a 20 second manifesto for the contemporary jeweler / artist : 


go outside and look around

harness and transmit your youth

remember to have fun

keep going

make dope ass shit

change does not mean death; don’t fall for the eulogy talk

bling is ok

fuck the manifesto





Dear International New York Times,

Today I saw your A Cut Above Jewelry feature (from the Dec. 9 issue) laying on the table and decided to give you a read. I must say, you’re soooo confusing! I just can’t figure out why you’re using terms like, contemporary jewelry, or, conceptual and expressive, alongside luxury goods encrusted with diamonds and ridiculous gemstones that no one can afford from labels such as Graff. Is it that you accidentally misplaced the caption, “Straddling the frontier between craft and art, contemporary jewelry is not always pretty. Conceptual and expressive, its meaning may count more”? Or is it just a misguided opinion that you think this kind of stuff IS conceptual and expressive, you know, stuff that is absurdly expensive or can rarely even see in person/get any hands on? Do you think this stuff is conceptual and expressive just because it isn’t exactly normal jewelry or even young? Don’t you know there are things in this world that are really actually what you describe in that caption? I mean, you’re a newspaper, right? Aren’t you supposed to be more accurate? Wouldn’t you think you’d be more interested in things that touch on real topics, perhaps highlighting jewelry that actually is conceptual and expressive, birthed from meaningful ideas and more accessible to the average person? You know, stuff that isn’t just a crazy fantasy off limits to most your readers? Or actually just a product in the end? After all, it says in Suzy Menkes’ article, Graff has over 40 stores all over the world.


And then we have Nazzanin Lankarani’s piece featuring Cindy Chao’s work that you describe like so: “shaped by a sculptor, jewelry as an art piece,” with all this talk about the labor of a sculptor before Koons which was dependent on that artist using their own hands doing all the work from start to finish, and how Chao does that, as if it’s something unique to her, you know, a new revival of sorts. But it’s just not true! Again, that thing about accuracy. Am I to assume, International New York Times, that you think these kinds of “artists” in jewelry are few and far between? It seems to me like y’all decided to feature Chao because it’s neat she’s a one-man-band and all, and her work perfectly lines up with your bourgee aesthetic you oh-so consistently feature. But like I was saying, is this the best you can do considering this high jewelry/nature thing was maaaybbee conceptual during Art Nouveau (over 100 years ago)? But we don’t have to get into all that.  If you’re interested in featuring more compelling work, maybe even more today, while still holding on to your great need for glitz+glam, why not try to feature someone more like Philip SajetKarl Fritsch or Lola Brooks just to name a few? OH RIGHT you like naturey things a lot. OK ok, why not then look at Marta Mattsson or Mari Ishikawa, or check out this exhibition? Without trying to discredit Chao (as I do respect her work practices at the very least), these people I’ve mentioned are real artists and their work is part of an actual conversation, not to mention the fact that their ‘entry level’ jewelry starts at a hell of a lot less than $10,000-$100,00 like that of Chao. I’m just throwin’ out suggestions here. Can I ask another question? Other than aesthetically speaking, how is Graff or Cindy Chao really that different from the companies who paid for ads alongside these articles (Dior, Chanel, Cartier, de Beers…). At at very least this one from Bulgari below seems slightly more relevant in the sense that if I were rich I might actually consider buying that bracelet and ring set vs. a god awful heart-shaped emerald covered flower or something, but I digress… My point is that if you’re going to use this kind of language, you better get better at choosing the right work to talk about. This ain’t it. It is our language after all, particular to a field you obviously know little to nothing about (see artists I mentioned, they are a good place to start, or watch this video).


I’ll mention that this jewelry issue from December 9th isn’t completely inaccurate and out of touch, you do include the following bit about jewelry designers exhibiting their work at the Museum of London (which is great), plus a pretty good feature about Romanian designer, Carla Szabo, that talks about what she intends with her objects and local consumer culture.

Getting warmer, but let me ask my last question; why on earth did you feel it necessary to publish this ??? :


Really hideous, NYT. I won’t even start, which is difficult considering the first thing one reads is “designed for woman”…. you know what, I will take that heart-shaped emerald covered flower thing after all.


Kellie Riggs



Full texts : Graff—> here / Cindy Chao —> here / London on Edge —> here / Carla Szabo —> here /   A-list Phone —> here

the linked video in this text is a lecture by Damian Skinner introduction AJF’s new book, Contemporary Jewelry in Perspective. 

Now the mandate is to “design something for when I feel lonely,” he added. “For when I feel empty. For when I’m turned down by my love. For when I’m scared because I’m going to die. For when I lose a kid. Design now is fulfilling important things that for a long time were more expected from art, but that art today is failing to deliver because it’s so immersed in itself.

I know this is a bit past due, but this NYTimes article —->  After the Boom, a Better Kind of Art, about “design art” or “art furniture” seen at Design Miami is really worth the read. Design can get away with anything. It’s more shameless than fashion, a lot of the time. And we should be jealous! Read the article, look at the numbers ( and when I say numbers I mean $$$), and you just TRY and tell me why a super-slickly designed “art” CHAIR made of PLASTIC or something, reels in the big bucks and no one fucking QUESTIONS if it’s worth the price tag or not, when objects made of similar cheap and immediate materials, even if it came from a similar conceptual departure and took a comparable amount of time to make yet is simply just smaller (yes of course a price gap is caused by size differences/material consumption, sure, but I mean my god, plastic is plastic, resin is resin, and that shit ain’t that expensive… and god knows that WE know that when material ain’t an arm and a leg, we make up for it with skill) would NEVER be “worth” that kind of money. WHY? Ok, in rare cases, sure but it isn’t the same, indicated by the fact that “art jewelry” is still pretty much off the highbrow art AND design radar, generally speaking.  To sell jewelry with those kind of price tags, the shit’s still gotta be made of gold, sadly, or have a bunch of fucking diamonds in it. ARE OUR IDEAS TOTALLY WORTHLESS??? But furniture gets an easier ride because of its approachability, its universality  its perception of being needed as it’s functional. It’s easier to justify perhaps, to wrap your head around. And please don’t think i’m speaking negatively; my we’re-fooling-everyone life partner, Misha sent me this article, and he is quite the art furniture or art design (whatever you want to call it <— that just happens to also be a direct quote from the article. Can we say, same problems??? God damn vocabulary always gotta mess everything up) extraordinaire . He just has a slightly easier struggle. And will probably make a hell of a lot more money than the rest of us lowly art jewelry people.

Here are some other quotes from the article, surely to make your brain say, BUT WAIT, HAVEN’T WE, THE CONTEMPORARY JEWELRY ARTISTS, BEEN DOING THIS ALREADY? WHERE IS OUR GREAT MARKET?? :

“…has long worked with designers to produce objects that have the conceptual depth and rarity of fine art”

“Design art has so much growth potential where I’m fortunate to be a spearhead of this new movement… Meanwhile, in the arts It’s so difficult to find something that stands out and proposes something new anymore.”

SO. Do you think we, contemporary jewelry, art jewelry, WHATEVER, is more closely aligned with art, or design? Are we actually a sub-category of design based on the definitions presented by this article? I mean we happen to have already been making art jewelry for awhile, maybe that’s why no one published an article about it in the NYTimes or anywhere in the public sphere, for that matter, because it started a long time ago. I happen to think we’ve already been filling the great divide between art and design, just a little more quietly I suppose. So i’ll ask again, where’s our great market? Hell, the economy stinks right? At least contemporary jewelry is cheaper to collect. And you get to fucking wear it. EYES OPEN, WORLD.

I will mention that Caroline van Hoek (described as a design gallery mind you) did attend at Design Miami with a list of amazing artists that went something like this: Giampaolo BabettoGijs BakkerRalph Bakker, Alexander BlankHelen BrittonBeatrice BroviaKlaus BurgelNicolas ChengWillemijn De GreefDavid HuyckeBeate KlockmannDaniel KrugerFritz MaierhoferBarbara PaganinSeth PapacRenzo PasqualeRuudt PetersRobert Smit, StudyOPortableLisa Walker and Annamaria Zanella. Thanks Caroline! 

I wonder how she did this year.

Now back to that first quote at the top of the post. Maybe that guy should start thinking about making jewelry. We already do all that too.


But then again, so does Misha.                                       Click on the image above for a link to his website.

design ≥ art ≥ jewelry ????


Today I received a delightful email from a friend and thought it might be of interest. What do we think? IS MY FRIEND RIGHT? 

Today is a day I hate contemporary art jewellery. I’m tired of it. Sometimes I think the lowest level (intellectually) of art is put out there by ‘Art Jewellers’. Jumped up hobbists who have no real skills in the ancient craft that is body adornment and goldsmithing. JUST BECAUSE YOU HAD A ACCIDENT WITH SOME RESIN IN A CUP, DOES NOT MAKE YOU AN ARTIST. Even a baby artist. 

Hello readers! I am pleased to announce a new reoccurring post, Misha Says Angrily, that will feature a short and sweet rant about the designer’s place in the world, or something of the like. Take what you will and maybe think about where we, the art jewelry world, may or may not fit in.

Nov. 11 2012

The hardest part of being a designer is being expected to know a comprehensive amount about art history, design history and craft history – and all these other lazy bitches just learn their own little sphere and carry on ignoring the fact that their entire man made surroundings are dictated by design – while maintaining that their sphere has some sort of intellectual or soulful (respectively) high-ground. I think that to be a designer means to accept this and take on the task of comprehensively regarding all three histories and current states while creating an object that has the additionally difficult task of being somehow usable – in the face of the complete lack of appreciation it will inevitably receive.

Misha Kahn

As for those of us fascinated and motivated by the specific complexities of our field, I find myself to be simultaneously perplexed and frustrated all too often. Although my current research here in Italy tends to leave me and the promotion of my own work on the back burner (I am fighting the good fight !), I cannot just let what I’ve done in the past sit in limbo—both physically, in boxes in the shop adjacent to my house on Whidbey Island where no one currently lives, and non-physically, on the fucking internet waiting to be looked at and thought about. Neither situation is ideal, obviously. Therefore, just like any person who makes and wants to share what they make with the world, I have been looking for juried shows to apply to. And, yes, there are some indeed, all pinned down to the world of jewelry, seemingly apt for those who call themselves any combination of the word jeweler or the like, and I myself decide at times that I’m comfortable here, just for the sake of getting the work out into the world. And if I’m going to be honest, I think my work is good; I do, some days anyway, and it hasn’t really gone anywhere, except like I said, in boxes and into the abyss that is our virtual universe. But I have run into problems even in the simplest of applications for these juried art jewelry shows, that vary internationally and by theme (I use the word theme hesitantly, as some in the field tend to not be given any, sadly.)

Let’s look at this year’s Cominelli Foundation Awards for Contemporary Jewellery. Sponsord by the AGC (Italy’s contemporary jewelry association). One of the AGC’s main objectives is to promote and spread the value of contemporary jewelry culture by creating such events. Here’s a little blurb from the Cominelli Foundation that sums up their values well:

Contemporary jewellery today represents a sector of advanced research and experimentation of new expressive languages as well as exploiting the personal ornament concept. In close contact with the international community, the association follows up a series of initiatives aimed at promoting a constructive and synergistic confrontation with other artistic and productive realities.

Pretty… progressive, no? For Italy, I would say yes. They also use phrases like “the research world,” and “new directions” while referring to chosen jewelers as “artists”. Bravo, bravo. Unfortunately, there’s a big fat però lurking under what sounds like a new venue for artists such as myself. Now I will have you read their aim for those entering the competition:

Target: The exhibition was conceived as an opportunity for goldsmith artists and designers to show their work and contribute to further spreading the knowledge of contemporary jewellery. There is no set limit to the materials they use, the measurements must not, however, exceed 15×15 cm and diameter 25 cm max.

And that, my friends, officially counts me out. And WHY? So the work can continue to be placed under plexi glass, in a god damn box? Real innovative, guys. Here we have another show dictated by old conventions of what jewelry was thought to be while expelling those recreating the medium with bigger and better ideas. Material exploration isn’t enough these days. We’ve been there. Over and over. And that’s not to say that some of the work out there that continues to push material in new ways can’t be groundbreaking, but the size limitation excludes so many artists working on a bigger scale, with more thought to where the work should live in the world and what the work can say. It’s jewelry but not just jewelry. Why the limitations as such?

It also ain’t ideal that the foundation is so strongly resting and relying on their desire to simply grow the collection; on one hand it’s great, knowing there are people out there that want the work and want others to see it. But why this way? And like I’ve said before, another show just about new jewelry is so banal and more often doesn’t say anything bout the content within each and every piece thoughtfully applied by each and every artist. If they are going to call these people artists, why must they submit to another plexi case if this is not the desired environment? What if my piece belongs projected on an entire wall? What if my piece needs to be felt in someone’s hands or on someone’s skin?  What if it needs to be seen on someone by someone else? But let’s not forget, this is in Italy. At least the country is becoming a little more aware of itself. And so many of the successful Italian artists/jewelers/goldsmiths/whatever have worked within these limitations happily, making work that satisfies with visual contemplation, not tactile contemplation (BUT IT’S SUPPOSED TO TACTLE, RIGHT?). What’s the answer here?

RITUAL, the annual contemporary jewelry show of the Gallery of Art in Legnica, Poland, also has a size limitation; the piece must fit inside a case that measures 40x40x35 cm (about 16x16x14 inches), and they say with prior permission, arrangements can be made for bigger work. Ok, I’m interested… and the size I can work with, mostly. But the catch is that this show, to keep up with their 30-year-long tradition, they write that “the inclusion of silver in the work is expected.” I’m out, once again. FANTASTIC (it’s in Poland, forgodsake, anyway?) Too bad, because this show’s theme is quite a bit more specific than that of Cominelli. To read more about it, click here.

And there are more, with their own set of problems. The real good ones had deadlines in October (Talente 2012 and Schmuck, both in Munich). Preziosa, as I’ve mentioned, was cancelled. A pity, no size or material requirements there. There’s also New Traditional Jewelry 2012 in Amsterdam; deadline isn’t until June but their theme of NEW NOMADS requires that you make a piece specifically for the theme (which I can’t really do at the moment), AND you have to distinguish yourself in one of two categories, the first being “established” jewelry artists, and the second being those in their final year of school… which I don’t fit into either of.

So then, what? Where is it I belong? Apparently I either make shitty jewelry or shitty art, considering neither sphere seems to have an environment right for me. The art world doesn’t want me, because of the burden the word jewelry seems to carry with it, as I’ve been addressing. And apparently neither does the jewelry world, because my work don’t fit into a god damn case or something. SOMEONE JUST GIVE ME A WALL IN A SEMI-DARK ROOM AND A PROJECTOR, PLEASE?

And this is why, few readers of mine, I am here, in Italy, on this grant. To sort out all of these questions and other similarly confusing and forever unsolvable problems. What is it I do? Who is it that I call myself? Where is a place that my work can go? To answer these questions, I feel it best to just create something new, shall we?