The way my schedule has worked out this year, I've managed to miss most of the Edinburgh Festival and so when I went through this weekend, there was a certain lack of energy about the place, shows closing, posters coming down, people leaving. The atmosphere wasn't wholly helped by the dreich weather but I still had an excellent weekend, as I always seem to do when I visit the Scottish capital.
I went through on Friday after work, where I re-furbished my pendant "Dr Strangelove" for Jo Garner's "Bring Back The Dead" Exhibition next month (closing date is 30th August and she is still able to accept entries!) which I was dropping off with her.
I also managed to complete a lot of the construction work on my piece for "Suspended in Green" although whether I can have it polished, engraved, enamelled, set and photographed by the deadline of 1st September, I do not know! As I mentioned previously, I am working with an old Victorian bottle-stopper and have milled out and cast a setting - annoyingly, it is not a regular hexagon, which made the modelling work a little tricky - which has been mounted onto one of the very first cocktail-ring shanks I ever made:
This ring was started in 2008 and it was the first ring where I had tried to set the stone directly into the iron and cracked the stone:
Inside the main setting is a smaller setting which holds an orange synthetic sapphire. With the quartz ring, the idea was that the colour would reflect through the quartz. With this ring, my thought is that the orange will act as a "relief" colour to be glimpsed between the green stones and stopper.
The shank has kicked about on my desk since then, awaiting my taking it apart and reclaiming the stone and the metal but now it has been incorporated as it stands. A bit annoying in some ways as I've had to work on it while taking into account the internally-set synthetic sapphire: fortunately flameproof!
Saturday in Edinburgh was busy for me, first meeting up with Clive for breakfast, then going to see my friend, Mark Kydd, in the play, "Solstice" by Angela Ness and Glen Davies, an odd piece in which both Mark and his fellow actor Annabel Logan play a couple with a history and a dead body to dispose of. Both the actors are excellent but the writing let the whole thing down which is especially annoying as the play divided into two sections, the first two-thirds in which the characterisation and narrative are established and the final third in which we learn something shocking about both the characters and they take steps to deal with that revelation. Unfortunately, the first two-thirds are dull; they exist on one single emotional level with no variation. Once the revelation is made, the whole thing becomes remarkable. Not only do the actors have some decent material to work with, but the revelations pile up to a completely unexpected climax and the whole piece finishes at fever-pitch. Only in this last section could the actors shine. On the plus side, the last third is actually SO good that it kind of makes up for the first part but it also left me wishing that the whole thing had been 15 minutes shorter and thrilling from the beginning.
After the play, I met up with Jo Garner at the Dovecot Studios, where the annual visit of Dazzle is happening. For those outside the UK, Dazzle is a quarterly exhibition of the best in the more commercial side of contemporary jewellery. It is emphatically a selling show and is popular and well-supported but being a selling show, the jewellery is - as Jo Garner pointed out - often quite badly displayed as each artist is represented by around 20 or more pieces of their work and there are perhaps 30 artists represented in each outing of the show. What is great about it, however, is that it has a huge following of devoted people who turn out every year to get something new and wonderful, they take new graduates and they also stick with their old favourites (a sad moment this year came when I saw the work of the wonderful Nick Hubbard on display, having just read of his death the day before).
I decided to walk down to the West-End Craft Fair after that, in search of the fellow who was there last year who made amazing hand-blown glass spheres, having had a vague idea of a piece I want to make using them but unfortunately, he wasn't there.
The West End Craft Fair is a longstanding feature of the festival, running for three weeks in the graveyard of an old church and seriously curated to prevent the usual "craft fair" tat from getting in, although I had a sense this year that the standards might be slipping a bit. One of the standards which was most certainly not slipping was that of my long-standing friend, Eleanor Barron, whom I haven't seen for ages, so it was nice to catch up with her.
What nobody was actually saying but everyone was hinting was that the fair was very poorly attended this year. Although I was there on the very last day, I have to say that it didn't seem as busy but the whole of Edinburgh seemed less busy than in previous years.
I spent the next few hours just wandering about, enjoying the nonsense that fills the streets every year.
Before heading off to my favourite restaurant for dinner.
Anyone who likes Malaysian food should head to Kampung Ali Malaysian Delight restaurant at Fountainbridge. It has the most bizarre decor:
and absolutely no ambiance but the staff are lovely and the food is excellent and cheap. Achar, Vegetarian Red Curry and a mango "bubble" tea for dinner!
On leaving the restaurant, I bumped into an old friend from Manchester whom I have not seen in ages and caught up with him for a while before moving off to the final engagement of the day, "Jekyll & Hyde", a fairly straight stage version of the Robert Louis Stevenson classic horror novel. The twist in this one was that Dr Jekyll was female, a conceit which would have worked if the actor playing her had been better. In fact, what let down this stylish performance - with music - was that the actors weren't capable of subtlety. The script - especially where it tackled gender politics - was an odd mix of quite subtle writing and painful immaturity. The whole thing needed tightening up and a cast of serious-minded, mature actors and it could have been a wonderful piece of intimate theatre. The set and costumes were brilliant, the idea is good and the writing showed flashes of wit and subtlety but overall, the whole didn't really work.
Back home. My new students start tomorrow. I don't feel ready!