Thursday, December 19, 2013

End of Year

Today was the last full day in the workshop before I shut for just over two weeks. I'll be in for the morning tomorrow, the workshop festive breakfast, the "Secret Santa" and then heading off to Brighton. Although I normally take holidays in my stride, this last three months since summer has been utterly crazy, what with commissions, finishing off unfinished projects, photoshoots, the Scottish Style Awards... there is enough in that time to fill a normal year.

In terms of finishing off the unfinished work, I've been completely focused on finishing my Alexander McQueen tribute piece, "Fashion:Victim - In Memoriam ALMcQ", a cuff based on a handcuff from which hang two spherical "handbags" made from recycled iron spheres which I found in a burnt-out factory in Kent.

I finished the bangle and the sphere titled "The Illusion of Freedom Buys The Power of Destruction" this week. Followers of the blog and people who know about McQueen will understand the falconry imagery.

Fashion:Victim - In Memoriam ALMcQ - 91a

Fashion:Victim - In Memoriam ALMcQ  - 87

Fashion:Victim - In Memoriam ALMcQ  - 85

Fashion:Victim - In Memoriam ALMcQ  - 88

All the metalworking is done and all that remains is to get the piece lined. I want to line it with feathers but fur would be just as good and probably more robust.

Today I started on the second sphere, "Before The Fall" which is going to be colourful and much lighter in tone, though the imagery is still pretty dark. It features a pendent apple which I started to make today by chasing out some thick copper:

Fashion:Victim - In Memoriam ALMcQ - WIP  - 96

For some reason, I've had Marilyn Manson's "Apple of Sodom" in my head the whole day while chasing this and so it made me laugh when I took the other half out and found that it looked rather more like the "Red-Pepper of Sodom". Not quite the same. It still has a bit of a red-pepper quality but I've knocked most of that out of it!

Fashion:Victim - In Memoriam ALMcQ - WIP  - 97

The plan is to pavé-set this with zircons. There are going to be a lot of stones in this piece:

Fashion:Victim - In Memoriam ALMcQ - WIP  - 96

I received a lovely and unexpected present today. Over a year ago, I got in touch with William Mitchell to find out if he was behind the amazing tower in the shopping centre in Cwmbran, Wales:

Concrete Aztec

As it turned out, it was by him and we had a few email exchanges, during which he mentioned that he was writing his autobiography and I asked him to keep me posted as to when it was published. It was with some surprise that I received this today in the post:

Self Portrait

It seems only fair that I promote it to you if you are interested! It is listed on Amazon and on the publisher's website.

Hope that everyone has a great festive season and a good new year. I'll leave you with the very un-festive Marilyn Manson!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Christmas Rush...

Another two-week hiatus between posts and it is only because I've been too busy to be able to find a moment to write things down. So much has happened, from being asked if I were "eligible" for inclusion in a list of "eligible bachelors" - my non-bachelor status making me ineligible for the inclusion - to being asked to write an article for a new jewellery magazine about something which isn't jewellery!

The main thing on the workbench has been another of my projects which was started and then unaccountably abandoned, though I think that perhaps the complexity of it put me off. I've been working on the piece for two weeks and have only just started to approach 2/3 complete. This piece is a tribute to Alexander McQueen and the idea to make it first came to me in 2011 after visiting the McQueen retrospective at the Metropolitan Museum in New York.

Fashion:Victim - In Memoriam ALMcQ is made up of three parts, the first being a bangle-handcuff made from silver, inlaid with corroded iron and set with garnets:

Fashion:Victim - In Memoriam ALMcQ - WIP  - 66

Fashion:Victim - In Memoriam ALMcQ - WIP  - 67

I have to confess that this part was completely finished apart from the setting and it was the setting of the stones which was putting me off! In fact, because I had digitally milled the settings and cast them, it only took an hour or so to complete.  I'm pretty pleased with the way this came out. The little skull is the head of a bolt which can be unscrewed to open the bangle. It is fairly easy to put on and take off single-handed too, which is good.

Hanging from this bangle are going to be two large metal spheres. These are really "handbags" as it were, the idea taken from pieces made by Shaun Leanne for McQueen, polished silver containers which were hung from leather straps. The spheres were found by me in 2008 in a burnt-out furniture factory:

Accidental Gehry 8


I actually have six of these but have only used two for this project. Each ball has been cut in half and has become the basis for the two bags which hang from the bangle, "The Illusion Of Freedom Buys The Power Of Destruction" and "Before The Fall"; ultimately, it will be possible to wear these separately or together on the bangle. Until I picked these up again, the spheres were identical and for no reason other than whim, I started first with "The Illusion Of Freedom..." which tackles McQueen's fondness for falconry, something which is perhaps not so well known about him.

Some of you may recall that ages ago, I was trying to make falconry bells and that was for this project. One of them has now been attached to an element which is pendent from the base of the ball:

Fashion:Victim - In Memoriam ALMcQ (WIP ) - 56

This is cast from a taxidermy model of a falcon's foot. The large "brilliant" is slightly included quartz.

The ball has also grown claws!

Fashion:Victim - In Memoriam ALMcQ - WIP - 62

I spent last weekend cutting and engraving a monogram element for the base. This is the section which will hold support the claw and crystal and is based on the letters "McQ". It can be read from both sides as well as upside-down or the right way up!

Fashion:Victim - In Memoriam ALMcQ - WIP  - 79

I'm really pleased with the way that this came out and it made me re-design the top section which features a porcelain hooded falcon made by Lisa Stevens. The top section still has to be carved, engraved and polished but it looks something like this:

Fashion:Victim - In Memoriam ALMcQ - WIP  - 77

I've still got a lot to do to this, including fitting the magnetic catches, soldering the hinge shut and lining the ball with something (no idea what yet!). More on this and the other ball to follow.

There has been another photoshoot this week, once again with my friend and colleague, Simon Murphy behind the camera, this time with another photographer modelling! When I initially asked Simon to take the photographs of my brooches for Sharon Massey and Cortland Dewitt's "Supbrooch" project, I really wanted an older man as one of the models. In fact, I actually wanted all the men to be over 50 but for various reasons, it didn't work out that way. Tommy Cairns is someone I met at the Scotstreetstyle/Harvey Nichols event in Edinburgh, a friend of Simons and someone who looks exactly the way I had imagined the models for the brooches looking so we discussed him coming to the studio for a second shoot which we did yesterday. What a brilliant day! I haven't seen the final shots from Simon yet, but my shots of the shoot in process are enough for now. Simon's will, of course, be magnificent!

Second Brooches Photoshoot - 6

Tommy wearing my "Macbeth" brooch.

Second Brooches Photoshoot - 7

Wearing the "Verklärte Nacht" brooch.

Second Brooches Photoshoot - 9

In between all this, I've been reading rather a lot recently, including doing some research for a post-Christmas commission. I've been asked to make an interpretation of the Maltese Cross cuff bracelets which Verdura made for Chanel and found this book second-hand:

Which I proceeded to read cover-to-cover. Inspiration on every page and such a fascinating life. Another book which I have read cover-to-cover, though it looks like what is disparagingly called a "Coffee-table book", is the new book on emeralds called "Emerald"!

Luxuriously covered in emerald green silk (though the lighting in my room doesn't make it look that colour at all) this is subtitled, "Twenty-one Centuries of Jewelled Opulence and Power" and is utterly compelling, as well as being a luxurious publication bursting with beautiful images of emerald jewellery.

Finally, I've been reading a rather amazing novel: Rupert Thomson's "Secrecy", which I haven't finished yet. Set in 17th Century Florence and by some exceptionally deft writing, dealing with some very complex and challenging issues facing contemporary artists today. Although the book is utterly modern, it creates the world of renaissance Florence compellingly and is a must-read for anyone who is interested in the period or in the darker side of contemporary art. Perhaps most interestingly, it deals with real historical characters...

There is a superb review of the book and the work of the real character behind it here.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Foxtrot Pour Maria: Chanel Se Rencontrent Lang

I've been in the workshop for two whole days now, finishing up my "sautoir/parure" which imagines the jewellery which Chanel (probably with the help of Fulco Verdura) would have designed for "Maria", the robot in the Fritz Lang's "Metropolis". As with all my work like this, I do a lot of research and found that Chanel had some very wise words on the subject of jewellery, some of which became very important in the creation of this piece.

Foxtrot Pour Maria: Chanel Se Rencontrent Lang - 31

Her most famous proclamation was probably "A woman should mix fake and real. I love fakes because I find such jewellery provocative..." and in this piece, I've mixed real pearls with fake, rather as she did herself. The very large (18mm) pearls on the chains above are "shell pearls", made by implanting balls of shell into molluscs and allowing them to lay down a layer of nacre over them; the smaller pearls are natural cultivated, though the dark blue ones are dyed.

Many people don't realise that her statement continued, "...I find it disgraceful to walk around with millions around your neck just because you are rich. The point of jewellery isn't to make a woman look rich but to adorn her; not the same thing."

This statement really made me think about my own work, about how I use found materials in the context of traditional "fine jewellery", mixing high and low, real with fake, precious with worthless. She also said - sniping at Cartier - "A jewel should not be meagre". It is no surprise that I find myself drawn to her work. It also makes the following review of my work especially flattering:

I was brought up in an environment where jewellery for men were limited to either a watch or a wedding ring. This simple view on the genders separation towards bling bling was shattered, when running into this man. 
The Justified Sinner's attempt to revolutionise and change the way we view men's jewellery is no different to the way Coco Chanel accelerated women's trousers as a fashion piece. What fun would it be if everyone did the same thing? If Coco Chanel can give women a chance to make a fashion statement then why should men not take the same opportunity, when being given it by The Justified Sinner. 
- Daniele Junker 
As a parure, the piece shown above is made up of many elements which can be reconfigured in a number of ways:

Foxtrot Pour Maria: Chanel Se Rencontrent Lang - 30

There is a main chain with connecting elements, featuring a steel cog set with a dark turquoise tourmaline; a pendant made from a discarded CO2 cylinder, set with rubies and garnets and hung with used sewing-machine needles from a derelict factory in Clydebank; a pair of earclips (in keeping with the 1930s feel) set with bright, pale aquamarines, pearls and pink quartz; three silver, pearl, chrysoprase, dumortierite and pink quartz chains and; a brooch made from two steel cog elements found in Pittsburgh, used sewing-machine needles, sterling silver and set with a pale bluish amethyst and four natural raspberry-pink spinels.

Foxtrot Pour Maria: Chanel Se Rencontrent Lang - 32

Foxtrot Pour Maria: Chanel Se Rencontrent Lang - 33

Here the piece is entirely assembled as a sautoir with the rear pendant shown. The brooch can be pinned on to stop the piece from moving or it can be worn loose as an element on the chain.

The brooch can also be worn alone or with other elements attached:

Foxtrot Pour Maria: Chanel Se Rencontrent Lang - 36

Foxtrot Pour Maria: Chanel Se Rencontrent Lang - 34

And the chains can be endlessly reconfigured:

Foxtrot Pour Maria: Chanel Se Rencontrent Lang - 37

Note the use of the earclip as a decoration on the left upper section of the chain.

Foxtrot Pour Maria: Chanel Se Rencontrent Lang - 38

Foxtrot Pour Maria: Chanel Se Rencontrent Lang - 41

Foxtrot Pour Maria: Chanel Se Rencontrent Lang - 42

Foxtrot Pour Maria: Chanel Se Rencontrent Lang - 43

Both the earclips become a pendant.

Foxtrot Pour Maria: Chanel Se Rencontrent Lang - 44

The three chains worn separately.

I am really pleased with this piece, another one ticked off on my list of unfinished pieces to finish.

Oddly enough, I have just received an email asking me to make a pair of Chanel-inspired, Verdura-style Maltese Cross bangles. Can't wait!

Christmas orders are coming in now. I've also been making a pair of iron and amber cufflinks:

Amber And Iron Cufflinks - 2

In keeping with my nomination as a man of some style, I've just taken possession of my latest commissioned piece of clothing, a "Hollyhood" by the wonderful Silvia Pellegrino at Chouchou:

Wearing The "Hollyhood" - 1

I first saw these at the photoshoot for SupBrooch, blogged a few weeks back. Stew was wearing one and when he first pulled it out of the bag, I wasn't really sure about it but after we did the shots and he showed me it being worn, I decided I had to have one, so contacted Silvia. This is the one she made me, using black Harris Tweed and grey Italian herringbone denim. Although she makes them primarily for women, I absolutely love the academic-monastic feel of them and I am going to have to get her to make me another one in earth colours!

Wearing The "Hollyhood" - 2

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Kevlar, Beards and Coco Chanel!

Since I last made an entry here - eleven days ago, which is, I know, remiss - so much has been going on, with my birthday right in the middle.

The aftermath of the Scottish Style Awards was one very unstylish bump on the head when I took a box of the top of a cupboard and a roll of steel-reinforced kevlar fell from it. The edge caught me and I ended up scuffed:

A Sore Head

Fortunately, it healed rapidly and I could get to work again. Most of the time has been spent working on my commission from Poppy Porter for a piece of jewellery based on the song "Futurism" by Muse, which you can read about in my previous blog post here. I finally finished this commission this week and I'm very pleased with it.

Futurism - 34

Futurism - 37

More importantly, Poppy is pleased with it!

As last Saturday saw my birthday, I went through to Edinburgh to a @scotstreetstyle event at Harvey Nichols in Edinburgh, run by the man behind "ScotStreetStyle", Gordon.

"Decembeard" Event At Harvey Nichols, Edinburgh - 1

I met him indirectly through the Scottish Style Awards and as I mentioned in my last post, we met up a couple of weeks ago to discuss Scottish fashion, style, humour and politics. The Harvey Nichols event was more of a social for the "Movember" charity but also a networking meeting and it was good to be able to connect with some of the other people who are making and shaking Scottish street culture; it was also delightful to be able to say that the people who are making and shaking Scottish street culture is broadly mixed in age and that as I was celebrating my 49th birthday, I was NOT the oldest person there!

As you would expect at a "Movember" event, there was a lot of facial hair and it was touching to see that even the chic women got in on the act:

"Decembeard" Event At Harvey Nichols, Edinburgh - 4

Kirstin modelling a paper moustache, earlier in the week.

My friend, Simon, was there, looking out for interesting people to photograph:

"Decembeard" Event At Harvey Nichols, Edinburgh - 6

And I met another guy who uses Voigtländer legacy lenses on Micro-FourThirds Cameras!

"Decembeard" Event At Harvey Nichols, Edinburgh - 7

The excellent Lewis of the Glasgow Beard and Moustache club, of which I will soon be a member. (Gary, to his left, is not laughing at a suit jacket, rather at someone small who is obscured by the jacket and being photographed by Lewis.)

After this, I headed off with my friends Mark and Jeff to my favourite Malaysian restaurant in Edinburgh, Kampung Ali where Mark drank "bubble tea" for the first time!

Bubble Tea

He also pointed out this bad graphic on the way:

Aieee! My Face Has Melted...

Now, I know it is meant to be "cute" but to me - and Mark - this just looks like Santa's head melted!

This week has ben workshop week for the students and they've been making loads of great things. I will post pictures the week after next when their Christmas sale opens in the college. Although this should be a time when I can get a bit of time at the bench, they've been super-busy this year and I've not managed to get much done, about which I cannot complain.

Now that "Futurism" has finished, I can move down the list and find that the next project to complete is one of those which I started and abandoned and which I determined in August I would complete before allowing myself the luxury of starting completely new projects, my fantasy piece which imagines what might have happened if Chanel had designed costumes for Maria in Fritz Lang's "Metropolis"...


Taking on board Chanel's 1932 fine-jewellery collection -  which featured many pieces which could be reconfigured into different types of jewellery - as well as the themes of decadence, robotics and the occult from the film, I decided to re-invent the "sautoir" necklace:

Foxtrot Pour Maria: Chanel Se Rencontrent Lang - WIP - 19

This uses some cog-type elements I found during my 2012 visit to Pittsburgh, as well as - naturally - sewing-machine needles. I am especially pleased with the brooch-pendant element:

Foxtrot Pour Maria: Chanel Se Rencontrent Lang - WIP - 25

Set with a very oddly-coloured amethyst and deep raspberry-pink spinels.

Foxtrot Pour Maria: Chanel Se Rencontrent Lang - WIP - 23

The piece will re-configure in many different ways and still has to have one more chain and a pair of earclips added.

Foxtrot Pour Maria: Chanel Se Rencontrent Lang - WIP - 26