I’ve been busy making all sorts of earrings this summer. It is the first project for my summer metalsmith/jewelry making class. This first project was to create a series of seven pairs of earrings, each pair adding a different and more complex skill as we moved through the series.
Today the final series was due and our class critiqued each other’s work and designs. Several times during the discuss, the class talked about marketable designs versus merely designing based on our (or the artists) own aesthetic. As our pieces were functional earrings, we talked about fashion and style and current trends. We talked about wearability and functionality. But the question that surfaced a few times was “What is more important: marketability or artist aesthetic?”
As a graphic design student, I can’t help but think there is not one easy answer to this question. I’m sure there are crops of artists, painters and sculptors who wouldn’t hesitate to say if the artist is true to his or her own aesthetic, then the buyers will come. That an artist shouldn’t be a slave to what sells. But if that were really true, the term starving artist wouldn’t exist, no? But does taking marketability and buying trends into account for design work automatically create cookie-cutter products? Does designing for a particular target audience negate true artistic aesthetic? Can these two concepts live together? Can an artist be profitable without selling his soul?
This class provides a different perspective of design for me in a very functional sense. Throughout creating sketches and designs for each pair of earrings, I would ask myself if I would actually wear the earrings, would I give them as a gift, or can I imagine seeing them in a store. By using my own marketability as a gauge, am I still staying true to my aesthetic?
I think I’ve raised more questions in this post than answered. I would love to know your thoughts?