Wednesday, October 31, 2012


Time for spooky things, so I finished my second Spoon Skull Pendant with Antlers today:

Second Spoon Skull Pendant With Antlers - 2

The chain is made from silver and chunks of the EPNS cutlery which I've butchered to make other spoon skull things. I really like the fake hallmarks on these and two of them feature on the sides of the chain. The pendant is removable, so the chain can be worn alone.

Second Spoon Skull Pendant With Antlers - 8

And the "T-bar" catch is made from the ends of some very ornate, engraved cutlery:

Second Spoon Skull Pendant With Antlers - 7

The stone is a tourmaline. It surprises me that anyone bothered to have plated white brass cutlery engraved with their initial!

I have long been a fan of the work of Randy Reiger and his somehow melancholic meditations on "the great American dream" and childhood. His NuPenny Toy Stores wonderfully combine humour, nostalgia, strangeness and sterility in one compelling event. It was good to read this analytical article about him on Matthew Brent Jackson's blog. Anyone who is unfamiliar with Randy's work should start here.

Not much more to write... an early night as I fly to Chicago tomorrow!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Chicago - Three Days To Go

It is only three days until I fly to Chicago to help out at the SNAG Stand at SOFA. Obviously, I am hoping that anyone who follows my blog and who is there will stop by to say "hello" and introduce themselves to me, SNAG member or otherwise.

I've been at a bit of a loose end for the past few weeks. After finishing some items to wear at SOFA, I was waiting on getting the go-ahead for a collaborative project with my friend and colleague, photographer Simon Murphy (who took the picture of me looking smart which heads my profile), several young people who have been involved in violence in some way, and the NSPCC (National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children). We've now had a few meetings and it is now at the stage where we are working out exactly how the NSPCC will work with the project. My own reasons for getting them involved was to give a very excellent and important organisation some publicity, to ensure that the young people have the support they need when looking at their feelings around what could be distressing reminiscences, and to ensure that there is not even a whiff of exploitation. The end product of this show is going to be four pieces of jewellery, four photographs and four written narratives and will be presented initially as part of the "ENOUGH: Violence, Artists Speak Out" exhibition at the SCC in Pittsburgh late next summer.
More to follow!

Stephen Bottomley has his first retrospective at the Scottish Gallery in Edinburgh opening on Tuesday 7th November. It should be an interesting show. Stephen is head of Jewellery and Silversmithing at Edinburgh College of Art and his work has a quiet, understated quality which belies the way in which he plays with materials, especially new and high-tech materials.

This brooch is made from black diamonds, enamel, aerospace "foam", gold and silver.
The catalogue can be viewed here.

I've mostly just been pottering about in the workshop, making up fairly straightforward sets of cufflinks - which suddenly seem to be very popular - and completing this commission for a woman who had survived a freak tornado!

Tornado Pendant - 5

I've also been revisiting the old "Spoon Skull" idea, using silver-plated junk shop spoons to make frivolous skull pendants. I've been combining these with the little silver antlers which I cast for the belt buckle last month:

Antlered Spoon Skull Pendant - 11

The antlers also found their way onto this... I have absolutely no idea what this is about, but it made me laugh:

Wooden Gemstone With Antlers Pendant - 3

The "gem" is made of African Blackwood and was carved for me by Lucie Veilleux in Canada. Somehow they just look right together!
When I left the workshop on Friday, another Spoon Skull with antlers was underway:

Second Antlered Spoon Skull - WIP - 2

I will end with the rash purchase I made from Marcia Lanyon, my stone-dealer, who also visited last week. What on earth am I to do with these HIDEOUS - but somehow compelling - Spongebob-style carvings in pink opal?

Pink Opal Starfish

I couldn't resist them.

Monday, October 01, 2012

Vanilla Ink Revisited

Some readers might remember that in February of this year, I spent an evening in Dundee for the launch of Kate Pickering's fantastic project, Vanilla Ink, a shop, a community, a support network, a workshop. Today was the first day of the workshop project going live, the first intake of real graduates into the year-long mentor-supported world of becoming makers who have the ideas, the energy and the enterprise to bring it all together in a successful package. Birmingham has offered something similar in the form of Designspace for some time and it is encouraging and exciting to see this being offered in Scotland too.

Vanilla Ink Studios, Dundee - 1

I was in Dundee for a meeting with the staff at Duncan Of Jordanstone with a view to having them validate our own jewellery degree programme and, Dundee being the compact city that it is, found out that Mike Press, Dean of Design, was also involved with Kate Pickering's project as a mentor. As today was the first day that she had actually taken anyone into the studios as full-time members of Vanilla Ink - delightfully, these people have become known as "Vanilla Inkers"! - Mike brought Kate to the meeting and then we all trooped round to the studio to see it for ourselves. Kate explained to my colleagues what the project was about:

Vanilla Ink Studios, Dundee - 2

What we had not expected to see was that one of our own graduates, Ruth Morrison (show in a dreamy photograph below) was part of the intake.

Vanilla Ink Studios, Dundee - 7

The project works by taking a group of jewellery graduates and "hot-housing" them for a year. They have access to subsidised workshop space and they get both business and design mentoring, plus the opportunity to sell work through the Vanilla Ink shop. The workshop is large and well-equipped and the idea is that as the group require additional, specialised equipment, it will be bought for the studio as a whole.

Vanilla Ink Studios, Dundee - 4

The project has a lot of support from established designers and makers - the postcards of support shown above are testament to that - and Kate has the energy, focus and understanding to make this work. Interestingly, social networking plays a big part in her strategy.

Vanilla Ink Studios, Dundee - 3

I can only wish this project all the very best and hope that it encourages similar projects to spring up around the world. Kate said that she had already had enquiries from people asking her if she would start similar projects for textiles and ceramics!