From Critic to Artist

A cut to the museum's staff created an opportunity for her to pursue a passion. 

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I had a dream job. For 25 years I was a curator of American art at a my state's art museum. I loved my work, which entailed taking care of the museum's American art collection, writing about it, talking about it, putting on exhibitions related to it and purchasing art to add to this collection. I gave lectures, tours, wrote books, pamphlets, magazine articles — anything and everything related to taking care of the American collection.

One day it was decided that the museum was in need of money because its endowment was being too heavily drawn upon. The easiest way for a non-profit such as a museum to find funds is to cut the staff. Cut the staff they did — 29 staff members lost their jobs that fateful day, including me. Oh, I was one of the lucky ones. Instead of having to pack up and leave immediately, I was given a year to complete my projects and move on. Move on to what? It is not like there are lots of museums in my state, nor any for that matter that had the kind of American collection I had been accustomed to managing. 

Actually, I did not want another curatorial position. I loved what I did, but it was time to try something else. I decided that I did not want to do what I had been doing for the past 25 years. In essence, I had been a critic. I know a curator is much more than that, but in the end, you have to be able to judge what is good in your field of art and what is not. I decided that I wanted to be an artist.

The kind of artist I wanted to be was a jewelry designer. Like most women, I love jewelry, and like many women, I could not always find what I wanted when I needed it.  What better way to have just the right piece of jewelry than to make it myself? So off I went to jewelry classes. I took metalsmithing, enameling, wire wrapping, stone setting, precious metal clay. You name it, I took a class in it.

I could not get enough of jewelry designing. It did not take me long to begin creating my own jewelry well enough to wear it and well enough to sell it. The docents at my former museum were my best customers. They loved wearing my jewelry. Then I opened an Etsy shop and used my intials for its name, HGW Jewelry Designs. I thought that had a personal touch without the common practice of using a first name. I also began to do shows.

Don't get me wrong; selling jewelry is not a walk in the park. It is a very bumpy ride filled with millions of other jewelry designers. It seems that many women find creating jewelry fun and sometimes profitable. But just because the field is saturated does not mean that I should give up. In the end, I love to wear my jewelry. If others do, that's even better, but if not, jewelry designing is my new passion, and it is here to stay.

Do I miss being a curator? You bet I do. Would I give up designing jewelry to get my curatorial position back? Not a chance.

 

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