My own definitions of the terms, art and craft, are quite simple. Art is an expression of something deep and meaningful to the artist that seeks expression in some sort of sensory and experiential way, i.e., sight, touch, taste, sound, and is meant to evoke in its audience (public or private), some feelings or thoughts. Craft is the combination of skill, technical prowess, construction method and design in the craftsperson which comes together with materials to fill some need (be it practical or ornamental) in a way that is both pleasant and useful to the consumer. This difference in the end goal, it seems to me, marks the distinction between art and craft: art is a sort of performance, meant to be experienced and commented upon, whereas craft is a sort of transaction between buyer and maker, wherein the maker puts his skills and knowledge into a thing and the buyer rewards success by paying the ultimate compliment of wanting to own it.
These definitions do not make art diametrically opposed to craft; despite the differences, there is always crossover. Much art is practical and can be consumed. Much craft is artistic and can be exhibited. But to me, the highest form of craft is one in which the materials the craftsperson begins with have inherent value. Of course, making things out of Nespresso pods is commendable, particularly for the recycling value. I often re-design vintage jewelry or unworn, inherited pieces for my clients.
But, for the driving force behind my work, I hearken back to the Arts and Crafts Movement which began in England and Europe in the late 19th century as a response to the soulless and thoughtless processes of the industrial revolution, which separated the maker from the product. And at the same time, well-funded commissioned works adopted a sort of worship of complicated senseless ornament without any thought of the reason behind the design or the material. The Arts and Crafts Movement was meant to counteract these ills by combining skill, mastery over technique, and excellence in material selection to create something that brought joy and served a purpose. Practical things were meant to be beautiful, beautiful things, practical. And even ornament, such as jewelry and clothing and both industrial and household art, served and still serves the purpose of expressing the style of the consumer.
I am not an artist. I am not trying to express something deep inside me that has no regard for the end consumer of it. Even though Frank Lloyd Wright, a celebrated architect, was a proponent of Arts and Crafts in the US, he expected his clients to conform to his designs. They were not allowed to change anything in their own homes. This imperiousness is not arts and crafts, but arts and ego. Not to be unfair to artists. An artist’s vision is important, and it must keep its integrity if it is to be communicated. And there is much to communicate. But to me, useful art, or art and craft, must be a conversation. A two-way street in which the customer’s wishes can be met while fulfilling a practical or even an impractical desire to express what they want to express.
Another factor of the Arts and Crafts Movement was affordability. Whereas in the past, anything bespoke or hand-made with some artistry had only been for the wealthy, the new Arts and Crafts furniture and wallpaper and pottery and glassware were made with thought, connection, and design while being inexpensive enough for anyone.
When I make jewelry, it is my goal to find the expression my client has in mind and make it solid. And I do that through the very thorough selection of materials that have inherent value. Have I made earrings with glass beads? Sure, but only for very good clients! Because when our transaction is complete, I want my clients to own something not only of beauty, but of intrinsic value. I want to find that perfect gemstone or pearl and set it into a setting that will wear well, be maintainable, and hold its value. And I have the knowledge and connections in my industry to make these things affordable. For this reason, I do not use anything fake, dipped, coated, or glued together. And for this reason, my price range is wide enough to include almost any budget while providing nothing but real gemstones and pearls. It is true that there are some eighty thousand-dollar emeralds on the wholesale gem market, but there are vastly more five hundred-dollar emeralds. And at the end of the day, they all come out of the ground and are emeralds, each beautiful because they are so different. My setting techniques are traditional in method and clean and modern in appearance, designed to show your stones and materials for their best, not to show how much metal I can pile up around a stone.
Because in the end, I want my customers to enjoy the art of my jewelry and appreciate the craft of it by wearing it. Not only on date nights or dress up events, but for every-day use. I always tell people that I kayak and rock climb in my jewelry, and I want my customers to be similarly at ease. I don’t want customers to treat jewelry like it is some fusty, once-a-year-use item like Grandma’s pearls or Auntie’s china, but like some well-crafted piece of art they like to wear.