I’m in the midst of so much right now that it’s hard for me to even think straight. I’m writing this as the mother of a weeks-old newborn, and taking on this new chapter has been both a shock to the system while also giving me immense pleasure. I’ve been running on a totally new sleep schedule that it’s difficult for me to distinguish one day from the next. The days are steadily becoming nights.

And yet, ideas for the next collection are brewing.

Earlier, I had spoken about doing a collection based on travel. I have this idea to explore various cities from around the world and of turning their ‘essence’ into wearable art jewelry. I want to travel through my jewelry and explore new areas of the world through creativity.

The first city will be my favorite city: Rome.

I don’t want to focus on the Roman Empire exclusively, but talk about the many layers of history, arts, and culture that surround Rome. Rome is an explosion of everything: architecture, art, religion, politics, music, history, and it defines what it truly means to be a part of mankind. Everything about Rome is manmade, or invented/created by man, and yet it doesn’t feel forced; the progression of man’s creativity as documented in the fabric of Rome feels natural and beautiful and inspiring.

I’ve been playing with a few ideas in my head about how I want this collection to develop. The two major themes in Rome are the Vatican City and the Roman Empire. As you’re walking throughout the city, you’ll also see influences from both Egypt and Greece. Then there are the various repeating shapes you see everywhere, like the constant play/exploration of geometry juxtaposed against the gardens that overflow from terraces and into the streets. Of course, there’s the chaos of the traffic, the crowds, the shops. Finally, you can get a taste of high-end luxury from the major Italian fashion houses that line the Via Condotti, be in awe of the wealth that poured into Roman Catholic church by visiting the Vatican Museums, or wander through the streets to experience both the gritty and the opulent.

I’ve decided to start with Rome because Rome has been one of those places that has always pulled at my heartstrings. I’ve been there multiple times but I’m always eager to learn more about the place. Every time I’ve returned, I’ve learned something new. It really is a city that grows and changes and morphs with the times, and somehow remains true to its character.

This collection will be deeply personal for me. I’m sharing with you what I’ve experienced through travel and why I feel like traveling is the most precious activity for us to do. It is a gift that has shaped me as a person and ultimately shapes my jewelry and my creativity. I’ll be exploring my own memories of Rome, coming up with ideas on how to ‘record’ them, and then turning them into earrings.

But of course, this collection will take time to develop. Both with my new life schedule and the fact that I’m diving into a completely new realm in terms of designing, I want to be mindful of how I represent a city that is so special to me.

Thanks for reading, I’m beyond excited to explore this collection.

I’ve been getting into reading artist blogs lately to get a sense of how others use their voice to express creativity. Many of the artists whose blogs I follow have a background in academia (graduated with a Master’s) and are now practicing artists. Most of them are Boomers so their take on art varies greatly from my own, and some of them are now teaching. They have been pioneers in the Contemporary art jewelry world and while their work has shaped the accessibility of art jewelry to the world, they fall short when it comes to how art jewelry is now perceived. Especially in the age of the internet and the age of social media and online sharing.

I studied architecture in college and received my Bachelor’s in the field, so my academic background doesn’t extend as far as these other artists, but I got enough of sense of it that I didn’t want to go back to college. If I’m honest, I was rather disgusted with how academia treated design and art. I returned to a community college that hired only Master’s-level teachers for their jewelry program and while I learned a lot how to technically assemble a piece of jewelry, I felt like there was still a massive disconnect between what the school was teaching and the reality of our world now.

I’m far from being in the “art as jewelry” world because I didn’t want to play the game of artist jeweler. But I could also see that it was an area that I didn’t want to fit in with. Essentially when you graduate, you go out in search of a gallery who will represent your work and you collaborate (or pay to collaborate) by putting together shows and openings for the public. There are things about the art + academia + gallery world that I like, but I also don’t think that they are rooted in reality.

Here are some of the questions that kept coming up for me when I was in my design and jewelry classes.

Concept-Driven Art, but Where Does Beauty Come into Play?

Much of what is taught in design and art school revolves around coming up with a good concept. These concepts are usually ideas, or a comparison of ideas, that put into question aspects of our humanity or the human experience. These concepts are abstractions of something usually complex and they are distilled in the form of a piece of art. The art is designed to represent that concept through materials, techniques, and commentary. The art has to be explained. It is very word-driven so you can’t just look at a piece of art and make an assumption; you have to approach it with a certain degree of knowledge that is shared with you via the artist, curator, gallery owner, or academic.

I do agree that good art is rooted in a good concept, but what I don’t understand is why we aren’t pushing that further to include beauty. When did beauty lose its appeal or become unimportant? I understand that contemporary art and contemporary art jewelry questioned the meaning/purpose of beauty, but I also feel like there’s something missing. Even the ugly or disturbing used to be symbolized by a motif or image so it had a part to play in the art world.

Now, it’s like we’ve completely pushed away all of those old metaphors and motifs and are arguing that the color grey is ‘beautiful’ because it represents the opposite of black and white. Like what? It’s as if artists are becoming writers or public speakers more than anything. I believe that art can be complex and intellectual and conceptually interesting, but it also has to appeal to more people than just the academics. Which is why I believe beauty is so important: it brings more people into the conversation simply because it’s nice to look at.

I don’t think that these teachers, gallery owners, or curators are seriously questioning this other aspect of art anymore. Beauty has its place in the world, and it’s not easy to create something beautiful. It’s quite difficult to portray complicated concepts while also making them aesthetically-pleasing.

Exploring New Methods of Engaging the Public

As much as I criticize social media, there is no denying how it can be used as a powerful tool to connect and share ideas with others. And yet, nearly every teacher I’ve had is in total denial of it as a valid tool. I’ve even met jewelers who deny the power of the internet and see no value in even having a website. I realize that the internet can be daunting but to not even try to understand it, is a missed learning opportunity.

The internet (to me) offers a wide range of tools, but as with any technique, it is about selecting which tools work best for you. You don’t approach jewelry and use every single technique available; you learn all the various techniques and then decide which ones speak to you the most.

One thing that artists do when they graduate from a university is that they continue showing their work through galleries. Many times a gallery will put on a theme-specific show and that artist works within that concept to contribute to the dialogue that the gallery owner is interested in exploring. During opening night, the artist is often asked to speak at these events or at least converse amongst viewers their take on the subject and how they used their art to portray their idea.

A university-level artist does something similar in the form of a presentation, critique, or dissertation. They come up with a concept, create the artwork to support the concept, and then present it to their class or the public.

To me the best place to practice and to engage an audience would be through the internet. Why aren’t we using social media as a place to present our work and gather ideas from an audience that is outside of our normal worlds? I know that social media is closely tied to vanity and that it’s hard to separate the two, but what if academia pushed for students to explore and share and engage with an outside audience and then bring those insights to class?

It would also give students a foundation of followers and they could continue to grow with their audience and be able to leave university not having to start from scratch. The whole point of going to university is to better prepare students for the outside world and yet they isolate the students by not encouraging this level of engagement. When you’re a budding artist, it is scary to put yourself out there and see how the public will receive your work. If you’re nurtured properly from the start, and you have your niche audience to be by your side, going out into the real world would feel a lot less intimidating. Have you ever approached gallery and asked them to share your work? It’s terrifying.

The New Reality of Selling

Trust me, if they taught you how to sell your work online in college, most of these galleries and market organizers would be out of a job in no time. It would eliminate the middleman in an instant.

The problem is that I don’t think academia views an online sale as a legitimate sale. They want the buyer to have engaged with the work in person at a gallery and feel a connection to it by handling it. If this is the same mentality coming of a pandemic, then academia is definitely missing the point.

The internet offers artists the opportunity to communicate directly with the buyer. We could do this before at markets, but even the nature of markets is changing. Often times, high-end markets don’t want to invite a younger, lesser-known artist to their venue a) out of loyalty to previous vendors, or b) out of distrust that the artist’s work will be ‘on brand’ with their event. The reality is that it is very difficult for a younger artist to get into a gallery or into a market; the jurying process is tough and you’ve only got a few chances per year to become noticed.

But again, isn’t the whole point of art to be out into the world? An artist only becomes better with practice and if they can’t sell their work then they can’t continue practicing. And I’m not talking about these marketing gimmicks where a teacher is expected to explain what a flash sale is to the class. I’m talking about the encouragement of selling, I’m suggesting that teachers try to learn with the students these new tools and ways of selling your work. Galleries and markets aren't the answer for everyone, and the beauty is that now the art student can test out these new methods and see which path works best for them.

I know that I'm critical of academia, galleries, and markets but it's just because I believe we can do better for the art community. We can teach students right from the beginning how to put their work out there, how to build and engage with their audience, and how to explore these new tools that we have right at our fingertips. It's a disservice when we deny the validity of tool like the internet. I am continuously on the path to find what works for me and my business while also questioning how it fits in the art world, in the jewelry world, and in the internet world. I wish that I had some support with this path from my mentors because I could've bounced ideas with them and not felt like I was pursuing something that was so foreign and unknown. By having teachers closed off to the idea of a certain path, it makes it feel like you're not doing something legitimate. Does that makes sense?

I love doing a spring cleaning around the house and in my closet, but for the past few years I’ve taken this concept to the digital realm as well.

I unsubscribe from a bunch of email lists, unfollow any accounts that aren’t personal or inspiring, I remove pages/links from my website, I go back and redesign my website to make it look ‘cleaner.’ I check passwords, delete apps, reevaluate how I receive notifications and turn everything off, off, off.

It’s amazing to me what we do to stay connected. I often wonder how much of this digital clutter affects my work and designs. In the process of cleaning, I always ask myself how pure my thoughts and ideas are at the end of the day if I’ve constantly got something happening in the background. Like am I really ‘finding inspiration’ or am I being influenced to make something specific?

Every year that I do this and have this time to reflect on my online interactions, I question how I can do better at using the internet as a tool rather than a crutch. These are some of the things that I do to declutter my mind and to better understand where and how to place my efforts online.

Silence and Going Dark

I usually take anywhere from a few days to a few months to disconnect. Sometimes this happens when I travel, but since we’re in this pandemic, the last few years I’ve decided to do it suddenly and quietly. Sometimes I announce that I need a break but I find that it’s better for me when I just wake up one morning and decide to go for it.

I typically work in silence when I’m in the studio unless I’m doing something mundane. Silence is my friend, we are thick as thieves as far as I’m concerned and I use it constantly to understand design problems. Many of my designs are put to paper but then when you’re working on them in real life, there is always a series of issues that come up. I need to be sharp, clear-headed, and hyper focused when I’m working with a torch.

But I only have those short moments in the studio where things are silent and then I come home mentally drained and I turn to the dull noise of the internet. Social media is the easiest to fall back on and allows my brain to totally blob out. One of the issues with social media is that (aside from the obvious), I feel like because I follow other jewelry accounts, and therefore my feed is flooded with jewelry content, I wonder if my work appears like others that I’m seeing online.

When I go dark online, it’s because I want to distance myself from being influenced by others. I want the ideas to come to me from start to finish.

Reevaluating Privacy and Boundaries

This is a really big one for me. I find that sometimes having a small online business, there’s a lot of pressure to put as much of yourself out there so that people have an emotional connection to you and your work.

I’ve read articles and books about how we’re losing our identities through the internet. I like to get myself good and scared about these topics because then I know what I’m comfortable and not comfortable with sharing online.

It’s a hard one to balance. There are articles that address how women feel more obligated than men to overshare because we are constantly trying to prove who we are. There are theories about how our lack of privacy is starting to warp our sense of self. As a result, we no longer know who we are because we’re trying to create this version of ourselves in order to compete with others online.

I look back on all these things and ask myself, what makes me uncomfortable? I’m not perfect, I’ve shared a lot of myself over the years. But when I make those mistakes I’m like, “well that didn’t feel right,” and then I make a mental note of it and try not to do it again.

This can come to business practices, to sharing my opinions, to sharing aspects of my personal life. Behind every social media story, post and blog entry, I’m questioning whether it feels right or not. Sometimes it’s just a matter of telling myself that I don’t have to do it, and once I give myself that permission to walk away or say no, I immediately feel ok. That’s when I know that I’ve created a new boundary that works and I can be more myself and focus on making my jewelry the way I want to make it.

Getting more Specific about my Information/Inspiration Resources

It is so easy to fall back on to something like Pinterest when you’re designing a new collection, but it shouldn’t be the only resource for inspiration. I found myself spinning my wheels a few years ago because nothing felt fresh or interesting and I became creatively stuck. I want to create art, not make versions of what I’m seeing online.

I started to get serious about where and how I was going to find inspiration. It lead me down some very interesting paths and I discovered a whole new world out there. I had always used a social media platform for inspiration mostly because I was a beginner trying to understand how to put jewelry together. Lots of makers show their process and I was able to gain insight into how to properly assemble a design. But after overcoming my beginner woes, what was once a source of inspiration was turning into an endless scroll of boredom.

I had to take a break from social media and that’s when I discovered the world of the internet. One positive thing that came out of this pandemic was that all of the big name museums put their inventory online. They had virtual museum tours and were trying to connect to the public through blogs. It’s been amazing because finally I had access to artworks and could zoom in and get ‘closer’ to them than I ever could in person. Many artworks have their own descriptions and that became a catalyst for understanding their purpose in the art world, rather than turning only to Wikipedia.

Another positive thing that emerged from the pandemic is that JSTOR changed their accessibility policy. JSTOR is a database of scanned academic articles from an unlimited variety of scholarly journals that is normally used by university students or professors to find information (both general and specific) for essays. It is regarded as the best online resource for anyone in academia, but once you graduate from college, before you didn’t have access to these articles anymore. BUT during the pandemic, JSTOR changed its policy and now you can read up to 100 articles for free with a regular Google account. It has been such a fantastic resource. I could finally read deeper on a subject and then have proof of what I was inspired by. I never read 100 articles, but I can read stuff from museum curators, or from professors who specialize on a topic, or have access to critics or historians who I never would’ve been able to learn from.

On top of it all, I found that many of these museums and institutions (libraries, universities, etc) record their lectures and upload them to YouTube. I found out that I could view any number of lectures from very recent to ten years ago and gain insider knowledge on a topic that I was trying to understand.

Now, I don’t turn to other jewelers for inspiration. I’ve turn my view on to anything that falls under history, art history, architecture, literature, travel, gardening, culture, DIY. While a lot of my work from the past was inspired by all these things, before I was looking for how to specifically relate them to jewelry. Recently, I turn to these topics to learn and stay curious and then I allow the designs to come to me rather than trying to force them to fit into the jewelry world.