Reconstructing Our Second Skin: Gender in Contemporary Jewelry

In this crafthaus blog, I explore the intersection between gender and jewelry with a three-prong approach: interviewing artists who do not shy away from words like “gender issues,” “feminism,” and “sex”; analyzing the work of said artists and the reach of their work via questionnaires; and reinvigorating conversation about gender in jewelry by putting together an online exhibition.

  • Linda Kaye-Moses

    My work has not specifically, and really only once or twice been focused on gender issues. I have contemplated more specifically the empowerment I feel that comes from messing about with metals and the tools needed to mess about with metals. My craft has gone a long way to defining who I am as a woman and an artist.

    However, frequently, when I describe myself to strangers as a metalsmith/jeweler, I am faced with a surprise that I assume has something to do with a disbelief that a woman could, in fact, use a hammer and a saw (and other equally dangerous tools) to make metal behave. Mostly the questions arise when my husband and I are in my booth at shows, and those asking the questions assume that he is the messer-about-with-metals. Apparently my gender would prevent me from wielding tools heavier than a feather duster. The response that I have often received goes something like this, “Oh, that means you bang around with a hammers and things.”, with the implication that this behavior is something just so darned cute. Now I generally reply in the positive, with a smile and a nod, because the learning curve, in the face of those situations, is so steep, and I’ve spent so many hours, days, years, responding with a long rant about how my hands work just fine for making my work. Also, to be kind, I recognize that there is no intention to be demeaning or patronizing; there’s just no intentional effort to avoid being so. There is just too much misinformation and plain old ignorance out there and it is simply exhausting continuing those conversations.

    OK, this rant is over.

  • Brigitte Martin

    Now I want to see a picture of you with a feather duster in your hand, Linda. That would totally make my day. Just kidding :)

  • 2Roses

    Linda, my experience has been the same as your's, but from the other side of the gender bench. When Corliss and I are working the booth, customers who don't know us almost universally assume that she is the maker, and I am the sales help for the day. 

    I take this in stride and with some amusement as part of a craft landscape that is predominantly female. I also see these interactions as opportunities to engage the customers on a far deeper level than "would you like to try it on." 

    Exploring gender issues is interesting artistically, but should we expect customers to be precognitively sensitive to our personal gender issues when they enter our booth? Personally, I am there to sell jewelry.

    My feelings don't get hurt when a complete stranger fails to appreciate or acknowledge my depth of experience and accomplishments. Truth be told, I don't know anything about them either. It is simply an invitation to get to know each other better.