It is a necessary part of this trade that once an item is made it has to be documented for a variety of purposes e.g., inventory, sales promotion, exhibition and a portfolio record of the artist’s work. Very few craftspeople can afford to hire a professional photographer to take pictures of all the things they make, so most of us become more or less proficient at taking our own photos. Many of us do our own photography for the full range of purposes that images are needed for, and supplement our efforts with professionally done images for more important publicity work such as a magazine cover.
So why all this attention on changing the mining industry? Wouldn’t it be better to just stop using newly mined material altogether and work with the massive amounts of metal that have already been pulled from the earth over the past ten thousand years? More and more these days jewelers have options available to them to use recycled metals and findings. Some jewelers are even working directly with their customers to reclaim old, unwanted jewelry and repurpose it for new pieces. What could be more personally meaningful and ecological than this? Unfortunately, it’s not that simple.
As artisan jewelers those of us involved in the craft arts walk a distinctive path between entrepreneur and artist. While we have a definite interest in creating success for ourselves and those individuals with whom we share our businesses, we are also engaged in a labor of love, manifesting the gift of our creativity in substantive objects that have their own integrity and meaning. In his seminal work, The Gift, Lewis Hyde writes about the use of the term “gift” as having a multitude of different applications, especially as it relates to the arts.
Why is it we do what we do? Certainly there are easier ways of succeeding as entrepreneurs. For those seeking profit the jewelry craft arts are hardly the ideal. And from the artistic perspective jewelers lack much of the freedom associated with many of the other arts – painting, sculpting, music. We generally have to adhere in greater degree to a functionality bounded and communicated to us by a highly competitive and demanding marketplace.
What is the tool do you covet most? Why? And what would you do with it if you got it? The title questions remind us of the old joke about the dog chasing after a car. The punch line being, what would he do with it if he caught it?
We’re like that with tools. You see, like most of our metalworking friends, we are unabashed tool junkies. So, the tool we covet the most is the one (any one) we don’t have. Who knows what we would do with it once we got it (whatever “it” is). Who cares!