Monday, April 15, 2013

Criticism vs. Critique

 by Lora Hart
Artistic Advisor

There was an interesting discussion a few days ago on a FB jewelry making group that I belong to. The writer spoke about a customer who commented on a specific ring saying she liked it because it was so different from the rest of the jeweler's work, which she thought was 'completely uninteresting'.

We've all dealt with comments by thoughtless potential customers/viewers: comments about the pricing of our work, requests for detailed (and free) how-to's, promises that their eight-year-old could replicate the design, or simple statements such as "I like it" or "I don't like it". And at some point in our own lives, we may even have had some of the same thoughts.

In general, knowing how others perceive your work can be a good thing. Critiques can help you brainstorm a solution to a construction problem, give insight into why a particular piece or line isn't selling well, or help a maker to look at a design in a new light. On the other hand, a harsh or hastily thrown out quip will probably result in a loud guffaw, a complete dismissal of the speaker, or possibly a momentary lapse into self doubt. What we have to remember at such times is that the judgement speaks more to the inner workings of the commenter than it does about the makers work.

To quote Jim Binnion "Giving a good critique is a difficult skill to learn. However by learning how to define and describe what you like and dislike you give yourself a better ability in examining your own work as well."

"In this piece the sides are symmetrical, the bottom stone setting in shape alone reflects the stone setting on the top. 
The marquise sapphire directs and continues the eye along the natural diagonal line from the
 breast through to the natural line of the hip." Lisa Bialac-Jehle
Above are the observations that the jeweler had of her own ring. And these are thoughts from Beth Wicker, another member of the group, "I find critiques that make meaningful comments the most helpful. Telling me you love it or hate it is not helpful. Tell me you think the colors work together well, or you think I needed more texture, or this looks too thin or thick - the more precise the criticism the more helpful it has the potential to be. Even if you don't agree with the comment, you now know what someone else thinks and more  importantly WHY they think that way. It is easy to say we like or dislike something - much more difficult to say WHY we like or dislike it!"

I try to look at every piece I make or admire (and some that I don't like at all) with what I call Mindful Observation. I like to take every detail into consideration, to try and decipher what is creating a specific response in me. Thinking about what I like in another maker's work helps me refine my own. Likewise, hearing commentary on my own pieces, while it may sting in the moment, might ultimately open my mind to another possibility.

How have you felt about criticism in the past, and how might this discussion change your point of view?

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