Greetings, and thanks for visiting my blog! I realize it has been about three months since I last wrote, but a whole heck of a lot has been going on here at the House of Karlsson, and quite frankly I just haven't been able to keep up with writing. So I decided to scrap all the planned blogs in my draft folder and start afresh with today's post. I've been giving this a lot of thought recently (due in part to those aforementioned goings-on), and the point of this blog is to not only educate the wearer of jewelry, but to also give food for thought to my fellow jewelry artists.
I suppose you are wondering what I mean by art versus fashion. Isn't all jewelry merely a fashion accessory? No. Jewelry serves many purposes in our lives. Sometimes you wear a piece because it matches your shirt or blouse. Sometimes you wear a piece because you're trying to show off. And sometimes you wear a piece because it holds personal significance. It has been my observation that significance to the wearer is the main difference between art jewelry and fashion jewelry. Now, before anyone has a hissy fit and goes on the rampage about how important fashion is to the world, I'm not here to knock fashion. Fashion has it's place. It's just not MY place. I'm not trying to be fashionable. Those of you who have met me in person know that this isn't just a philosophy, this is a lifestyle. I am the least fashionable person I know. It's just how I roll.
To my mind, there are three categories of jewelry. I made up these names. These aren't official categories by any stretch of the imagination. Just bear with me for the sake of discussion. One category that comes to mind is "fun" jewelry. The stuff that falls into the "fun" jewelry category is the stuff you might buy at certain discount stores, certain import stores, or some other low cost venue. The purpose of this jewelry is to match that favorite sweater, or because it's "cute", or something to that effect. You wear it for fun, and it won't hurt your feelings if it gets lost or broken, or if your cat swats it off your dresser and it falls down your floor vent, never to be recovered.
Another category that comes to mind is "fine" jewelry. This is the stuff that you go to the jewelry store in the mall to buy your significant other when you're going to propose, This is the stuff that you get ads in the Sunday newspaper for around Christmas, Mothers Day, and Valentine's Day with pictures of gold and diamonds and slogans meant to guilt you into buying, and all that other stuff. You wear it to show off, and you can also wear it as a fashion statement. Sometimes it has significance attached to it by the event you wear it at or the person you give it to or who gave it to you, but the piece itself has none on its own. You would also be really hacked off if your cat made off with your Tiffany diamond solitaire necklace and buried it in the litter box.
The category of jewelry that I do is "art" jewelry. Art jewelry can be purchased for fun, or for fashion. It can even be purchased as an investment if it's a famous artist (think of Rene Lalique or original House of Faberge). It's main purpose, however, is that it holds some sort of significance for the wearer. It doesn't necessarily have to have a deep significance, but it does have meaning, and maybe transcend just day-to-day fashion wear. Art jewelry acts like a talisman of sorts. It reminds the wearer of something that is important to them, whether it is a memory, a person, a story, or even just the stone or representation itself.
For example, you may have noticed that in my photo in my artist bio, I am wearing a very simple pendant that looks unlike what I normally do. I wear this pendant pretty much every day, even though I am spoiled for choice in regards to jewelry and can wear any of my creations I have on hand if I so choose. I wear this pendant because of its personal significance to me, and I will never sell it. Here is its story:
It was the beginning of 2018. My mother had passed away suddenly a few months before, and it was affecting me in ways that I honestly had not expected. I was coming up on my first art show of the spring season, and only my second art show I had ever done that was out of town. I needed to come up with designs, and I needed to create enough inventory for the show, but I just couldn't do it. I couldn't make myself create, and what was more, when I would force myself to sit and draw, nothing would happen. It was just scribbles. Before this, I was able to practically pluck ideas out of the air. It had been easy. It had come naturally, and the design ideas had been plentiful It was almost like a torrent that I could barely keep up with. However, leading up to that February show, there was nothing. My head was empty, and I just couldn't muster the energy.
After weeks of frustration, I finally challenged myself to do something completely different to try and break the mental block. I tasked myself to choose a material that I had never used and pair it with a stone I had never used. I dug through my stash of silver bits and bobs and found some sterling bead wire that had been sitting for Lord only knows how long, plus I found some spiny oyster shell and turquoise cabochons in a dusty corner of my studio that I had forgotten about even buying. Unfamiliar materials chosen, I sat down and made a simple piece. I hated the thought of it. I didn't think it would work. It was too simple. I didn't think the stone would look good with silver. Excuses filled my head as to why I shouldn't bother. I finished it anyway. To my surprise, I was pleased with the result. So pleased, in fact, that I made a series of pendants and bracelets with these chosen materials, plus a pair of earrings. Most of them have since found homes. I kept the original piece to remind me of what I did to break through a difficult time.
That's the real beauty of art jewelry. It doesn't have to match any of your clothes to be worn. It doesn't have to be "in style" or "on-trend" to be worn. It is, in and of itself, a piece that matches the wearer. Art jewelry is hand made, not mass produced. Art jewelry is made by one set of hands from start to finish. It is not the product of a production house or a factory. Art jewelry bears the heart and soul of the maker within it. When you buy a piece of art jewelry, it's not about the packaging, it's not about the price, it's not about all the bells and whistles that are usually associated with "fun" jewelry or "fine" jewelry. You are buying a story. You are adding to that story with your own, and when you wear a piece of art jewelry, you are sharing that collective of stories with others, and in so doing, tapping into our common humanity.
That's why I don't spend much time worrying about packaging. That's why I don't spend much time worrying about trends or fashion or whatever. That's why I don't make huge production runs of things that all look exactly the same, and why I don't enlist the help of factories in Bali or wherever to make my designs. Every piece you see is made by me, at my little workbench, in my little studio, surrounded by my turquoise hoard, my clarinet collection, and my angry little cats who keep trying to eat the plastic bags they SOMEHOW KEEP FINDING despite my efforts to clean the place up.
So, when you go wandering through art shows or art galleries, or other venues containing one-of-a-kind art jewelry, remember that you aren't just buying something to wear. You are buying part of a life to add to your own, and the artist will always appreciate you for it. I know I do.