I am revitalized, re-energized and refocused! Last week’s annual Society of North American Goldsmiths (SNAG) conference is better than a trip to the spa. SNAG is an organization dedicated to metalsmiths including jewelers and sculptors in all metals, not just gold. The organization and the annual conference are aligned with the academic arts community through colleges and universities. More than 60 metals programs from across North America were represented. Other attendees included professional metalsmiths from all walks of life.
The SNAG conference consists of a series of lectures on the issues facing metalsmiths today, technical developments, artist profiles and even historic periods in the craft.
Several conference events stood out in my mind. I was moved by Caitie Sellers, a recent graduate and accomplished metalsmith, who spoke about her experience teaching jewelry making in Guatemala and how her new world view has impacted her life and work. Her story was so honest and her pieces are breathtaking.
Another poignant profile was by Amy Tavern, a widely known jewelry artist in the community. Amy’s presentation was about her recent experience as an artist in residence at Penland. It was a pivotal time of introspection in her life that led to a creative breakthrough and a new body of work in her collection. Amy’s connection to her grandmother’s jewelry box is a common thread for many jewelers. She wove a heartfelt narrative about the impact those treasures have on her fascination with objects of adornment.
Megan Auman of Designing an MBA spoke at length about Creating a Culture of Profit for jewelry artists. Her positive and energizing speech persuaded the audience to view their craft as a contribution to the world that makes people’s lives better. Handcrafted jewelry brings not only beauty but meaning and sentiment to the wearer. Jewelers should be proud of this impact on customers’ lives. They should not be ashamed to make a profitable career out of their art. Treating jewelry design as a money-making business is not “selling out” it gives the artist creative freedom to produce their best work and place that work with people who appreciate their skill and vision. If you do not already follow Megan’s blog, go to the link and bookmark it right now!
The trunk show at the end of the week was the cherry on top of my conference experience. After meeting so many talented students, instructors and artists all week this was a chance to see their work in person. I found myself circling the room over and over again taking in all the beautiful pieces. It was fun to see the work of talented young artists right alongside some of the best known names in the jewelry arts. I had my eye on a lot of things but I couldn’t leave without picking up a couple pieces by Ashley Buchanan, a young jeweler with a flair for clean lines and color.
I left the conference feeling overwhelmed by the emotion of the jewelry arts. So many artists spoke so eloquently about putting their essence into their craft. The quality of the work at SNAG and the genuine love of its participants for the metal arts was moving. It made me proud to be a part of this amazing community.
Next year the annual SNAG conference will be in Toronto, Canada. In 2014 it will be in Minneapolis, MN. You can also subscribe to the SNAG magazine, Metalsmith, through the organization website.