Serena Van Rensselaer was originally a student of Art History and Cultural Anthropology, but while studying abroad in San Miguel D’Allende, she discovered her untapped passion and aptitude for jewelry design. She is now an inspired creator, perceptive businesswomen and shrewd gallery manager in Manhattan’s picturesque Soho neighborhood. We recently visited Serena’s gallery and spent the afternoon speaking with her about the industry.
Here is part sixteen of our series, “Life of a Jewelry Designer.”
In many career fields, criticism is a workplace habit practiced regularly and unquestionably as a professional dynamic of the staff.
If you’re working in a law office and tell an attorney that her legal argument is weak, you’re not being rude, you’re being helpful. You’re trying to prevent her from losing a case and therefore losing a profit- and you can likely reference a stack of appropriate academia and policy in your defense.
As creative professionals, criticism often feels much less professionally sound and much more personal- but it’s important for us to eliminate this negative stigma.
Working with our NYIAD students, Serena sometimes finds herself in the uncomfortable role of the critic.
“Sharing negative feedback is always a little uncomfortable, but it’s part of my job,” she admits. “If all I ever told students was that their designs were perfect, I would be speaking dishonestly and wasting their time.”
When executed with good intent, criticism is one of the most operative mechanisms for growth and improvement, regardless of job description. However, it’s fair to acknowledge how understandably hesitant one may feel when offering negative feedback regarding something as personal as a handmade design.
But while responding poorly to someone’s creative work may simply be a matter of conflicting taste- it may also be a helpful insight on an impending market reaction.
“In the world of jewelry design, you’re not doing anyone any favors in the long run by withholding less-than-perfect feedback,” Serena continues.
Warning a designer about a creative flaw could save them from profit loss in the same way as warning a lawyer about a logical weakness. Without the proper caution of a criticism, an unknowing designer may put flawed work on the market. It would be a shame if that creation failed to sell for reasons that could’ve been prevented by some honest communication- so remember to stay open minded.
“Within your community of designers and friends, you should always feel safe to express and react honestly to one another’s work,” Serena insists.
So if you’re seeking authentic feedback and fear your colleagues are holding back, approach them differently. Instead of simply asking what they think of a piece in general, ask them a question like, ‘How do you think I could make this better?’
Once you’ve opened that door of honest communication, you’ll quickly begin to notice its assistance in your growth as a designer and a confident professional overall.
Want to learn more? The New York Institute of Art and Design offers an online jewelry design course that can teach you how to create and sell your own unique line of jewelry. Request your free course catalog today!