If you search this blog using the term “Finding a Voice” you will see that I’ve written a lot lately under that title. I’ve spoken to the challenge of re-finding a voice with new tools, (specifically CAD), the idea of expressing one’s voice while doing custom work, and explored helpful tools in finding a voice in the “beginner’s mind.” Then, finally, I made a challenge to those seeking a voice in a recent post, “Why Conform?” as I shared some thoughts that others have had on the topic as well as a few more of my own. Now, it’s time to embrace evolution!
I know that there is much more to say on this topic. For myself, I’d like to make a bold statement as I move toward a temporary close on it. We must evolve! In forming this thought, I’d like to acknowledge a dear friend, my former shop manager from the heyday of my brick and mortar jewelry design studio. Rafael, thank you!
Maybe this primarily reflects my own awakening but I think we have begun to suffer from stagnation in the jewelry industry in terms of creative use of the new tools available to us. CAD has been around in our industry for long enough for us to get past the beginner’s mistake of thinking that “because we can do this now, it’s a great idea”. Another halo anyone? Sheesh! Is it really a great idea, for example, to design and manufacture jewelry with tiny diamonds, (or more fragile gems) everywhere on the design?
I suppose that part of this is the consumer’s fault. It becomes a vicious cycle in that consumers see a certain design style that is, in the beginning, innovative. They ask for it and we designers and manufactures follow the money. Don’t get me wrong, some of the micro-pavé stuff out there is aesthetically stunning. But does it serve our industry to create an entire generation of this type of design? I suppose it will keep our repair shops busy…but is that the legacy we wish to leave for the next wave of jewelry designers and marketers?
My friend Rafael thinks that we are on the verge of the next great design revolution. I think we absolutely better be! We have the ability to design things unimaginable a few short years ago and that, of itself, is a fantastic opportunity. I’m not sure we, as an industry, have yet embraced that potential. And to be (or remain) competitive in the marketplace with the distractions of electronics and other “must haves” we need to start thinking a bit more strategically.
Pulling a quote out of context, from a website called “Fast Company” I will leave something for our industry to think about. This was written primarily pertaining to marketing to millennials, but I think it applies to a broader perspective…check it out.
” Great design streamlines, clarifies, and delights—and the most complex or chaotic experiences need it most of all. But here’s the rub: For Millennials, design is not a differentiator—it’s a cost of entry. Every startup looking to re-imagine broken industries, whether it’s housing or health care, has one thing in common: well-designed experiences. And every established giant within that same system tends to be plagued by the reverse (ever tried to open a savings account online with a major national bank?).”
Your voice is your brand, think clearly about how you want to present it. And Contact Gary Dawson Jewelry Design when your designs need an evolved voice!
“Why wait?” we ask ourselves, when asked to stand in line anywhere. Why should I have to wait all this time (several seconds usually) for this file to load? Why wait for anything? Increasingly, we are a culture of instant gratification. We need, yes, really need people and doors and machines and circumstance of all manner to respond to our whims with a mere wave of our hand or short verbal command.
But wait…is that always what we really need? Think about it. Why wait for a train to cross the intersection before crossing on foot?
Why wait for the right weather to go sailing, or mountain climbing. Why wait for your partner to slowly walk to the alter, pausing to smile at your friends as she passes? The answer is simple, we wait for these things because they are either lifesaving or life-affirming. In these cases waiting adds quality to our lives in ways that can mean the difference between life and death, or can become hard to measure in their subtlety…and they are all important.
So why wait for Custom Jewelry Design? Why not just go pick something off a shelf somewhere, probably last minute, ‘cause it’s close enough, right? I posit that, in many cases…wrong.
I read somewhere in my anthropology studies that body adornment, (jewelry) has been utilized by every known culture, both living and historical. This may tell us something about the importance of jewelry to our sense of being human. Certainly, jewelry can be whimsical and flamboyant and irreverent. And tattoos have recently come to be a personal symbol of choice for many people. But for many people in many cases, jewelry remains how we choose to symbolize some of the most important parts of ourselves and share it with others. We give a ring in marriage, we acknowledge friendships and important occasions with jewelry. Does this symbol, this memento really want to be one of thousands of mass-produced items? Or made soullessly by formula? I’ll let you answer this for yourself.
Here is one of my favorite passages from an email exchange I had decades ago that sort of puts the time it takes to make fine custom jewelry into perspective…
The following is a brief excerpt from the piece by Susan Crowell, writer, and (probably former at this time) ceramics instructor at U. Michigan, Ann Arbor:
“Craftsmanship is the central, qualitative element of craft, and it is at the heart of one maker’s response to the work of another…and in seeking a unified theory of craft, not a unified aesthetic, we need to focus on the act of making, not the object itself.” She discusses the writing of anthropologist Ellen Dissanayake’s in her book “Homo Aestheticus”, who describes “ART” as the task of “making special”.
Susan goes on to say…….
“For craftspeople, this making special emphasizes both the making and the special. Reversing the terms – special making- rings even truer when speaking of craft, for which the process of handwork is an essential component. As our perception of time becomes more precious and the time-intensive nature of craft increases its value, craft may even come to represent the preciousness of time itself, embodied in an object.”
And I’ll close this out by saying, “Why wait? Get started on your meaningful custom project with Gary Dawson Jewelry Design today! I promise to make your jewelry worth the short wait for me to make it perfect for you.
This mother/grandmother pendant took a little time to make and became a treasured family heirloom! See some of my other custom work that each comes with a story!
Whether it be in how you design, manufacture and market jewelry as a maker or how you select, purchase and wear jewelry as a consumer, finding a voice, and using it, is a great way to stand apart. Do you really want to be thought of as part of some large, conforming group? Why Conform?
I have many continuing thoughts on this topic which I will be sharing as I work through them, but this week, I’m taking a look at, and gleaning from what I think are a few of the best observations and advice from others who have looked at this topic. The Barbara Kingsolver quote above is how I begin.
Stephen Covey, the author of “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” has a quick and effective way of looking at the topic of Finding a Voice. He maintains first that, “voice is the overlapping of the four parts of our nature: our body, out mind, our heart, and our spirit and poses four questions…
This seems particularly suited to makers as stated, but with modification could also be applied to people who simply seek to express their voice through what they wear, in this case, jewelry, of course! Maybe something like…
”Find what feels true. You’ll write a lot, and most of it will be bullshit. You need the bullshit if you want to find the truth. Sort through the bullshit until you learn to recognize the truth, by feel, not by any logical criteria. The truth looks remarkably like bullshit.” See the rest of this great article here.
My take on this for makers is simply make a lot of things, something I’ve coached my students about continuously. For it is in the making that you will find yourself!
For the wearer of jewelry, this might look like trying on a lot of things, be bold in your exploration and through those experience you will find your own expression. Maybe a certain maker will have that “je ne sais quoi” that will do it for you, or a certain process, or a certain look that crosses traditional boundaries. Profoundly, I took away from my anthropology studies that every known culture so far has somehow used body adornment (that’s jewelry). And in your humanity you may still stand out from the crowd. Why Conform!