I've spent the last few days deliberating on what I'd like my final post to address. There are many other bloggers out their who covered exhibitions, lectures, and events very well. From the onset I knew that Anthony Tammaro in particular would be addressing events in a more overarching way, and he's now posted many video interviews and exhibition images for those of you who would like to see more. Flickr and facebook are also now bursting with posted images for those of you who waste as much of your time as I do online.

Because this project was intended to address the conference experience for those of us in our first 5 years post-degree or for those who are simply removed from academia in general, I would like to go into what the conference offers and could offer for us. Anyone who has attended as a student and then continued after will find the differences painfully obviously. I've mentioned this before, but I think it needs restating--there are very limited exhibition opportunities once you cease to be a student. This year I was rejected from the handful of applicable exhibitions I did enter. I don't feel like speculating on why this happened because the variables in acceptance v. rejection are innumerable, but I want everyone to know I didn't just throw in the towel. And I would suggest all other practicing artists do the same--if you weren't in exhibitions this year, so what. Try again next year. You could not have a better captive audience than the SNAG Conference. And if you are summarily rejected, you should be bringing work anyway! I've consistently brought and worn work for the five years I've attended the conference. Every year some opportunity came out of having my work on hand which is why I've been so upset to find MFA students and recent graduates not doing this! I cannot stress enough that being proactive about your work is a necessity.

The conference happens to take place every year in a city that has been thinking about our organization, looking at art jewelry and precious objects, and getting generally riled up in advance of our arrival. This will give you an opening you would never have otherwise. Take advantage of this climate when you go and have a plan.

Thanks to some prodding from Brigitte, I scheduled a meeting with Suzanne Sippel, Asher Gallery Retail Supervisor at the Houston Center for Contemporary Craft. Several exhibitions took place at HCCC this year, and the Asher Gallery located within is a very active retail store for craft in general. They have the guidelines for their review process here. For the sake of brevity I'll just mention that it is a fairly typical review process that requires a packet with quality images, a statement, and what may be a fairly long wait due to the process and mailing delays. I would also like to point out that HCCC is rare in that it is so upfront with this information. Many institutions are less transparent and you may be looking for a backdoor if you want to approach them. I decided to follow Brigitte's advice to contact them, and the result was that the entire process was waived due to circumstance--show up in person, bring the work and information, and let's have a face-to-face talk. I found myself wondering why we weren't all doing this every year at every conference! Why aren't we busting the doors down of every venue (and I mean in the most polite and professional of ways.)

In meeting with Suzanne I learned that she had expected us to be storming the gates when in truth, I was one of two artists who met with her. And Suzanne seemed genuinely saddened by this. They had decided to waive their normal review policy and take advantage of what would surely be available--a constant stream of makers. She also echoed my concern that so many people were not wearing work on the gallery night which made it confusing to her and the rest of the staff at HCCC. They had not been at other conference events throughout the weekend so they couldn't go by who they recognized. They were not even sure if they were seeing SNAG people or others from out on the town given that our even overlapped a nationally renowned photography convention. I don't want to impose a needless guilt trip, but I hope hearing this will cause everyone to rethink how they approach next year's conference. If you have work and you want to exhibit it, why not approach venues when you are already traveling?

The end result is that I will be sending work to the Asher Gallery at HCCC in late August or early September, and we were in agreement that my work differed from much of what was available which can be of benefit for both of us. I was given a rare opportunity to discuss specific work by material, scale, and price point with the manager who knows her customers well. If only others had been able to take advantage of this opportunity. No, they did not broadcast an open call because they aren't crazy and didn't want to bring chaos on themselves. But I think they were reasonable in assuming conversations would come up organically as they should have. There is no hand-holding once you finish your degree, and the paradigm of "managers" who will do this for you doesn't fit our field and is already an anachronism in others. If you're lucky you will find generous people like Brigitte on occasion who give you well timed and gentle prodding, but ultimately you are the best asset your work can have. Take initiative. Wear it at home and when you travel, but especially when you are attending a conference for what you do! Be prepared with images, a statement, and a current resume when you find yourself setting out on this kind of trip.

Or you may find yourself with boxes of work sitting around with no place to go.



Comments on why you did or did not wear your work ?  How will we seize the opportunities given to us ? Click here and let me know:




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Replies to This Discussion

I'm only a student, and I attended the conference as well. I agree about wearing your work and approaching people from galleries. I made sure I wore at least one of my pieces every day of the conference. Just yesterday ( after coming home) I was wearing a piece and a colleague of mine asked to buy it or possibly commission a piece from me. There's no better way to promote yourself, although I admit that I usually don't do it enough.
I'm glad to hear that you're wearing work both at the conference and at home. And a great tie in with a comment elsewhere in this blog discussion by 2Roses:

"You have discovered a Big Truth, Jillian. That is, you must showcase your work at every opportunity. No one will do it for you. We are shameless in this regard. And consequently sell work right off our backs (literally) on many occasions. Never miss an opportunity to show your work. If need be, create an opportunity. We've done it in grocery store aisles, dentist offices, standing in line at Starbucks and the bank - and sold jewelery in every instance. Understand that the key to making more sales is showing the work to as many people as possible. High end galleries and art exhibitions are nice for the ego but they attract relatively small numbers of people. Of those, a significantly small number are the collectors who have money. We've sold more work out of hair salons (gasp!) than we have out of some of the high end galleries (no we're not kidding, and no, we're not going to name names). The point is don't limit your income and sales potential because of where you think the art buyers are. Test the waters. This is not advocating that everyone rush down to their local hair salon either. It IS advocating thinking outside the pre-conceived notions of how to sell art."

Maybe we can make greater strides toward getting people out their with their work. As makers, we're the best advocate the field can have. By connecting with people in our daily lives and selling work to people outside of the established circle of collectors we bring in more recruits for art jewelry. It's a great time to win people over given the resurgence of DIY/handmade as well. I know Iowa City has a strong community following for buying handmade and buying local, and I've had a lot of luck with people who may not have encountered work like mine in any other context. People are primed and ready, we just have to follow through.
This is what I think SNAG is missing and 2Roses touched upon it a little. There is a huge explosion of craft and art going on in this country. It has been going on for 4-5 years now. (At least). I do craft shows, sell on line and know and admire a great community of metalsmiths that I have met along the way.
Are they at SNAG? No. Why? Because they make "commercial" jewelry, because they aren't academic?
I don't know.
Reading this post and reading that people should be wearing their jewelry outside their homes is disturbing. It makes me think about, not only, why people aren't doing this, but what type of artists are SNAG attracting to their conferences? people who I consider my peers are selling at big shows, small shows, art in the parks, the big "Indie" fairs, selling at galleries, selling on line, communicating with eachother though forums, and via twitter etc...yet only a very small few of these people I know were there.

Maybe SNAG doesn't care about bringing in new members. I've spent the last few years trying to look into what would attract me to these conferences. The build-up for this conference on this site was pretty big, but as I've seen year after year, all anyone talks about is the pin swap.

I don't even know why I care anymore. Maybe because being part of SNAG was something that I aspired to when I first started out. Maybe because I admire many of the members and their work. But I feel as if SNAG keeps artists like me at arms length, not caring too much about what I do and what I have to say. And honestly it's my community of metalsmiths who are breathing new life into the craft world with no help from SNAG. They should be paying more attention.
I'm the executive director of SNAG. Tell me what it would look like for SNAG to "care about what you do and what you have to say." What kind of "help from SNAG" would you like to see? I hear that you are frustrated, and these are strong statements to make--please articulate more specifically what you would want SNAG to do. I hear a lot more from conference attendees than just about the pin swap but I know that's not what's at the core of your frustration with SNAG.
Jillian, I am so glad I got a chance to sit and talk with you on that last morning in Houston. You are an inspirational example of Crafthaus absolutely shattering the model of the isolated artist. I am excited about the quality of processing you are doing regarding the conference. Discussion will produce different issues, revelations, and perhaps solutions than polling and that is without a doubt why SNAG is paying attention.

I am intrigued by the sociological approach of many of your topics. We are after all a Society, and understanding the dynamic of our group is perhaps even more important than the subjects, objects, and field figures which we share a passion for. This is especially true when considering the rise of social networking. We have begun to talk in a new way. Not about slides, processes, lectures, materials, suppliers, but about us, our wants, needs, and passions. Views and experiences are being shared and discussed the way bench tips and tricks have been for so long... publicly.

Dana, I am delighted to see you trolling the threads and investigating the thoughts and pressing issues of this niche of metalsmiths. There is only a percentage of the SNAG membership on this forum (and other forums for that matter), but I do believe it is undeniably the fresh, potent voice of change in the making.

Twigs, the issue of SNAG's efforts toward bringing in new members and creating an appeal for the Indie-embracing artists at their conference may be irrelevant. I do not write this to conflict with your post at all. I agree with many of the points you make including your question of SNAG caring. I believe that SNAG does care, but that it is in an odd state of transition right now.

The organization is obviously interested in building its membership and appealing to a diversified body of makers, but it may be facing an equally diverse number of opinions on how best to do this. Change and growth may be difficult to identify in an organization that is only 41 years old. But, I have seen the conference getting 'younger' every year; getting a little more irreverent towards the elite and also winning over the affections of many in a resurrected spirit of camaraderie.

The irrelevance that I speak of is that 'the Indie' can overcome and overtake simply by showing up! We don’t need to feel invited because truthfully we are not few in number. Those with questions and new perspectives on SNAG need to be at the conference. But, most importantly, they also need to step up and attend the Membership Meetings at the conference. This is where our voices and our concerns can bear fruit.

The student / academia vs. production artist issue really needs to die. Perhaps we can learn to introduce ourselves by asking what materials we work with or where our studio is located rather than “what do you do for a living?” We all do what we have to in order to monetarily allow ourselves to fulfill our desire to make.

Regarding the main post, the issue of wearing your own work is not just applicable to those who make to sell or seek representation. I am a part time instructor, I am irreverent to the elite attitudes still lingering in SNAG, and I floss my own work like nobody’s business. I do it because I love my work. I do it because I want people to associate me with my work. I do it because my work fits my style like a glove. I don’t do it to sell. I teach to make money. I spend that money on my work. I chose to separate my passion from commercialism. Is that not Indie?

The truth may lie more in the issue of art vs. product and the personal attitudes this differentiation can cause. Some artists (those who consider the objects they make to be art pieces) may not be comfortable with today’s connotations of collectable as embraced by the culture of indie craft. It is a more personal relationship that the buyer has with the object, one without status, prestige, or recognition. They are more familiar with the formal and traditional model of the Collector. This prescribes a particular etiquette to be followed on how their objects are treated. They may not wear their own work for fear of the art quality of it being diminished by its seemingly frivolous display.

One could compare this to a famous artist being concerned about the venues at which his or her work would be displayed. I.e., Damien Hurst most likely would not show work at a community college art gallery in their monthly rotation of shows. Essentially, the jewelry artist may not feel that display of their work, on their person, at SNAG is a worthy venue. This is of course not the only scenario which could range from simple comfort and personal confidence to those that are so well know that they no longer feel the need or want; the old ‘been there, done that.’

The joy of making an object for someone’s true and deep personal enjoyment is not new, but its emotional involvement is perhaps different than that of making an art object. That emotion is what seems to be revealing itself in this new spirit of Indie makers. This spirit is what we need more of at the SNAG conference. We need people who are not into posturing and instead want to play!

I will continue to attend the conference because I meet, face-to-face, the wonderful, open-minded artists that are found here on Crafthaus and we solidify new friendships while discussing these same topics. I will continue to wear my work (because I think it rocks). I admit that I enjoy listening to the critical lectures about the history, current issues, and future of our field and that the topics of these lectures may be the source of contention on the ‘caring’ of SNAG. But I am hedging my bets that showing up, socializing, discussing, and sharing is the way to influence those current topics and the future of our field for the SNAG that I hope emerges.
A very thoughtful and balanced analysis, Michael. SNAG is indeed changing. And change is messy, enlightening, frustrating, empowering, scary, and exciting all at the same time. What we become will be determined by all of us in this tribe of creative thinkers. It is important to speak up, but as you have so rightly pointed out, it is even more important to “show up”. We are happily confident you’ll be doing both all the way to Seattle 2011, Mr. Bernard.
Dana, I appreciate you asking me a few questions but I have a few of my own...
Did you know about crafthaus and that they were talking about the conferance for a few months beforehand?
Are you satisfied with the coverage of SNAG here at crafthaus? Does it reflect all that went on there? Would you have added anything to make people like me more interested?

You ask me how SNAG can help me. Well, maybe you can tell me what exactly I am missing. I have built my career with no help from SNAG and I know many artists that can say the same. The shows that I do are growing and becoming more successful. They are breathing new life into art and craft. They are competitive and showcase what I think is the best of the best of emerging artists. I say you should be paying attention because they are doing something right and maybe SNAG can learn from the people organizing these shows and participating in them.

Maybe the things that I would like to discuss and hear about are a little to simplistic for SNAG. I am very passionate about the environment and greening my studio. Also health care for artists. How handmade has changed with online selling, good and bad. Art therapy for children, the importance of public art. Just things that help artists be happy and healthy. These are issues that not only effect me as and artists but also effect the world as a whole. It a big picture thing for me. Maybe I am just too much of a hippy but I think that if SNAG could get all metalsmiths together, stop debating academic vs. commercial vs. production vs. whatever then maybe our profession can actually help the world.
Twigs, of course I've know about crafthaus for quite a long time, and yes I've been reading what was said about the conference long before we got to Houston. Does the "coverage" of SNAG reflect all that went on there? I think it captures a lot of the intangibles about the conference. Beyond that, there's more to write about. But it's only a snapshot of some of the conference and it's what individual people want to write about. Also I believe it's hard to convey the energy and sense of community that goes on there.

I agree we should stop debating academic vs. commercial vs. production vs. whatever. We need to figure out how to bring more metalsmiths together. Our focus now is bringing together kindred souls. People who are inspired by bold ambitious new work, new processes, inspired by challenging the boundaries around us. People who make design-driven work as well as those who make concept-driven work. Yes SNAG can learn from so much that's going on around us.

What Michael and John said is true--SNAG does care, and we are most definitely going through a period of major transitions. A lot of what I hear being said is already being addressed by the board--and this includes looking at Metalsmith, our conferences and our website .

As much as we want to be nimble and change on a dime, this isn't a one-person shop, and there are as many opinions out there about what SNAG should be as there are members. Some days I feel like we're trying to turn a 747 around mid-air. The field has changed so much and continues to change. We're in a huge generational shift, and the conferences are indeed getting younger and younger each year.

Can one have a career in this field without SNAG? Obviously yes. Would your path be enhanced by being a part of what SNAG offers? I believe yes. Have you been to a SNAG conference in recent years? I don't know where you live but next year's is in Seattle. I invite you to come experience it for yourself. Among other things you will make new connections (some of which will bring in revenue), you will be inspired and feel regenerated, and you'll learn practical business information at our Professional Development Seminar. You'll also have a lot of fun.
As a current board member of SNAG - I just want to say I spent the majority of my professional career as the fine jewelry designer for a major fashion retailer -without any involvement in SNAG.

Even though I was technically a "goldsmith" I stopped my SNAG membership when it did not mesh with or support the work I was doing.

Even as a student member, I did not get into any student shows or get any scholarships to attend conferences, because most of those services didn't exist yet, back in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
Someone had yet to step forward as a volunteer and created those services. And they did, but it was after I was no longer a student.

I returned to SNAG membership in 2000 with the idea that perhaps I had something to offer SNAG. I was voted onto the board in 2008.

I suppose I am from the generation that heard JFK say: Ask not what can be done for you, but what you can do for others. Although, I was still in diapers when he said it.

I have been told that the Millennial generation (anyone born or turning 21 by 2000) has a much stronger identification with his words. That would make the leading edge of Millennials to be about 30 now. Is that the Indie Craft crowd? The fairs I have attended seem to be within that age group. I can only hope they will step-up and take leadership roles as volunteers, as project coordinators, as board members.

Since there seems to be just so many issues being presented that the volunteer run organization know as SNAG is not adequately addressing, I will focus on just one to make my point.

I would love to see a group health insurance option for metalsmiths, but as a volunteer without any experience in the insurance industry and with a full plate of project that I am already working on for SNAG - I have to ask, how could that be set-up, implemented, joined, maintained?

Who would staff, coordinate, and run such a program? Would you (anyone reading this) be willing to give up your personal time/craft business to take this project on?

If not, how can you expect the volunteers at any social group to give up more of their personal time or take time away from other valid programs to do this for you?

Just asking,
Nanz makes a key point in that SNAG is a VOLUNTEER organization. The people in SNAG who are motivated enough to step up and donate their time, energy and resources at their own expense are typically passionate about their vision for the organization. These are all sincere, caring individuals who really want to make SNAG into something better. What "better" is has a lot of definitions. Frankly, there are far more great ideas than volunteers to implement them. This inevitably comes down to a making a list, prioritizing it, and getting to work.

There are many agents of change working within SNAG as we speak. This makes for a very exciting dynamic environment for some, and it scares the hell out of others. Everyone wants to get it right. No one ever thinks anything is happening fast enough. Make no mistake. SNAG is changing. Sometimes rushing headlong, sometimes dragged kicking and screaming, but it most definitely IS changing.

Are people in SNAG listening to the community of artists, makers, designers, educators? Hell yes! Everyone in SNAG is part of that community. That's the point here, SNAG is you, and you can make it anything you want, if you step up and do it.

Speak up! Show up! Step up! Magic happens when you do. Just ask Jillian.
I understand that SNAG is a volunteer organization and I have spoken up about what interests me. I don't expect SNAG to start a health insurance option for metalsmiths. i think you misunderstood my point, Nanz. I was suggesting that maybe SNAG could get some people who are knowledgeable ABOUT public insurance options to talk about what is out there to help metalsmiths find options that would be useful to them. (In MA. there is a partnership with insurance companies that will pay half your insurance if you are eligible. I am because i am a small business owner.)

Also did SNAG know that Seattle is one of the top 10 green cities in the country?

"Sustainable Ballard, a green neighborhood group and sustainability festival host, offers ongoing workshops about how to live in harmony with the environment."

This is a good example of tangible benefits all metalsmiths could take home with them.
The SNAG conference is only 1 weekend a year. I would love to see SNAG care a little more about what goes on in a metalsmiths life the other 363 days of the year.

Seeing topics like that would be magic to me. Not only helping ourselves, but our cities and our environment to thrive and be healthy is something as metalsmiths we can do together if we all care to.
You miss my point, you keep responding and talking about "SNAG" as if it is an actual entity. You say "SNAG could get some people" and "does SNAG know" and "I would love to see SNAG care" as if SNAG acts, does, and hears things on its own separate from its members.

Seattle is my home town (and Andy Copperman's 25 year+ home) and since we both know how green we like to live here in the Pacific Northwest, and since we are SNAG members, and we share our time and energies with the organization we call ourselves members of... then yes "SNAG" knows about Seattle. After all our 2011 conference is scheduled to be in Seattle.

If you are passionate about what you would "love to see" from the organization of volunteers known as SNAG than join, volunteer, put together a proposal for a program, make it happen.
Anything that happens in SNAG is only through the hard work of volunteers - not by magic.


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