Jackalope Collective: Curatorial Interview

As promised, here are Rachel and Jillian to talk a little more about the decision to go to Sieraad and invite the rest of us along for the ride.

How did this idea come about? 
 
R:  Basically, I was pretty unhappy during my preparations for the ACC show and also from my results of the show.  From the beginning, I had a feeling the experience would be like trying to roll uphill but I needed to do the show before I could decide how I really felt about US trade shows.  During this time, Jillian and I were also in discussions about her experience at SIERAAD and how great it was for her.  Between my negative experience and her overwhelming positive one, we thought it'd be a good idea to go in 2013... and to bring other US art jewelers who are up n' coming with us.  We wanted to bridge the gap between the US art jewelry market and the European one while simultaneously offering exposure and opportunity to a diverse group of makers.

J:  It really was a pretty simple evolution in planning.  It went quickly from us sharing a booth together to us helping bring a larger group because we felt like we could accomplish more in terms of representing American jewelry if we went about it very diplomatically and showed a range of work.  I've felt for awhile that a lot of younger makers are eager to be displeased with things, but not so eager to take action.  Rather than complaining about the absence of American work in Europe, it seemed like a way to begin to tackle the problem was to simply take a lot of work over together.  The reception I got there was so welcoming, I started to think a much bigger part of the problem was simply that we don't show up.  American collectors have held up European work as the be all, end all while the European collectors have no incentive to come here because we don't have the range of art jewelry specific fairs that are worth the trip.  By sharing the financial burden, we're making it a little more achievable for the problem to be addressed immediately.
 
What was your selection process for the artists like?
 
R:  It was REALLY tough!  We spent a lot of time scouring the internet and brainstorming folks who made great work while keeping diversity strongly in mind.

J:  We had a lot to factor in.  Since we weren't representing any specific organization, we were able to choose people based both on the caliber of work and based on who we felt comfortable spending a lot of time with.  Also we wanted to keep the work as diverse as we could so that no one felt like they were competing for sales, and so that we were truly representing a cross-section of what's happening in the contemporary art jewelry scene in America right now.  We made lists a little longer than what would work because we knew it would be difficult for people in a lot of ways, and we had to plan for those who couldn't make it work.  I'm still bummed that a lot of my original list didn't work out, but it has led to me being introduced to some new makers who I wouldn't have gotten so close to otherwise. 
 
What do you hope comes out of this experience, either for the individual artists, the group as a whole or American Art Jewelry in general?
 
R:  For me, the number one priority is helping to merge the US and European market.  By bringing such a large, diverse group, I believe this can happen faster than if only one or two of us went at a time.  I do realize that there are other American based art jewelers going to SIERAAD this year and I think that's great.  It helps to further this main goal.  My other angle for this project is to personally interact with a market that is more knowledgeable about art jewelry than the folks who were at the ACC show.  You can read more about my experience here


J:  I totally agree with Rachel's point that we're going to have a much more immediate impact by showing up with so many people, both our selected group of emerging makers, and the many other Americans going as well.  It makes a much stronger statement than if it had only been the two of us.  And to be honest, Rachel and I both are outliers in many ways.  Our work represents certain aesthetic extremes, and I think we're showing a much clearer picture by bringing such a diverse group.  We're trying to be ambassadors.  Last year I was the only American wondering why I was the only American.  This year there will be around 20!  I think both our project, and the other Americans going, are going to make a considerable mark on the fair as a result.  Hopefully this will be viewed as a turning point for visibility regarding American work in Europe.  Hopefully our group, who are all recent graduates, will come home with new collectors and exhibition opportunities that help catapult them into that first phase of their studio practice.  It's a long shot, but I'd also like to see some of the differences in fair practices to show up over here.  Perhaps if the best American work starts showing up overseas more than domestically, there will become an interest in art jewelry-only fairs here.  Perhaps the established American fairs will adopt some of the practices of the European fairs that make them so easy for emerging artists...
 
What has been the most challenging aspect of organizing this adventure?
 
R:  Organizing ten women is no easy feat!  Thankfully, it has gone as smoothly as I imagined it could, so, that is wonderful.  I think the fundraising that we're currently doing is the most stressful.  Jillian and I promised that we would do our best to cover our enormous booth costs (round about $7,000 USD).  Most of the makers in our group (including myself) could never afford to do this show without this fundraising.  In addition to our booth, we need to pay for lodging, travel, meals, other travel expenses and the cost and time to produce our work.  These costs add up very fast.  The result of our fundraising ultimately determines how much financial trouble many of our group members get in to.

J:  I agree that fundraising has been very stressful.  I knew we were asking our group members to take a risk, and I want to try and mitigate that as much as possible.  It won't be cheap, but it will be cheaper than going it alone.  I hope we are able to provide an experience that is worth it for all of them.  I have faith in the long-term benefits, but it is still difficult not to feel worried about everyone and the quality of their experience.  I've also struggled with the limited time I have available because I would like to be able to help everyone who is going over from America.  Rachel has been great about keeping me on task, and helping me focus on our core commitments to those in our group given that we persuaded them to take this risk with us.  My time at SIERAAD was so wonderful last year, I think once everyone finally gets to Amsterdam I'll start to feel less freaked out.  For now, it's going to be something that keeps me up at night from time to time...
What has been the most rewarding aspect of organizing this adventure?
 
R:  We've been receiving a lot of support:  Klimt02 publicly supports us.  We have received donations to our campaign from both national and international big-name galleries (some are anonymous so I can't name them here).  Brigitte Martin (Crafthaus editor) has also been pivotal in our success so far.  Having these supports is truly rewarding and a big nudge of encouragement and vote of confidence in this project.

J:  Again, agreeing with Rachel, the time we spent at SNAG this year speaking with people about our project was such a big boost for our enthusiasm.  Brigitte Martin, in particular, has been such an asset with regard to prioritizing and organizing our goals.  There have been Americans who champion what we're doing, but there have also been so many international supporters that I continue to feel vindicated in my belief that European "snobbery" about American work is mostly a myth conjured by wounded American pride.  Makers, organizers, and gallery owners outside of the US have donated to our fundraiser just as eagerly, and they have spread the word faster and more eagerly than many of the American equivalents.  It's given me hope that my larger intentions, to bridge this continental divide in the field, are already being resolved.  Also, watching our group members pick up on the promotion of the project and seeing how their work is already being received has been really great.  There was a very quick turnaround on this project, from our initial conversations to really jumping right in and getting people committed to the fair, to our current fundraising.  It's great to see something come together so efficiently and smoothly when it seems, in retrospect, like it could have been a lot harder to pull off!  Let's hope I still feel this way by November, but so far we've had really smooth time.  I'm hoping that we won't have to factor in hurricanes this year...

 We are so close to reaching our goal over at indiegogo. With 4 days left, we are just under $500 shy. Please, please go take a look at our page, that Jillian and Rachel so tirelessly put together. Thank you to EVERYONE who's donated so far!!!!