We’ve seen quite a bit of work lately that has been labeled as “conceptual” jewelry. This appellation is quickly becoming the catch-all description for just about anything.
Now, we’re not saying people are not doing conceptual art in the world of ornament. Far from it. What we’re saying is that the term seems to have been hijacked and bastardized to the point that it has become meaningless.

By definition, conceptual art is art in which the concept(s) or idea(s) involved in the work take precedence over traditional aesthetic and material concerns. Many of the works of the artist Sol LeWitt may be constructed by anyone simply by following a set of written instructions. This method was fundamental to LeWitt's definition of Conceptual art, one of the first to appear in print:
“ In conceptual art the idea or concept is the most important aspect of the work. When an artist uses a conceptual form of art, it means that all of the planning and decisions are made beforehand and the execution is a perfunctory affair. The idea becomes a machine that makes the art.”

This quotation highlights a key difference between a traditional work of art and a conceptualist work: in one instance the hands-on skills of the artist are paramount; in the other they are not.

So, lets talk. Its just us crafty creative chickens here. What do WE mean when we say “its conceptual jewelry”?

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Since your part of the the Conceptual Art Jewelry group on flickr you tell me :)

I see it as jewelry with a meaning...whatever that might be. More then "just" a ring, brooch, necklace, etc.
Well....yes. Getting invited to participate in the conceptual jewelry group on Flickr got us thinking about just what conceptual jewelry is. A locket with a photograph is jewelry with meaning. Is that conceptual? What separates narrative jewelry from conceptual?
Perhaps it should be treated as one would treat Art and art. There are many arts like motorcycle repair but the traditional institutions of Academia and the Museum circuit differentiate through "expertise" what is held up as Art. The Conceptual Art movement is long over yet like those that resurrect Impressionism or Hyperrealism, some may successfully reinvent a movement.
But I would propose that those whose personal philosophy finds expression through their jewelry may use "conceptual jewelry" as a foil of reference just as one could describe some works as figurative. Unless one breaks the preciousness of the trinity between the artist, the maker, and the object I agree that "Conceptual Jewelry" as a descriptor is out of line.
Why bother trying to figure out why people do what they do. I think that there are serious boundaries being broken these days in the arts and craft community. Why fight it?
Everything in this word seems to get regurgitated or recycled or reinvented some time or another, whether it's fashion, or slang, or art and craft movements.

I've never been one to label my work as anything but my own. But in this computer savvy time, TAGS, and labels seem to be pretty important for artists to be seen by buyers looking for specific styles and also to find peers you can relate to...

Not everyone is going to like or agree with what they see, I guess.
Conceptual Jewelry is different from narrative jewelry, though narrative jewelry has a concept. Narrative jewelry tells a personal story, the idea behind the work is to express an experience. Conceptual jewelry pursues an agenda that supersedes the object, and seeks to go beyond the pursuit of an idea to draw a conclusion (or propose a question) about a larger topic.

I completely agree that the term "conceptual" is overused and misunderstood. I also believe that there is a subtle yet significant difference between the terms "concept" and "conceptual". Just because a maker pursues an idea does not mean that their work is conceptual.

A concept is a starting point.
I usually correct people when they call my work "conceptual", thanks to my very first meatlsmithing professor who actually addressed this issue in my beginning art metals class. Just because a piece of work contains elements other than the visual ones does not make it "conceptual art".
...... my last post wasn't complete when it got sent, so here is the rest:

I agree with Sara that the term is over-used. There is a concept, or sometimes several concepts, to almost anything that is being made. But the term "conceptual art" has its own place historically, and that should not be ignored. I personally choose to use the word "sculpture" to describe a piece of jewelry that does not fall easily into the category of "decorative arts".
I appreciate the chance to examine this. Its a term that I agree is overused, but I had not given it much thought. My original idea was that it pointed to it's traditional function. It's not a painting or sculpture in a 'salon' sense. But also not a 'readymade' like Duchamps', which is simply defying the concept of art.
Using craft as a vehicle for conceptual art means that Craft is the subject and entirely directs the choices in materials and process. I do think that craft can be 100% conceptual as long as the Craft-ness of it is used intentionally, strategically. Just as Duchamp and le Witt use their materials and process to convey meaning, craft can too.

Whether people are open to this or not is hard to say. I know that I am...
I have always explained conceptual art or jewelry to my students as a bit of a sliding scale. On one end, you have concept (idea) as the dominating, overriding feature that drives all other aspects of the work. In its most extreme there is potentially only the idea, almost no evidentiary proof of existence necessary. On the other end I place the Formal. In the extreme example of formal art or jewelry, only the physical appearance is considered with little regard to the meaning of materials, context, etc.

Of course, most art or jewelry exists someone where in the midst of these two.

With my intermediate students I have them do three projects each semester: One Conceptual, one Formal and one Historical. The Conceptual one (whether it be in the jewelry-oriented semester or hollowware/sculptural-oriented semester, always causes the biggest problems. They have all been introduced to conceptual art in their art history classes but to then translate that primacy of idea into a wearable, etc., really seems to challenge them and for some becomes quite problematic.
Who are the "conceptual" jewelers out there? What do these objects look like? More later I'm in between teaching.
"Conceptual" jewelry to me is just that "conceptual", an "idealistic" approach to a design piece as opposed to something more practical to be worn as an everyday piece of jewelry. It may be a piece not necessarily meant to be worn, but maybe just appreciated as a sculptural piece - off the body. Like you said - it is something that has been planned out beforehand and embodies something special to reflect the concept.


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