Welcome to our favorite week of the year, NYC Jewelry Week! Here on Future Heirloom, we’re celebrating by bringing you special behind-the-scenes content on some of our favorite programs, events, and exhibition every day this week. Check in each day for a new feature on the happenings at NYC Jewelry Week.

To kick off our week-long content, we’re giving you an exclusive glimpse into the making of the exhibition Bonded: Jewelry from the Stay Gold Collective with Liz Kantner, the exhibition’s curator and founder of the collective. Read a bit about the exhibition concept below, and then we’ll chat with Liz about the inspiration for the exhibition and some of her favorite inclusions.

Exhibition Statement for Bonded: Jewelry from the Stay Gold Collective

Jewelry inherently tells a story, and that story is shaped between the maker, the wearer, and our culture. Each element provides influence on how jewelry speaks to us. As 2020 formed its own story of isolation and uncertainty, connection and community became the focus of many artists.

In the past 18 months the way we form connections fundamentally changed. What was once seen as an intrinsic part of the human experience became rare as many were pulled back from society and disconnected from everyday life. The isolation that resulted from social distancing challenged how we formed bonds, and catalyzed moments of precious solidarity as new communities formed. From this unique time the Stay Gold Collective, a group of independent designers founded by Liz Kantner, came together.

Bonded: Jewelry from the Stay Gold Collective seeks to showcase jewelry created during this period, focusing on moments of connection and community. Each tells a story.

Future Heirloom: Can you walk us through your background in jewelry, and tell us a bit about the Stay Gold Collective?
Liz Kantner:
The Stay Gold Collective is a group I started because I wanted to provide affordable consulting for jewelry designers.
My first job in the industry was as Marketing Manager for Todd Reed and I saw how generous he was with his time and support for emerging designers. I later had the opportunity to curate the New Designer Gallery at JA New York and loved helping designers prepare and participate in their first trade shows, I was also so inspired by the community the selected designers created each show. While the jewelry industry is a hard one to break into, I’ve seen so many designers wanting to support each other and I want to help cultivate more of that! 

FH: What are some of the highlights of the exhibition for you? Could you give us a peek at a favorite piece or story?
One of my favorite stories submitted for the exhibition is from Hilary Finck: 

“Like most jewelry designers, I work alone in my studio. I generate designs that I like to think are original ⎼ designs that no one else would come up with. Well, we all know that in today’s social media climate, it is nearly impossible to not be influenced by other designers’ creations. In late summer 2020, one of my stone sellers posted some gorgeous rutilated quartz spheres, which immediately sent my creative juices into hyperdrive. Instantly I imagined what is now my Captured Orb Necklace, but I was unsure of whether it would work. I made some sketches, bought the stones, and waited with baited breath for them to arrive.

Jewelry by Hilary Finck

When I got the spheres, I pushed all of my other work aside and created my very first Captured Orb Necklace. In my tiny jewelry world, these necklaces became a hit, I made new ones whenever I could get my hands on more stones, and posted them on Instagram to much fanfare. In spring 2021, while scrolling through Instagram, I saw a very similar orb design by a jeweler with about 30x more followers than myself ⎼ a much more well-known and beloved designer. We followed each other’s work and respected each other. My heart sank. Thoughts went through my head: Did she copy my work? Will people think I copied her work? It’s a jeweler’s worst nightmare. So, I contacted the designer, let her know that I felt she had copied one of my signature designs, and politely asked her to not make anymore of those pieces. It felt terrible to send this message, but I felt that I needed to protect my work.

However, she responded that she had also bought the sphere from the same supplier at the same time in 2020 as I did, and had an idea worked out for how to set it. When she saw my new necklace posted on Instagram, she said that her heart sank because it was similar to what she had designed in her head. Kindly, she agreed to cease making more of those designs, but that no longer felt right to me. Instead I asked if she would be comfortable sharing our story about these two necklaces on our Instagram feeds ⎼ discussing our understanding that two artists can indeed come up with similar designs at the same time, and as long as it’s not nefarious, this coincidence is something that can be celebrated. So, that’s what we did. We were so relieved that honest and open communication led to a positive result. It felt great, and it felt right, and our respective communities were thrilled to know this story and to support two female artists who took the collaborative route for an issue that could have instead been very acrimonious and hurtful.”

Hilary Finck, Stay Gold Collective member

FH: Is there anything else you’d like to share about the exhibition, or your curatorial experience?
These past two years especially, I, and many of the designers in the group were so grateful to have a community to lean on. That feeling of support is what inspired the whole exhibition. Every designer within the Collective was invited to submit pieces and it really all came together beautifully. Also, HUGE thanks to Erica Bello, a member of the group who helped with the name / copy. 

See the designs and read the stories from members of the Stay Gold Collective on the exhibition website.
20% of the profits from sales will be donated to NoLo Studios’ Residency Program.
Find out more about the exhibition and corresponding events here. To hear more about the exhibition, attend the exhibition artist talk, The Power of Community: A Discussion, on Tuesday, November 16, 2021 4:00 PM – 5:30 PM. Register here.

Exhibition description and information gathered from the Stay Gold website. Images, interview responses, and quotes courtesy of Liz Kantner. Feature edited and compiled by Future Heirloom Editor Jackie Andrews.