This past weekend I attended the Society of North American Goldsmiths conference, held this year in Phoenix. I love being a SNAG member and have no issue whatsoever with the name, despite the fact I have never worked with gold in any serious amount. In fact, there are more than a few SNAG members who don't even use metal as their primary material. And that's fine. I was, however, more than a little surprised to hear some attendees reacting in a very hostile manner to the use of "alternative materials" (Really? Aren't non-metal materials in jewelry ubiquitous in our group at this point? Do we really need to persist in labeling them 'alternative'?), to the point where they felt that work not done in a traditional manner was, not to put too fine a point on it, crap.
Yea, so here's the thing...chasing, repousse, cloisonne, soldering, forging - they're techniques thousands of years old. People have done everything with them. Some choose to employ them in strictly traditional work, sitting at the feet of masters and learning how to do exactly as the masters do. Some learn from the masters then forge their own paths (pun intended). Some only learn one or two techniques and happily use them to create the work they want to make. There is room for all. However, by eschewing anything that doesn't fall into the strict definition of 'good' from a specific and exacting definition of a traditional technique is simply trenchant and limiting, especially at a conference full of makers with widely varied backgrounds.
I love silver. I love being a silversmith. I will work with silver until the commodities market pushes it beyond affordability. But my silver work is a base from which to add color, texture, pattern. And I get good response to my work. But I also love to see traditional silver hollowware and flatware because it's yet another way the material is utilized. In general, I am not attracted to cloisonne enameling, but can deeply appreciate the skill and time needed for it. Shutting out modern techniques and materials as 'crap' (or, for that matter, traditional materials and techniques as 'boring') is just sadly limiting and a good way to tune out gifted makers.