PARTICIPATORY SPORT FOR CRAFT ARTISTS
The application of a theme is sometimes well intentioned, if misguided. More often than not they feel pinned on, stretched, or squeezed out of proportion. I have participated in shows with terrible themes. I have attended events that claimed to follow a unifying theme though no evidence was presented to actually support this. We all shrug and go about our business and ignore the misnomer to get to the business at hand.
It is tempting to try and simplify events with one word or phrase because when it works, it captures the event, the experience, the moment, in a way that is magical. SNAG Conference themes, like SNAG itself, always try to be everything to everyone. So for those of you who need “Flux” to refer strictly to the paste, and nothing else, I will apologize in advance. I would also point out “flux” can just as easily refer to dysentery, so fingers crossed that I’ve got that one wrong as well.
My intention this year is to seek out flux, as movement, at the conference--the signs of change, the shifting of mood, the flow of ideas moving in new directions. Because this may be the first year that some of these issues are addressed. And I don’t mean in the elevator, at the hotel bar, or between groups as we break off and commiserate. There is a feeling this year that change, writ large, is finally coming to SNAG. I’m looking forward to digging into these new events, and optimistic that they represent the larger shift we all keep muttering about under our breath.
Additionally, the speakers at this year’s conference reflect that same perceived shift. There is a sense of broadened geography, material usage, and conceptual perspective that would have been risqué just a few years ago. There is no way to anticipate what the lectures will be exactly, but I’m certainly having trouble figuring out how to see them all. I will confess to skipping lectures entirely out of disinterest in past years. I know you’ve done it too! Often it was clear which speakers were present to show that boundaries could be pushed, but only until the house lights came on, and we got up from our chairs. The rest of the speakers would retreat quickly from said boundaries and reassure us that there was nothing to get our panties in a bunch about.
It is indisputable that the field of art jewelry, particularly within the US, is in a state of flux. The past decade has been fraught with a sense of building pressure as lines are drawn to divide past and present practices. From techniques and media to the actual terms we use to describe ourselves, there has been a sense of change and struggle. Just my use of the term “art jewelry” rather than “metalsmithing” or “jewelry making” connotes the selection of a side. The fact that change is happening is no longer up for debate, the only issue is whether to ride the crest or be left behind.