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Garth Clark RIDES A Sinking Ship as Captain

Garth Clark gave the keynote address at the 2012 SNAG Conference.

Garth Clark speaking in front of a Sinking ShipThe lecture was provocative with many startling conclusions. His PowerPoint is not available, but this post includes a number of links & images he used in his lecture.  Check out Mark Del Vecchio's & Garth Clark's Facebook page and the internet for more resources.

Garth Clark starts by asking, "Who do you want to Pimp your art in the 20th Century?" He speaks extemporaneously, thoughtfully, and metaphorically in a manner that was easy to understand. I have included links for most of the names mentioned in the lecture so that you can easily find what Garth Clark is talking about if you aren't familiar with the names.

"A movement is like a cruise ship...until it springs a leak and sinks."  

Jennifer Trask

Lauren Kalman

"A whole group of artists who have made the shift from craft into art with reasonable of the only mediums that have not crossed over is metals and jewelry. It still has a fair amount of resistance in the arts."

Garth Clark is right.

Examples of artists making or using images of jewelry as art are below. This work sells at art prices. 

IsabellabookIsabelle de Borchgrave










Kimiko Yoshida "obsession with jewelry"

Damien Hirst

Garth Knight Jeweled Creations

Rashaad Newsome

....then Garth talks about the design world. "Craft and design are really twins. They were born from the same parents,....with the identical mission....they wanted to get away from the ghastly lack of taste... And then they parted..."

Alexander McQueen - "designer and famous artist of our time"

Myra Mimlistch Gray

Marc Newsome Chair sold for 2.1 million dollars

Work based on the domestic object below by Studio Job

Studio JobThe Last Supper
Studio Job design of metal vessels entitled The Last Supper

Essentially the large, rusty, cast-iron dinner service above by Belgian designers Studio Job is the inspiration for a twelve-piece, hand-made dinner service and another industrially produced collection, manufactured by Dutch porcelain manufacturer Royal Tichelaar Makkum. The prototype is shown in the museum. Modern manufacturing and profit are generated to support more artistic adventures.

Selling the domestic design objects finances the artwork.

Below is the church created in metal.


The ten-meter-high church is constructed from 100 stacked layers of weathered steel plates. Gijs Van Vaerenbergh, a collaboration between young Belgian architects Pieterjan Gijs and Arnout Van Vaerenbergh, have built a see-through church in the Belgian region of Haspengouw. The church is a part of the Z-OUT project of Z33, a house for contemporary art based in Hasselt, Belgium. Z-OUT is an ambitious long-term art in public space project that will be realized on different locations in the Flemish region of Limburg over the next five years.
The project is called ‘Reading between the Lines’ and is a project by the duo Gijs Van Vaerenbergh, a collaboration between young Belgian architects Pieterjan Gijs (Leuven, 1983) and Arnout Van Vaerenbergh (Leuven, 1983).Since 2007, they have been realizing projects in the public space that derive from their architectural background, but clearly display an artistic intention. As such, their projects do not always originate from the customary commission and carry a large degree of autonomy. Their primary concerns are experimentation, reflection, a physical involvement with the end result, and the input of the viewer. More information and images can be found at dezeen.

Look at this use of chain by Gijs Van Vaerenbergh

Garth then talks about the money picture. It's really sad and depressing. There must be a middle ground somewhere, but this is the crux of the issue.  

"The problem is... hands....":

"Your hands can only make X number of pieces in a given day."

"Your expenses go up every day...."

"You are limited completely by what those hands can produce.."

"The only way to get around that is to charge more for the work that you do."

"As we all know raising prices is very tough."

"So you are caught in a very bad economic model where your expenses are now getting ahead of income."

"And the model for the conventional craft studio is not working very well at the moment, and shows no sign of immediate recovery."

"The craft world is facing a situation.... where it is just not working on a financial level."

"If you stay where you are, you are getting very difficult competition from the design world, it is very smart, the work is very  interesting, it is extremely sophisticated in many cases, and between that and D.I.Y. it's really going to squish the [craft] market considerably."

 I agree with Garth Clark completely. The problem is that I still want to make my one-of-a-kind artworks.

S_AJF_logoA Smaller Conference Experience Lunch Discussion continued with Garth Clark and his partner Mark Del Vecchio the next day. Sponsored by the Art Jewelry Forum it was an amazing opportunity to speak with Garth Clark in a smaller group.

Garth Clark's opinions were strong and highly controversial. We need more conversations. We need more people to challenge our assumptions, but now that I am home and evaluating my future....boy, is that depressing.

One other problem... I am filled with remorse. I didn't ask the questions from Susan Cummins. She said, "I would probably like to ask him about the role of criticism. What role should criticism play in a healthy cultural community? What role does it play in the craft /jewelry world now in his opinion?"

Hey, Garth, if you read this post. Can you answer the question from Susan Cummins so I am not in the "dog house" anymore?

Thank you.


This post was updated on March 31, 2022, to provide current links.