Since Thursday evening last week, it has been absolutely non-stop! I spent the weekend in Birmingham, a city I love for its energy, friendliness and genuine multi-culturalism: ignore the naysayers who deride the place... It is WELL worth a visit.
The reason for visiting Birmingham this time was for a board meeting of the Association for Contemporary Jewellery, roughly the UK equivalent of SNAG, albeit on a slightly smaller scale. The meeting was held in the Jewellery School in the city and gave me the chance to catch up with Yi Liu again and see what he has been making in his role as Artist-in-Residence at the school, a post he has taken up since we last met:
His work is less figurative than before and more abstract, but still very detailed and dark. I also saw some fascinating works by his colleague, fellow Artist-in-Residence, Rachael Colley, who makes fascinating works from precious materials and dried meat and blood:
The meeting was very constructive and loads of work was done to further the ACJ.
After the meeting, I went out with James to eat some Ethiopian food in the very odd little restaurant we found some time back. (Both times we have visited, we've been the only people in there!) The staff are lovely and the food is cheap and good. He's just back from St. Petersburg, which sounds fascinating.
On Saturday, I decided it was time to socialise a bit and met up with yet another fellow jeweller, Miriam Rowe, an American living and working in Birmingham. After a very leisurely lunch - at the eternal and brilliant Cafe Soya - we went to the Jewellery Quarter in the city to have a look at her studio in the Designspace project:
This is a fantastic initiative by the City Council to encourage recent graduates to become more business-aware and to offer them workshop spaces where they can develop their materials with guidance from business support people, including marketing and accounts. All very useful. It is such a great pity that this type of initiative is not duplicated in other cities.
Miriam is working on some new pieces just now, as you can see from her bench:
And she is in an environment where she is surrounded by very, very creative and exciting people, such as Natalie Salisbury, the work of whom I think is quite brilliant:
I'm a sucker for a bit of complex piercing!
After the studio visit, we wandered around the jewellery quarter for a bit, looking in some of the open studios which were available to view on that day but the whole quarter was disappointingly quiet. It strikes me that if Birmingham were really serious about promoting new talent - and I think that they probably are - they should get rid of all the pedlars of Chinese mass-produced jewellery from the quarter and force it to concentrate on handmade, specialist and unique work: it is very sad that people are deceived by dishonest advertising into thinking that everything bought in the jewellery quarter was also made there...
In between all this, I spent loads of time taking photographs which can be seen here, if you are really interested!
Since arriving back on Sunday evening, I've done a bit more work on "A Forest".
I finally managed to get the boss for the base of the main "theatre" milled out and cast. This has been a terrible pain as I couldn't quite get it to mill properly, due to the flexibility of the wax and the very thin leaves, but it finally worked:
I think that this makes the piece look much more balanced.
The lid is now on the inner box, which will hide the way in which the inner box fits into the outer box and has been decorated with applied silver and gold leaves:
Finally, I managed to get some of the intermediate layers cut, one from some scrap galvanised steel, one from an old nickel electrode:
I've started work on the chain now and can see it at last shaping up as I had imagined it!
Hope that I can get away this weekend as planned. Not wanting to be stuck in miserable glasgow over a long weekend, unable to access the workshops due to bank holidays.