The value of critiques – extended

by janicefowler on July 6, 2009

I have been reading this thread on the orchid forum with interest and some amusement – and indeed I’ve contributed to it. As with anything, it has been really interesting to see the different perspectives on even the IDEA of critiques. For some it seems its a non-issue, for some its an interesting idea, and for others its an affront.


Personally – I love the idea of critiques. Maybe because I have personally seen the good that has come from them. I’ve been fortunate enough to have been a part of a network of artists who have critiqued each other’s jewelry, photos, and artists statements. I’ve seen people grow. Both from being on the receiving end AND from being on the giving end.

Receiving a critique can help provide a new or different perspective on something we’ve created but it also can help us learn how to deal with disappointments, what we might perceive as negative criticism, in a safe environment. For some people its a first step in just putting their work out there among their peers.

Giving a critique has helped me personally stop and think. I have had to slow down and really examine something instead of just flying by giving it a cursory glance. I’ve also had to consider each word and whether or not it was necessary to the critique at hand. I’ve grown personally by taking the time to give a critique.

Its not a perfect system, to critique on the net, giving a critique via photographs is not without challenges. But in essence that is what is done in jurying – ‘judging’ via digital media. Setting up an online critique group requires that we take into account the quality of the photos and differences in monitors etc. For those who are interested and game – that’s just part of the process and we agree to work within the limitations.

One particular critique has stuck in my mind. A fellow artist, perhaps a couple of years into her artform, began submitting work for critique. She was really open to the thoughts of others. And those viewing her work respected her efforts and the trust she placed in them and gave her some very beneficial feedback. One small suggestion was that she drop the drilled hole and jumpring bail she was using for many of her handcrafted pendants. It seemed like such a small comment and perhaps a ‘no-brainer’ for a lot of people, but it really opened her eyes and expanded her work. After that, her work really began to morph into a more polished and ‘complete’ representation of HER hands.

Someone mentioned working out design challenges on their own. I don’t deny that is a place all artists end up, but we don’t necessarily start out there, nor are critiques all about design. The network I am part of divides critiques into two sections:

  • No improvement needed – what (you believe) works well or is done well in the piece, and why it fits or works.
  • Suggested improvements – what seems ‘off’ and suggestions for what might work better or areas where artist may consider more practice or effort in perfecting a technique/design/finish

and then looking at:

  • Design/composition
  • Technique/execution

and of course we have other caveats under those categories. Etc ad nauseum.

Whether or not Orchid/Ganoksin adopts a critique format, I do encourage people to seek out critique either in a formal setting or by asking someone you respect. Many local guilds and groups offer a critique night of some sort and if there isn’t a group in your area – consider starting one!  For those who aren’t interested, to each their own, no harm no foul, its certainly not for everyone. 🙂






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Thank you Orchid! Ganoksin..Hanuman…et al

by janicefowler on January 22, 2009

Wow, the list goes on and on and on – to all who make this website possible. I’ve learned SO much. Really. So much. I hope to share my experiences to give back a little. I am definitely NOT as experienced as many people posting to Orchid or blogging on the Ganoksin blogspace….BUT, I’m ‘me’ and I believe that sharing my own experiences may speak to someone, so this is my way of giving back. 🙂

I’m sort of self-taught, although I don’t believe anyone is TOTALLY self taught. But I’ve learned mostly from the internet, books, friends online, and a few workshops here and there. Carefully selected workshops. 😉  Its been an interesting journey. Working alone, mostly at night, after my regular day job – and the kids go to bed. After baths and dinner is cleaned up. I sometimes whittle out some time in the basement, at my bench. And life is grand. 🙂 I was a couple of years into all of this before I ever saw another person actually make anything. How they hold the pliers, how they do this or that….and I can’t tell you how much I recommend taking a class, or a workshop, or finding other metalsmiths in your area. It is SO worth it.

OK, I’m rambling. But, now you know a little about me – where I’m coming from.  It might be a bumpy ride….but I hope you’ll come along, read and comment. Ask questions – I enjoy sharing. 🙂


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