After Identity Crisis: Introduction (1/4)

Published: 19.12.2014
After Identity Crisis: Introduction (1/4).
Ezra Satok-Wolman
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For real change to occur, action needs to take place. My intention with “Identity Crisis” was to drop a pebble into the water and hope that some of the ripples turned into waves. It is in that spirit that I am publishing this follow up essay.

This is the first part of a text that will be published in 4 individual texts. Read the next articles Part 2: Ceci n’est pas “art jewellery”Part 3: The Pole Shift.

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Art Jewellery is Dead.”  That’s how all of this began.  With an absurd statement, that after careful scrutiny, may have been nothing more than a wakeup call from someone who really knows what this movement is supposed to be all about.  In fact, what has transpired is nothing more than a frantic call for the defibrillator, and a huge gasp for air.  Resuscitation alone is not enough however.  Art Jewellery is in need of a transfusion and an injection of new fresh blood.  Art Jewellery isn’t dead; it is hiding from its own “identity.”  For fear that it looks in the mirror only to realize that it still has a tremendous amount of growing up to do.  The Dogmas and narrow minded curating of Art Jewellery over the last decade or more have led us to question whether we even have a future as a field.

Over the years I have developed a network of friends and colleagues in the Americas, Europe, and Asia who will all tell you that Art Jewellery is alive and well.  It might not be what you think it is anymore, but a new “identity” is being revealed.  It will be immediately recognizable and you won’t have to ask yourself “is that Art Jewellery?”  Real Art Jewellery slaps you in the face. It makes you feel something.  You might find yourself proclaiming “I have to have that” before you’ve even had time to think, or ask how much it costs.  Anyone who has ever bought a piece of Art Jewellery knows this feeling.  It is an indescribable feeling.  It is amazement that you can affix to your body and show off to the world as your latest discovery.  Ask yourself when the last time you experienced this was and you will soon realize how scarce real Art Jewellery has become.  That is one of the biggest problems we face with Art Jewellery today.

We have come so far, and yet perhaps we have only scratched the surface.  Why stop here?  Things got difficult, and now we’re all just supposed to pack it in?  No way.  Its time to clean house and get things in order.  But if we want to ensure the survival of this movement, we must ensure that our mission statement is clear, that we have realistic goals, and that we celebrate excellence, not mediocrity.  As long as artists create jewellery, an art jewellery movement will exist.  It is entirely up to us however, to determine how successful and prolific we will be as a field.

In October, 2014 I travelled to China where I was invited to serve as one of the art directors for the Shanghai Jewellery Art Exhibition at Shanghai Design Week. I was also invited to present a lecture at Design Week, and asked to specifically speak about finding a balance between artistic expression and commercial success. That lecture was presented a second time to the jewellery department at Wuhan University of Engineering Sciences several days later. The lectures, as well as this essay, have been developed from the notes that I will share with you over the course of this text.  We will look back at the more successful periods that Art Jewellery has enjoyed and try to determine what has changed.  We will also look at how a redivision of the branches of Art Jewellery may help us more accurately understand and communicate with our target markets. 

While I certainly don’t claim to have all the answers, I am prepared to share my thoughts and feelings on these subjects in an effort to keep a healthy dialogue flowing.  My end goal is to ensure the survival and success of the field we all work within, and my hope is that we all benefit from reviving this important movement.  I received an overwhelmingly positive response to my last essay “Identity Crisis,”which was a call to action, in an effort to change things before its too late.  But it doesn’t just end with essays, declarations and manifestos. 

For real change to occur, action needs to take place.  My intention with “Identity Crisis” was to drop a pebble into the water and hope that some of the ripples turned into waves.  It is in that spirit that I am publishing this follow up essay. 

Forthcoming topics will include:
  •  What is Art Jewellery?
  •  The Art Jewellery “Umbrella”
  •  Extremism
  •  Pole Shift
  •  The dangers of following trends
  •  Shock value
  •  Overpopulation and Overgrowth
  •  "The Golden Standard,” tarnished or simply abandoned?

About the author

Over the last decade Canadian jewelry artist and goldsmith Ezra Satok-Wolman has been active in the jewelry world, establishing a presence in North America, Europe and Asia.  Having studied extensively in Canada and Italy, learning from the masters of the trade, he continues to preserve the practice of classical goldsmithing in his work.  Combining his passion for traditional techniques and contemporary art, Ezra has managed to successfully create a unique and identifiable style. He has received numerous awards and accolades for his work, and participated in international exhibitions and competitions over the years, including Beijing, Milan and Shanghai Design Week events, The Friedrich Becker Prize, The Niche Awards and The A’ Design Award