Episode 138 Part 2: How Metalsmith Magazine Highlights New Voices in Jewelry with Editor, Adriane Dalton

Episode 138

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).

Additional Resources:

SNAG Website

Adriane’s Instagram


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: What kinds of changes do you think? I don’t know, galleries representing more Black jewelers and jewelers of color? What kinds of changes do you mean? Talking about them in classes?

Adriane: For that particular issue, that essay by Valena Robinson Glass and the essay by Leslie Boyd touch on some of the possibilities for how to address those things. I would encourage anyone who’s listening who hasn’t read that issue or isn’t familiar with it to go pick it up off your bookshelf or go purchase it from SNAG. There are a lot of ways you can be reflective. Some of it is as simple as trying to understand if you have a space where there are no Black, indigenous, or people of color in that space, whether you’re a galleries or an educator, what are the barriers to access for people, whether they’re economic or graphic? There are a lot of different things. I don’t know that I can say there are one-size-fits all solutions to these things, but I think it’s a matter of being reflective.

Sharon: I know you’re the editor of the publication; you’re not speaking for SNAG itself, but what do you see SNAG doing to lower barriers?

Adriane: I think some of the things SNAG has done have been done to create, for example—for our virtual conference, there were needs-based scholarships for folks to attend the conference if they had an economic barrier, which is one way SNAG has dealt with that. Because of us having canceled our conference last year, there’s been a lot of upheaval. We’re trying to get through and recover from the financial burden of having to cancel an annual conference, as many organizations have this past year. 

One of the other things that has been done—and this started pre-pandemic—is changing how we define what it means to be a student. In the past, that was implied to mean a student of a four-year jewelry program. As most folks have probably noticed, there are fewer and fewer jewelry and metals programs in higher education in the U.S. than ever. So many programs have closed, and there have been a lot of community programs which have popped up, such as the Baltimore Jewelry Center, Smith Shop in Detroit, Brooks Metalworks, plus others. Then, of course, there are places like We Wield the Hammer and the Crucible in San Francisco. We’re trying to include anyone who’s taking classes in a community setting in this definition of student, offering lower rates for registrations for students, lower rates for student memberships and things like that. SNAG’s membership cost at this point is $99 annually, which I believe is less than it used to be. I feel like it used to be higher than that. 

Sharon: I don’t remember. I get my renewal notice and I know I want to remain a member. Will there be a regular conference this year or next spring, do you think? Although who knows with the Delta variant. 

Adriane: Right. There are plans for an in-person conference to happen in the spring of 2022 as it would normally, around Labor Day. I’m not involved in the conference planning, so I don’t know exactly what the plan is at this point, but I think there are some other things that SNAG has planned in the meantime. We have other virtual programming. 

We’re going to be having a symposium in the fall in October. I believe it’s October 22-23. This is part of what will be an annual program that happens every fall in addition to the conference, and it will be virtual. I believe the title of that symposium program is “Tides and Waves.” Each year, we’ll have a different geographical focus throughout the world. I believe that is the focus for this coming symposium, which is happening this fall. I think it will have been announced by the time this comes up.

Sharon: This fall being 2021?

Adriane: Yeah, this fall being 2021. I think the geographical focus for this symposium is Eastern Asia.

Sharon: Oh, wow, that will be interesting. I’m not a maker, and when I go to the conferences, I’m more focused on what people are showing, what’s different. I’m trying to remember the issues you’re talking about. It doesn’t seem like there have been many—maybe they haven’t been of much interest to me, but I haven’t heard these issues being discussed at the conferences as much as how you form a gold something, or whatever. I don’t know. 

Adriane: You mean as far as conference sessions?

Sharon: Sessions, yeah.

Adriane: The last conference I attended was in Chicago. No, that’s not true; I attended our virtual conference, but when you’re working and the conference is happening and you’re trying to zip in and out of things and pay attention to everything, it’s all kind of a blur for me at this point, honestly. I think the most recent virtual conference dealt a little bit more with some of the things I was mentioning. For example, there was a panel that dealt with people who were makers or involved in the field in some way, but who also have a caretaking role, whether that’s mothering or something that. That also speaks to what I was mentioning before, thinking about not just what we make, but the conditions in which we make. That is a huge topic that hasn’t fully been addressed. How can you go to a residency and take a month or longer to do that when you have a small child—or not even a small child, a teenager—and do all of these things when you have some other person you have to care for? And of course, that disproportionately affects women in the field.

I think one of the things that is great about an in-person conference but is much more difficult to have happen organically in a virtual setting, even now when we are accustomed to attending events virtually—and I love it; it’s great because I can be in San Francisco; I can be in New York; I can be in London, but I don’t have to leave my house. I just have to be awake at whatever time zone the event is happening in. But something that doesn’t happen at these things is the organic conversations you have in small groups at dinner or over drinks. For me as the editor, those are the conversations I’m really looking for. What are people talking about that we aren’t talking about more broadly, and how can we make space for that and bring that in?

Sharon: That’s an interesting question. Yes, you do hear that as you’re having coffee with somebody or with a group. What’s on your plate that you’ve heard? Maybe it’s harder to hear that virtually, but something that you thought, “Oh, I want to investigate that more,” or “We need to do something about that, an article.”

Adriane: Yeah, one very straightforward example is that during last year’s virtual New York City Jewelry Week, I spent the entire week, morning to night for seven days straight, glued to my computer. I was picking my laptop up and taking it into my kitchen when I made dinner. By the end of the week, I didn’t want to look at a screen again, but of course I had to. One of the presentations during New York City Jewelry Week last year was by Sebastian Grant—

Sharon: He is?

Adriane: Sebastian is a jewelry historian and teaches at Parsons – Cooper Hewitt. His presentation, which I believe was in concert with The Jewelry Library, was on looking at the history of Black jewelry artists from mid-century forward and trying to identify these makers and talk about their work and their stories that hadn’t been shared or acknowledged. In a lot of publications, there hasn’t been comprehensive publishing around some of these artists. After seeing his presentation, I reached out to him and asked if he would be interested in taking some of that research and sharing it in Metalsmith in a series of articles. So far, we’ve published two articles by Sebastian. That’s a very direct example of being engaged in the field in a virtual setting, hearing conversations that are going on—it was a presentation, but there was also a Q&A afterwards—and knowing this is something that needs to be given more space. 

Sharon: It must be great to be in a position where you can say, “This needs to be addressed further” and do something about it, to literally create. I know you have people you consult with on that, but still, that’s very interesting. What other areas do you have in mind that are churning right now?

Adriane: It’s hard to say. I can talk a little bit about the examples of things that have happened over the recent volume that fit these criteria. Looking forward, it’s a little harder because I’m just finishing up Volume 41—or getting ready to finish it up—and then Volume 42 will be starting. There’s a lot of planning, a lot of question marks and things that are penciled in that I’m hoping will be written in in pen shortly. 

One of the examples that directly came out of attending the conference in Chicago, aside from that conversation I mentioned with Lauren Eckert which led to the New Voices Competition, was at—I forget what it was called—but basically, it was the exhibition room where everyone has their small pop-up exhibitions. There was an exhibition that was curated by Mary Raivel and Mary Fissell, who are both based in Baltimore and involved with the Baltimore Center. Their exhibition was called “Coming of Age,” and they were specifically interested in artists who had come to jewelry making or metalsmithing as a second career after having some other career first. I was really interested in that, because there’s the idea of the emerging artist as being someone who’s young and just out of school, just out of undergrad or just out of grad school. I think it’s a limiting way to think about where people are at in their creative process. I invited them to write about that exhibition, turn it into an article and talk about the interviews they did with the artists who applied to the show. We ran that in Volume 40, so it was the second issue of Volume 40 of Metalsmith.

Sharon: That’s a really interesting subject. It’s so true; there are so many people who have come to jewelry making, whether it’s in metal or in plastic or whatever, after a career doing something else, when they said, “Hey, I’m done with this and I really want to do what I want do.” I know Art Jewelry Forum, when they started—I don’t know exactly where it ended up, but I know there was discussion in terms of age. Originally some of the grants being submitted had to do with age, and that really doesn’t tell you anything.

Adriane: Right. That actually came up in that article. It’s been a while since I read it, so it’s not fresh in my mind, but I believe they interviewed someone from Art Jewelry Forum—maybe it was Yvonne—and they brought this up and talk about that. In the article, they talk about how people fall into this gap where they’re an age on paper where it seems like they should be mid-career artists, but they truly are emerging artists; it just may not seem that way if you know their age. I think it’s interesting, and the more we try to put—and this is true of all sorts of things—rigid parameters on something, I think we limit ourselves in whom we invite to participate in the field or be in these spaces with us. It leaves people out. Not everyone can graduate from high school and go straight into college and start a career as a bench jeweler or a production jeweler or conceptual artist. There are a lot of different factors that contribute to where a person is in their career and the work they’re making.

Sharon: Yeah, that as well. What’s a student today? It’s an avocation. It may become their vocation eventually, but if they take a class at a community—I took a class at a jewelry school, and that’s all the metalsmithing I’ve done. I was thinking about how you, being a maker, how does that affect—do you think you could do your job as well if you weren’t a maker?

Adriane: I don’t think I could do my job as well if I were not a maker who had a grounding in the processes and traditions of metalsmithing. As I was saying earlier, the field and the materiality of the field has shifted a lot. My undergraduate study in learning the basics of jewelry and metalsmithing is helpful for me as I’m looking at the way authors are writing about artists’ work. Not everyone who writes for the magazine is a maker or a jeweler, so there are some times when a term might come up, or someone might interpret a component of an object in a certain way. I, as someone who is a maker, and our readers often could look at that and say, “Well, I don’t think that’s quite right.” I then have the knowledge to write a note or an edit and say, “Hey, I think you might have this wrong. I think it’s vermeil and not actually gold.” I don’t think I would have that ability if I didn’t have a background as a maker.

Sharon: That’s interesting. How do you find the journalism aspect? To me, what you’re doing—it’s both the combination of being a maker or jeweler and having the crafts background, but the journalism, not everybody could do that.

Adriane: I don’t think about it in that way necessarily. Having a curatorial background, I think about the magazine more curatorially, I would say. Maybe there’s some overlap with the way someone with a journalism background would think about it, but because that is not my background and not my training, I don’t know. I think about what I’m doing as the editor as interpretative, in the way that if you are a curator and you’ve done research and you’re presenting a selection of artworks to the public, you have to contextualize them in some way. You have to make sure that the way that you’ve put things together, people can come into that space, whether it’s in a print publication or in a gallery space, and hopefully they can come away with the things that are apparent and the subtleties at the same time. That’s what I try to capture when I write my letter from the editor for every issue, which, as you alluded to earlier, sounds like a difficult task and it certainly is. Even though I have done a lot of writing, I’m always fussing with it and fussing with it and fussing with it up to the last minute. I want to make sure that when people read it, they get something out of it that isn’t just, “Here’s what’s in this issue.”

Sharon: That’s interesting. Being an editor has so many similarities with being a curator. You’re culling through things and what goes with what and setting the context, which is what you definitely do in the note from the editor, and I’ll be thinking about them a little differently as I read more. I already look at them and think, “Oh, it’s so hard to express yourself.” You do a very good job, but they’re very weighty things you’re talking about. It’s not just, “Oh, we have pretty pieces of jewelry in this issue.”

Adriane: Right. If that were the case, that would probably be all I had to say about it. 

Sharon: That’s true; moving from here on to Vogue.

Adriane: I don’t know about that.

Sharon: Adriane, thank you so much. I really appreciate it. You’ve given us a lot to think about. I didn’t enter this conversation realizing it would be so thought-provoking. Thank you. It’s greatly, greatly appreciated.

Adriane: That’s wonderful; thank you, and thank you for having me. This has been a fantastic conversation.

Sharon: So glad to have you.

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Sharon Berman