Gabriel Craig

Metalsmith, Writer, Craft Activist

© 2012 gabriel craig



The Pro Bono Jeweler

In 2007, on a cold October afternoon in Richmond, Virginia, I gathered my tools, wheeled my bench outside and began The Collegiate Jeweler performance series. I took to the streets every week for a month, making my work and using my bench as a soapbox to preach the jewelry gospel. My objective was to share handmade jewelry with those who may not ordinarily encounter it. I wanted the format of the performances to reflect my craft advocacy, public outreach, and personal philanthropic goals. I gave away silver rings that I made on the spot — over 30 in the first few weeks. The criterion for receiving a ring was participation, and those who engaged got to take home a memento of the excitement. By giving away jewelry I was able to focus my conversations on jewelry’s cultural value rather than its commercial value. Before giving away the rings I would strategically ask people to reflect on the experience of watching me make them and the conversations we had, essentially turning simple silver rings into vehicles for memory. At my suggestion, the rings came to contain the experience; they stood as a symbol of the value of the handmade in our culture, and of the accessibility of art.

This basic formula — of creating jewelry in public, engaging in dialogue with my audience about the cultural value of jewelry and craft, and then giving away the jewelry — became the outline of the subsequent Pro Bono Jeweler performance series.

Combining jewelry with performance transcends medium and process to become a more accessible cultural experience, regardless of a viewer’s interest in jewelry. The potential to create a transformative encounter for the viewer rests in the intimate personal interactions the performances facilitate. By taking my studio practice outside I am afforded a direct exchange with my viewers—many of whom may never enter a gallery, museum or craft fair. In The Pro Bono Jeweler, Studio Jewelry becomes an inclusive activity, rather than an exclusive status symbol.

To date, I have taken my bench to the streets of Richmond, VA; Oxford, OH; Houston, TX; and most recently, San Antonio, TX. Over the past five years, watching people discover jewelry for the first time has reminded me how exciting it was to first discover the process of making something. The audience’s unwavering enthusiasm keeps me going back to the street. For now the performances are ongoing, with the format continuing to evolve, though the end-goal will always be the same—to share studio jewelry with as many people as I can. Through my travels I am finding new audiences for my guerilla jewelry indoctrination. Ultimately, I want to take my studio practice to where it can make a difference, outside the studio.





The Collegiate Jeweler
Richmond, Virginia 2007




The Collegiate Jeweler
Richmond, Virginia 2007




The Pro Bono Jeweler
Richmond, Virginia 2008




The Pro Bono Jeweler
Richmond, Virginia 2008




The Pro Bono Jeweler
video, 2008




The Pro Bono Jeweler
Oxford, Ohio 2010




The Pro Bono Jeweler
Oxford, Ohio 2010




The Pro Bono Jeweler
Houston, Texas 2010




The Pro Bono Jeweler
Houston, Texas 2010




The Pro Bono Jeweler
Houston, Texas 2010




The Pro Bono Jeweler
Houston, Texas 2010




The Pro Bono Jeweler: Houston
video, 2010




The Pro Bono Jeweler
San Antonio, Texas 2011




The Pro Bono Jeweler
San Antonio, Texas 2011




The Pro Bono Jeweler
San Antonio, Texas 2011