Pamela Dickinson: Answers to the interview Market, lies and websites.

Interview  /  Artists   Debates   CriticalThinking   PamelaDickinson
Published: 03.01.2007
Pamela Dickinson Pamela Dickinson
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A few years ago who could have believed anyone could sit at home and just by clicking a mouse see the work of artists from all over the World in the space of a few minutes?
>> Answers to the interview Market, lies and websites: Klimt02 versus Klimt02 (Part 1) 

Is contemporary jewellery a restricted matter of a small group of people?
Not in the UK. It began here in 1961 when there was an exhibition of jewellery* which included pieces that had been made from designs developed by leading international artists, (painters, sculptors etc). By 1968, when I was an art student, it was possible to take a three year degree level course in Jewellery, backed up by academic studies in Art History and the Humanities ( I chose Philosophy), and all paid for by the Government. Fantastic! Studying Jewellery at a high artistic level has been going on ever since, and there are many of us representing a wide diversity of approach.

The relationship between jewellers and art galleries is of mutual necessity, but the jeweller seems to be dissatisfied. When must the jeweller consider a new relationship? Why don’t new alternatives emerge? Is it perhaps the incapacity to reach a new agreement or is it just that deep down jewellers have adapted to things as are now?
I am grateful to my galleries. My life is full, and I am glad there is a smart person in a civilised place, in a centre of population, selling my work for me, so I can I spend my time in other ways – maybe getting gradually dirtier while I polish my most recent piece of work, or lying in the bath getting clean again, while I work out my next piece of work, or, better still, enjoying the countryside with my family. The galleries have a difficult time – so many I have known have gone out of business. We should do all we can to preserve them, as a window for our work.

In the free information age, Internet, gallery owners have lost their power situation as anyone has access to all kind of information that had been treasured as if it was gold dust. When will we believe that we are the only ones that can make possible a change? Is it perhaps, the responsibility that each one has the only way of changing some situations?
The internet is certainly wonderful. A few years ago who could have believed anyone could sit at home and just by clicking a mouse see the work of artists from all over the World in the space of a few minutes? But once that interest is kindled, the viewers need to see and touch the real work that has intrigued them on the screen, and maybe get to know more about the person who made it. Jewellery is not just a visual Art, it is also tactile, and the relation it has to the human body is essential to its nature.

One suggestion I would make concerns using the Internet to sell one-off pieces through galleries. If the artist shows a unique piece on their own web-site, and receives an enquiry from some distance away it is useful for the artist to dispatch the piece to the gallery nearest the of the enquirer, and for the gallery owner to act as an agent or intermediary for the sale. While it is important not to undercut the sales prices charged for galleries for work in a similar range, it would be very helpful if galleries would consider taking a smaller percentage of the price on these expensive pieces that are not directly comparable with other pieces from the same artist, if they are sent to them on this basis. They have minimal expenses in obtaining the Sale, and although their percentage is lower than normal, the actual value they receive would be high because it is an expensive piece. Putting the usual mark-up onto a one-off piece that the artist could otherwise have sold directly to the customer can make it so expensive that the sale is lost.

We are waiting for a saviour, to save us from our ills; a person who stands up for us while we are lagging behind. When will we realize that in order to achieve these changes we will have to start taking decisions and changing attitudes?
Not one person, we all need to work together.

Is it a question of professionalism?
Professionalism is a complex concept, made up of a combination of values. I would emphasise integrity and respect for diversity.

We accept the established order, but we do not agree with it… What’s wrong?
I only accept the inevitability of change.

Contemporary jewellery moves in a rather limited market, for many reasons including the fact that it does not move a large amount of money. The issue would be to enlarge this market… but, how can we do it?
Co-operation. Each artist only needs to find enough clients to keep busy. We need a variety of artists, connecting with a wider public to encourage confidence in the whole sector. We need exhibitions to keep us in touch with our audience, and provide an opportunity to display our more adventurous work, and galleries and shops to sell our work all year round. As well as practitioners we need historians, teachers, students, collectors, people to wear what we make and writers to tell the public about it, so that together we can become a real force.

Why is contemporary jewellery not so well known?
We are all giving out our own personal messages, instead of getting one big idea across. Compare our situation with the explosion of creativity that happened in Painting in the 20th Century. Until the invention of photography, most people estimated the quality of a painting in terms of its exactness in representing the subject realistically. The challenge for the new painters was to get the public to understand that the value of the painting was not in how “realistic” the image looked – but the power with which it communicated. It took a lot of different movements (Impressionism, Post-Impressionism, Expressionism, Surrealism, Cubism etc., etc.), and quite a few decades before this concept was accepted by a substantial proportion of the population, and even now it is not universally understood.

Could we unite to lend force to the simple idea that Jewellery should not be evaluated on the basis of the price of the materials used in its production, but instead, like good paintings, on its power to communicate?
In short, whilst Painting in the twentieth century was about exploring a whole range of ideas the big difference between it and what had gone before was that 20th Century Painting was not about creating a representational likeness. Equally, whilst we all have different ideas and motivations, surely we are all at least in agreement that Contemporary Jewellery is not about the monetary value of materials, and once that concept is more widely accepted Life could get a lot easier for us all?

How is the market? If I sell, would that be enough for me?
For me it not only has to sell, but it also has to be worn on someone else’s body, otherwise, it is not communicating in the way I intended. This is not the same as “does it have to earn us money”? The answer to that is ….enough for us to keep working and creating new pieces.

Is the internet a solution? Should we pay for it?
As it is now it offers everyone a voice, but if it were ever to be controlled so that only one side of the argument could be heard it would become a monster. For the present time - like I said - the internet is wonderful. It has even given me this opportunity to talk to you. Thanks for that.

About the Interviewee

Pamela Dickinson
In 1968, aged 17, I started at Art School, believing I wanted to be a painter, but there was this silversmith giving evening classes… As soon as I worked with silver I knew the ideas and sensitivities I wanted to express would be better conveyed through jewellery than pictures, and I was excited to realise that that there was such a vast potential for creativity, just waiting to be explored. So many years later, despite having spent all this time being one of many people working to create new things, it still feels as though we are only just starting to discover what astonishing and subtle possibilities await realisation.