Tuesday, January 08, 2019

Run Down Christmas

Quite literally. I have rarely felt so tired, what with all the projects on the go at the moment, plus teaching plus various hassles with systems at work but as I'm on holiday very soon, I can't complain. Planning, mainly, to sleep!

I can now reveal a little more about the exhibition I'm planning with Dan Russell, "A Waste Land", which will open here in Birmingham on the 3rd February with an 'in conversation' event on the evening of the 4th where Dan and I will be discussing the work, followed by a reception in the Vittoria Street Gallery at the School of Jewellery. We're proud to have been featured on the front page of Klimt02 and you can read a bit more about the show there. The show will be made from the unpromising materials we've found lying about in our respective cities of Birmingham and Chatham.

Street Dump - 1

On some levels, it's been a really interesting and creative challenge but on another, it is somewhat dispiriting in that it has left me with a heightened awareness of the amount of low-grade waste which surrounds us constantly. The photograph above shows a street near the School of Jewellery which filled up like this over the course of two weeks. (Thanks to Kate Thorley, a colleague at the School for pointing this out to me.)

The work which our Artist-in-Residence, Fiona Harris, made in conjunction with the Museum of the Jewellery Quarter was launched just before we broke up for the festive season. She had exclusive access to the pattern books of the museum - the old Smith and Pepper pattern books - and her work is now on sale across Birmingham Museums and Art Galleries.

Fiona Harris - Product Launch - 2

Fiona Harris - Product Launch - 3

Enamel Hack 2 - 2

Our "enamel hack" session had the honour of a visit from our visiting Professor, Elizabeth Turrell, who uncovered a box of beautiful samples and set about ordering them for us:

Enamel Hack 2 - 3

This was followed by a weekend of music by Brian Ferneyhough, who was awarded an honorary doctorate at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire:

Brian Ferneyhough Doctorate - 1

Here is our Dean, Alison Honour (front) with Ferneyhough and I am proud to say that the medal with which the doctorate was conferred was designed by two of my ex-students (the medal is just about visible in this picture).

The Arditti Quartet were much in evidence, performing his in a variety of arrangements, from solo violin to full quartet.

Brian Ferneyhough Doctorate - 2

The programme was excellent, of course, with a fine selection of his work

MA Interim Show - 2018 - 3

We also had the interim collections from the MA Jewellery and Object course, which was held at the Parkside campus and was really well-attended. This is not so much a show of finished work as of sketches and research materials and it was fascinating to speak to the students - all of whom come from far-Eastern countries - talking about their work, especially the women who were able to discuss topics which, even five years ago, would have been "difficult" - if not impossible - to speak about.

MA Interim Show - 2018 - 2

MA Interim Show - 2018 - 4

Back to the Conservatoire for a performance by the students of electro-acoustic composition as part of the BCMG "Frontiers" series of concerts. It was interesting to see cassette tapes used as part of this!

Frontiers - 2018 - Electronica 2

Frontiers - 2018 - Electronica 1

This is what staff development at the School of Jewellery looks like:

Workshop Elves - 2

We were brushing up on stone-setting, in case you are wondering... there is more festive horror to come...

Non-festive horrors included a visit to West Midlands Police to look at their container full of knives which have been recovered from the street. This is genuinely shocking:

Knife Crime - 3 - WIP

Knife Crime - 2 - WIP

They have a whole shipping container full of this stuff:

Knife Crime - 7 - WIP

All of these weapons have been removed from the streets of the West Midlands. I was there with friend and colleague, Norman Cherry, with whom I am working on a project. More details on that very soon.

Morecambe Bay - Winter

Christmas and New Year were very quiet with a lovely visit to Scotland to catch up with friends and see my mum. On the way back down we took time to visit Morecambe. I have a very vague memory of having visited when I was much younger. There is something quite magical about out-of-season holiday resorts.

Ice-Cream Menu

Neddy - 1


Eric Morecambe

My best Christmas present:

From Dingo, of course.
My worst Christmas nightmare:

This appalling thing was at my mum's.

Sunday, December 02, 2018

Celtic Connections

River Kelvin

Kicked off from the end of the last post by jumping on a train to Glasgow to go and hear the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra perform three symphonies by Gloria Coates. I've been enamoured of Coates' work since reading an article about her in The Wire in the early 2000s and bought some CDs of her music on the strength of a verbal description of her music.

Less hedonistically, I had planned to meet up with a friend who has become ill, but this was cancelled at the last moment as his daughter sent him to Valencia for the Moto GP! Instead, I met with my old friend, Janine and we headed off to the South Side of the city to the amazing "Ranjit's Kitchen". The story of how this place came to be is delightful and can be read on the website. Anyone visiting Glasgow should make the trip to eat there - the all-vegetarian food is really special.

What nobody visiting Glasgow should ever do is make the stupid mistake of booking to stay in the "City Center (sic) Rooms", bookable through Expedia and their own website, probably the most unpleasant hotel/rooming apartment I have ever had the misfortune to stay in. I can honestly say that my worst experiences of student accommodation have never come down to this level of damp, cold, drafty, dirty, noisy and:

You can see how filthy the place was from the crud around the switches.

The Gloria Coates symphonies - Nos. 1, 7 and 11 - were truly fantastic and I was absolutely blown away by them. Ms. Coates herself was present and was interviewed by Kate Molleson at the interval:

Gloria Coates

You can hear her First Symphony, "Music on Open Strings" here:

I've been working on the next exhibition, a big show at Vittoria Street Gallery in collaboration with Dan Russell.

I'm not going to say very much about it here, except that it will be unlike any of my previous work. Here is a glimpse of some of the making:

A Waste Land - WIP - 3

A Waste Land - WIP - 4

One of the things which has started a the School of Jewellery are informal "Hack Nights" where staff, students and artists-in-residence can come along and play around with techniques with some instruction from someone who knows what they are doing. We've started with Enamel Hacks - something of interest to me as it is a technique I have singularly avoided!

Enamel Hack - 1

Enamel Hack - 5

In the first session, we experimented with liquid enamels on steel. I was particularly taken with this and will definitely consider ways of using it further.

The second session was plique-a-jour... An essay in frustration.

Off to see Mogwai (again!) at a new venue in Birmingham, The Mill, and they were as fantastic and as loud as ever.

Mogwai! (At The Mill)

Ever the purveyors of classy merchandise, you could have a "Brexit is shite" teeshirt, riffing on their earlier "Blur" affair, or this rather stylish limited-edition screenprinted poster which allows a man of my age to have a gig poster on the bedroom wall!

The following day saw the start of the Jewellery Quarter Open Studios and I was based in the wonderful gallery setting of what used to be "Guildsman" (soon to re-open as "Quo Vadis"), exhibiting with students and artists-in-residence from the School of Jewellery. A great opportunity.

Unfortunately, because I was working, I didn't get to go to many other places as part of the event.

Jewellery Quarter Open Studios - Quo Creations - 1

Jewellery Quarter Open Studios - Quo Creations - 2

I sold a fair amount of work but the real highlight was when I met a customer from 2011, who had commissioned a piece from me by email and brought it back for a small repair! It was such a pleasure to meet up with her and her partner, for whom it had been made. Even more bizarrely, it turned out that she and her partner had been at school with Tina Francis, organiser of the Open Studios Event... a small world, indeed.

This was the piece:

Bracelet For A Punk Engineer - 2

A remarkable concert at the Birmingham Conservatoire this week as Tin Men And The Telephone brought their incredible interactive jazz event to "The Lab". Using a mobile phone app, the audience can control the music and it is incredibly impressive to see the speed with which they respond to the input and then create a coherent - and enjoyable - musical experience from it.

Tin Men And The Telephone - 3

They were performing a set loosely based around the rise of far-right politics and there were some hilarious moments, such as looping Marine Le Penn and playing along with her vile opinions:

Tin Men And The Telephone - 2

Impressive set up to make all this happen, too:

Tin Men And The Telephone - 1

Finally, last night I went to see Yazz Ahmed and her Hafla Band at the CBSO Centre, a very funky evening indeed, with Yazz playing trumpet, flugelhorn and electronics and her band comprising keyboards, bass guitar, drums, hand-percussion, electric guitar and vibraphone.

Yaz Ahmed and her Hafla Band

I couldn't help imagining a 1960s spy thriller set in a dusty middle-eastern city!
Have a listen:

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Over A Month

It has been over a month since I last posted and this is just not good enough! However, I am working on some very interesting projects about which more will be revealed in the coming months. Here's a whistle-stop tour of what I've been up to for the last few weeks.

Box Project - 2018 - 2

We've had the "box project" with our BA Jewellery and Object students. This consists of them having to make a box in one week and the results this year have been fantastic!

Box Project - 2018 - 1 - Yan Zhang
Box by Yan Zhang, "The Pain of Ice-Cream"!

Box Project - 2018 - 3 - Xilin Hu
Box by Xilin Hu.

There has also been another run-down of work by our Artists-in-Residence. Here Nikki Pugh reveals some of her wearable technology which alters perception about the environment, ably assisted by Rebecca Steiner and one of my HND students, Jack Deeley:

I went back to Wolverhampton for another exhibition, this time by another of our Artists-in-Residence, Zoe Fitzpatrick Rodgers. Organised around a theme of "Hauntology" at the Asylum Art Gallery in the town, it proved to be a very interesting evening and it was great to see jewellery presented in the context of a mixed-media exhibition of fine arts:

Zoe Fitzpatrick Rodgers

The exhibition itself was somewhat provocative:


No more to be said!

Whizzed off to London for a few days at the UCAS careers fair, representing the University and caught up with my friend, Julia and her family. We went to the most wonderful and crazy restaurant in Peckham, Persepolis, a Persian restaurant run by the author of some very fine vegetarian cookbooks:

Peckham is a very interesting place. Quite run-down but lively, with lots of fantastic old signs and buildings.

Ten Station Way

Spent a day at the symposium held here on Magnesium and the use of magnesium for innovative technology. Unfortunately, of limited use for jewellery - it is used to some extent in watch cases - the symposium was interesting and a good event for meeting people.

Magnesium Dinner/Symposium - 1

Best thing was getting out onto the 5th-floor balcony at the Curzon building to see a panorama of the city:

Birmingham Eastside Panorama

Went to hear contemporary baritone, Thomas Buckner perform a variety of contemporary pieces for (wordless) voice and electronics at the Conservatoire.

Thomas Buckner

He was singing works by some of my absolute favourite composers, Phil Niblock, Alvin Lucier and Robert Ashely and introduced me to the work of Annea Lockwood. It was complete chance that I spotted this was on and I'm so glad to have been able to attend.

Marianne Forest - Acts of Resistance - 3

Back to the School of Jewellery and the opening of a new exhibition at our Vittoria Street Gallery of work by Marianne Forrest, who designs watches and time-related pieces, including time-related collaborative drawings. At the private view, we had the chance to take part in one of her collaborative drawings:

Marianne Forest - Acts of Resistance - 2
Jo Pond leading the way in collaborative drawing!
Marianne Forest - Acts of Resistance - 5

Fiona Harris is one of the Artists-in-Residence here at the School but she is in the unusual position of being placed within the Museum of the Jewellery Quarter, making work there and  developing a collection of pieces from the archive for sale in the Birmingham Museums shops. We had the pleasure of being at her presentation of the work for production and sale:

Fiona Harris - Artist in Residence - 1

Fiona Harris - Artist in Residence - 2

I can't show any of the work at the moment, but it will be shown as soon as it is no longer under embargo. We did get a chance to look through some of the old Smith and Pepper design books, which was very exciting!

Time for a soujourn in Brighton. Not much going on and the weather wasn't very good but it was nice to have a break!

Back to the Conservatoire for an amazing concert of music by Tommy Fuller, one of the final-year students on the Jazz course, performing works by Philip Glass and Frank Zappa (and others) in conjunction with two students from the Orchestral Percussion course.

Tommy Fuller Presents

It's that Lustre time of year again, always a good start to the wintry month of November. I drove up for the opening with Anna Lorenz. Loads of our graduates were taking part, as was my friend and colleague, Jo Pond:

Jo Pond at Lustre - 1

Jo Pond at Lustre - 2

Shelanu Product Launch - 4

This last week saw the launch of the new Shelanu collection of jewellery at the Assay Office. It is so good to see that they are producing a quality product and I was pleased to be able to introduce them to potential outlets in the Jewellery Quarter.

Shelanu Product Launch - 3

Shelanu Product Launch - 2

I went up to Derby last weekend to meet with Rachael Colley. Neither of us had visited the city before and had wanted to go purely on the strength of the industrial areas which the train passes through on the way between Birmingham and Sheffield! We were not disappointed.

Ewart Chainbelt Co Ltd

Osmaston Works

W.E. Savage - 2

Strangely, the highlight for me was lunch at the Yaffle Cafe and bookshop.

A proper, old-school radical bookshop with a vegan cafe attached! This reminded me so much of my student days and I couldn't have been happier to discover "Barleycup" on the menu and that all the food was basically brown... It was like the 1980s all over again and the radio even played Joy Division to make the illusion complete. What a place!

There are some very odd things in Derby. I particularly liked the joke shop which specialises in wedding supplies:

Only Joking Ltd.

"I do."
"Only Joking!"

Sunday saw a night out at the Ikon gallery for music by Jo Thomas playing music inspired by Daphne Oram, Delia Darbyshire and others. We also got to see the legendary visual synthesiser developed by Daphne Oram, the "mini-oramics":

Mini-Oramics 1

Highlight of the evening for me was getting to see a live performance by Olivia Louvel. I've been wanting to see her since reading this interview with her in The Quietus and was not disappointed. What a compelling performance for live voice and electronics with visuals, all about the creative spirit of Mary, Queen of Scots. You can hear some of the music on her Vimeo page.
Olivia Louvel

Delighted to have been selected for the 2018 Wiener Schmucktage in, of course, Vienna, Austria. I was representing the UK, which is very exciting, with this piece made from old clay pipes from the Thames:

Ko Si Iruufen

Ko Si Iruufen - Professional Shot

I've been focusing a lot on litter and waste recently. It is depressing to walk about and see through the autumn branches, mixed up in the dropped leaves, low-grade litter: cans, bottle-tops, cups, crisp-packets, things just dropped or dumped because people couldn't care less.

Cereal Offender

But it is not just that. Cars, fridges, shopping trolleys, clothes... all this and more, just dumped in the street, an anthropogenic mess.

What has been making me think about this waste?
I'm working on a collaborative project with jeweller, Dan Russell, of whom I have previously written here, exploring the ubiquity of waste in the environment.

More on this project soon.