Episode 138 Part 1: How Metalsmith Magazine Highlights New Voices in Jewelry with Editor, Adriane Dalton
What you’ll learn in this episode:
- The history of Metalsmith magazine, and why it maintains its name even as its scope has expanded beyond metals
- How SNAG has made efforts to diversify the voices in Metalsmith and open the organization to new members
- What type of content Adriane looks for as an editor, and how you can pitch ideas to her
- What changes need to be made in the jewelry industry to make it more equitable
- Why being a curator and being an editor aren’t so different
About Adriane Dalton
Adriane Dalton is an artist, writer, and educator based in Philadelphia, PA. She is the editor of Metalsmith, the magazine published by the Society of North American Goldsmiths (SNAG). She was formerly the Assistant Curator and Exhibitions Manager at the Nora Eccles Harrison Museum of Art (NEHMA) in Logan, Utah, where she co-curated “ARTsySTEM: The Changing Climate of the Arts and Sciences” and taught History of American Studio Craft, among many other curatorial and educational projects.
She holds an MA in the history of decorative arts and design from Parsons The New School for Design (2014), and a BFA in craft and material studies from the University of the Arts (2004). Her work has been exhibited nationally and internationally at Contemporary Craft (Pittsburgh, PA), The Wayne Art Center (Wayne, PA), Snyderman-Works Gallery (Philadelphia, PA), A CASA Museu de Object Brasileiro (Sao Paulo, Brazil), the Metal Museum (Memphis, TN), and Space 1026 (Philadelphia, PA).
Recent Metal Smith Covers
Adriane Dalton took a meandering path to become editor of Metalsmith, the Society of North American Goldsmith’s (SNAG) quarterly magazine, but her background as a maker, her work as a curator, and her education in the history of craft has only helped her hone her editorial skills. She joined the Jewelry Journey Podcast to talk about the overlaps between making, curating and editing; what she looks for when selecting work for the magazine; and why it’s important we not just talk about objects and the people who make them, but the conditions in which people make them. Read the episode transcript here.
Sharon: Hello, everyone. Welcome to the Jewelry Journey Podcast. Today, my guest is Adriane Dalton, editor of Metalsmith Magazine published by SNAG, the Society of North American Goldsmiths. The publication is designed to keep makers, jewelers and other artists in the field informed about important issues and people in their creative field. Adriane, welcome to the program.
Adriane: Hi, it’s wonderful to be here.
Sharon: So glad to have you. I’m really looking forward to hearing all about this. I’ve been reading the magazine for so long. Tell us about your own jewelry journey. Were you a maker? How did you get into this? Did you come to it through journalism or the arts?
Adriane: I came to it through the arts. I do not have a journalism background. I actually have a BFA in craft and material studies from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, which is where I now live again after being in a lot of other places over the years. That craft and material studies program was my first introduction to jewelry making and to the contemporary jewelry field as we know it and as represented by SNAG and Metalsmith. Prior to that, I think my conception of jewelry was limited to the standard things you would see in the mall. That program was my gateway to the field.
Sharon: Is that what you wanted to do when you came to study crafts and material arts? Did you think you’d be doing jewelry? Were you going to do fine art?
Adriane: When I started undergrad, I had intended to be a photography major or potentially a glassblower. You have this first, foundational year of art school where you get to try different things out, and then you have to decide what your major is. I decided that in order to try to blow glass and work with my hands, I would need to be in the glass department. You couldn’t major in glass at the time, so you had to pick a different focus area and then you could take classes in the glass department. So, I became a jewelry major sort of incidentally. I’ve always enjoyed working with my hands and making physical objects, so it ended up being a good fit for me. While I was there, I studied with Sharon Church, Rod McCormick and Lola Brooks, who were all teaching in the program at the time. That was my introduction to jewelry as an art form, not just as a piece of adornment.
Sharon: So, you weren’t third grade thinking, “I want to make jewelry.”
Sharon: When you graduated, were you making? How did it come about that you’re now editing a publication?
Adriane: It’s been a meandering path, honestly. I graduated with my BFA with a focus in jewelry and metals. I was interested in enameling, and I did a lot of enamel work. When I finished undergrad, I had a studio and I worked on some small production lines. I worked on one-of-a-kind work, but I also needed to have a job to support myself beyond that, and I found out very quickly that I didn’t like making production work. It wasn’t what I wanted to do to support myself or express myself creatively. For about eight years, I worked in an office job and had a studio space. I was involved in some community arts organizations here in Philadelphia and maintained my own creative practice during that time.
It was almost 10 years after I had graduated from undergrad that I decided to go to grad school. I was interested in studying the field of craft more broadly, not just jewelry itself, so I enrolled in the joint program between Cooper Hewitt Museum in New York and Parsons. At the time, it was called History of Decorative Arts and Design. I believe the program is now History of Design and Curatorial Studies. I went into the program hoping to have a more formalized and research-based approach to thinking about craft.
Sharon: Wow! That must have been exciting to be in New York and studying at such premier schools. Were you going to do research? Did you want to go into museums? What did you think you might want to do?
Adriane: I was 30 at the time when I started grad school, and I had enough time after undergrad to figure out some of the things I didn’t want to do. I considered going and receiving an MFA. I toyed with that idea a bit, and I decided I wanted to try to have a career that would allow me to use my creative mind in the work, but that would hopefully feed into my creative practice in some way while also supporting me. I had a curatorial focus when I was in grad school, and I had some fellowships in the Cooper Hewitt Product Design and Decorative Arts Department under Sarah Coffin when she was still curator there; I think she’s since retired. I also was the jewelry intern under Alice Newman at the Museum of Arts and Design while I was in grad school. Those two experiences opened up possibilities for me to engage with the field in a way I hadn’t prior to grad school.
Sharon: Wow! Some really important people that were mentors or teachers. How did it come about that you’re now at Metalsmith Magazine?
Adriane: After grad school, I actually moved to Utah from New York, to a small town in northern Utah where I was the assistant curator of an art museum there, the Nora Eccles Harrison Museum of Art, which at the time had some exhibitions that were craft-centric. I came on to help with some of that. They have a fantastic ceramics collection. Ceramics is not my focus area, but having a broad generalization in craft, I can sort of move between materials. So, I was in Utah for a few years working as a curator. Then I moved back to the East Coast, to Richmond. I was working at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in their education department doing programming.
The way I came to be the editor of Metalsmith was a fluke in a lot of ways. I had applied for a different position at SNAG at the time that was educationally focused. I had a couple of interviews, got along really well with the executive director at the time, Gwynne Rukenbrod Smith. A few months later, she reached out to me and said, “Hey, our editor, Emily Zilber, is leaving, and I need someone to come in on an interim basis and keep things going until we figure out what we are going to do with the position and the magazine. Is this something you’d be interested in and capable of?” I said, “Yes, sure.” I came on thinking it would be potentially a six-month arrangement and then I would go on doing museum education, which is what I was doing. It ended up working out and I was invited to stay on, and so here I am.
Sharon: Wow! Tell us about Metalsmith and what you want to do with it, what its purpose is, that sort of thing.
Adriane: Sure. Metalsmith is one program area of SNAG. For folks who are listening who may not be familiar with SNAG, SNAG is the Society of North American Goldsmiths. It’s a 50-year-old—well, I think it’s 51 years old now—organization that’s an international member-based organization. We are a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. Our member base is predominantly a variety of metalsmiths, jewelers, other folks who maybe don’t consider themselves jewelers but use the body as a flight for expression, production studio jewelry artists, teachers, historians, curators, collectors, gallerists and writers. Our member focus is North America, but we do have members and subscribers all over the world.
Metalsmith fits into SNAG in the sense that as a program area, it helps SNAG fulfill part of its mission statement, which is to advance the field of jewelry and metalsmithing and to inspire creativity, encourage education and foster community. Before it was Metalsmith, SNAG had three other publications. It started as a newsletter in the early days, and then it became Gold Dust. Then it was, I think, Goldsmith’s Journal. Metalsmith was established in 1980. So, we are now in our 41st year of publication.
Sharon: Did it become Metalsmith because—I’m a member of SNAG and I really like it, but I’ve only met maybe one goldsmith. Is that what happened there, going from Gold Dust to Metalsmith?
Adriane: I think so. I’m not privy to all the early decisions of how the magazine was established and run, but I think choosing Metalsmith was to be more inclusive of the field at that time. Now, of course, one of the critiques I hear sometimes from members and other folks in the field is that Metalsmith doesn’t always have that much metal in it.
Sharon: That’s true, yes.
Adriane: That is true. That is, I think, indicative of the shifts in interdisciplinarity and shifts in thinking about materials that are appropriate for these forms that have happened over the past 20 or 30 years in the field. There have been times when people have said, “Well, they should change the name to something else,” but it still fits in a lot of ways. The word “smith” in and of itself points to the action that is involved. For me and how I think about the magazine and the work that’s in the magazine, it doesn’t necessarily matter what the material is; it’s more about the approach and the context in which the maker is putting it out into the world.
Sharon: How are you choosing the subjects? There are so many different areas now. I think of plastics; I think of wood; I think about all different kinds of crafts and jewelry. How do you choose the issues and writers you put in the publication?
Adriane: I take pictures and proposals. Anyone listening to this podcast, anyone out there can send me an email or get in touch with me to propose any idea they have for an article or an artist they want to cover, things like that. It’s a combination of taking proposals from people who reach out to me and me seeking people out who I’m interested in their work or interested in their writing, or me finding someone who I think would be good to write about a particular artist’s work. It depends, and it’s a mishmash of those things. A misconception I try to dispel any chance I get, and will do so now, is that I have a glut of proposals coming in. Really, a lot of the time I don’t, particularly in the past 18 months. During the pandemic, people’s focus has been in other directions, as it should be, but it’s hard to keep things going if I have to do all the outreach and it’s not going in both directions like it should.
Sharon: I’m surprised; with everybody at home during lockdown, it seems like it would have been the perfect time for people to be writing or pitching or proposing or thinking about it at least.
Adriane: Yeah, it is a combination of things. I do have people who reach out to me who I may or may not be familiar with. I’m really interested in having voices in the magazine that are new to the field or are in the process of establishing themselves as a thinker in the field. One of the ways we have done that in the past two years was through a writing competition that we hosted during our 40th volume, which was the previous volume to the one that’s being published now. That was proposed to me by an artist and author, Lauren Eckert, who approached me at SNAG’s conference in Chicago, the last in-person conference we held. She said, “What do you think about having a writing contest to get new voices into the magazine?” and I said, “Oh, I think that that’s a great idea. Would you want to help me get that together?” She volunteered, and I invited Lauren to join the publication’s advisory committee, which is a sounding board and feedback board for the magazine.
We ran the competition and had two awardees, and we published their writing in this most recent volume. In issue 41, we had Jessica Todd’s article “Restrung: Contemporary North American Beadsmiths.” In issue 42, we had “Difficult Adornments: Recontextualizing Creative Adornment Through Display” which was by Rebecca Schena. Jessica was the New Voices award winner and Rebecca was the runner up, but we couldn’t narrow it down to just one because there were so many great submissions. It was very hard to pick them.
Sharon: In terms of issues, what issues are really close to you, important to you? What issues do you see in the field? It’s a few months old now, but I was looking at one of the publications about Black jewelers and inequality in the field, and I thought, “Well, that’s not a namby-pamby issue; it’s right out there and you’re not afraid to discuss those kinds of things.”
Adriane: Yeah, something that is important to me and has become extremely necessary as the world has shifted so much in the past 18 months is to not just create content in a vacuum, but to have the work and the voices in the magazine truly be representative of what is going on in the field. Some of that includes acknowledging ways the field of jewelry and metalsmithing replicates other systemic racist structures that exist in American society. To speak to the bigger picture for how I think about the content of the magazine—and this also predates the pandemic, but the pandemic has made me more firm in this—is that it’s important to not just talk about objects and the people who make them, but to talk about the conditions in which people make them. That is especially relevant now that the world has been the way it has been for the past 18 months and we are all more acutely aware of a lot of things than perhaps previously.
Sharon: That’s a good point, in terms of picking up a publication or going online and saying, “What are the pretty pictures?” or “What are the creative objects?” You also mentioned in one of your notes from the editor—it must be a challenge to come with that every month, in terms of pithy subjects—you wrote that for some, the process of growth is discomfort. How does that manifest itself? Do you see it manifesting in SNAG’s members, for example?
Adriane: I don’t know if I can speak to how it manifests for our members. I will say SNAG has a diverse membership. When I’m making the magazine, I’m making it not only for SNAG’s membership, but we also have some people who subscribe but aren’t SNAG members, and the magazine is on newsstands. So, I’m trying to think broadly whenever possible. As far as that particular letter from the editor, some of the content in that issue—which includes that essay by Rebecca Schena that I mentioned before—but it also includes the piece you alluded to, which is by Valena Robinson Grass, “Moving Beyond Acknowledgment: Systemic Barriers for Black American Metalsmiths.” There’s another article in there by Leslie Boyd about how white educators can be more attentive to the ways their students are showing up in the structure of academia. As I’m talking, I’m getting further and further away from answering your question, but—
Sharon: No, I don’t get that impression.
Adriane: I think that, much like a lot of other things that have happened in the past 18 months, there needs to be some amount of reflection and reckoning in parts of the jewelry field that have been predominantly white spaces and reflecting upon why that is, and thinking about how you can claim to value diversity and inclusivity and equity. You can say those things and you can mean them, but unless you’re willing to do the reflection and make some changes, then it’s meaningless; it’s empty.