A Starter's Guide For (Soon To Be) Graduated Jewellery Designers. Part 2

Published: 03.09.2018
Annabel Goris
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With these series of questions and responses I aim to make a crib sheet for (soon to be) graduated jewellery designers. It are practical questions asked from a students point of view to different profiles. The questions are focused on artistic work, education, retail and contacts and learned lessons.  By asking different profiles, you’ll get more insights that could come in handy as a starter. And hopefully they can guide you in making the right decisions and encourage you to JUST DO IT.
The second questionnaire is the one for the gallerists. The different galleries are situated across the world. There is a diversity in nationality and background but all of them have the same goal: to share and educate their passion for Contemporary Jewellery.
Part 2 resulted in a combination of variated answers by gallerists, refreshing to read. 
When nearly graduating, it’s a bit scary to picture yourself functioning in the ‘real world’ as a designer/artist because you have little clue how to address it. You simply need to find a way to make a living with your artistic work, which is not a matter of course. There are no guiding professors anymore, no assignments that give you a sort of direction, you need to start thinking about earning your money, finding your own contacts and clients, workspace, material… A lot of decisions need to be made in a short period of time. And even though none of them are irreversible, it’s still really intimidating.
Illustrations: Ester Vilaplana Miret

1.     How do you think schools could best prepare their students for life after graduation?
La Joaillerie par Mazlo (Paris, France)
The first thing a jewelry design school should probably do today is to be transparent about the reality of professional perspectives in the field. Very few art jewelers actually earn their living through their practice. Most of them do have another job (like teaching for example) what allows them to create in their spare time. I am not sure this is really made clear by schools, especially when it comes to art jewelry.
The more you know, the more you can be free and independent. It is true, also for the tyranny of skills. If you really master the technical parts of your work, you can forget it more easily and put creativity and concepts on top of your priority. Simply because you know that you will manage to find the right technical response when needed. Schools should stop encouraging the antique separation between hands and brain and make it an obligation to study all aspects of a job. Even if you give up one of these aspects later in your career. Nobody will ever complain to be too knowledgeable!
Our world is experiencing incredible mutations and I am convinced that education also needs to evolve, to find new solutions and maybe encourage a more collaborative approach of work and a more sustainable approach of the objects we are producing: less but better.

Illustrations: Ester Vilaplana Miret

Hannah Gallery (Barcelona, Spain)
We think there is missing of knowledge regarding the jewellery scenario nowadays as well as knowledge of the past, the pioneers who with their work opened the paths for the jewellery that students are working on it now.
It is not possible to create if we do not know what happened in the past, where do we come from.
But this is also fixed when the students get more experience.

On the other hand, we would like students to be more critical in a mature way, with their work, with other artist’s works, with the educational system, with the galleries, with all, but critical in a constructive / positive way, not the: I like it / I do not like it.

Good critics bring up positive changes for all.
Will be good also to make them understand that it is not only about exhibiting, there are more areas in contemporary jewellery to work on and to develop.

 Alternatives Gallery (Rome, Italy)
Schools should give clear indications on the various possibilities that are offered by the market, in terms of galleries, fairs, online selling platforms available, competitions, etc. and encourage the student to examine his/her work to establish where their work may best fit and present their students with the opportunities that are available to them.
They should also teach their students how to present their work professionally, in terms of images, packaging, approaching galleries, presentations of their work both online and off-line, etc.. Being able to portray a professional image is fundamental in today's society and can make the difference. This may seem straightforward, but not all schools include these seemingly simple tips in their courses.

2.     How can you find your fitting selling platform/audience? (viewpoint both gallery and artist).
Hannah Gallery (Barcelona, Spain)
Selling is one of the most difficult things in the world.
It is not just that something is good and it has a price and then comes the perfect prototypic client and just buys it because is so good.

That is not real.
We have to find the proper platform for each work, and work for many different targets, considering cultural background, economical possibilities, artistic interests…
The creation of a secondary market to expand and growth a network of real clients will be the starting point to have a real and working market. We all, from galleries, museums, curators, academics, writers, jewellers should have to work in this line.

Alternatives Gallery (Rome, Italy)
A careful study of the marketplace should be made before ending your studies, which means examining the various galleries, online selling platforms and fairs to determine which ones are suitable or unsuitable for the type of work you are making.
It is usually helpful to speak to other artists to see what their experience has been, for example, when taking part in a fair.

ATTA Gallery (Bangkok, Thailand)
Know your work, your positioning, your future customers (what they wear, where to live, how they consume info, where to shop, etc.)
Without a clear position of your work, you will not be able to find the right platform for your work.
Do the research, gallery visits.
Go to fairs.
Keep your options open.

Galerie Noel Guyomarc’h (Montreal, Canada)
It’s a long process. As a gallery owner, it’s an everyday task to educate people to contemporary jewellery. Over the years, galleries built their clientele, but to have to be patient.
To have a website updated, linked to social media help as well. But it’s always a long process and very demanding.
3.     Tips on how to start and maintain a good contact with a gallery?
Hannah Gallery (Barcelona, Spain)
We think there are 2 important questions before approaching a gallery:
1. To see if your work and your needs fit with the gallery by learning the more we can about that gallery, the line of the gallery, the artist represented, shows they are organizing, international projection… To see what the gallery can do for you and if you will feel comfortable by being represented by them.
2. To think what you can give to the gallery and try to see why the gallery should represent you.
Once a professional relationship is established, it is very important to talk and to ask all questions to define the professional relationship in both ways. What the gallery will do for me, (with my work) and what they need me to do to make their work in the best way.
Regular communication is important, one of the most important things to us. Be in time with deadlines, timings, material needed and understanding the gallery and the artist work as a team with one common objective.
 Galerie Noel Guyomarc’h (Montreal, Canada)
To have good contact with a gallery is to be first honest with them.  All galleries are working hard to promote the artists they represent, as the market is very small. We have to be conscious that it is a collaboration, artists/gallerists. Always keep the gallerists updated about your new body of work. Ask them comments about the reaction of customers about the work, time to time. Keep track of your work display in galleries. The gallery has to manage with a number of artists, but some artists are pretty lost in their inventory.
Ohmyblue (Venice, Italy) 
First of all, it’s important for artists to acknowledge that running a gallery is not easy (at all!).
To start a good contact with a gallery is actually easy: follow the work it’s doing and get its philosophy. If you like what you see, take your chances and send an email, you’ll never know what can happen.
To maintain the contact with the gallery, dialoguing with the person that is protecting and presenting your work is vital.
Relationships are important if galleries (like ours) are not just a container of objects or the emanation of the gallerist’s ego but a place where to experiment and to put contemporary jewelry to test.

Illustrations: Ester Vilaplana Miret

Gallery Beyond (Antwerp, Belgium) 
Building up a good detailed updated portfolio and put yourself in the picture. 

4.     How to define your line as a gallery? And do you think an artist should have a clear style/statement? Do you approach the artist or they approach you?
La Joaillerie par Mazlo (Paris, France)
Considering an artist like a finished object is like giving him/her a death sentence. More than any other human being, an artist is in a constant move. A genuine artist is always thriving to find new paths to express him/herself. So giving a clear statement or style is a bit contradictory. You can ask them for a clear statement at a punctual time of their research but you also have to accept changes — sometimes huge — in their works and practice. I think this is where a gallerist really can show his/her supportive role to the artist by accompanying him/her through his/her research. In such cases, communication is the key to success: the artist must be capable to explain this shift to the gallerist who will then have the tough task to convince the collectors about its relevancy. I guess this is how you build a true body of work.
Hannah Gallery (Barcelona, Spain)
The line of the gallery it defines with the time, with experience. It is never a straight line but a daily work. One day you realize the gallery has a more defined line, more established and somehow it is your brand/seal. It will be good when people see a show or a gallery space and think… yes, this is Hannah Gallery.
It is a lifetime work somehow.

For an artist is the same, their statement is defined by working, by getting experience, by forming their own personal language, artistic or conceptual.

Mainly we approach the artists after being following their work for some time, then we invite the artist to join the gallery to work together when we think is the moment for both of us.
We work for a period and we see if we both feel good, we are always open to talk, hear the artist questions and we also need their feedback regarding the professional practice.

Alternatives Gallery (Rome, Italy)
Many artists are unclear about the type of gallery they are approaching, but above all they are very confused about what they are doing as an artist. They do not have a clear direction and present works that show they have not yet developed a style. It is fundamental to have a clear idea of what you are doing, what direction you wish to take and writing a personal statement is of fundamental help in focussing your ideas. A gallery will want to exhibit your work if you show that you have a direction, a statement of what you are doing because otherwise, it will be impossible to present your work to prospective clients.

ATTA Gallery (Bangkok, Thailand) 
Having a clear style/statement make one different from others. And there are so many people out there so unless you are different enough from others, you will have a hard time sticking out. But all in all, you have to be true to yourself.  Trying too hard to be “seen” can definitely be “seen” through.
I have artists approaching me and I also approach artists I would like to work with. From my experience, it works better when I reach out to them than them approaching me.  I have to be comfortable with what I present at the gallery…if I am not that into it, it’s hard to be to sell and present it to the audience. Communication and personal connections are important to me.  If I cannot communicate well with the artists, then it’s hard to be in a successful working relationship.  Out “style”, expectations, etc. have to align.

Ohmyblue (Venice, Italy)
Art galleries are places where things are exhibited and sold.
For this reason, according to our dear friend Lewis Baltz, we can argue that at the end of the day, art galleries are like stores.
For this reason, I’d like to define my gallery using the name of a cult store founded by Judy Blame in the mid-’80: “House of Beauty and Culture”.
OHMYBLUE is, in fact, a free space where like-minded artists come together.
We look into the poetics of artists and we run when we hear statements. Artists find things, it’s not just about inspiration. Most of the time it’s about being pierced by a vision. Then the rest is hard work.


About the author

Annabel Goris
, is a master student Object and Jewellery Design at Mad-faculty Hasselt in Belgium. She recently finished a year with diverse internships. Because her scope of interest is very broad and she wanted to expand her experience before starting her master. This included internships at Klimt02, DIM atelier, focussed on lamp design, … She got introduced into the world of design and product during her Erasmus time in Dusseldorf, but also fashion and social design get her attention. In the end she would love to work in an interdisciplinary manner.

Ester Vilaplana Miret is a graphic designer and illustrator born in Barcelona and currently based in London. She studied 4 years of Graphic Design at EINA, Centre Universitari de Disseny i Art de Barcelona (2010-2014). After graduating, she moved to London to do the MA in Graphic Moving Image at London College of Communication (2015) and stayed in the UK where she is currently working as a freelance.