One-of-a-kind or production work? This is something I think every jewelry artist (and other artists) must consider at some point in their career. For so long, my mentality has been that what I create is simply enough no matter what. It makes is special and unique and certainly something my customers look for. This is what keeps my “art cred” in check. I have validity as an artist because no one else can do what I do. In fact, working with metal clay keeps my focus very centered on how my hands and the clay and my brain interact. And then, something fabulous happens and a piece is born!
Except, that there are many, many other jewelry artists that have been successful because they’ve been able to produce quantities of their work. In one way or another. In fact, many jewelry artists call this their “bread and butter” work to keep their business afloat. Not a bad idea, but doesn’t this take away from the unique perspective of my work?
A friend of mine said it very well. “Robin, production is where the money is. I remember getting very upset years ago when someone told me my husband was a production worker, not an artist. He’s an artist who’s able to do production so he can afford to do the art . . .” Wise words from a good friend. Even when we do a production piece each piece is still uniquely made and by our hands. Some jewelry artists actually send their castings or designs to a mass producer. I don’t think that’s something that works for me.
So, the question then becomes, what becomes a production piece? After reading and researching and digging through all kinds of jewelry sites and forums, I believe that for me, the right answer to that question is to design a separate themed line of work that I can easily reproduce in my studio yet keeping each piece still my handmade process.
Now the fun begins. While this won’t redefine my entire body of work, it will allow me to experiment and see how production can work with this separate line. I’ve already created my concept and am working on some prototypes. My hope is that this design will be something that I can translate into different pieces of work from necklaces and bracelets to earrings and charms. The presentation of my design will be unique and maybe there will be “limited editions” of a piece. Right now, my creative juices are flowing and as I develop my technique with this new design, I’m sure I’ll make changes along the way.
The question will always be there–unique v. production . . .but I think that one can do both if done with the main concept of “handmade” in mind. We’ll see what happens!