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Archive for December, 2009

The Nadler Collection

Posted by learntobead on December 30, 2009

The Nadler Collection
of Tribal and Ethnic Silver Jewelry
From Around the World

If you find yourself in New York City, you might want to visit The Museum of Arts and Design. Daniel and Serga Nadler made a promised gift of their renowned jewelry collection to the Museum. This unparalleled collection encompasses approximately 800 modern and contemporary works in silver from around the world.

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Sustainable Jewelry

Posted by learntobead on December 30, 2009

Sustainable Jewelry

I saw a recent picture of a 100 x 100 foot tract of Amazon rain forest surrounded by 100’s of acres of soybean fields.     The soybean fields covered what was supposed to be protected rain forest by the Brazilian government.    Great job.     Here’s to our continued abilities to breathe at you.

In any case, I thought I’d see what popped up on a Google search for sustainable jewelry.    Quite a bit, actually.    At the least, this is a great marketing angle.   And if it can truly help the planet, terrific.     Here are some examples:

UTOPIAN CREATIONS

Utopian Creations began it’s life in 2005 as Australia’s first fine and fashion eco friendly jewellery company. My wife, Lindy, and I had recently returned from a few years working and travelling the world. I spent much of this time researching the jewellery industry and its impacts on the environment and what I found shocked me and left me disappointed in my industry. Lindy and I witnessed first hand the huge strain our earth was under from human intervention and believed it was time for change. There had to be a better, safer and cleaner way. My search began and the seed for Utopian Creations was sown.

Our contemporary collections are predominantly made from recycled Sterling Silver, but most can also be made in recycled gold on request. Inspiration for our contemporary work comes from the natural environment, plants, stones and animals. We strongly believe in conservation of our planet and a cleaner more sustainable jewellery industry. Contemporary jewellery to prove a contemporary idea, what better way to get the message across!

Our contemporary collections are predominantly made from recycled Sterling Silver, but most can also be made in recycled gold on request. Inspiration for our contemporary work comes from the natural environment, plants, stones and animals. We strongly believe in conservation of our planet and a cleaner more sustainable jewellery industry. Contemporary jewellery to prove a contemporary idea, what better way to get the message across!

Garavelli Aldo

Italian fine jewellery maker Garavelli Aldo has taken a step towards sustainable development which it hopes other manufacturers will follow. It has launched an eco-friendly, hand-crafted collection called Globo.
The jewellery is different because it uses18K gold bought from small-scale mines that are committed to avoiding the harsh environmental and social impact of industrial mining operations.

Studio 1AM
The Cork Cuff

Cork Cuff explores natural cork as a wearable material. 100% recycled and recyclable, flexible, and water repellent, cork is the perfect unexplored resource for jewelry. Each is cut from a single block used for storage and display.

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The More The Community Supports Crafts…

Posted by learntobead on December 29, 2009

The More The Community Supports Crafts…
The More Crafts Resonate
As Products of the Human Hand

In most places across America, you will find a lot of crafts.     But also in most places, the quality of these crafts leaves much to be desired.   Often what you see are repetitions of things done elsewhere, little innovation, little risk-taking in artistic expression, poor to weak techniques, and little use of newer technologies.    

Crafts aren’t created in a vacuum.   They are created in social settings.    They require nurturing.  They require support.   They require a sense of expectations and where the “bar” is, and where the “bar” can be set.   When you see the same-old, same-old, it tells you alot.   It tells you alot, not only about local craft artistis, but the quality of life in the community you are in, as well.

In many places, crafts do not get that local support.    Crafts compete with arts, and arts get more attention, visibility and money.    The elites in many communities often try to associate themselves with arts, and disassociate themselves from crafts.     In my mind, there’s little difference.   But that’s in my mind.   What is important in each community is what is in other people’s minds.

It’s usually not crafts.

And some of this lack of local support has to do with long standing biases and assumptions about crafts.   Anyone can do crafts, it’s assumed.   But not everyone has the talent to do arts.    Crafts have too strong of country roots, and art with country roots is at best labeled Folk Arts.     Crafts that meet every definition of art get labeled Fine Crafts — that “art” label always elusive, somewhat unattainable.     Crafts somehow are seen as lacking sophistication.     And as such, people don’t ask how more crafts, better crafts, more integrative crafts, more reknowned crafts can contribute to the local community’s sense of identify, beauty, wealth and value.  

Crafts are often seen as some affirmation of things past — tribal and primitive ways of making things, historical connections from family to new family to new-new family and new-new-new family, and so on.      Arts are often seen as setting agendas — historical agendas, religious agendas, political and social agendas.    Craft choices seem fixed.      There are only so many ways to pot a ceramic toilet.    Art choices seem boundless.     You can never stop art.

And all these social attitudes and expectations stymie crafts.  

We have to change these.

We all have to become deputized advocates for crafts as art forms, and crafts as central and vital to any community’s aesthetic, as well as economic, health.   Crafts, craft artists, and their networks of activity can form the bases of community and economic development programs, tourism programs, neighborhood development programs, and neighborhood cooperation programs.

I live in Nashville, Tennessee, and it’s a great environment to see and experience all these kinds of  conflicts between crafts and arts, as well as the lack of understanding on the part of community and economic developers about the very positive roles crafts can play, and how the crafts infrastructure in the community may be leveraged.    

Nashville is very centrally located to all the myriad of crafts enterprises from the Gulf and Mississippi Rivers up to the Ohio River and out across the Appalachian Mountains and piedmonts and tidewaters beyond.   Pottery, wood, fiber, glass, beads, ceramics.    Berea, Kentucky.    The Appalachian Center for Crafts in Smithville, Tennessee.    Clarksdale, Mississippi.   Ashville, North Carolina.    Face pottery in the mountains of Georgia.   Yet, while you will find a lot of crafts in and around Nashville, you would hardly say that Nashville is a center for crafts.

The city promotes itself as Music City USA.      The city also promotes the arts.   It has tried to centralize art galleries along an Avenue of the Arts.   It has promoted the development of a center for traveling exhibitions of arts.    It has promoted public arts.    It uses the arts widely to raise funds and visibility for many causes.   

There is little promotion of crafts, however.    When Nashvillians meet and greet new people — “I’m from Nashville,”  — they often get a “Hee, Haw” in response.    To which they immediately lower their heads and apologize, and say something like “There’s more to Nashville than country music.”    They go on to point out the Symphony, and the Opera, and the Theatre.      The word “crafts”, when used in Nashville, too quickly gets associated with country crafts, and country fashion and humor, in an all too perjorative sense of the terms.

In one of the centrally located city parks, there are Crafts Fairs in the spring and fall.    But, in my opinion, they seem tired and lame.    You always see the same stuff.    You rarely see the use of new technologies.    The pieces are meant to be saleable to a broad audience.    But if you visit other cities and attend their crafts fairs — like St. Paul/Minneapolis, or Naples, Florida, or even the Peabody show in Memphis — you’ll see crafts that resonate from the life of the craftsperson, forms and shapes and colors and materials and textures and constructions which make you salivate.   You use all your senses to experience the fullness of everything — what a high!

But not in Nashville.

The major local newspaper has 3 arts editors, but refuses to cover crafts events.    Crafts are not art, and they have no place in the local newspaper.    Nashville, for awhile, had a major glass studio.    The studio had national and international glass artists teaching and demonstrating almost weekly.    They sold glassworks from around the world.     The Prism Gallery was on a mission for glassworks, and needed the support and visibility that newspapers could help generate.    But the newspaper refused to cover any event there.    And now Nashville’s loss is Providence, Rhode Island’s gain.    And the Prism Gallery is a local treasure there, supported by all — even the local newspapers.

Crafts should be seen as a tool for economic development in the community.   Only in this way, will it break out of its more hidden and overlooked stance.   Only in this way will the various segments of the community not look down or away, when you mention the word “crafts”.   Only in this way will there be pressures on craft artists to perform their endeavors in ways that excite people, motivate people, and encourage people to demand more and more crafts.

What does this mean?   In what kinds of ways can crafts be tools of economic development?

If I were looking at Nashville, Tennessee, I’d make these kinds of recommendations:

I. Build Upon What We Already Have, But Make It Better
a.  Up the evaluative bars on the existing local crafts fairs.   Include the kinds of crafts demonstrations that you would think the Smithsonian would want to videotape for posterity

b. Country Music tourism is one of the major forces of economic development in Nashville.     The city can better leverage “country crafts”, instead of denigrating these.
– Support a country crafts museum or exhibition center — show the best of the best, as well as exhibit all the kinds of humorous, “country-smarts”, crafts, if for no other reason that pure Einstein-level insight and cleverness, they would be a major tourist draw.
– Sponsor contests which promote the use of new technologies and ideas, in  crafts, country and otherwise
– Encourage local universities to research and document local or Southern crafts; teach classes in crafts; promote new technologies in crafts; exhibit crafts

c. Put pressure on local newspapers to cover craft artists

d. Encourage crafts galleries and studios along with the arts galleries and studios on the Avenue of the Arts; rename this area the Avenue of Arts and Fine Crafts

II.  Create New Things To Leverage Nashville’s Cultural Assets
a.   Create a Fine Crafts Museum, like that in Portland, Oregon.    Strongly link this museum to local unversities and crafts organizations, with research, exhibitions, demonstrations, workshops, and presentations.

b.  Work with Vanderbilt and Belmont Universities to find funds to create chairs in Fine Crafts.

c.  Foster a change in attitudes about crafts, through community education programs in the community at large, as well as the public school system

d.  Increase programs which foster greater community participation in crafts

e.  Provide business, marketing and leadership skills to local crafts artists.     Very often the barrier to involving crafts artists in economic development projects is one of communication and understanding.    Craft artists need to market their goods and be able to create and sustain new markets, but lack the skills to do so.    Community economic developers don’t know how to talk and work with craft artists, because this common language of commerce does not often exist.     Creative partnerships between craft artists and economic developers often breakdown.   The city needs to confront the issues here, and encourage these kinds of partnerships.

f.  Stimulate demand for local crafts products.  

g.  Create more opportunities to integrate different types of crafts and different types of sub-communities which create crafts.        Find the synergy, and leverage the excitement around beauty, labor, and identity, for purposes of economic development.    Crafts include systems associated with design, with production and with distribution.   Be aware of all of these.

h.  Create a “Nashville Design”.     Working with the entire community, develop a set of standards about design, materials, construction, appeal, sensibility, production, distribution and cost.   These standards should result in a unique sense of Nashville Design, and should serve to attract buyers, both locally and nationally, to purchase crafts in our local market.       The process of developing these standards could also serve as a way of centrallizing local attention on crafts.    Any set of standards should be sensitive to both traditional and contemporary crafts.      Develop a way to assure the authenticity of any craft/craft artist meeting these kinds of standards.      Use the existence of these standards to encourage companies which produce and/or distribute crafts to relocate to the Nashville area.

i.  Create a Crafts Marketplace, (or an Arts and Crafts marketplace), where vendors who sell crafts can have showrooms, and conduct business-to-business sales.     This could be an actual year-round business in a fixed location, or could be 3-4 exhibitions held in the Convention Center.

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Finding A Job That Utilizes Your Bead Experience

Posted by learntobead on December 25, 2009

FINDING A JOB
THAT UTILIZES YOUR BEAD EXPERIENCE

Times are tough — particular for craft artists — as opportunities to teach or sell their crafts diminish with the recession, and are slow to come back with an economic recovery.

This is especially true for students graduating with art or fiber arts or other related degrees with a craft specialty, including beadwork.      In this environment, while there may be shortages of more obvious jobs — like instructor or jewelry artist/apprentice, this are still many job and career opportunities for you.   

You may have to do a little more leg work, and a little more tree-shaking.   Don’t assume, however, when the linear pathway is blocked, that all pathways are blocked.   They are not.

Some types of jobs/careers that might use your talents…..

There are a lot of private companies, nonprofit agencies, government agencies, and foundations and philanthropic agencies that work with disadvantaged groups, and need people to provide technical assistance to these groups.   These groups might be inner city.   They might be rural.   They might be overseas.   

Very often, projects these businesses and organizations work on have a craft-angle to them.    They may need people to teach crafts, to teach people to transfer their craft skills into marketable skills, or to assist people in applying for loans to start up businesses, usually small loans and usually things associated with selling crafts.

Banks have found it profitable to make “micro-loans”.  These loans are very small amounts, and usually given to women in developing countries, to help them leverage their skills — often craft skills — to make a business out of them.   Banks need personel to
– develop loan forms, documentation and procedures
– find opportunities for making these loans
– working with people to teach them how to apply for these loans
– working with people to teach them how to be more accountable with loan moneys
– working with people to teach them how to translate their craft skills into marketable skills (called transfer of technology).     Often this means helping them find resources to get materials, make choices about materials and what would be most cost-effective, and how to market their products
– working with people to find markets for, and otherwise promote, their products
– helping people form cooperatives so that they can buy materials more cheaply, and sell and market their products cooperatively

Government and International Agencies need people to….
– determine where — what communties, what demographics — they can most likely leverage local talents to better people’s lives.     Crafts, particularly beading, provide very useful talents around which to leverage
– evaluate local technologies — and these include all craft technologies — in terms of readiness and/or capability for cost-effective technology transfer.
– do some community organizing to make local people aware of governmental assistance (or other assistance), and to help them complete applications for this assistance
– evaluate these kinds of programs to determine success, and make recommendations about how to increase these successes
– document craft technologies, particularly among native, tribal, or isolated groups that are in danger of becoming extinct.
– similarly, to create ways to preserve craft technologies which are in danger of becoming extinct, or which became extinct a long time ago, and which be restored.     A good example is how South Korea restored the art of celadon pottery making, or China’s work at preserving Yixing Tea Pot making.

Military Agencies do similar things as governmental ones, except from a slightly different perspective.     They want to know, in an anthropological sense, how people value different local technologies — including craft technologies –, and which ones can military and related civilian advisors assist the locals with, to improve their economy and security.

Philanthropic Foundations have many missions.   One mission is to improve and secure the health, welfare, and social economy of particular areas or population groups.    Crafts are one way of accomplishing this, particularly if working with disadvantaged populations or areas.   

Crafts are things people do all the time, that are attractive as products (and services if you are teaching), improve the quality of life, and form the roots of good businesses — especially start-ups.

Another mission of Philanthropic organizations is to pre-test different strategies for social and economic development.      Again crafts, and beads especially, can form the basis of many strategies for business development, empowerment of minorities and women, assistance for the elderly, technology transfer, and the like.

Philanthropic organizations need people who can…
– develop grants, rules and applications
– find community organizations to apply for these grants
– evaluate the success of grants
– work with academics and consultant experts to generate experimental ideas to be tested through grants
– work with local, state and national government agencies to find cost-sharing ways of testing out these “ideas”
– in similar way, find and negotiate public-private partnerships towards this end

Information technology companies, with Google a prime example, are in the business of translating reality into tables of data that can easily be accessed and assessed.     These types of companies need people who can
– translate craft terms and activities into categories for which data can be consistently collected, organized, stored and analyzed
– work with museums and galleries which buy, own, exhibit, store or display crafts, to develop ways to collect and categorize routine data on these collections and their importance to different types of people and groups
– sell the use of these craft-specific databases to companies or individuals that will use them
– work with craft magazines, museums, schools, galleries and the like to help standardize some of the terminologies and valuations associated with various crafts, to make it easier to collect and sort data about them

Museums, Galleries and Libraries employ craft artists to…
– catalog collections
– document quality of items
– restore aged or otherwise damaged pieces
– write brochures and promotional materials
– organize exhibits
– raise funds for exhibits
– advocate for funds among government agencies and philanthropic groups
– organize a “crafts” section where none has existed before
– promote fine crafts
– organize a craft show to raise money and/or awareness

Many museums, galleries and libraries have tons of things in storage that have only loosely been documented, and need much more documentation and organization.

Non-Profit Groups employ all kinds of people with all kinds  of backgrounds.    They always need help with many fund-raising or program-targeting things.   Your craft knowledge can play a very useful role here.

For example, take your local breast cancer society.     Think of all the kinds of craft-type things you can make, and for which they can sell, to raise money.   You could organize a craft braintrust among your friends, and turn out item after item with breast cancer awareness themes and colors.   Or you could scour the internet for breast cancer awareness craft items, and make them work for you.    And you could repeat this success for many other local nonprofit groups.   

One of my friends went to the Atlanta Gift Show, and identified vendors that had products that could easily be adapted for breast cancer awareness.   She worked out with each one what the minimum orders would be, how much lead time would be needed between placing and order and receiving the merchandise, and price.     Then she went to local breast cancer groups and presented them with the options.   She added 15% to the prices as her commission.    These organizations fund raise all the time, and are in major need of new things to sell and promote.    My friend had to lay out very little money — basically the cost of a trip to Atlanta, some phone calls and paperwork — and generated a very lucrative business for herself.

I remember spending some time in Sloan Kettering Memorial Hospital in New York City.  This hospital specializes in cancer treatment.    I was observing patient activities.  One of these activities involved volunteers pushing a cart around with various craft activites for patients to do.  

Most of the patients in the rooms in the Ward I was on could barely move their bodies, arms and hands.    They were very medicated, and had many needles and IV’s stuck into them during their stay.    All the craft projects on these carts required considerable manual dexterity — knitting, beading with seed beads, crocheting.      The volunteers would cheerily come into the room, announce themselves, and ask if the patient wanted any of these fun crafts to do.   The patients would shake their heads No, and grunt.   The patiens could barely move.    And the volunteers left the room, unconcerned.

I took a trip to FAO Schwartz — the toy store — and came back with sets of interlocking building blocks.   The blocks were made from differnt colors of plastic.  They were different shapes.   A patient could easily hold one or two pieces in their hands without requiring much manual dexterity.   The pieces fit together easily by interlocking two pieces, where a slot had been cut out in each.   These were a big hit on the Ward.    They allowed creativity, without much manual dexterity.   The pieces were large enough, that the patient could manipulate them with their hands, and not worry about losing any, if they dropped to the floor.   

While a hit with the patients, my new blocks were not a hit with the volunteers.  I guess they were afraid they would somehow lose their volunteer positions.    But I’m sure I could have marketed and sold them to the hospital, had I stepped out of my academic role at the time.     

Another company found a good opportunity in a hospital setting with children.    The company developed a system using different color beads, which could help children with various symptoms, but similar disease, to better relate to each other, and the future.    Again, another idea using crafts in an atypical context.

In hospitals and health care settings, I’ve helped create programs to assist occupational therapists with improving manual dexterity with the elderly, therapists with improving attention spans with children, conducting memory agility tests with patients, and many more programs, utilizing crafts materials and technics.

There are plenty of social and community problems to solve, many different kinds of businesses and organizations responsible for solving these problems, and many solutions which require crafts — materials or technologies which are workable, do-able, saleable, and implementable.       There most likely won’t be advertised positions for these kinds of things.    But you would be surprised how easy it can be to create your own job opportunities and ones which utilize your craft experiences and knowledge.

Be sure to…

1. Be able to clearly define how your craft knowledge/experience can help your prospective employer solve some of her/his (NOT YOUR) problematic situations.

2. Approach the prospective employer by phone or in person first.   Then follow-up with a resume and cover letter.     Don’t assume that, because you can make the intellectual link between job and solution, that the employer will see this link when reading a resume.   You’ll probably have to educate the employer a bit.       This really doesn’t take much effort.  

3.  Cite examples of what kinds of things you can do.   If you can identify other programs or individuals with success stories, do so. 

4.   If you make your “job search” also a “mission to educate people about crafts”, you’ll be surprised how much energy and excitement you bring to the job interview situation.

– Warren

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Do You Know Where All Your Beading Needles Are?

Posted by learntobead on December 18, 2009

Do You Know Where
All Your Beading Needles Are?

Cleo is a cat owned by one of our customers.     She has a propensity, or is it proclivity, or is it pronounced desire for, or something which attracts her to beading needles.    It turns out that cats especially are attracted to things like beading needles….And they swallow them.

I’m sure they have the mechanical physics wrong in their brains — after all, cats aren’t specifically trained in physics.   Because instead of passing all the way through their digestive systems — like other things they eat that they are not supposed to — beading needles pass through the esophageal walls, and lodge into other organs, muscles and bones.

Here is one of Cleo’s recent X-rays.   You can see the needle on the left side of the image, near her heart.

So, do you know where all your beading needles are today?    Be sure to keep them out of sight of your cat.

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Sudan – Lost Arts?

Posted by learntobead on December 11, 2009

Sudan – Lost Arts?

Before the ethnic, religious and racial wars, and before the damming of the Nile by Egypt, there were many ethnic groups in the Sudan.    The culture and society of these ethnic groups evolved as a very tight ecology.    This ecology was based on the trading of cows and women and food and goods — and the weather.

Good weather would start at the source of the Nile, and gradually shift further and further north with the progression of the seasons.     Where weather was good, cows and families could be fed, and a full life sustained.

But as the weather worsened, people had to strategically trade herds and family members — we’re talking women — , to reduce the burdens on land that was now poorer, upstream to where land was better.

This ecological and cultural balance — a delicate trade and dance up and down the river as the weather waxed and waned — was maintained up and down the Nile River for many centuries.      Each ethnic group along its own part of the Nile River and its flood plains had to calculate, based on assessments about the River, the weather, the ability to raise cows and grow crops to feed them, the optimum number of cows to raise, and the most strategic set of familial ties, knowing how many women would have to be traded, as well.

And then all the environmental clues disappeared.   The disruptions that came in the latter part of the 20th century, such as the Aswan Dam in Egypt, and the religious/racial wars between Muslim and animist, and light skin and dark skin, resulted in the current chaos and anomie we dreadfully look away from, when displayed on our TVs and computers.

We have documented the conflict very well, but have paid little attention to the crafts and arts of each ethnic group that made up the Sudan — numbering almost 400.    We have poor documentation of the kinds of things that have been created, and even poorer documentation and understanding of the techniques used by Sudanese artists and craftspersons.

Sudanese ethnic groups translated African motifs and techniques and influenced the flowering of Egyptian jewelry.

What kinds of things will we miss?

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When In Doubt – Dung

Posted by learntobead on December 11, 2009

When In Doubt – Dung

People can always create fascinating jewelry from unusual materials.    We get that all the time from entrants for The Ugly Necklace Contest we sponsor.   But it’s less usual to find these things in public.

When I read the short article below in one of my magazines, I thought I’d share:

A Novel Form of Jewelry at Ilinois Zoo

Sparkly reindeer-dung necklaces are going on sale at an Illinois zoo that hopes to attract the same holiday shoppers who swept up its dung Christmas ornaments last year. The limited-edition Magical Reindeer Gem necklaces are on sale at the Miller Park Zoo in Bloomington, IL.

The $15 pendant necklaces contain dried, sterilized reindeer droppings sprayed with glitter on a beaded chain. They are available at the zoo’s gift shop, or by mail for $20.

The ornaments are back, and 450 have already sold this season. About 1,500 are still available for $7.50, or $10 by mail.

Miller Park Zoological Society spokeswoman Susie Ohley admits it’s a bit silly but estimates the zoo could make $16,500. The zoo lost $200,000 under city budget cuts this year.

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