|Posted on February 23, 2011 at 10:06 AM|
It was an simple trip to the local Micheal's to buy epoxy. Normally I'm in and out, anxious to get back to the studio. Curiosity took me to the "jewelry" section and rounding a kiosk while looking at the findings and chains, marveling at the $2.99 price tags I was literally stopped in my tracks by a new display. There before me was an interesting collection of found art pieces, cleverly assembled and packaged and looking for all the world like a jewelers work I was familiar with. Closer inspection revealed an ingenious marketing presentation by the nationally acclaimed jeweler Susan Lenart Kazmer. For those of your who are unfamiliar with her work it is worth a trip to the library, Making Connections / A Handbook of Cold Joins for Jewelers and Mixed Media Artists, is a must have for your library.
I have often turned to her book in admiration of her ingenuity and craftsmanship. It was with some breathtaking dismay that I found an entire "line" of components to make "Industrial Chic" jewelry in my local Michael's all of which bore "made in China" by said artist. While I admire the capitalist spirit as much as the next red-blooded American, as an American jeweler I am troubled that one so esteemed has chosen to sell out to the Chinese devil.
For all of you who chose this profession, at some point in your career you made a decision, make quality handmade jewelry or mass produce your designs and make lots of money. Neither choice is wrong.
But after 29 years in the jewelry business I take pride in making my pieces by hand and admire other artists who have reached a level of skill to be represented in such esteemed institutions as the Smithsonian. In the infancy of my career I chose not to "sell out" and have often rethought my choices when times got lean and considered having my designs made in Bali, but was finally unable to compromise. I have many friends who chose the craft fair road and relay to me the declining quality of artwork being juried, much of which consists of manufactured artwork from other countries labeld as made in the USA. As a former gallery owner I was dismayed by the increasing lack of education in my buyer's. Purchase decisions were made on price and not quality or skill in craftsmanship.
I'm sure at this point you're wondering where I'm going with this.
The discovery of Susan Lenart Kazmer's "Industrial Chic" line in a chain store would not bother me so much had I not held her to higher standard. Billed as an American jeweler with involvement in the American Crafts Council, these components and jewelry kits made in China are an contradiction. I am disappointed and dismayed, as role models and inspiration is it not our responsibility to create with integrity? If we all chose to flood the market with Chinese crap how would the buyer know the difference? If in providing the idle crafting masses with cheap mass produced time-savers how do we teach them to think creatively? Is not the inception and creation of an idea it into something tangible that can speak for it's self, the essence of creativity? Perhaps I am a purest but don't we as artists in this disposable world have a responsibility to educate?
If not, where is the mystery, the enigma, the challenge?
Where's the true beauty?