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Re: Do you make all the parts of your media?

From an email I received from Andrea:

I along with several other artists make antique button, vintage button, vintage cameo and vintage glass jewelry.  I have been told before that although they like what I do with the buttons I do not make the buttons therefore I am disqualified.  

To me no one and I mean no one does not buy something to start their art with.  That would be like telling a painter he is disqualified because he does not make the canvas or the paints. How do I weed out shows that feel this way.  There is so much involved with button jewelry from finding, collecting, researching, restoring and this is all before I create them into a pieces of jewelry.  

I have spent a fortune applying to shows only to be turned down.  I have been in several fine art shows and have done well.  However I think for many shows they disqualify me and therefore I am wasting my time.

Andrea, I'd bet your work is lovely. In a recent podcast one of the first reasons stated by a show director about "why you didn't get in" was because the applicant didn't read the application well. No one is making all the parts of their work. That is a given. My best advice is to carefully read the applications for the shows you are interested in and then making a phone call to the show, perhaps even sending them an email with an image of your work attached and asking them if it meets that show's criteria. 

Does anyone else have other advice for Andrea?

Views: 1404

Comment by geri a. wegner on February 11, 2016 at 7:55pm

Wouldn't using buttons and glass not made by the artist fall under the category of stringing?  Some shows require you make the beads (glass, polymer clay, PMC etc) and others let you buy those components.  

They should find the shows that let you buy all the components, not just the findings. 

Comment by Barrie Lynn Bryant on February 12, 2016 at 9:54am

Since we have been using Saint Louis Art Fair as a guide for so many reasons these days, here's what their rules state about jewelry:

Jewelry - All jewelry whether the work is produced from metal, glass, clay, fiber, paper, plastic or other materials must be entered in this category. No commercial casts, molds or production studio work.

So here's an example of one of the top shows allowing the type of jewelry in question here as I see it. Andrea is finding these buttons and constructing them into a meaningful and creative way. I also know that using found objects to make art is a viable method of working and is universally taught in college art departments. How do you all see it?

Here are some additional details from the Saint Louis Art Fair rules found on zapplication:

All work exhibited and sold must be “original works of art.” “Original work” means no copies, reproductions or facsimiles of any type. No machine reproductions, photo mechanical reproductions or commercial reproductions are permitted. No mass reproduction in combination with original, hand-crafted work is permitted. Copies from the works of masters, advertisements and widely circulated photographs are not considered original works of art and will not be permitted.


I haven't seen the work in question, but I have seen another artist in Florida who did this very same type of work. In fact, we have some of her work we liked it so much. She created original jewelry using various combinations of buttons. They are amazing, really. I don't see the process as production work, either.

I wonder if Andrea applied to Saint Louis Art Fair? I wonder which art fairs have rejected her process and taken her money?

Comment by Leslie Turner on February 12, 2016 at 10:10am
Research the shows. Jewelry can be a tough category because everyone seems to have different guidelines. I make my own glass beads but some shows insist I make every part of the finished jewelry and I order my clasps.
Comment by Tina Noonan on February 12, 2016 at 10:23am

To respond to an earlier comment:  using button or glass in jewelry does not necessarily equate to "stringing".  It is quite possible to use such components in combination with metalworking or wireworking techniques -- neither of which have anything to do with bead stringing.

For the larger question of having to make all materials used in the art -- I agree that this type of limitation in the jewelry art world is not reasonable.  It sometimes feels that jewelry artists are held to a very different standard or "originality" than artists who work in other media (as the original poster pointed out:  painters aren't being required to make their own paints or canvases, so why are jewelry artists required to make all components which go into their work?  Sorry....just pet peeve of mine. (And, yes, I'm a jewelry artist -- how could you tell? <chuckle>)

Comment by Larry Berman on February 12, 2016 at 1:30pm

Comparing painters to jeweler doesn't compute. That's like requiring photographers to make their own camera. Each medium has it's own rules and within each medium, there is competition and those rules help narrow the number of applicants. 

Larry Berman

Comment by Kathleen Caid on February 12, 2016 at 1:46pm

Andrea, like you, I make jewelry using vintage and antique components. I combing bead embroidery and bead-weaving with many kinds of elements to do what I do. I can spend hundreds of dollars and sometimes 100 hours making one necklace! Personally, I think my work is top drawer but I find it almost impossible to be accepted into the top ranking shows. My booth is pristine (spent about $13000 on tent and display) and photos are all professional. I lie in bed at night wondering, without any illuminating solution, why, oh why, I am never accepted into the A-Tiered shows and what can I change to reverse that. 

I have almost come to the conclusion that the "jurors" (I know, a terrible generality) don't like my work because of its antique flavor; they all want slick, contemporary, moderistic jewelry.

Do you feel that there is prejudice against our looks, not because we don't MAKE all our components, but by the very choice of the components themselves?

My business name is Antique Artistry. The essence of what I do is to revive interest and admiration in old, beautifully-crafted items by incorporating them newly, in wearable art pieces.

I would love to hear back from others on this point as I am driving myself nuts wondering if there is just no place in the modern art mainstream for my work.

Comment by Karen Holtkamp on February 12, 2016 at 6:03pm

In a previous life I designed jewelry, using purchased components like Kathleen and Andrea do, and to make a long story short I got out of the jewelry business because I learned I would never make it into the A-tier shows.  Now I own too many kilns and make fused glass "from scratch."

Here's what I learned.  Essentially, the A shows want only jewelers whose work is largely silver or gold that the jeweler has personally forged or cast into a piece of jewelry.  Even these jewelers often add gemstones which they set into the piece but they get away with this purchased component, maybe because the precious metal is still the majority of the piece and it's been hand-manipulated by the jeweler.

You can easily tell if your kind of work is acceptable by carefully reading the description of the jewelry category.  If it says "no purchased components" or even "minimal purchased components" you are out of luck.  The jurors will throw out your application no matter how good the jewelry looks.

I'm not sure why it's this way, as I've seen gorgeous jewelry that fits the "stringing" category, some with complex wirework and some without.  My guess is that the shows choose to take the purist route and stick with the classic definition in order to maintain their reputation as a top-tier show.  And truthfully I also think it can be a slippery slope; if they start to accept high-quality jewelry made from purchased components, suddenly they are inundated with applications with much lower-quality work made by hobbiests who use cheap beads and have ugly booths.  I think they want to make sure there's a fat and well-drawn line between their show and a local high-school craft show.

I don't think the A shows will change their requirements any time soon, if ever.  So if you're going to continue with your current designs I suggest you focus on the smaller regional art shows where they look for good quality but are more relaxed about purchased components.  These shows know that they don't attract 100,000 visitors and that the shoppers aren't looking for a pair of $2400 earrings.  I used to do these kind of shows all the time.  The booth fee is usually only $100-$150 and I routinely made $2000-$2500 dollars, and since they're regional you have no hotel expenses.  Perhaps if you share with us the city you live in other AFIers can chime in with the names of nearby regional art shows that you might want to try.

Comment by Richard L. Sherer on February 12, 2016 at 6:14pm
It gets confusing when the person writing the requirement has blinders on for only one or a few mediums. The best you can do is email them for clarification for your medium. In my case, leather, it usually goes like ". .......does that mean no rivets snaps, zippers, buckles .....?" It usually catches them with their pants down.
Comment by Richard L. Sherer on February 12, 2016 at 6:21pm
My pet peeve for leather are the ones that say "no production work" and the people they let in have processes on their web site of punching out hundreds of items of the same design and only change the color of leather. If I hand cut six of any thing in different leathers, I wonder if that would be viewed as "production work". IMO they and jurors are cut from the same bolt and don't have a clue about a lot of mediums, yet they pass judgment year after year after year.........
Comment by Andrea Wilkes-Jones on February 12, 2016 at 8:26pm
I realize each category has its own requirements. However jewelry is such a wide category. I don't pretend to make precious metal forged jewelry with precious stones. However most of the verbiage for almost all shows reads the same in the jewelry category. I have tried to question the show directors for many shows and have only had one return my inquires. So I will say I have pretty much given up and just keep trying. I live in Louisiana so it's a drive to get anywhere. Not very many shows in my area that I feel are with doing. With a few exceptions. I appreciate any and all comments. Still new to this site so if I am repeating what has already been discussed sorry!

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