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JEWELRY DESIGN: An Occupation In Search Of A Profession

Posted by learntobead on November 12, 2019

JEWELRY DESIGN:  An Occupation In Search Of A Profession

Jewelry design is an activity which occupies your time.   

How the world understands what you do when you occupy that time, however, is in a state of flux and confusion, and which often can be puzzling or disorienting for the jewelry artist, as well.

Is what you are doing merely a hobby or an avocation?    Is it something anyone can do, anytime they want, without much preparation and learning?

Is what you do an occupation?   Does it require learning specialized technical skills?   Is it something that involves your interaction with others?     Is it something you are paid to do?

Or is what you do a profession?    Is there a specialized body of knowledge, perspectives and values, not just mechanical skills, to learn and apply?    Do you provide a service to the public?    Do you need to learn and acquire certain insights which enable you to serve the needs of others?

Are you part of another occupation or profession, or have your own?     Is jewelry design merely a craft, where you make things by following sets of steps?

Is jewelry design an art, where your personal inspirations and artistic sense is employed to create things of aesthetic beauty for others to admire, as if they were sculptures?    Is the jewelry you create to be judged as something separate and apart from the person wearing it?

Or is jewelry design its own thing.    Is it a design activity where you learn specialized knowledge, skills and understandings in how to integrate aesthetics and functionality, and where your success can only be judged at the boundary between jewelry and person – that is, only as the jewelry is worn?

The line of demarcation between occupation and profession is thin, often blurred, but for the jewelry designer, this distinction is very important.     It feeds into our sense of self and self-esteem.    It guides us in the choices we make to become better and better at our craft, art and trade.    It influences how we introduce our jewelry to the public, and how we influence the public to view, wear, exhibit, purchase or collect the things we make.

 

What does it mean to become a professional?

At the heart of this question is whether we are paid and rewarded solely for the number of jewelry pieces that we make, or for the skill, knowledge and intent underlying our jewelry designs.

If the former, we do not need much training.   Entry into the activity of jewelry design would be very open, with a low bar.     Our responsibility would be to turn out pieces of jewelry.     We would not encumber ourselves too much with art theory or design theory.

If the latter, we would need a lot of specialized training and experience.    Entry into the activity of jewelry design would be more controlled, most likely staged from novice to master.     Our responsibility would be to translate our inspirations into aspirations into designs.    It would also be to influence others viewing our work to be inspired to think about and reflect and emote those things which have excited the artist, as represented by the jewelry itself.    And it would also be to enable others to find personal success and satisfaction when wearing or purchasing this piece of jewelry.

To become a professional jewelry designer is to learn, apply and experience a way of thinking like a designer.     Fluent in terms about materials, techniques and technologies.   Flexible in the applications of techniques and the organizing of design elements into compositions which excite people.    Able to develop workable design strategies in unfamiliar or difficult situations.    Communicative about intent, desire, purpose,  no matter the context or situation within which the designer and his various audiences find themselves.   Original in how concepts are introduced, organized and manipulated.

The designs of artisans who make jewelry reflect and refract cultural norms, societal expectations, historical explanations and justifications, psychological precepts individuals apply to make sense of themselves within a larger setting.    As such, the jewelry designer has a major responsibility, both to the individual client, as well as to the larger social setting or society, to foster that the ability for the client to fulfill that hierarchy of needs, and to foster the coherency and rationality of the community-at-large.

All this can happen in a very small, narrow way, or a very large and profound way.    In either case, the professional roles of the jewelry designer remain the same.    Successfully learning how to play these roles – fluency, flexibility, communication, originality – becomes the basis for how the jewelry designer is judged and the extent of his or her recognition and success.

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