Thursday, June 30, 2011

end of term

Well, that is the college work over for another year and time to think about the holidays!

The Society for Contemporary Craft blog has a little article on it about my work which made me laugh.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

winding down

It's the end of term now and the students are all on their way. I've finished off "A Forest" and have been tidying up the workshops.  On Monday, I went through to Edinburgh for an exceptionally rapid visit to see Sue Amendolara who is having a holiday here and which has resulted in me returning the visit to see her in Edinboro when I'm in Pennsylvania. All good!

I've been working on the box for "A Forest", which is an old cutlery box I found at the flea-market. It was full of cutlery which, fortunately, is both attractive and in good condition, so it is now in my kitchen drawers as the box is on my workbench:

A Forest (WIP) - 98

This is the box just after I scraped a lot of the crud off the surface. There is a horrible varnish stuff on it, which is flaking off in patches and which nothing seems to move. I don't want to use paint-stripper on it as that is such a horrible material that I try to never use it if I can.
Eventually, I used a lot of coarse and fine steel wool to move the worst of it, then covered it with beeswax:

A Forest (WIP) - 100

It is absorbing a LOT of beeswax! This is it after about five coats, allowing each coat to dry between. You can see the right side of the box isn't nearly coated enough yet. I like the scuffed look caused by the uneven soaking of the varnish into the wood.

A Forest (WIP) - 99

The plaque on the top has lettering very similar to that on the pendant itself and I used the "girl" that I cut too big earlier in the project!

Other than that, I've started in a casual way on the next project, "Future Legend", based on the Bowie song of the same name. I say "casual" as I know that there is no way this will be progressing at all before I break for the summer:

Future Legend (WIP) - 2

pretentiousness everywhere

I've just read this ludicrous article in which a company which I view as merely purveyors of bland mediocrity to those with more money than sense, Ralph Lauren, have decided to sue the management agency which owns the building in which their glasgow shop is housed on the grounds that the agency has allowed a hairdressing salon to open up there. Apparently, this hairdressing salon is simply not the sort of business they want to have in the block with them.
This begs the question, if they are that high-class, why did they open a shop in violent, drunken ned-ridden glasgow?
Given the locale, they are lucky that it wasn't a Greggs, Poundland or a charity shop which opened up next to them.

On a similar tip, I was verbally abused today by a blonde fake-tanned scumbag behind the wheel - I hesitate to say "driving" - of a crappy little bottom-of-the-range Porsche (she was probably wearing Ralph Lauren, but I didn't look too hard).
What caused her to lean out of the car and scream like a harpy? To swear like a sailor? What provoked this outpouring of crude opprobrium?
It seems that she believes that the green boxes at traffic lights with a big white bike painted in them are not, in fact, to be used by bikes. It also seems that I don't pay any taxes and have no right to be on the road. Furthermore, if she ever sees me again, I had "better watch out", which strikes me as a direct threat and thus actionable... Perhaps her very memorable private plates weren't such a good idea after all?

Both of these incidents strike me as examples of the utterly vacuous pretentiousness into which Britain has sunk. Apart from the price, what is the difference between Ralph Lauren and Primark? Both are "labels", both are multiple retaillers, both are selling mass-market clothes. And at what point did behaviour which can only be described as "common" become the norm for people who drive a Porsche?
It all boils down to the same thing: belief in money without any moral dimension.

Thursday, June 16, 2011


Today was a bit of a surprise as I managed to finish "A Forest"! Yesterday, it seemed as if I still had loads of work to do to complete it, but it was finished by lunchtime, leaving me the pleasurable business of cleaning up my bench.

A Forest - 85

As you can see, it is on quite a large scale. It's large but not too heavy, though running anywhere might be a bit uncomfortable...

A Forest - 87

What is not apparent here is that the piece is "glazed" with a piece of very beautiful Victorian bevelled glass. The glass has tiny flaws in it.

A Forest - 88

Setting the glass was an absolutely scarifying experience. The bezel is made from fine silver and I deeply undercut it and used the handle of a nylon toothbrush to push it over, but it still had me sweating, especially as the glass is very high RI, which makes me think it is probably very soft too.

I'm very pleased with the way that the top section came out, the lettering and the skull of the green man:

A Forest - 89

There are more photographs here:

A Forest - 85

And the sketchbooks are here:

A Forest (Workbook) - 1


As if my students aren't busy enough, they have landed a show at the Mackintosh Church in Glasgow. Anyone who is interested is welcome to attend. The collection consists of fine jewellery made using new technologies:

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

eleven days

Since I last worked on "A Forest". The whirl of the degree shows has passed and I finally got back to the bench today. Before I put the degree shows completely behind me, anyone interested in seeing the work produced by my own students can look backwards through my Flickr photostream from here:

Iain Baird 8

(Click on the photograph to go to Flickr and see more.)

So, back to my own bench and my own work and I hadn't quite taken stock of how far "A Forest" had come since I last worked on it. The chain is now completely set and finished:

A Forest (WIP) - 84

A Forest (WIP) - 83

A Forest (WIP) - 82

A Forest (WIP) - 81

The last two photographs show the back of the chain with the amber acorn detail and the little funnel which can be used for filling the perfume container which will be in the main pendant. The amber was carved from one of a number of lumps given to me years ago by a student who had collected it on a beach somewhere. It is not at all transparent, but I really like the streaky, opaque qualities of it.

I also managed to assemble and colour (patinate) the inner box:

A Forest (WIP) - 78

And have completed the manufacture of the perfume bottle and the tray which will hold it in the main body of the pendant:

A Forest (WIP) - 76

A Forest (WIP) - 71

In short, a very satisfying day!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

givin' up, givin' in...

Three degree shows in two days!
First up was the show at Glasgow School of Art, being held for the last time in the Newberry Tower building at GSA after 40 years of being the home of the department. Much as I really like the building, this show showed all-too-clearly why it was time to move: 19 people in one dark space. It didn't really work very well. Not to let that detract from the work. In a way, I am quite sad about the demise of this building as I really rather like it, but brutalism is SO unfashionable...

Anyway, enough of my moaning.
The show was much bigger than usual but was jammed into the same space which I have seen used for seven graduates; it meant that there was no room for the students to display notebooks or development materials, which was something I really missed. One of the pleasures of these events for me is talking to fellow jewellers about the way in which they work.  Additionally, it meant that each student had less space for their jewellery and there were WAY more people at the opening than there would be normally.

Glasgow School Of Art - Jewellery Show 2011 - 1

Also, for some reason, the lighting wasn't very good.
As ever, however, the show was a fine mix of styles and materials and there was a very interesting tendency for work to be enamelled. The outstanding pieces for me were works by this person:

Glasgow School Of Art - Jewellery Show 2011 - 3

(To my shame, I have completely failed to make a note of who made this work, but I will correct that later in the week!) All this work is based on writings by various philosophers and has a deeply alchemical streak which appeals greatly to me.
I also really liked the colourful work of Shao Lianchao:

Glasgow School Of Art - Jewellery Show 2011 - 5

Samera Afzi was making work which was both interesting and almost "mainstream" commercial; we chatted at length about her work and I'm sure that she will do well:

Glasgow School Of Art - Jewellery Show 2011 -

And because it is very much in my own favourite materials, it was lovely to see the work of Sean McGugan, using steel in various forms, etched and laser-welded:

Glasgow School Of Art - Jewellery Show 2011 -

Next night it was the turn of my own students to present their degree work. This was a nerve-wracking experience for me (how much worse for the students?!) as this was the first year we had taught the degree programme "BA (Hons) Jewellery Design and Technology" and it is a programme which nobody else in the UK is really teaching, largely CAD-based. I'm pleased to report that things went very well and there was a great deal of interest from the press and galleries, a couple of the students even sold collections, which is very gratifying. What is not so pleasing is that I largely forgot to photograph the work and only photographed the people attending the show... Here is our principal opening the show:

North Glasgow College - Jewellery Show 2011 - 1

Some people milling about at the show:

North Glasgow College - Jewellery Show 2011 - 2

And one pendant by Hanyao Fu:

North Glasgow College - Jewellery Show 2011 - 5

I actually can't believe that I forgot to photograph the work! I'll get those photographed and posted later in the week.

Last of all, on Saturday, I got myself along to the Edinburgh College of Art Degree show, which was very different from ours or from Glasgow's, as it should be.

Edinburgh College of Art - Degree Show 2011 - 1

The Edinburgh display space was very cosy and relaxed, full of work but not cluttered and the works were all very pleasingly dissimilar, though there was a lot of laser-cut materials incorporated into the works. About eight years ago, I never wanted to see another laser-cut piece again, but now that the technology has been assimilated and is no-longer-new, it is great to see how people are using it in their practice. I spoke extensively to Kirsty Fraser about her work, which uses a lot of laser-cut elements to evoke architectural forms:

Edinburgh College of Art - Degree Show 2011 -

I also really liked the works of Mariko Sumioko which rather eloquently tie together European "art jewellery" modes with Japanese traditions:

Edinburgh College of Art - Degree Show 2011 -

I especially liked her tray of little brooches which were for sale, tiny fragments of her larger works:

Edinburgh College of Art - Degree Show 2011 -

My overall favourite works, however, were these amazing vessels by Hazel Thorn:

Edinburgh College of Art - Degree Show 2011 -

Edinburgh College of Art - Degree Show 2011 -

The work of all the students - bar one - is available on my Flickr photostream, which you can access by clicking on any one of the pictures above.
Why "bar one"?
One of the main functions of a degree show, quite apart from it being cathartic, is for students to get themselves noticed, to make an impression and - with any luck - to start making a name for themselves. It was therefore somewhat surprising that one snarky student at the Glasgow School of Art degree show not only forbade me from taking photographs of her work but also quite clearly stated that she didn't want her work to appear on my blogs or on the ACJ website.
Only too happy to oblige.

As usual, a trip to Edinburgh means that I end up making too many appointments to see people, decide to visit too many  galleries and spend too long browsing second-hand bookshops. One of the most interesting exhibitions is Sandy Noble's "Lazy Eye" show at Framed Gallery in which he has built drawing machines; robots which make drawings, complete with all the flaws and mannerisms that one expects of human drawings. These are process pieces, but they have a strange fragility. Well worth a visit:

Lazy Eye 1

Sandy and the gallery owners at Framed.

Lazy Eye 2

One of the robots making a drawing. This is drawing directly onto the wall of the gallery.

Lazy Eye 3

Some of the smaller drawings, completed.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

getting frazzled...

SO, my degree students have now all been graded and are awaiting their results after four non-stop days of marking, external exams and exam boards. Their degree show is tomorrow night and I am looking forward to that immensely. Unfortunately, it means that we've slightly neglected our other students and I forgot to mention that the HND, HNC and NQ students have been working hard to get their own entries ready for the prestigious Glasgow-wide competition run by the venerable Trades House of Glasgow.

Here are some photographs of their work:

Trades House Competition 2011 - 1

The Trades Hall is a lovely building, but it is not really suitable for the exhibition of the work which they very generously sponsor. This overview of the display shows that the jewellery is not, perhaps, shown to best advantage. However, that is not in any way to detract from the fact that this is a fantastic competition and very, very popular with the students and general public, covering not only jewellery but fashion, furniture-making, photography, stained-glass and a wealth of other craft subjects.

Trades House Competition 2011 - 2

Unfortunately, my favourite piece didn't come out in this photograph, Marie Gideonsson's marvellous silver, sea-glass, feather and tourmaline brooch. I'll aim to get another photograph when it is returned next week. Left, kinetic pendant by Cate McColl and right, kinetic pendant by Sinéad Gow, another lovely piece. These pieces are all by my first-year students, as is the next piece (which also won a prize), the pendant and earring set by Margo Shaw:

Trades House Competition 2011 - 3

On the left is a pendant by Arturo Lopez, also in the first year.

Jay McLean made this Crazy Squid pendant, which didn't win a prize but should have:

Trades House Competition 2011 - 4

Jay is on our HND programme and will be coming back for the degree next year, as will Alexs McIlwraith who made this lovely clock:

Trades House Competition 2011 - 5

Last but not least is the Sgian-dubh by Elaine McKay - also and HND student, returning next year for the degree -  made from silver, a scottish agate, damascus steel and bog oak:

Trades House Competition 2011 - 6

I rather foolishly forgot to photograph the other prize we won, the "Advanced Jewellery" category, won by Imogen Doherty, but I will post that next week when the prizes come back.
After a flying visit to this show, it was off to Glasgow School of Art For their degree show but I will post that tomorrow as I can't be bothered editing all the photographs just now!

Wednesday, June 08, 2011


The students on my new BA (Hons) Jewellery Design and Technology all set up their shows yesterday and it was being assessed today by the external examiner. This is the first year we've offered the BA programme and I was very nervous about it; it was also very, very tiring.
Overall, the show looks great. I'm very pleased with what the students have done, and I am absolutely delighted with the way that a couple of them have pleasantly surprised us with their work. Because the students don't yet have their results - and won't have until after tomorrow's marathon exam-board meeting - I can't show you any photographs of their shows, but I can show you these pictures of some of my favourite pieces which they have produced over the year!
The degree is quite unique in that we are offering a programme which specialises in the production of "fine" jewellery using new technologies...

We can start off with my favourite piece by any of the students in the whole year:

Degree Show Preview 10

Degree Show Preview 11

This ring was made by fellow Crafthaus member, Iain Baird and is not wholly typical of his usual work. It was made using and SLA system to create a model which was then cast by direct burnout.

Louise McNeely created this fantastic ring by milling out wax models directly from a block of wax, casting it in gold and then setting it with black diamonds:

Degree Show Preview 9

Ishbel Watson used the same techniques to make a whole series of pieces based on optical illusions, highly successfully, I think:

Degree Show Preview 5

Degree Show Preview 4

And Nadia Baptie produced this ring using the SLA/direct burnout process:

Degree Show Preview 1

The central stone has come out very dark in this photograph, but is actually a very strong blue tanzanite.

I'll post more photographs on Friday when the show opens to the public.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

work by others

There has been absolutely no update on my work on "A Forest" for the last two days as I've been locked away marking the work of our BA students. It is quite tiring and very intense, especially as this is the first year that I've taught on a degree-level course. I'm sure it gets easier... !
I'll be posting photographs of their show later in the week and if anyone is in Glasgow on Friday night, please come along from 7 - 9pm to North Glasgow College and have a look.

I had a delivery today of a book which I have been very excited about seeing: Nicolas Estrada's "New Rings" book, published in English by the venerable Thames and Hudson. Not had much time to read it, but it is looking to be full to bursting with brilliant jewellery. I should also say that my own "Four Cocktail Rings Of The Apocalypse" feature in it too.

New Rings 1

There is more about this book on Amazon.