Jewelry Camp – the familiar name of the Antique Jewelry & Art Conference – is an action-packed annual seminar in New York State that showcases the extraordinary expertise of makers, gallerists, dealers, collectors and other practitioners. I’ve attended the past five years and I wouldn’t miss it. (I was invited as a presenter this year. More on that below.) The added benefit is that I can get to Manhattan an hour after Jewelry Camp ends and savor all the city’s allure. Here is my report:
A rush of fascinating speakers
A Jewelry Camp highlight for me was a presentation by Jacquelyn Babush, owner of Aesthetic Engineering & Fine Jewels, who specializes in pre-Victorian, 18th century jewelry. She has dedicated herself not only to collecting but also to the fascinating history of this jewelry, older than nearly anything you will regularly see for sale.
Also notable, Audrey Friedman, one of the cofounders of Primavera Gallery, a beautiful and well-known gallery that focuses on European and American furniture, glass and especially jewelry, was honored with the Women of Estate & Antique Jewelry Award, given to women who have expanded the public’s interest in antique and estate jewelry.
Here is the full list of this year’s speakers and lectures. If you love jewelry, Jewelry Camp is the right place to go to share your passion, because everyone there thinks the way your do.
The importance of marketing
One aspect of Jewelry Camp that particularly excited me is the broadening of the conference’s focus to help jewelry practitioners of all sorts understand how to market and publicize themselves. Jewelry Camp has always been fabulous for explaining the history, creation and curation of all aspects of the industry. The only problem has been that this great confluence of talent has gotten together for the past 38 years – and then done nothing to build on it. That’s where marketing comes in. This industry is no different than any others, where those who practice it have little taste for building business and selling themselves. Yet, business development is necessary for anyone who wants to make a living out of what they love.
I discussed aspects of modern marketing at a Jewelry Camp session I presented twice called “Marketing, Bling and Brains.” The traditional concept of marketing is that everyone in business must package their product and image so that they can build trust among potential customers and differentiate themselves from the competition. Technology has put a modern twist on the bedrock principals, and much of our discussion was about electronic media and how to take advantage of it. For instance, the photo-messaging medium called Instagram is growing in popularity among jewelry makers and others in the industry because photography is so important to convey the beauty of the work in a simple and effective way. I was encouraged by the level of participation and the interest in learning more about basic business principals. I expect that Jewelry Camp will feature more presentations like this in the future.
Manhattan is fun to see
Following the conference, I gave myself only 24 hours in the city so I had to rush to see everything I wanted to take in during this trip. I visited three magnificent museums, starting with the Whitney Museum of American Art and its show called “America is Hard to See.” In a new building that opened this year, the museum features five open terraces that overlook the city. I just had time to walk quickly through the exhibit. I could apply every exclamation – stunning, flabbergasting, colorful, striking, gorgeous – and it wouldn’t be enough. I found myself wanting to walk into every painting. Combine that with the buzz and energy of the city on a beautiful summer evening – I remembered why I love New York.
This is not your father’s American Indian jewelry
I had a hard time convincing people to join me for “Glittering World: Navajo Jewelry of the Yazzie Family,” which I saw the next morning at the National Museum of the American Indian. They all thought it would be heavy sterling and turquoise pieces that you can find in shops around the country. But the jewelry of brothers Lee and Ray Yazzie is not like that.
It is colorful and intricate – unlike anything, not just Indian jewelry. I thought it would be a good education for me but I realized it was more than that when I found my heart practically pounding out of my chest as I viewed this fabulous collection.
Modern medieval art
Finally, friends and I visited The Cloisters, the branch of The Metropolitan Museum of Art devoted to the art and architecture of medieval Europe, housed in a castle-like building that overlooks the Hudson River. I was there to see a small but beautiful exhibit called “Treasures and Talismans: Rings from the Griffin Collection.”
As I looked at the rings forged so long ago I reminded myself that people held these objects in their hands and marveled at them as I did. So many of them – such as the two-finger rings – would look completely contemporary today, which of course reinforces the idea that iconic themes in jewelry have been repeating themselves from ancient times.
My two days of Jewelry Camp and a day in Manhattan provided a brisk, exhilarating immersion of the senses and intellect. I brought home so much from my trip, information that I consider every day. But the thought that rises above all others is simple: I’m going back.