SNAG Conference Wrap Up for Crafthaus: Part 2

Part 2: Voyeurism

J. Fred Woell, "Democracy Speaks" (brooch) 2003, mixed media: wood, copper, brass, steel, nickel. paper, plastic, 2 1/4 x 3 x 3/8"

The Lifetime Achievement Award Winner this year was J. Fred Woell.  Like many attendees, this is a lecture that I often skip.  If you saw Stanley Lechtzin’s “This Is Your Life” back in Philadelphia, you’ll understand why.  Snark aside, this year I regretted missing Woell’s.  His work, like Ebendorf’s, had a strong influence on me as an undergraduate jewelry student many years ago.  Also, by the end of the conference I was feeling overly sappy about some things.   More on this later.  I was simply under slept at the time, and spent much of the early conference mitigating my own apathy.
I made it to Garth Clark’s lecture, stumbling in and feeling a little embarrassed having missed the Lifetime Achievement Award.  This walk of shame in the lecture room is nothing new.  I had anticipated Clark's lecture eagerly--whether I would agree with him or not, it's never bad to have someone stir the pot on the first day.  Not only did he immediately address our host-state’s deplorable legislative behavior, especially lately, he also addressed the topic that has plagued studio jewelry since the post-90’s slump.  While other studio craft fields expand, diversify, and flourish, we seem to be the last to bloom.  This is a topic Clark has addressed often given his attempts to open a cross-over gallery for both ceramics and studio jewelry many, many years ago.  It became evident that the “fine art” market was more willing to embrace ceramics at that time, and we never fully resolved that issue in studio jewelry.  Clark’s take home lesson of the lecture is to address our phobias regarding design, and learn from the larger fashion/design world of the last decade.  It has grown to challenge the expectations of design, earn the respect of the fine art world, and continues to produce work that is technically and materially diverse.  Additionally, design does this without rejecting commercial success.  This theme of embracing, rather than sneering at the commercial world, while maintaining autonomy, creativity, and diversity, became a major theme of the conference.   And while some, including an inarticulate question-er at the end of the lecture, seemed to take offense at Clark’s advice, I found myself chewing on it as it thread through the rest of the weekend.  Read more on Crafthaus...

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