Welcome to Day 4 of 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 exhibitions every day this week. Check in each day for a new feature on the happenings at NYC Jewelry Week.

Today, we’re going behind-the-scenes of NYCJW Educational Partner Commence Jewelry, with Commence co-founder Ariella Har-Even. We asked Ariella to give us the inside scoop on the features of the Commence platform, the curatorial process, and how Commence got started. Read our interview below, and keep reading to find out how to see this year’s Commence Graduate showcase.

More About Commence Jewelry:

“Jewelry is not solely ornament or accessory, but lives as elements communicating our most intimate selves. This virtual, educational initiative serves to partner with graduating jewelers and metalsmiths to create a unified culture of discourse, empathy, and community.

A hub for graduating students, educators, curators, historians and collectors, this webpage dedicates itself to archiving BFA, MFA, and Collective jewelry and metalwork. Commence Jewelry supports rising jewelers and metalsmiths directly from within our maker community. Our focus is the minimizing of vulnerable reflexes that develop after leaving physical educational spaces. Programming posted on this site draws open the curtains to expand the view of our field, broadening its current scope.

We amplify the work of graduating students and emerging jewelers by organizing virtual and physical exhibitions, promoting the production of independent artist publications, posting articles that support the advancement of metalsmithing processes, and sharing a yearly documentation of talent. Through generating and sharing a diverse range of opportunities online, this platform serves as a compass to establish new points of connection that advocate for this generation’s radical and holistic spirit.”

Commence Jewelry

Future Heirloom: Before we jump into discussing the Commence platform,
can you tell us briefly about your background in jewelry?

Ariella Har-Even of Commence Jewelry: Before deciding to pursue art as a career, I worked as a teacher’s aide, working with children with severe disabilities. It was one of the most incredible jobs I’ve ever had, but could also be very physically and emotionally demanding.

After a few years I was looking for something creative to do once a week, even for an hour or two, that would help me regroup and connect with myself. A friend suggested I take some classes with a jeweler, and even though I’ve spent my life immersed in creativity, whether writing or drawing or playing instruments, up until that point I honestly had never really stopped to consider that people actually made jewelry – stepping into a metalsmithing studio for the first time was like stepping into an alien land. I told the instructor I might try it out for a few classes. She gave me a saw, a torch, and some brass, and I fell in love with the process, head over heels. When I eventually decided to pursue a formal education and career in metalsmithing, I got my BFA at the Cleveland Institute of Art, graduating in 2019. 

FH: What led you to start Commence? Why did it feel important to create this platform?
When the pandemic began to shut down college programs, cancel thesis shows, and lock students out of their campus studios, I was absolutely heartbroken for seniors. To think about all the blood, sweat, and tears spent during four years to then see your thesis show slip through your fingertips at the finish line, was crushing. As a recent grad myself I wasn’t sure what I could do, but I messaged Bella Neyman and asked what NYC Jewelry Week was planning on doing to support 2020 jewelry graduates and how I could help. She put me in touch with Aaron who had been wanting to make a Yearbook, and then with Betsy who has experience with exhibition programming, and together we’ve built Commence into a platform that really supports emerging jewelers from within the craft community. The Yearbook and annual Jewelry Week exhibition present an uncurated, current snapshot of talent entering the jewelry field. Through our other various programming and opportunities, we support and highlight recent graduates and facilitate further connection between collectors, journalists, and gallerists to artists and work they might not have been exposed to. 

FH: Commence is such a robust platform; can you walk us through the features of the site, and the different
opportunities and resources you offer?
Of course! We do have a lot, and are continuously thinking of more ways to offer meaningful support to emerging artists in all the different forms that might take. We have our annual NYC Jewelry Week exhibition viewable online, as well as the Yearbook, which is where participating grads each have their own page featuring their statement, bio, and additional images of their thesis works. These are grouped by institution and year, making it easier to browse. We publish interviews with both emerging artists and professionals that have been part of the metals field for a longer time, as well as articles written by artists about topics ranging from technical “how-to”s to life after graduation, or applying to residencies. We have some video content as well, a growing list of recommended reading, and a shop where the Yearbook is available for digital download or physical purchase. 

FH: Tell us a bit about the dynamics of your collaborative work on Commence: how did you begin working together? What strengths do each of you bring, and how do you feel your curatorial vision has been strengthened as a team?
Bella Neyman was the Commence team matchmaker, and I am eternally grateful to her because I’ve gained two incredible friends who happen to be amazing coworkers on this project. We each have our own creative practices, our own 9-5 jobs, and are located in different states, but we balance each other out and really try to be there to support not only the featured grads but also each other. It’s sort of like Captain Planet but instead of our powers combining to make a bodybuilder with a green mullet, we make a jewelry focused platform for emerging artists. 

FH: What has been the most rewarding part of starting the platform? Has anything about the curatorial process
or platform surprised you?
The most rewarding part of Commence has been getting messages from featured grads and artists telling me how excited they are to be included and how much it’s meant to them! 

FH: What is your vision for the future of Commence? How do you hope to expand and/or shift the platform in the coming years?
My hope is to continue to connect with artists as they are leaving their colleges and educational institutions, as that is such a vulnerable time in which feeling creatively isolated is so overwhelming. While we do highlight and feature selected artists on social media and our site in various ways, The Yearbook and Jewelry Week exhibitions are a really important balance to that because they are open to all institutions and all graduating students within each class. I really believe that connection over curation is what this field is lacking at the moment, and Commence will always have that at the core of our mission. I’d like to see us continue to partner with other organizations as well, and include even more emerging artists that don’t have a traditional academic background.

FH: How can readers best support Commence?
This only being our second year, we are in an “all support is good support” stage! Following us on social media and sharing our content is a really great way to help us continue to grow, and we are always thrilled to hear from grads, schools, and artists who have ideas of their own on how to be involved or collaborate. 
We are also currently working with a few organizations on creating some small awards/scholarships for select featured artists, so if anyone reading this is interested in setting something like this up with us, please reach out! 

FH: What does The Power of Jewelry mean to you? How do you think Commence represents The Power of Jewelry?
To me, the power of jewelry is its inseparability from the body. Adornment relies on the body to exist, and the body relies on adornment as a tool and aid, a way to bring the inside out. This relationship between our Self, our body, and our connection to others is activated by jewelry in a truly special and powerful way. 

“I think Commence is focused above all on the importance of connection – connecting emerging artists with professionals in the field, connecting recent grads with each other, connecting us all to a more holistic view of what the metalsmithing community really is, and connecting ourselves to our own creative endeavors, passions, and curiosities.”

Ariella Har-Even

The 2021 Commence Graduate showcase is on view November 17, 2021 – November 21, 2021 at Industry City, Makers Guild: Industry City, 36th Street, Brooklyn, NY, USA. Learn more about how to visit the show here. You can see more from Commence Jewelry on their website, and follow them on Instagram @commencejewelry. Stay tuned for more from Commence on Future Heirloom in the coming weeks.

Images, quotes and interview courtesy of Ariella Har-Even and Commence Jewelry. Feature edited and compiled by Future Heirloom Editor Jackie Andrews.