Many of us seek out identical exhibitions and shows and fairs and collectors and you name it, which contributes to the struggle we each face blending in to the group. 


But what if we expanded our idea of that group? Do we as a group of jewelers and metalsmiths mainly seek out jewelry and metalsmith opportunities only? If so, why? Because it's safer or considered the norm? Have we as a group accepted the rift between fine and applied art so much that we perpetuate it as well? Is this blocking our potential as artists?


Appropriately along the lines of Bridgism- the crossover of fine and applied art- below is coverage of the collaborative art show of Karen Russell + Sea Of Bees Jewelry. 


Karen Russell is a portrait artist known for her angled lines, elongated anatomy, and harsh harmony of colors, she's won awards for her portraiture and is pretty well known about town. Stephanie Marie Smith, founder and artist at Sea of Bees Jewelry is known for her angled brass necklaces, geometric shapes, and creates each piece by hand with brass sheet, jump rings, and a load of ingenuity. 


Official Show Poster, The Falcon, Orlando, FL 


Here's what the show announcement read:

"All new original paintings by Karen Russell, featuring all new jewelry designed by Sea of Bees depicted within the paintings. The paintings and new jewelry line will be for sale at the opening and throughout the month." 


Did you catch that? Art featuring jewelry depicted in the paintings, while selling the actual jewelry pieces. Perfect, harmonious, artistic synergy at work here. Solid success. 


 Paintings: Karen Russell / Jewelry: Stephanie Marie Smith / Photos: Rebecca Rose


At tonight's opening, which drew art lovers and jewelry lovers alike, Karen sold paintings, and Stephanie sold a great deal of Sea of Bees Jewelry, a great deal of it. I bought a piece and love, love, love it. 


 Paintings: Karen Russell / Jewelry: Stephanie Marie Smith / Photos: Rebecca Rose


Stephanie hung each Sea of Bees piece on the wall, next to the corresponding portrait painting of the figure wearing it. Next to each shadowboxed jewelry piece was a framed professional photo of a human model wearing the jewelry.



Smart for multiple reasons:

1.) Guests could see what the necklace looked like worn on a real person in the photograph in addition to the painting.

2.) Multiples of each necklace were available at the event so she didn't have to keep removing the necklace off the wall if a guest was interested in purchasing.

3.) The painting depicting each necklace made you want to buy *both* the necklace and the painting. 

4.) Wall hanging her jewelry like a painting reassured patrons the jewelry is a piece of art itself.


 Paintings: Karen Russell / Jewelry: Stephanie Marie Smith / Photos: Rebecca Rose


Stephanie's a smart cookie. It's no wonder that her pieces are collected by uber popular and renowned Pop Surrealist Audrey Kawasaki, and was recently approached by Urban Outfitters to carry her line nationwide.


The point: think outside of the box that says you only have to show with other jewelers. Consider showing with artists in different mediums, too. For example, if you're a Rapid Prototype Artist think of the possibility of showing with various 2 Dimensional Digital Artists. The opportunities really are endless. 


Think of a painter in your area whose painting style emulates your metalsmithing style. Maybe there's a similarity in color scheme, where your jewelry matches their palette. Seek them out and propose a collaborative show. One of the reasons Karen and Stephanie's show was a hit is because of those angled, geometric lines in both artist's work- paintings and necklaces. It visually made sense that they hung together.


 Paintings: Karen Russell / Jewelry: Stephanie Marie Smith / Photos: Rebecca Rose


Play with the idea of hanging your work. Does it hang well on a wall? Can you shadowbox it? Is it more sculptural? Can it be shown on a pedestal like a piece of sculpture? If we present our work in a way that makes it easier for the gallerist to understand how to show it, the more likely they'd be able and willing to show it at their venue. (In addition to sculpture pedestals, I sometimes wall hang my jewelry with the framed original sketch next to it, and find I'm able to show in more venues.)


So, I'm going to suggest something that sounds out of the norm that might ruffle feathers.


We have the power to rewrite our own shows, and how our work is shown. We have the power to propose an idea for a show to a gallery or venue, put the word out there and curate the best pieces as it fits with the show's vision, be it with metal, ceramic, sound, fiber, performance, or paint. 


Why wait to be accepted into a show, when you can create one?



And when you do, let us know about it! :)



Karen Russell:

Stephanie Marie Smith:


Why don’t we be friends?
Sculpturings Website



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Replies to This Discussion

Very interesting. Thanks for sharing this. I'm currently working on a small collection with photographer Simon Murphy and a group of young people who've been affected by violence for a show in the SCC in Pittsburgh later in the year. It was a bit of lateral thinking which brought me to this collaboration as I was simply asked to respond to the theme of "Enough Violence".

Unfortunately, I can't post any pictures just now but will do after the show has opened in September.

These sorts of collaborations are all-too rare and I've found this one both stimulating and stressful but would be keen to do it again as it's forced me to make some atypical work.

Thank you for posting about your future collaborative show!

I've been thinking about this for some time, and will flush out the idea in a future post, but a pattern is beginning to emerge. The pattern to focus on a show's theme as opposed to medium. More and more galleries are exhibiting themed shows and lifting preconceived restrictions regarding what mediums are acceptable to interpret the theme in question. This can open the flood gate of opportunities for applied artists everywhere that have run into obstacles showing their work. 

I have a piece in it's fourth month of a traveling exhibit as an artist's response to the Newtown Sandyhook shootings that occurred stateside in December, and can relate to what you said. I agree that it does, as you wrote, "force one to make atypical work," which can encourage us to step beyond ourselves and our comfort zone. Sometimes that stretch is just what's needed to get our work to another level. 

Thank you for contributing and please keep us posted on the upcoming SCC show in September.


This is great. What a beautiful collaboration! I have been thinking and dreaming up a collaboration for some time, this is just the thing to inspire it to happen. I couldn't agree more, it's time to create our own shows!!  Thank you for sharing this.

Jennifer, if you've already considered doing this, you're halfway there!

Can't wait to hear how it goes- Rebecca

Nice, nice, nice, Rebecca. I'm already imagining possibilities...
I have a friend who does incredible 3D models and drawings. It would be a perfect fit to hang my stuff with!

That's great to hear, John!

So many possibilities exist with your work. Admittedly, when I wrote sound up there, I was thinking about your flute collection! My imagination took me to a collaborative show/performance between your work and symphonies.

I imagined a portion of a concert hall where guests could see your exhibition, and then hear your flutes in use during the performance. From the symphony's point of view, the idea of a concert performance plus art exhibition may add another facet to their usual events, thus attracting more concert goers and sales. Perhaps a special exhibition of your flutes on display that are used during the performance would pique their audience's interest. Without interrupting their planned schedule, maybe some symphonies and orchestras already have a concert in the works that include flute solos or concertos, like Debussy's Syrinx or Flight of The Bumblebee.. 

For example, The Michigan Philharmonic is planning to perform The Golden Flute in October of this year.

Here's a direct link: 

Just a thought! :)



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