic we wished to acknowledge. Other work was selected for its clever use of a technological process; still other pieces were included because of the uniqueness of their expression. We sought out work that was conceived from the start as production as well as work that was created in multiples due to market demand or other market forces. We actively looked for new faces, artists whose work had not received major exposure, but we also wanted to include many of the established contributors to the production world.

We did adhere to two parameters. All work selected had to have been produced a minimum of five times in a small studio setting and all work selected had to be, to the best of our knowledge, original to the artist. Contrary to some current critical thinking, we felt that in this area of metals production it was very important to try to assign authorship and reward originality.

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In the process of searching for work, we visited galleries and major trade fairs, and we sent out over 300 letters to craftspeople, gallery owners, and schools in the United States and small percentage of replies. We were especially perplexed by this response in light of the many complaints we’ve heard over the years from the production community as to what it perceives as its lack of coverage in Metalsmith. Nevertheless, in the end this was a highly competitive jurying process.

One of the difficulties we encountered in addressing the topic of studio multiples was devising a working definition of production artist. The term itself provokes lively discussion. While many, including the curators of this portfolio, consider the term neutral and merely descriptive, there are those who feel production artist is a decidedly pejorative term, an oxymoron along the lines of military intelligence.

Even among those who apply the term neutrally, there is disagreement as to what it means. The term seems to encompass numerous implications that vary widely. This may be in part because the role of a production artist can include aspects of so many other fields, ranging from industrial designer to artist, from craftsperson to manufacturer. Some would say that a production artist is any craftsperson who makes a living selling his or her work. However, this definition was too broad for our purposes. In the end, we defined production artist as “a craftsperson who employs hand and/or industrial techniques to produce objects in multiples for sale.”

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This portfolio presents only one facet of the work in the contemporary marketplace. The focus on studio multiples precludes coverage of a substantial body of one-of-a-kind work that is being produced and sold. In many cases artists presented in these pages devote much of their energy to unique works. It is important to note, however, that currently very few metalsmiths are able to support themselves without some sort of production line or teaching income. This fact makes the critical examination of the production world especially important.

Production work is a vital, challenging, and complex part of the field of contemporary metalsmithing. As this portfolio demonstrates, it is hardly art jewelry’s ugly stepsister. It is our hope that this publication will inspire students, educators, and production artists alike, and that all of these people within the contemporary metalsmithing community will view each other with a greater degree of understanding and respect.

We would like to thank the SNAG Board and Editorial Advisory Committee for the opportunity to pursue this project. In addition, we would like to thank Judith Mitchell for her substantial editorial assistance as well as editor Frank C. Lewis and graphic designer Richard Mehl. Most importantly, we would like to thank all the artists who took the time to submit their work for consideration. Without their efforts, this publication would not have been possible.