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(...) In which way do we challenge the difficulty of making our work understood? How do we respond to the generation change of our consumers and their needs? How do we face the new role that jewellery has in society today? (...)
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?
The answer to this question obviously has to be yes. The real question, however, is not whether the contemporary jewellery field is restricted (there may be isolated cases of people who are highly productive and consequently satisfied with their work), but whether we will be able to maintain and develop this specific sector.
Society today has changed immensely. What seemed unalterable to us some years ago no longer has any value or simply no longer exists. Situations modify and people are changing simultaneously in a very short time span. Are we able to face this change?
In which way do we challenge the difficulty of making our work understood? How do we respond to the generation change of our consumers and their needs? How do we face the new role that jewellery has in society today?
These and other questions should be answered by those operating in this field, in order not to become outsiders in a world that is continuously shifting, a world that has no space for isolated situations, far from people’s needs and often not in touch with market needs.
If the small world of contemporary jewellery were able to find the key to this dialogue, then it would be able to develop and become more productive. If this does not arise, I fear that in the short term it will not even be able to dialogue with itself, and all efforts made up to now will have been in vain.
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?
Here also I think we should try to see things from a different point of view. The relationship between designers and galleries is one of the many relationships that make up the world of contemporary jewellery, but there is much more.
It is true that the designer-gallery / gallery-designer relationships are not always what one would expect, but it would be unfair and would serve no purpose to hold these two parties responsible for everything.
It would be unreasonable to blame galleries or designers for society’s cultural deficiencies, deficiencies that make development very difficult. It is obvious that working in a field where cultural contents are important, if the market is small due to lack of education, there will be little space for progress and therefore it would be too risky for anyone to venture into new types of solutions.
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?
Anyone who works with Internet has gained power and those who do not use this instrument obviously lack it. The capability of being informed and that of informing is the real power and this applies both to galleries and designers. This is today and will continue to be the real key to success for everyone.
We are waiting for a saviour, to save us from our ills; a person who stand 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?
Waiting for a saviour is usually never wise; you could both end up drowning!
Is it a question of professionalism?
Absolutely. There is no longer room for improvisation. Work today requires ever more specific competences, an awareness of the mechanisms that regulate society and its market. In other words, there is always more need for professionalism.
We accept the established order, but we do not agree with it… What’s wrong?
Being contented with the way things are is a submissive attitude and can only obtain a negative result. We are certainly sometimes not content with the way things are, but it is up to us to change them.
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?
Once again, I would like to start from a wider viewpoint in order to better comprehend how this small world works. Firstly, let’s try to understand what context we are moving in.
In the middle of the last century, contemporary jewellery was beginning to take its first steps in a social context that was more clear-cut and defined. Society was made up of middle class people who were very conservative in taste, whose ideals were very strong and deep-rooted, a society little inclined to change its lifestyle or its symbols. There was, however, another part of society who, after the second world war, was ready for renovation, ready to accept a more open culture and able to seize opportunities that the new world could offer. In this context, the pioneers of contemporary jewellery, even though with some difficulty, had fertile ground to work on. The road ahead was very clear. Their aim was that of inventing a means of expression that could break away from the conservative past.
New types of materials, new technologies, new scientific discoveries, growing democracy, these and others were some of the challenges ahead, and all this was developing and consolidating. Economy was in strong growth, new markets were opening and new clients were searching for a culture made of innovation and research.
It was, in a way, easier for these pioneers to establish themselves and go ahead successfully. Today, it is not as easy to determine the right road to take. Society has radically changed skin. Innovation has taken on a completely different form. Economy is stagnant. It is obvious that contemporary jewellery today is faced with a very difficult challenge. And in these drastic changes that society has gone through, it is obvious that jewellery’s symbolic value was also subject to change.
So, what exactly is the value of jewellery today? Does it represent what it represented in the past? Probably not. Industry and fashion have changed the approach to jewellery by removing its symbolic and ancestral value. In a society where much importance is given to superficiality, jewellery has been deprived of any cultural value thus limiting its understanding and consequently its distribution. In an interesting article published here in the Klimt site, Ramon Puig Cuyas evidences the fact that jewellery is unable to be the sole protagonist of our time, in the sense that today jewellery has to share its symbolic role with items that have become very powerful status symbols, like cars, mobile phones, internet and have in a way replaced what jewellery used to stand for. We can do without jewellery today, but we cannot go without being connected to a computer.
Thus, what is the sense of jewellery in a society that has stepped into a new century with a creed for money and technology?
This is the context in which contemporary jewellery is forced to operate today. A context in which culture and market have become important factors and cannot easily be separated in order to be successful or unsuccessful.
If we were to think of jewellery as a merchandise, it would be sufficient to refer to marketing rules to solve our problems, but the situation is quite different, or at least partly. We can make the example of collectors of contemporary jewellery from the past who are gradually leaving way to a new generation of people with an interest in art jewellery, but who are not in a position to financially sustain the costs. To make things worse, this group of new supporters is very limited as society today lacks the cultural background to be able to appreciate new means of expression in art.
Thinking of “Chi ha Paura?”, it is strange to think that such an experiment did not work. The marketing of contemporary jewellery by means of the production of multiples, packaging, photos, advertising materials, agents, shops, etc.. That is to say, all that is supposedly required for the promotion of a product. Yet, it did not succeed. Why?
The answers are many. The price; people do not understand why something so minimal, simple, made in alternative materials should be so “expensive”. For most people, modern is equivalent to economic. This goes to show that in order to sell contemporary jewellery, it is not sufficient to use normal promotional channels, but a lot more is needed.
Why is contemporary jewellery not so well known?
In my opinion, one of the main problems is that institutions should be supporting society in better understanding contemporary jewellery and often this does not happen.
I am referring above all to schools and museums that should have the enormous responsibility of creating a cultural environment to develop those commercial sectors with high added value, artistic and intellectual value. If we are unable to have support from museums, schools, government organizations, associations, I fear that any effort on our part will be useless.
Some countries have recognized this need, but others, unfortunately, are still very far. This means that in a market that is ever more international, those countries that do not fulfil this need are going against the very basic market requirements.
In many countries there is a lack of financial support. It is very difficult for groups representing a small market segment to make themselves heard. I think that if these small groups from different countries were to get together as one larger group, there would be better dialogue with the institutions and this would certainly facilitate activities necessary for the development of the conditions required for the expansion of this sector.
How is the market? If I sell, would that be enough for me?
I think the time has come to realize that things have changed profoundly. Jewellery designers and galleries today are faced with competition that could hardly be imaginable some years ago, and above all with a market in deep recession. Whether we like it or not, today price is of the utmost importance, however famous the designer may be. We decide the price, but it is the market that determines whether that piece is sold or not. It is very frustrating to have to determine a price for a piece of jewellery with this in mind, but the situation is such that we can no longer determine the price we want without incurring in the non-sale of the piece.
Is internet a solution? Should we pay for it?
Internet is one of the many instruments but not the only solution. It is a means that is growing in importance, but cannot be considered the only one. It is obvious that like all instruments we use to work with, if they are of use to us, we can consider paying. How much we are willing to pay is another matter.
Director of ALTERNATIVES Gallery, Rome. Chairman and co-founder of AGC Associazione Gioiello Contemporaneo, jewellery designer-maker, graduated in London, Thames Valley University.
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