My experience at the 2014 Minneapolis SNAG Conference
By Hilary Halstead Scott
I just got home after the annual Society of North American Goldsmiths (SNAG) conference in the Twin Cities. For those of you who are not familiar with SNAG, it is an organization dedicated to the educational and professional development of metalsmiths across the fields of jewelry, sculpture and design.
It is inspiring to be surrounded by the intense concentration of talent at SNAG events. The organization includes many top names in jewelry design as well as some of the most exciting emerging talent in the world. Over 400 people attended the affair and I’m sure none will forget the new connections we made and the things we learned during four days, more than a dozen presentations, four demos, and several social occasions.
One of my favorite events was the Studio Crawl which included visits to nearly 100 working jewelry studios in Northeast Minneapolis. Highlights included the work of local artists shown in the thumbnails below such as the beautiful pierced and forged work of Brittany Foster of BMF Jewelry, one of my long-time favorites the amazing Emily Johnson of EC Design Studio, and of course the stunning organic forms of local legend Judith Kinghorn.
The evening became even more enjoyable thanks to the amazing folks at Quench Jewelry Arts who gave us lots of laughs and a memorable drive to peanut butter bacon burgers in the Northeast restaurant district. Please check out their array of jewelry making classes if you live in the Midwest.
There were several excellent presentations at the conference but when I look back I keep thinking of two in particular. First, the speech on the development of mokume gane jewelry by industry pioneer George Sawyer was spectacular. He spoke of forging a metalsmithing career inspired by custom race cars and samurai swords. It was one of the most romantic vocational journey stories I have ever heard.
Second, Mirjam Hiller was described by one of my friends as the “artist crush” of the conference. She enchanted the audience with her poetic and impassioned description of her work process. The presentation was deeply honest and moving. It represented the best of what inspirational art talks should be.
The Professional Development Seminar series on Friday focused on preparing to sell to collectors and increasing value by documenting your work. Eight presenters approached the subject from different angles. Attendees learned about provenance paperwork, hallmark & makers mark stamping regulations, what collectors look for, and how value builds over time. It was fascinating. Kudos to Harriete Estel Berman and Brigitte Martin for putting together such an instructive program. We were proud to sponsor it. I believe podcasts and/or online video will be available soon.
SNAG is caught in a pivotal moment of identity crisis these days. Recent upheaval in the organization has left it struggling to find its footing in a vast field of disparate interests spanning the spectrum between avant-garde art works and traditional bench jewelry. SNAG tackles the vital need for community and advocacy in our trade. If you are not already a member, I strongly encourage you to join and speak up about what you are looking for in a professional organization. I am excited about the capable leadership of new Executive Director, Gwynne Rukenbrod, and I look forward to watching SNAG evolve into a more inclusive, modern iteration of its former self.
Sign up today and make sure you are a part of it. Annual memberships including a subscription to Metalsmith magazine start at $85. I look forward to the 2015 SNAG conference in Boston, MA May 20-23. I hope to see you there.
Halstead, is one of North America’s leading distributors of jewelry supplies. The firm is celebrating their 41st anniversary this year. Halstead specializes in wholesale findings, chain, tools and metals for jewelry artists.