Sunday, January 14, 2018

Ending the Hiatus

I have no excuse, no apology. I've just been too busy with minor things to get round to updating the blog, so it is almost eight weeks since I last posted. Unforgivable.
Let's get back to it with a whistle-stop overview of the weeks and a promise of a return to regular postings...

Music first and on a wet an windy night, I cycled out to "The Hare and Hounds" to hear Mats Gustafsson's blistering jazz trio, "The Thing". omeone told me 'It's in Mosely'... it was at least three miles further out of the city than that and actually in King's Heath but I can't complain: the exercise is good for me.

Jazz At The Hare and Hounds - 2

This was an astonishing performance: powerful, sublime but all too short.

Have a musical interlude: The Thing with Neneh Cherry, performing Suicide's "Dream Baby, Dream":

Our BA students at the School had their annual Christmas sales event.

Student Christmas Selling Event - 2017 - 2

This was held in a rather glamorous function suite in the city centre and was incredibly well-attended. I bought one of the pieces from Joanna Jewellery, the brooch on the right at the front:

Student Christmas Selling Event - 2017 - 3

Lovely work.

Delia Derbyshire Day

More music, this time music inspired by and derived from a series of recently-discovered tapes of work by Delia Derbyshire as part of "Delia Derbyshire Day".
Every kid of 1970s Britain was in thrall to the sounds of Delia, from her famous re-composing of Ron Grainer's "Dr Who Theme" to incidental music to educational programmes and she was very much instrumental in creating the sound of British pop music in the late 1970s and early 1980s. (Think early Human League, Gary Numan etc.)

The amazing Birmingham Electro-Acoustic Sound Theatre (BEAST) produced the event of recordings and music and showed a short film about the composer. It was a real thrill to learn of the
tapes and to hear the works derived from them.

The short film is available to view here:

Dual Works Christmas Party - 1

Christmas party time. The first of the winter Jewellery Quarter Open Studios was held this year with an inaugural party at the Dual Works Studios.

Dual Works Christmas Party - 3
Modernist Christmas-tree Decorations by Dual Works!

Also around this time was the marvellous exhibition in the Vittoria Street Gallery, "Ambiguous Implements" featuring work by friends and colleagues Rachel Colley, Nuala Clooney and many others. The show was about challenging familiar objects, re-contextualising them in playful and intriguing (and sometimes disturbing) ways.

The show was up for three weeks but somehow I managed to completely fail to take any photographs of it - I think because I had to miss the Private View - so here are some images from their Instagram Feed:

A post shared by Ambiguous Implements (@ambiguousimplements) on

A post shared by Ambiguous Implements (@ambiguousimplements) on

Up to Aberdeenshire for the start of the winter holidays and Drew Markou's wedding, which was brilliant.

Drew and Mike's Wedding - 3

Loads of colleagues from work were there, braving the snow, ice and terrible traffic and roadworks to get to the venue, just outside Inverurie.

Drew and Mike's Wedding - 1

Andy Howard and I were in our kilts. Andy decided to not only be festive, but to guard against the cold:

Drew and Mike's Wedding - 6

Brighton for Christmas and New Year. Did a lot of reading, including the new book about the legendary 1980s collective "House of Beauty and Culture", which has been fascinating as, without realising it, I have taken a lot of inspiration from this group - which included jeweller/stylist, Judy Blame - over the years.

2018 has kicked off with a frenzy already and one of my students, Menna Jones, unveiling the medals she designed for the International Association of Athletics Federations' World Indoor Championships which are being held in Birmingham in March.

IAAF WIC 2018 - Medal Launch - 2

There was a bit of a media frenzy on the roof of the Birmingham Central Library:

IAAF WIC 2018 - Medal Launch - 3

IAAF WIC 2018 - Medal Launch - 4

The medals, of course, are fantastic.

IAAF WIC 2018 - Medal Launch - 6

They were struck in Birmingham by Fattorini and the process of getting from the initial designs - there were 18 student entries, narrowed down to three and then to one - to finished medal has been fascinating. I was under strict embargo as regards the design until this event, which is why there has been nothing more than a few tweets from me.

Last week saw Jo Pond's lastest solo show, "Rationed" open with a "Talking Practice" event before the private view:

Jo Pond - Rationed - Talking Practice Event - 3
Jo in conversation with Sian Hindle
Her new body of work looks at the domestic role of women during wartime, especially during World War II/Second European War, through objects and records left by her own family and is affecting, fascinating and quietly beautiful:

Jo Pond - Rationed - Talking Practice Event - 2

With all that, I aim to return to more regular postings from now on.

Happy New Year!

Monday, November 20, 2017

Narrative Jewellery

I should have posted this ages ago but somehow, despite the constant reminders, I forgot!
My work has made the cover of a major new book on "Narrative Jewellery":

"Blood Will Have Blood: A Macbeth Brooch" is featured on the cover and there is an essay by me inside. Friends and colleagues, Jo Pond and Jack Cunningham have both written for and feature in the book, which is a major overview of the current field of "narrative jewellery". I'm proud to be able to call author, Mark Fenn, a friend and I know that he's worked incredibly hard for the last couple of years pulling this together, so it is great to see it finally finished. You can order copies from Amazon.

BAMS Meeting - 2017 - 1

Lots going on since my last post, including the British Art Medal Society prize-giving for their prestigious Student Project, where students are invited to create a medal to a very open brief. The exhibition of this project is at the Vittoria Street Gallery at the moment and the event was not only well-attended but it was great that loads of the prize-winners had travelled to collect their prizes.

BAMS Meeting - 2017 - 9

The exhibition continues until the 17th November and is definitely worth a visit if you are in the Jewellery Quarter.

The BA Jewellery and Object students are gearing up to creating their graduation collections (already!) and had a small exhibition to show off their initial thoughts.

BA Jewellery and Object - Final Show Preview 2017 - 1

There are some intriguing projects being developed:

BA Jewellery and Object - Final Show Preview 2017 - 2

BA Jewellery and Object - Final Show Preview 2017 - 3

BA Jewellery and Object - Final Show Preview 2017 - 6

Also last week, I went to Lustre with colleagues, a very high-quality and well-curated selling exhibition of some of the most interesting makers in the UK.

Lustre 2017 - 1

I do like this show very much: everything is of to the highest standard and the atmosphere is lovely. Additionally, they actively encourage our graduates and offer them stands as part of their "Young Meteors" and "One Year On" sponsorship programmes. Lois Wiseman was one of our graduates who was exhibiting:

Lustre 2017 - 3

And colleagues, Drew Markou and Sally Collins had a joint stand:

Lustre 2017 - 2

I bought a rather nice hand-woven blanket by Sarah Tyssen which was meant as a throw but which I will be wearing!

Paint-ups With Layla McCook - 3

Last week, I had the pleasure of inviting commercial jewellery designer, Layla McCook into the School to lead a class in the techniques of classic fine-jewellery rendering:

Paint-ups With Layla McCook - 1

After the enthusiasm shown online for my new nut rings (the repair series):

Nut Rings - Repair Series - 7

I returned to Dungeness to collect the very last of the split nuts which prompted me to create these in the first place.

Dungeness Visit - Autumn 2017 - 1

I love going to Dungeness and always find something new to photograph:

Dungeness Visit - Autumn 2017 - 3

A book I ordered on the recommendation of Anastasia Young arrived this week, a guide to a form of Korean inlay, Ipsa.

It is truly fascinating and the flat-surface inlay is very different from the manner in which we do it in the west. There is a wonderful series of photographs of the work being done on this blog here.

I am definitely going to try this at some point very soon.

Nut Ring - Repair Series - WIP - 9

Took some fantastic shots of me annealing and cleaning the nuts found at Dungeness. Very dramatic!

Nut Ring - Repair Series - WIP - 11

Nut Ring - Repair Series - WIP - 12

Interesting weekend as I did a "takeover" of the Craftspace Instagram feed on Sunday.

This is the first of the posts. There are about twenty posts further to that one!

Including this image of the nut rings with their internal "scaffolding" being constructed.

More on these soon!

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Goodbye Rotten

But before I get to that title, what has been going on?
I find myself so busy these days - now that I'm Programme Leader for the HND Jewellery at the School - that I keep forgetting to update on what has been happening!

Pots of Joy - 2017 - 1

Since the last post, we've had the BA Students complete their expressive "Pots of Joy" project, where they make a little vessel to express something about themselves, a project of which I love seeing the outcomes...

Pots of Joy - 2017 - 4

Pots of Joy - 2017 - 3

We also had the talks from our extensive programme of Artists-in-Residence (AiR) who come and work in the studios with our current students, helping them out as required, as well as developing their own practice, getting support, mentorship and facilities in return for their valued input. I am lucky to be mentoring an excellent wax-carver this year, Andy Marriott.

Artist-In-Residence Talks - 2017 - 4

A dinosaur tried to escape from the Technology Hub but was, fortunately, stopped by getting caught in the door:


We had a massive storm here - well, like the last massive storm, it didn't amount to much where I was - but it did cause us to have an amazing red sky and sun:

Red Sun

The light was so strange that my camera couldn't really deal with it and this shot even looks a bit solarised!

Thames Scene

I was sent to London to represent the School of Jewellery and Birmingham City University at a careers fair in Docklands. It was, in the end, great fun. I hadn't been looking forward to it, but a calm train journey down, a fairly comfortable hotel, good colleagues on the stand and it proved to be exhausting but enjoyable.

Careers Fair - 1

On the second day, I gave a talk about Contemporary Jewellery and took a handling collection of work with me:

Careers Fair - 2

Being on long train journeys and staying in an hotel also gave me the chance to finish reading a remarkable book that I didn't even know about:

Anthony Burgess' response to Orwell's "Nineteen Eighty-Four", 1985. I found this after reading up on the connections between Orwell's book and Murakami's "IQ84" which I read over the summer.

I've been making up stock for the dreaded Christmas period, as well as a few commissions. Not much to see just now, but I will have some photographs of finished works at the end of the week, including the "Repair" rings about which I wrote in my last post.

Making Stock - WIP - 1

The earring trio on the left include a new material I found this week: Bowden cable! It was being stripped out of the old windows at the School and dumped in the back car-park, from where I rescued metres and metres of the stuff... expect to see more made from this.

Conservatoire Jazz - 2

Had a night at the Birmingham Royal Conservatoire with colleagues to listen to two student bands playing the music of Wayne Shorter. I initially bought a ticket for this as the poster made it look as if Wayne Shorter himself were to have been playing, but he wasn't. Mildly disappointing for a £3 ticket! The bands were fantastic and we realised that we were actually watching an assessment of their work.

Which brings me to the end of normal business and to the sorry tale of "Hello Fresh", Nadz and the title of this post, "Goodbye Rotten".

There exists in the Jewellery Quarter, a number of non-jewellery businesses who take advantage of the cheaper office accommodation than would be found in the city centre. Often, these are marketing- and design-based businesses. One of them, "MJ Experia" marketing runs a setup which, from the outside, seems very odd indeed, to say the least (and their reviews on Google Maps seem to back this up - "...They made me cancel a holiday to get the job, which I earnt next to nothing at, and what I did make they never paid me and stole. I worked about 70 hours a week for over a month and got given a total amount of £24...").

I should explain what makes them seem so odd: first of all, there are the cheap suits - I cannot express fully enough my disdain for the cheap, ill-fitting, lairy suits worn by the people who go in and out of this place; secondly, the chanting - they spend the day chanting and shouting and listening to crap, loud music; thirdly, the things they throw out of the windows - for a while, several times a day, a shower of pens, stress-balls, markers, paper cups and other detritus would be thrown out of the window. On the command of the instructors. Yes, really. They TELL their victims to throw things out of the window into the space around, never a thought for clearing up the mess, even when it falls into private land.

And this is how I came to make this post as one of their victims, "Nadz", threw her notebook out of the window:

The Tragedy of Nadz - 1 - Cover

It lay about for a couple of days and as she had plainly decided that it was not to be reclaimed, I couldn't resist the sinister drawing on the cover and took it home. Inside were some quite science-fiction drawings which I rather liked:

The Tragedy of Nadz - 2 - Fantasy Building

Unfortunately, however, the contents never again reach these heights as the poor author is cowed by her indoctrination into the MJ Experia way of high-pressure door-to-door sales for a company called "Hello Fresh", nauseatingly interspersed with 'high fives':

The Tragedy of Nadz - 4 - The Work Begins

The business of "speaking to all of your neighbours" is a common thread. As is lying to them about the neighbours all signing up.
And more 'high fives', this time with a  'Yeah!!':

The Tragedy of Nadz - 6 - Yeah!! (High Five) Welcome to Hello Fresh

As well as the inexplicable plagiarism of the name of a popular TV Shopping Channel!

As could have been expected, Nadz soon became disillusioned with all this superficial nonsense and returned to drawing:

The Tragedy of Nadz - 8 - House of her Dreams

This reminded me somewhat of Garth England's "Murdered With Straight Lines". The next page initially made me laugh out loud but then took on a rather darker complex the more I thought about it:

The Tragedy of Nadz - 9 - Daddy Issues

The bit which made me laugh out loud was "Am I on the right path to becoming an architect", immediately following that drawing: what turned it darker was that it is apparent that Nadz realises that she is trapped, wants a better life and is having some sort of an existential crisis while the cheap suits around her high-five and chant and 'Yeah!!' and believe their own puff. Nadz is better than this. A lot better than this. Nadz has been duped, led on, led to believe that this is the limit of her abilities and yet plainly wants so much more. She realises that she is stuck in a dead end McJob.

In short, this is a modern tragedy. We are squandering the talent of young people like Nadz, and, I dare say, the people in the cheap suits, on this sort of crap which functions only to make money for large corporations without any regard for quality of life or self-respect: worse than that, these people have been lied to, sold some sort of a dream based on... fast cars? ill-fitting suits? big houses?

The reason I decided to post these pages was that about ten days ago, I received a mailshot from, of all companies, "Hello Fresh":

Goodbye Rotten - A Hello Fresh Update

In which, in the first paragraph, CEO Claire Davenport seeks to insult my cooking as being "basic, uninspiring". It seems that the contempt for these marketing types stretches not only to their employees but to those that they seek to market to.

As we near the end-of-days for late-phase Capitalism, I don't hold out much hope for things improving in the short term. When it happens, however, it will be a pleasure to remember Dingo's quip when I showed him this letter: "Goodbye Rotten".