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May 2017

Remaking a Maker

James Carter metalwork photo credit by Hap SakwaMetalwork  by James Carter 
Photo Credit: Hap Sakwa

Recently, the noted jewelry photographer, Hap Sakwa wrote to me with a question about reinventing his future. With his permission, I thought that others may appreciate "listening in" to our conversation....so here it is.



Question from Hap Sakwa: 

Hi Harriete, 

Sakwa 1970'sBowl by Hap Sakwa circa 1970's

Along the way, we've met a few times.  You may remember me as a jewelry photographer.  But, once upon a time, I was a 'maker'.  Now I'm a little of both, but more interested in 'making' again and of course the difficult task of selling.  I visited your website, as I knew we were kindred spirits - 3D cultural anthropologists. 

Sakwa sculpture1980'sSculpture by Hap Sakwa circa 1980's

So, here I am "Ask Harriete". Where does a reinvented artist show his work in a virtual world, where galleries seem to have been replaced by coffee shops?  I naively thought I could spring back to life like the flowers in the Carrizo Plain, using my previous resume as a bona fide artist with 'museum credentials' to launch my 3rd incarnation. HA!  It's like starting over......... scratch history. 

Thanks for looking and any thoughts would be very welcome.

Hap Sakwa

Reply from Harriete:

Sakwa 1990's 2Teapot by Hap Sakwa 1990's

Hap,
Of course, I remember you and your work. You always took absolutely superb photos. 

Yes, in not too many years, the entire art /craft world has changed, or at least that is my impression.

I can certainly understand the sense of finding so much changed and becoming discouraged. I used to think that I knew the "recipe" for selling my art -- now all the ingredients are different, especially the traditional ingredients for art/craft fairs, wholesale, and high-end retail.  

Sadly, fewer and fewer galleries remain, especially those that would say "make the best you can and our job is to sell it".  Those days are gone, and I don't want the pressure to make "art for less" or do another theme show for less. 

Art-Nouveau-candlesticks-polished

Consequently, I have changed my approach in the last 3-4 years. I focus more on my silver repair business, Berman Fine Silverwork , for revenue. I do not compromise on quality. I do not work cheap. I prefer to keep my business small and manageable so that I can work on my artwork in between.

My artwork has to squeeze in between all my other responsibilities and jobs. That is nothing new but I make and create exactly, I mean exactly, what I want to make. No consideration at all to what will sell. Too much 'stuff" out there in the marketplace is focused on low cost. But it is extremely difficult to compete on price alone when so much is manufactured or even "made by hand" by third world labor.   Certainly, for me, it is quite unfulfilling to just produce work that is cheap or not aligned with my values.

Web-of-lies-bracelet"Web of Lies" Bracelet
 Harriete Estel Beman

I do recommend to follow your heart because you never know what may come your way.  For example, I recently felt compelled to prioritize efforts related to my political concerns as a result of the 45 administration. Much to my surprise, this different focus opened new networks and contacts and a couple of publicity coups with great visibility arose.  These were great opportunities. Not many artists or makers get to have their work featured on CNN.  I am very excited, but it was entirely unexpected.  I didn’t know anything would come of it. But as is my habit, I actually had photos of my work in progress and was able to show this work even though it wasn’t complete. Guess the old Boy Scout motto, "Be Prepared." is working.


My secrets for success are not so secret:

  • A website dedicated to your artwork is a must. 
  • A social networking presence is also expected. Yes, at least four or five or more major social networking sites. Mix it up. Experiment. Think of it as brain exercise. 
  • Interacting within the social network to some extent is necessary -- but constant self-promotion with a "look at this work" is not cool. It has to be more like a "sharing" rather than a request. This may seem like a small difference but that is actually huge in the reception.
  • Focus on making work that is at least "good" to "great" first.
  • Look for opportunities without any expected outcome.
  • Create visibility by providing resources or opportunities for others. You could create some visibility with your new work, by offering “tutorials” on how to photograph work with a cell phone and achieve good results. That is just a suggestion.  I'll bet you can think of tons of ideas. Of course, there is no substitute for professional photography, but that has to be when the work is done and ready for the big world.

 

 

Vase, Hap Sakwa  circa 1990'sVase Hap Sakwa circa 1990's
Photo Credit: Hap Sakwa


REPLY from  Hap Sakwa: 

Hey, Harriete Berman............ thank you so much for a speedy reply and a great and thorough letter........... although, I must add that it was profoundly sad and disappointing. It's like starting over......... scratch history.

There was one piece of advice you offered that really rang my bell........... Do not make work to sell. Make work that is good to great first. The other 'stuff', I'm working on, but it's tedious and uninteresting. I do understand the requirements of the digital age, so I will do what needs to be done. I intended to struggle forward, making what I want and reaching out, trying to find an audience. I'm even doing the spring Open Studio here in Sonoma County. Even if the work doesn't sell.......... I want someone to see it. 

Sculpture Hap Sakwa 2017Sculpture by Hap Sakwa 2017
Photo Credit Hap Sakwa

I won't keep you but wanted to say thanks for your thoughts and advice.
Obviously not encouraging, but valuable wisdom.

Hap
Hap Sakwa Art 




Fabricating TRUTH - Speaking our own mettle

IMG_20170320_155059415_HDR truth fruit crate label
Since the Inauguration, the political situation seems to turn every day a bit sideways or upside down.
After the Women's
March, I felt paralyzed.  Truth, which I thought was an absolute concept with a clear definition, was being repeatedly perverted, dismissed as fake, and replaced by fabricated alternative facts.

Then I realized that a piece that I had worked on several years ago had more resonance than ever.  It was inspired by a fruit crate label (from around 1930) that signified quality.  The brand name was "TRUTH".   

 

 

Truth-newsletter


IMG_20170221_161211771_HDRThe irony was obvious.  Here I was also fabricating TRUTH.  But unlike the current administration, mine is made by hand, not made up.

Putting everything aside, I started fabricating several companion pieces: ALTERNATIVE FACTS,  Circular Logic, and Web of Lies -- all as bracelets to be juxtaposed with TRUTH.  

Creating tangible artworks with symbolic meaning helped me express my perspectives about the current political mess. But as I sat at my bench spending all my free time on political work to vent my frustration, I wondered why I was dedicating so much time and effort to fabricating TRUTH instead of my other projects or just having a good time.

Would anyone ever get to see these pieces beyond the lone page on my website?

Alternate-Facts-Bracelet-500

To my amazement, my political protest jewelry was shared with a larger audience on the political pages of CNN.  YEP! CNN.   CNN included my work in an article, "How artists are marking Trump's 100th day in office" and it was posted last weekend written by Shachar Peled, CNN.  

CNN actually found my work on the local San Francisco station, KQED, arts series, "First 100 Days: Art in the Age of Trump" where there was an excellent feature article by Cleo Noveno, Fabricating ‘Truth,’ One Tin Can Bracelet at a Time.

In preparation for my interview with Cleo Noveno, I practiced with my husband to articulate the ideas behind this work. It is one thing as an artist to make something based on intuition, but it is another skill entirely to be able to articulate the ideas to a different audience using words.  New work always takes me weeks to months to verbalize and I had one day to figure this out.

Why jewelry inside TRUTH?
Why jewelry to articulate political issues?


It was then that I started thinking about historical jewelry and metalwork that has expressed powerful and important political and patriotic ideas throughout our nation's past. There are many examples.   

Sons-of-liberty-bowl
Sons of Liberty Bowl
Dimensions: 14 x 27.9 cm (5 1/2 x 11 in.) The irregular finish is the fire scale from the original fabrication. 

The most famous American example of metalwork expressing a political and even patriotic idea is the Sons of Liberty Bowl, which is more commonly referred to as a "Revere Bowl."   This silver bowl was fabricated by the famous Paul Revere prior to the American Revolution. It was commissioned by fifteen members of the Sons of Liberty and "raised" by hand (a metalsmithing term for the fabrication of the bowl in metal) by Paul Revere in a patriotic fervor.  It was then engraved by hand with the names of the members of this secret political group. Engraved deeply, it represented a pact, a resolution.

These brave patriots literally engraved their names in history.  "The Liberty Bowl honored ninety-two members of the Massachusetts House of Representatives who refused to rescind a letter sent throughout the colonies protesting the Townshend Acts (1767), which taxed tea, paper, glass, and other commodities imported from England. This act of civil disobedience by the “Glorious Ninety-Two” was a major step leading to the American Revolution."  

Sons-of-liberty-not-to-rescindBut take special note of their engraved pledge at the bottom,  it says, "Voted - Not to Rescind."

There is plenty of additional text engraved on the bowl 
including the provenance of the bowl. It is worth taking a look at the many images and information on the website of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. 

Metal, work hardened, fabricated with sweat, and engraved permanently with political meaning, the "Sons of Liberty" bowl is described as one of three most important objects in the United States of America. This bowl stands with the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.  

Throughout world history, there are many examples of jewelry reflecting political sentiments.

Iron-jewelry-19th-century Some very famous patriotic jewelry is a series of Prussian ironwork from the 19th century. 

As Prussia fought wars with Napolean, the government asked its patriotic citizens to give their gold jewelry to the government to fund the war efforts. In return, they were given this finely made iron jewelry.

Antique-Berlin-Iron-JewelryAt a fraction of the intrinsic value, it had another value instead. Imagine giving up your gold jewelry for this iron replacement, but wearing this jewelry must have been a visible symbol of your patriotism in that time.

  

 

Holloway BroochWhile researching for other historical political jewelry, I found this brooch designed by painter, Sylvia Pankhurst around 1900.  Sylvia's artwork and imagery gave the Suffragette Movement, and more specifically, "the Women's Social and Political Union, its coherent visual identity."


This Holloway Brooch (left) was presented (after imprisonment) to ex-suffragette prisoners at a mass demonstration at the Albert Hall on 29 April 1909."

Fabricated in silver it represents the portcullis symbol of the House of Commons in London, including the gate and hanging chains in silver. Superimposed on top was a broad arrow in green, white and purple enamel.  The three colors green, white, and violet were symbolic for the slogan "Give Women the Vote.  

Political activism for women's right to vote was a hard won battle we still seem to be fighting more than 100 years later.  I appreciate the parallel to the political activism and symbolism of the Suffragette jewelry and the parallels to what is happening in politics.  You may enjoy reading more about the Suffragette movement. 

Suffragette-pinFor wealthy women supporting the Suffragette Movement fine jewelry was also sold. This brooch (right) was shown in the Madeline Albright book and exhibition "Read My Pins." The first letter of each color Green - White - Violet were translated into gemstones and pearls.  More information about Suffragette Jewelry.

 

Victory-bakelite-pin Moving into the 20th century, there are examples of patriotic jewelry like this V for victory pin. (It looks a little odd, but the plastic has yellowed giving all the colors including the white and blue a soft yellowish cast.)

 

Vintage-1960-peace-signA final example for the moment is the Peace sign pendant. Considering that the peace movement was generally of the counter culture, I wonder if there ever was a more precious peace sign. 

 


These examples only 
begin to touch on the idea of metal work and jewelry with a political message.  There are more...

I.M.A.G.I.N.E.PEACE-NOW.posterThe recent exhibitions and catalog about gun violence Imagine: Peace Now includes a wide selection of metal work with a political statement that also runs counter to the right wing agenda. 90 decommissioned gun  are transformed into art objects.

Organized by Boris Bally it sends a visual message about the impact of gun violence.

The beautiful catalog includes professional quality images of all the work.


If you think artists have something to say in this political climate, say something.

Catalog-book-IMAGINE-exhibitionOne way is to VOTE for this show on USA today.

Vote here to support the next exhibition venue in a competition sponsored by USAToday.  (scroll down a little for the "VOTE" text.) 

For all the artists and makers reading this post I want us to remember and hold close to our hearts, that a visual image carries the weight of words.   A visual image can represent or unify a vision more readily than a speech. This is why political marches include signs. Our work has something to say, and others of like mind would like to see it and share it with an even larger audience. RESIST!  

Send me an image of your political work.

Options:
Leave me a comment for how to get in touch,
I will reply, and then you can send an image of your political work.  
Email me directly by clicking on the envelope below my profile photo in the left column.  

I will add images to this post. I am thinking about writing an article.

Where is a show about the politics of our time?

Harriete

 

RELATED POSTS: 

Using a Gun in Whole or In Parts - The Meaning of Materials

Vision of the Artist, Vision of the Photographer

"Previously Owned By . . ." ADDS Value IF you have the Provenance

Lineage, Provenance, Maker Marks, & Macchiarini


Advancing Science Even Though I'm Not A Scientist

IMG_20170422_121158001_HDR
Recently, I participated in the March for Science, San Francisco. It was important to lend my voice and my presence to support to such an important topic.  

IMG_20170422_122602361There were thousands of people from every part of the community and many great signs....but this one really resonated with me.

GOT POLIO?
ME NEITHER. 
THANKS SCIENCE

I am old enough to remember the fear of polio. When the first vaccines were available, everyone, I mean everyone, stood in line at the local high school to get vaccinated. The lines were blocks long.  I remember seeing every person I knew, and many who I didn't, stand in line. No one complained about the inconvenience because this vaccine would prevent polio. The vaccine was free.  It eliminated the pervasive fear of polio that came every summer.
 
I'm not a scientist, but I think it is important to support science. Walking in the March for Science was a visible statement along with a mass movement.  But there are many other ways that any individual can help at any time.  One option is to participate in a medical research study as a healthy NORMAL control subject.

With emerging technologies to inexpensively study genetic markers, DNA, and manage volumes of information, medical research is changing. Now with something as easy a saliva sample, studies can look for genetic markers for disease -- but many studies take much longer time to complete due to a lack of a reference population.  They need more NORMAL people to compare samples and distinguish non-disease from disease.

The future holds the possibility of treatment for many diseases before there are even symptoms. Medicines are being developed and studied to understand their effectiveness based on an individual and not the whole population.

IMG_20170422_124306031_HDRGOOD MEDICINE relies on Good Science.
This is not a futuristic dream.
 It is now.

This is where every artist and maker can help advance science. By agreeing to participate in research as a healthy control, you can advance science. A small amount of your time, saliva, blood...or other samples can advance science. Many of the studies that I have participated in were only a survey or demographic study. Your participation in science can change the world. 

IMG_20170422_122949895_HDR
Below are three places to sign up for a study as a control subject. You can just participate based on your availability, whether there are study centers/universities near you,  your interest in a research topic, etc. Perhaps there is a disease that runs in your family that you would like to understand better and change the treatment for future generations. You always have the choice to participate in a study as a healthy control.

Michael J.Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research matches you up to studies. Not all studies relate to Parkinson’s

Research Match will match you up with a number of different studies. You can say no to anything that you don't have time to do. 

Verily Life Science — a Google life sciences company owned by Alphabet — is finally kicking off the massive study it first announced three years ago. What is a healthy person? Sounds really interesting, doesn't it?

Harriete

IMG_20170422_135331899_HDR