Friday, November 01, 2013


This last week has been a whirlwind of activity and has left me feeling drained but exhilirated. I may as well not beat about the bush and say that I have been nominated as "Scotland's Most Stylish Male" at the bi-annual Scottish Style Awards. This came as a genuine bolt-from-the-blue shock and intially, I thought that one of the students was having a joke with me about my generally dishevelled workshop appearance but it turned out to be genuine and based on the article about me which was in the Scotland on Sunday magazine last year, written by Peter Ross and photographed by Simon Murphy and Andrew Neilson. Some of you will recall the images taken by Simon:


As you can see, Simon is an amazing photographer and we subsequently worked together on the Enough Violence: Artists Speak Out show at the SCC in Pittsburgh.

I love working with Simon. He is a bundle of energy and bursting with ideas and has an amazing eye for an image and for the details in that image. Andrew Neilson is the photographer I use for my jewellery shots and he has an amazing eye too, but in a very different way:

Macbeth Brooch

One of the things I've learned from working with Andrew is the importance of having not just a good photographer but a great one. If I hasn't started working with him, I doubt that I would have had anything like the success that I have had in recent years with being featured in books and magazines. His images capture the detail and spirit of my work and he instinctively knows which bits of a piece are to be emphasised. When I work with Andrew, the only instruction I give him is "white background" or "black background" and he does the rest.

I noticed on Crafthaus recently that Sharon Massey and Cortland de Witt are putting together a show and book about brooches made for men, Supbrooch. An excellent idea and one about which I am, naturally, very excited and I asked Simon if he could take some shots for me within the very short timespace of the deadline - 22nd November - thinking that we would stick some brooches on my studio technician, Iain, or one of the students or something like that and he asked me for a few days to think about what he could do.

Synthesising a project of his own, my book project and the recent news about my "Style Award", I found myself in the studio with a Simon, his technician, Connor, a stylist, Alan Moore, three models an owl, a Russian eagle, a falcon and a Harris hawk...

Photoshoot for "supbrooch" - 19

Here you can see Phil from World of Wings, Simon, Connor Close the photography technician, and model Stew Bryden of Superior Model Management. Stew is wearing a Harris Tweed jacket by Alan Moore at Ten30 studios.

In every way, this was a collaboration. The clothes were made by and the shoot was styled by Alan Moore.

Photoshoot for "supbrooch" - 20

Alan has been making woman's wear for some years and has recently been working with the Harris Tweed Authority to make some test pieces of menswear for them. The jackets in this shoot are the tests and this is the first outing of them in public. I am also really pleased to say that I am going to be wearing one of his jackets at the Scottish Style Awards event on 9th November. Alan also makes a rather good model...

Photoshoot for "supbrooch" - 25

I particularly love the way the eagle is just about to notice the swallow on Alan's arm!

The three brooches we were modelling were "Imperial Overcoat Star Of The Order Of Aksentii Poprishchin", "Future Legend" and "Richard III", all of which were photographed by Andrew and which we used in various ways on the models:

Photoshoot for "supbrooch" - 7

Here John Morris of Colours Agency models a jacket based on a traditional fisherman's jacket and my  "Imperial Overcoat Star Of The Order Of Aksentii Poprishchin" with a Harris hawk.  I really like Alan's work as it contains narrative elements of the sort I use in my own jewellery, right down to including embroidered texts in the linings, rather as the back of this brooch is engraved with text from Gogol's "Diary of a Madman".

Photoshoot for "supbrooch" - 4

Simon giving instruction on how he would like John to stand. I wouldn't be a model - even if I looked the part - for anything! Too much sitting around, standing around, having to do what you are told.

Photoshoot for "supbrooch" - 18

Here we have Stew Bryden again, modelling my "Richard III" brooch with another of Alan's jackets and a hood/scarf by ChouChou Couture. I was really dubious about this hood until I saw it worn and now I think I would quite like one! Here he is holding a falcon.

The most impressive part of the day for everyone was the chance to handle some of the birds and Phil, the bird handler, was great at letting us all hold them. His Russian eagle is very impressive:

Photoshoot for "supbrooch" - 24

The final model we worked with was John O'Hagen of The Model Team agency who cut a fine dash in this wonderful 70's-styled dinner jacket based on ideas around Scottish racing driver Jackie Stewart:

Photoshoot for "supbrooch" - 30

He is wearing my "Future Legend" brooch.

I have no idea how these guys deal with this. I was exhausted at the end of the day and all I did was clean up bird mess and put brooches on people. It was a brilliant experience and enormously good fun:

And I think that the end result shows that it is not just important but critical that makers work with professionals to promote their work. On the strength of these photographs, I have been asked to write a few words for inclusion in the fashion pages of the Scotland on Sunday.
Also: Sharon, if you are reading this, we are after the cover shot!

There has been a lot going on in the workshop too. Apart from working on my commissioned piece, "Futurism", I've also decided that I want a new piece to wear to the awards event discussed above and so started work on "Verklärte Nacht", a brooch I've been thinking about making for some time:

Verklärte Nacht - WIP - 3

Over the last year, I've been increasingly drawn to corroded barbed-wire and this is the first piece I've made from it.  It has absolutely nothing to do with the text of the original but a lot to do with my response to the sound-world of what is not only a landmark in contemporary music but also one which I find absolutely overwhelming. Made from barbed wire from a collapsed fence in Sussex, a labradorite skull, quartz moon and seven natural brownish diamonds. I've still to polish and patinate it but that will be done today.

"Futurism" progresses:

Futurism - WIP - 13

I should get a lot more of this done next week.