the earring show: craft + culture

the earring show: craft + culture

As we approach the 10th edition of The Earring Show, Cory de Vries writes about the exhibition through a different lens.

10th year anniversary

The Craft Council of BC presents the 10th annual Earring Show, a one-of-a-kind exhibition and fundraiser that sheds light on the timeless connection between craft and culture, the different perspectives in this craft medium, and the need for spaces such as this to continue to exist. The Show started as a one-day local fundraiser, and over the past 10 years, it has transformed into a snapshot in time of craft + culture, through the lens of earrings. This year, there are 122 artists and over 200 sets of earrings made from an extensive variety of materials, fashioned through a wide variety of techniques.

a timeless practice

The practice of crafting and wearing earrings dates back to more than 7000 years ago, making this form of body adornment one of the oldest in human history. We have, historically, worn earrings as a form of self-expression, identity, status markers, pointers to culture and/or as adornment. At one point in Ancient Egypt, royalty wore earrings to indicate their status, and at another time in Ancient Rome, earrings were worn exclusively by slaves. By the 19th century after the industrial revolution, earrings were a common and accessible fashion accessory for women in central Europe. It is impossible to divorce the practice of making and wearing earrings from culture – whether that be rooted in era, geographic location and/or demographic. There are indicators of this truth all around us; consider the fact the earrings were originally worn exclusively by men, and how that has shifted over the millennia, as a result of shifting sociocultural norms. When we view earrings from the perspective of craft and culture, our eyes are opened both to the craftsmanship behind the jewellery, and to their historical and contemporary relevance in culture. For example, today, in North America we generally wear and make earrings for self-expression and/or adornment, but that statement cannot be applied universally. There is also a depth that emerges when we look at the jewellery from said perspective, as we are absorbing not just the earrings, but also the personality of the maker who conceptualized and created the pieces.  

illuminating different perspectives

The exhibition sheds light on different voices and perspectives in the craft sector. Out of the 122 artists who submitted to The Earring Show, several spoke on their intrinsic value of nature as their primary inspiration for crafting their pieces; others embedded in their design elements that hope to provoke conversation on current social issues, such as gender roles, dating apps or environmental degradation. There are also numerous earring submissions that highlight the pressing need for society to take better care of our environment. 

Whether or not the earrings included a conceptual statement, every set of earrings highlights contemporary craftsmanship. The unique design, technique and choice of material all point to the creative intentionality of the artist, and reflect the contemporary nature of their practice.

Over the millennia, the art of making earrings has undoubtedly evolved. What was normal in the 19th century might have been unthinkable in the 1st century; the availability and accessibility of tools and technology also radically shifted the practice of jewellery making. Today, we see an ongoing discussion on the role of technology in this field. For example, some artists may utilize 3D printing and AI technology in their work, while others will exclusively rely on traditional techniques, such as lost wax casting. The exhibition invites viewers into discussions on the nature of contemporary craft by drawing attention to the different perspectives and views expressed through the artists’ work.

the council and the show

The Craft Council of B.C. exists to empower craftspeople in their trade and to engage the general public with contemporary craft. In alignment with the organization’s mission, the Show provides an opportunity for both emerging and experienced artists to exhibit and sell their work, as well as to share their practice with an international audience. 


The Show also aims to fuel greater engagement within craft circles in ways that hopefully generate continued interest in making unique, hand-made, conceptually based, wearable art. It’s important that makers and their craft remain at the forefront of these exhibitions in order to continue to elevate the profile of contemporary artists.  

The funds raised through The Earring Show, in turn, return to the craft community in the form of workshops, advocacy work and exhibitions. The value of the craft sector cannot be overstated – it plays an essential role in the health of our province and country, and informs future generations on the very definitions of ‘value’. Uniquely curated exhibitions such as The Earring Show are a part of a wider narrative that asserts the inherent belief that contemporary craft is important.

The Show is a unique exhibition that illuminates the timeless reality of the connection between craft and culture. It serves as a glimpse into how this particular craft has evolved over the millennia and where we are at today, and it also invites us into discussions about the nature of contemporary craft. The earrings in the Show all tell a story – they either speak to design, technique, protest, culture or craftmanship – often a combination of a few of these. Overall, this exhibition invites viewers to engage with the jewelry through a fresh lens.