Saturday, October 26, 2013

Futurism - Muse - A Ramble on music and a moment in art

A while back I received an unusual commission from fellow-jeweller, Poppy Porter, to make a piece using some titanium components from an F1 racing car. The pieces are beautifully-engineered and milled from solid blocks of metal.

Futurism - WIP - 1

This is the elements laid out after some consideration of the commission.

In conversation, it came out that she is a huge fan of the band Muse, a band in whom I was no more than mildly interested. I remember hearing their first album "Showbiz" and enjoying it enough but finding it somewhat derivative of Radiohead. I even found the overblown hysteria of the title track "Showbiz" and the pseudo-tango neuroses of "Uno" laugh-out-loud funny and never much bothered with them after that until I heard the recent track "Uprising" and the album from which it came, "The Resistance". Solidly in the tradition of the British prog rock of the likes of Pink Floyd, gloriously thieving wholesale from Ron Grainer/Delia Darbyshire's "Dr Who" theme, from Black Sabbath, Bowie and Chopin... (And the laugh-out-loud funny quality is still there, this time in the form of the brilliant Queen-inspired "Unnatural Selection".)

Poppy knew that she wanted me to make some sort of neck-piece or collar and we decided that it would be based on a Muse song, so I set out to listen to their entire recorded output over the period of a month or so and I decided on a rather obscure track - "Futurism" - from the Japanese release of the second album, "Origin of Symmetry", as the source.
(You can hear the song here. I can only link to it due to copyright restrictions.)

Further conversation with Poppy revealed that she is synaesthetic and that when she heard the song, she could hear orange and green, thus the pallete for the piece was defined.

For many years, I've had the ideas of Marinetti and the Futurists in mind and have tackled the fascinating nonsense spouted by the Futurists before in "La Bellezza Della Lotta". (Which translates as "the beauty of the struggle" and is taken from a speech by Luigi Einaudi, a prominent anti-fascist. I selected this phrase as it seemed to be something which the proto-Fascist Marinetti would have uttered.)

La Bellezza Della Lotta (Professional Photograph)


To me, Futurism seems to be not only a celebration of modernity and speed but of power and warfare and is something essentially masculine; it seems to encapsulate so many seemingly disparate elements and it denies both humanity and the possibility of god. Futurism was instantly dated and was never going to survive a real war - World War I - which swept away the bombast and glory in a muddy bloodbath but in many ways, it defined "The Shape of Things to Come", especially in the arts.

The first verse of the song reads:

Ignorance pulls
Apostasy and apathy still rules

Yeah you know it's cool
Just suck and see
A future turn us into silent gods
And I won't miss you at all

Which gave me the core "narrative" for the piece. Initially, I was drawn to work on a very abstracted anti-crucifix, as can be seen from the drawings I started to make:

Furturism Workbook - 2

Poppy was determined that I shouldn't have any reference to cruciforms!
My original drawings to had taken inspiration from another Futurist masterwork, Fritz Lang's 1927 "Metropolis" and it was this which allowed me to make the transition from the religious imagery to the more abstract.

'Metropolis' Poster

One of the legion of unfinished pieces which I am determined to finish also uses "Metropolis" imagery, the Chanel-inspired sautoir which I started last year:

Coco's Cogs - WIP - 3

(There will be more on this sautoir soon, as I intend to return to it before the end of the year.)
The use of the ideas from "Metropolis" about the role of religion in human society allowed me to bridge the gap between Poppy's request to avoid religious imagery in any form and the implied religious ideas in the song lyrics.

One aspect of the commission which I have found personally interesting has been the acknowlegment that I must thank the Futurists for paving the way for me to make fine jewellery from bits of machinery.

The piece is starting to shape up:

Futurism - WIP - 12

Technically, this is a very challenging piece as not only can I not solder the titanium at all but I am also unable to solder near it due to the way in which it changes colour on heating. The F1 car parts are very subtly coloured from the heat of having been in the car and preserving the finely-milled surface texture and the heat-colour is part of the concept.

The central section is partially CAD/CAM and partially fabricated - for me, CAD/CAM will only ever be an adjunct to my main practice of fabrication - and was drawn up in Rhino before being milled out in wax:

Futurism - 7


Futurism - WIP - 7

The waxes were then assembled into quarter-sections and cast in silver. The milling was done on a Revo-B milling machine, the operation of which can be seen briefly here:


More on this piece soon!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Catching Up - Pearls - Folkestone - Dapper Gentlemen

I've been on holiday and on either side of that holiday, I was exceptionally busy, so it is only tonight that I have managed to get some time to put together a blog post about what has been going on. I can barely believe that it is nearly the end of October and it seems like only yesterday that it was the start of the month and the Craft Scotland conference.

Evening Moon

As usual, I was in Brighton for the week and despite this photograph, the weather was broadly awful; cold, wet, windy. On the days when the weather seemed OK, I managed to get up to London to the "Pearls" exhibition at the V&A.

Light Spheres - 1

Unfortunately, I was not able to take any photographs in the exhibition space, which is a great pity as I would really like to have shown the amazing display materials. Yes, I am starting a review of a show with an outline of the display materials! Many of the incredible objects on display were shown in ornate Victorian display-safes, safes which were obviously designed to be used in retail jewellery shops and then, at the end of the day, the display can be pushed backwards and the door bolted. What was so amazing about these safes was that they were highly decorated, gilded, engraved and often with the mechanisms on display. This is making it sound as if the safes detracted from the exhibition, but they didn't. I was just really taken with them.

The show itself is fantastic, starting with a small section on how pearls are formed and harvested and then going through the ages with examples of jewellery and other objects using pearls in a decorative manner. The last section of the show is all about Mikimoto cultured pearls and the final object is a collection of galvanised buckets - slop-pail style - full of low-grade cultured pearls from China. Probably my favourite piece in the show is in the Mikimoto collection and is a very simple scarf made from 5000 perfectly-matched pearls which has been many years in the making.

The main thrust of the exhibition is really about the manner in which pearls have been used throughout history, from Pliny through Charles I (the pearl earring which was on his ear as he was beheaded is on display!), Marilyn Monroe and right up to today with contemporary designs by "Yoko" which are just incredible works, blending the variations in pearl colour to make utterly unique pieces.

There is a rather good book to accompany the exhibition, featuring essays on pearls - history, jewellery, trading, etc. - as well as photographs of works not in the exhibition.



I bought a new camera before heading off to London which boasts a lot of features I've been wanting for a while, especially the ability to stabilise the vintage and manual lenses that I like to use. I'm looking forward to seeing what I can do with it.

Cakes




Cursley & Bond - 5

On the Thursday, I headed off to Folkestone in Kent with Dingo to visit a small jewellery gallery - Cursley & Bond - where I have some work on display just now as part of their "Darkness Descends" exhibition.

I last visited Folkestone in 2009 when I went to see the Hythe Ossuary and found it to be a bit of a dump. Potentially a very attractive town but very run down and underinvested: how things have changed.

Nicola and Chris opened their shop in the newly-developed "Creative Quarter" of the old high street which runs down to the harbour, an area which has been extensively refurbished and which is attracting a lot of interesting creative businesses, especially people from London who are finding that city just too expensive to work or live in.

Creative Quarter

The shop is absolutely lovely and is stocked carefully and thoughtfully.

Cursley & Bond - 4

Cursley & Bond - 2

Nicola and Chris are wonderful, warm, welcoming people and it was a pleasure to speak to them about future collaborations, as well as to see the way in which they are acting as catalysts for the newly-developing creative community around them.

Cursley & Bond - 3

I was introduced to potential clients, to a painter, to two p√Ętissiers - and the best meringues ever - to a mosaic artist... It was exciting to be in the middle of an environment where everyone was actually doing things, making, creating and doing it successfully.

Folkestone is normally only an hour on the train from London (though it took us four hours to make the return journey to Brighton because of "signalling problems") and there is a real burst of energy about a lot of these semi-forgotten seaside towns because of that. Margate, Hastings and Folkestone are all going through a kind of renaissance which appears to be built around craftspeople making things and providing niche products and services. Long may it continue.



On the subject of "niche", I've been following a new blog, the Grey Fox Blog, a guide for older men who want to look good without the horrors of attempting to be fashionable. When I was eight or so, I wanted to be about fifty. I have no idea why I fixed on that age, but I thought that it would be great to be able to smoke cigars and wear suits and I probably imagined that everyone at fifty did that. I probably imagined that my father's friends were fifty and they wore suits and could do whatever they wanted to do - even if their tiny imaginations only pushed them in the direction of golf. Now, as I actually approach fifty, I realise that I wasn't wrong. So I don't smoke cigars or wear the sort of off-the-peg suits from chainstores that my father and his friends wore but I do have the odd ability to be able to do more-or-less whatever I want and that includes buying decent clothes.

One of the amazing things about this blog is that the writer manages to find and support craftspeople who are working in the UK and often making from British materials. Since discovering it, I've commissioned a hand-knitted pullover and have bought a new waistcoat from Sir Plus who make clothes out of scrap fabrics and cravats from Cravat Club who even weave their own silks!

Details

I'm even more delighted to be able to say that my cufflinks featured on the blog!

Of course, I had to make a cravat pin for that cravat...

Cravat Pin With Skull



Other than that, I've been in the workshop, working on a commission piece, "Futurism", based on a song of the same name by Muse. My original plans came to a sticky end when I couldn't bend 8mm tubing into a tight circle, so have had to model it in Rhino and cast the tube in sections!

Futurism - 7

Futurism - WIP - 9

More on this piece later.

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

A Sheepish Update!

I completely forgot that I spent some time during the conference over the weekend speaking to Rachel Skene - a friend and colleague of Patty Niemann's in Caithness - talking about her project "You Love Local". This is a scheme which aims to promote handmade and craft products by not only tracking products from start to finish but also to by giving them a "narrative", something of their back-story. She is also planning a level of managed quality control.

Rachel asked me to help her to publicise her initial research into the project using my blog and as it is a good idea in the first place and she is so passionate about it, I said that I would.

Have a look at the website and fill out her questionnaire - as a business, a consumer or both - and let's see what happens! (There are handmade prizes to be won...)

YOU LOVE LOCAL



She's Lost Control (Again) - 1

Other than that, not much doing in the workshop today. I made a similar button to the one I made for the Macclesfield Silk Museum earlier this year to a commission from someone who had seen it in the show.

Monday, October 07, 2013

Craft Scotland Conference

Dundee Morning

I have just returned from Dundee where I attended the Craft Scotland conference for 2013. As I have blogged before, I have a lot of time for Craft Scotland. I don't think that there is another national organisation in the world which has quite the energy and enthusiasm for promoting the makers from the country it represents, yet it is a tiny organisation with a huge vision. The British Council, The Crafts Council and the others all do very well, but they seem in some ways a bit hide-bound and finally meeting with some of the positive, buzzing people behind Crafts Scotland was one of the real pleasures of the weekend.

I know that I keep banging on about how great Dundee and every visit to the place makes me wish more and more that I could live there. The day started well with the exceptionally cheerful - if somewhat mischievous - staff in Caffe Nero, where I went to use Wifi and have a coffee before things kicked off. They suggested that I might want to take "an action shot" of them doing their job and so I complied. Unfortunately, I was using my new camera and this blurred effort was all that came out but I promised them that I would put it on my blog, so here it is:

Cafe Nero

The conference kicked off with coffee and a general introduction. It was great to see Diane King again, whom I haven't seen for about 5 years, as well as Anne-Marie Shilito and also to be introduced to people whom I have never met or who have only associated with me by social media (social media featured a lot in the conference).

Craft Scotland Conference 2013 - 1

The event was opened by Janet Archer, head of Creative Scotland (some of you may recall me blogging about the problems that this hitherto shambolic organisation had encountered, culminating in the champagne-Cannes fiasco) and Janet has been brought to clean up their act. Creative Scotland oversees and funds Craft Scotland - and I can't help but feel that the names could have been better differentiated - but by some miracle, Craft Scotland seems to have managed to avoid the taint of the previous mismanagement of Creative Scotland. Janet Archer put several peoples' backs up - mine included - from the start of her presentation by suggesting that her background in "contemporary dance" allowed her to understand craft practices by using some vague and wispy dancing around with definitions. To her credit, even she seemed slightly uncomfortable with this idea and rapidly moved on to more believable points such as her determination to get Creative Scotland back on track - something which she does seem to have been achieving - and to continue to support Craft Scotland in what it is doing.

The keynote speaker for the event was the charismatic Professor Hans Stofer who spoke wittily and movingly about both his own practice and his beliefs about craft practice in general, beliefs which chimed in deeply with my own - there is always something very pleasing about having one's beliefs (prejudices?) backed up by someone whom one respects! He talked about the need for honesty, how "the need to make a mark is primal and absolute", about his love of outsider art, discussed "the joy of making" and mentioned how his role as a teacher could be described as being that of a "critical irritant". Well, I am sure some of my students would agree with that description of my own role.

Craft Scotland Conference 2013 - 2

The main thrust of his talk was about the role of the designer in wider society, about how it is no longer necessary - or even desirable - for art-school graduates to all become artists, about how makers and craftspeople, artists and designers all have a wider role in society as problem-solvers and "different thinkers". While he was optimistic and positive and utterly convincing and I couldn't help agreeing with my philosophic brain, my pragmatic was telling me "the cretinous Gove would never understand".

("The Cretinous Gove" sounds like a Lewis Carroll invention.)

Hans' speech did exactly what is expected of a keynote: it set the tone. At no point in the following two days did the mood of the conference dip from the optimistic high in which he set it and the organisers, Fiona Logue and Roanne Dods are to be commended on this inspired choice.

Hans Stofer was a hard act to follow and some people might have baulked at so doing, especially if they were young, recent graduates and being asked to talk about their deeply personal journeys towards balancing their creative and business practices, often admitting failures and mistakes with painful honesty.

Craft Scotland Conference 2013 - 3

From left to right in the above photograph, we have Alex Dobbie, Laura Spring, Catherine Aitken and David Murphy, and Tom and Anna Luntley.

Alex, a design engineer, talked about his collaborations with his brother who is a silversmith (you may recall that I was much taken with his work in the Glasgow School of Art degree show) and how they have worked together to solve problems allowing his brother to accept commissions which he might otherwise have had to reject. They are also collaborating on a range of jewellery for mass-production.

Laura was probably the most developed of the group of makers and had actually taken her work to full, commercial production and it was admirable the way in which she spoke so honestly and openly about her mistakes and the way she felt about aspects of her production, about the compromises she had to make to get things done and about rejecting offers which while lucrative, were not right for her business or creative practice.

Catherine and David talked about accepting a large commission for the Edinburgh Sculpture Workshops and how they then used the money and the space to create the furniture and fittings for that space. Interestingly, their idea is to use the equipment and expertise already within the workshops to create furniture within budget and which is exactly suitable for the space.

Probably one of the most talked-about presentations of the whole two days came from Tom and Anna of "Bakery 47". They are both fine artists and have turned to baking (the dread words "artisan" and "artisanal" featured!) to allow themselves to collaborate as a husband-and-wife team making bread and cakes whilst also making a living. From my own point of view, they are a delightful couple and their idea of making top-notch, fine-quality baked goods as a team is as good as any. Their "local" ethos is superb but their determination to do it ALL themselves is not sustainable and whilst many people were enchanted by their story - a superb story it is too, most marketable - there were one or two people who dissented enough to say "it is not sustainable" or "they are going to burn out". I wish them well and have even agreed to buy bread from them but I also think that their essential romanticism about "community" and the insular nature of their production is going to grind them down rapidly and I think that this is something which many small makers experience: their work is their life and they don't realise how much work they are doing until something gives. With Tom and Anna, they are very much community-based and it struck me and a few others that their business is perfect for converting into a community enterprise project, something which could then be rolled out into other communities, fitting in with not only their own ethos but with the general Zeitgeist.

Lunch!
Yes, all that was a morning's work.

During the lunch interval, we got a chance to meet and chat as well as look at Beth Lamont's thoughtfully-curated "We Dundee" craft show of makers from Dundee, including a stand of jewellery from Vanilla Ink (I blogged about them some time ago too!).

Craft Scotland Conference 2013 - 4

The afternoon was a bit of a curate's egg and started off with an unfocussed and vague conversation between Amanda Game - an experienced and talented curator with an impressive understanding of Scottish applied arts - and Philip Long, the director of the new V&A at Dundee.

Craft Scotland Conference 2013 - 6

Amanda's microphone only worked intermittently, which didn't help anything but at times they appeared to be talking at cross-purposes about different things and the whole event smacked of not having been properly discussed or planned beforehand. There were some interesting points made throughout the exchange but by the end there were more than a few people scratching their heads and I think there is an irony in that one of the isolated notes I made during the talk says "Precision of language"!

One of the useful things I got from the talk was of the idea that a "creative ecology" could be cultivated using "Technology, Talent and Tolerance".

This was a disappointing session as both Philip and Amanda are such luminaries that I had been hoping for something a bit more dynamic.

Craft Scotland Conference 2013 - 9

After this we all broke up into small groups to discuss the idea of a "Scottish Craft Renaissance", which was just what was needed after spending the morning and most of the afternoon in the lecture theatre and the debates were lively. One of the great advantages of this was that it introduced us all to people we hadn't met previously and allowed us to mix and find out a bit about each others' practices.

These sessions were the first place where I began to notice that there was an "elephant in the room", the elephant being the divisive and unpleasant one of "Independence" and the confusion between what I defined as "Craft Scotland" and "craft scottish". For me, any development of craft in Scotland has to be real and sustainable; it has to be about small makers and communities of makers and they have to be supportive of each other. What I am not talking about it a bunch of hobbyists selling at a loss or break-even at craft fairs or, worse, selling imported "made in China" tat which they have somehow wrangled a "Made in Scotland" or "Harris Tweed" label onto. A craft renaissance in Scotland has to be about micro-businesses and government, local, national or Salmond's Edinburgh-centric talking shop, MUST take on board the fact that there are loads of efficient, sustainable, ethical and ecological one- or two-person craft micro-businesses out there who do NOT want to grow (such as Natalie Fergie's hand-dyed wool). They do not need to grow and, indeed, growing could wreck their sustainability. Government agencies seem to see growth as the only measure of business success, completely neglecting that someone may live very sustainably on a smaller scale, providing a product or service to a community and in return keeping the economy of that local community ticking over.

Unfortunately, I spoke to many people who simply didn't get this idea. What was encouraging was that this was definitely in the sights of the business support people to whom I spoke - more on them later - but it seemed beyond the grasp of some of the more "hobbyist" people present and was even outright - and somewhat nastily - rejected by one person I spoke to who actually criticised my friend and colleague Angus Ross for employing people to help him make his furniture. (This person also said that they wouldn't support local craftspeople as they would rather buy from a multiple and spend the balance on "a nice dinner", openly laughed at me when I was pointing out the importance of makers supporting each other and then bleated complaints about IKEA's historic practice of ripping off independent desingers. An exception in the course of the conference, thankfully.)

The tension between "Craft Scotland" and the "Independence" debate was unfortunately not tackled. The one person from Craft Scotland with whom I attempted to discuss it quite understandably stuck to the line that "Craft Scotland" was not involved in politics and while I accept that she has to say this, it is essential that the issue is discussed in some way. At the moment, anything labelled "Scotland" or "Scottish" runs the risk of being associated with the pro-independence movement; there is a danger that Scottish Crafts - as practiced by any craft practitioner in Scotland, be they a Colombian-born Fair Isle knitter, me or a retired Berkshire-born teacher making ceramics in Fife - becomes associated with the nationalist agenda. As the vast majority of people in Scotland are anti-independence (67% at the last poll, myself included in that number), this could be detrimental to the craft renaissance.

I mentioned above that I had the idea that there was a difference between "Craft Scotland" and "craft scottish" and this is another of the issues about which I feel very strongly. I was horrified to discover - I think it was from Laura Spring, but I could be wrong - that a huge volume of Harris Tweed is bought up and shipped to China, where it is made into iPad covers, phone ocvers and the like. This then comes back to Scotland for "finishing" and has the Harris Tweed orb attached and a "Made In Scotland" label put on it. This is not only dishonest but is actually undermining craft practice and one of the roles that Craft Scotland should think about taking on is that of policing standards such as this. Is this a time for the creation of the crafts version of the British Kitemark? Perhaps a uniquely Scottish Craft Kitemark?
I realise that not everyone will agree with that. These are just my personal thoughts and I am sure that other participants took away other things.

Time to break for Cakes from Bakery 47!

Craft Scotland Conference 2013 - 7

The final session of the day was from Fi and Vana of the amazing project Makeworks:

Craft Scotland Conference 2013 - 11


Just to be clear, I will say from the outset that I do not think that Fi, Vana, their photographer Ross or their sponsors (Jerwood Trust and Creative Scotland) realise how important, how impressive or how useful this project is. Fi and Vana are funny and personable and while their presentation was dynamic and exciting, their project was more.

They set off in a VW Camper van and toured around Scotland for 90 days aiming to visit as many makers and suppliers as they could with a view to creating a directory of all the people in Scotland who could be drawn upon for craft practice: sandcasters, tanneries, jewellers, potters, stone-cutters, knife-makers, weavers, spinners... The only criteria for inclusion in the directory is that the organisation or person had to be prepared to work with anyone else. What this means is that they have created a directory of resources for craftspeople: should I, for example, require a piece of granite cut, I will be able to find out where to do that.

One of the advantages of living in a small country!




Day Two

Day two was all about small groups and presentations by a variety of speakers. I am delighted to say that I chose to go to the talk by the wonderful Patricia van den Akker of The Design Trust.

Craft Scotland Conference 2013 - 13


Patricia is a whirlwind of wit, imagination and energy and the first group I went to was her "Pricing Is Personal" seminar. I will confess to having an issue with pricing my work. I think that many small makers do. We get so close to what we are doing that we lose sight of the larger picture. Patricia spoke for almost two hours and not once did she touch on anything which wasn't relevant to the subject in hand. This talk was essential for any maker who feels that their pricing might not be appropriate for the value of their work and she addressed both psychological and economic issues which affect how we price things as well as giving guidance on how to change pricing practice and position your product within the market. When I have attended talks like this in the past, the speaker has often been from a business-school background and it is all about market anaylsis and margins or worse, there are graphs in the presentations. Patricia is a graphic design graduate and her mum ran a gift-shop in the Netherlands; she came to London and started work with New Designers, so her background is not business-school but craft and design, which is refreshing. She understands the issues. I was so completely taken with her presentation that I skipped out of my scheduled afternoon presentation by Maklab - I am already fairly clear about what they do: sorry, Richard! - and went to hers instead, where we learned about diversifying income streams which, again, sounds boring to anyone who is more at home in the studio but which I can assure you that it was useful and interesting and I am very glad that I decided to go to this event.

All makers will benefit from visiting The Design Trust website and Patricia's talk has fired me up to redevelop my website and to move to start selling work directly though the website

And that was the end. A quick vote of thanks from Fiona and Roanne and we all departed for our various modes of transport home. My own journey home by train was considerably lightened by meeting with Sally Johnston of "Starter for 6" an organisation developing business startups in the creative sectors. I cannot believe that we have never met before as it turned into one of those conversations where we knew all the same people, hung out in all the same places but had never actually even spotted each other!

A truly inspiring weekend.

Discovery

Thursday, October 03, 2013

More from the Bench (and a Weekend Away!)

What a week! There was a bank-holiday here on Monday, so it has been quick and packed and suddenly I find it is Thursday evening, nearly the weekend already.

Continuing with finishing off projects, I have completed my last "Tank" bracelet, this one more in my usual style and called "The Spoils Of War":


The Spoils of War - Tank Bracelet - 4

I've also been tempted from the way of completion by a side-project to make a cufflink trio using orange stones, a project inspired by a conversation on Twitter:

Autumn Fox - Cufflink Trio - 4

But have returned to completing commissions, including a commission to duplicate a button I made for "The Button Project" at Macclesfield Silk Museum over the summer:

She's Lost Control - 1

This is the original: I've not photographed the second one yet but will do so when it is finished.

Most excitingly, I have finally got round to starting a commission which has been exciting me for a long time as it is taking me right out of my normal materials and into the high-tech world of machined titanium from F1 racing cars. The brief is to use some discarded parts from one of these cars to make a collar based on the themes from the song "Futurism" by Muse!

Here are the parts:

Futurism - WIP - 1

And here is the song:




Off to the Craft Scotland conference in Dundee this weekend. Anyone who is going to be there should come and say 'hello' if you see me!

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Trevi Pendro, Alexander McQueen and Me

Many years ago, I realised that Alexander McQueen was not a couturier in the usual sense of the word. It was his commission of the collar from Shaun Leanne for his 2001 catwalk show which drew my attention to his work - the collar is a stunning assembly of lethal silver spikes and grey pearls, seen at 7:40 in the video below - and the show just blew me away. From that moment on, I never thought of McQueen as a clothing designer but as a sculptor, a critic, an historian, someone with a deeply dystopian vision and an incredible understanding of not only the history of fashion but of the history of Europe.


It was McQueen's re-imagining of history through a dystopian lens which appealed to me, and when I started to develop my own "Post-Apocalyptic" works, I realised that I was, in my own small way, treading a similar ground; looking at the history of jewellery and re-interpreting it. McQueen used antique flags and Japanese printed screens: I used corroded iron conduit and the legs of tables.

Over the short period from the emergence of my Post-Apocalyptic works in 2007 or so until February of 2010, I had been plucking up courage to contact McQueen and ask him if he would be interested in some sort of a collaboration - hubris, some might say, but I postponed and postponed, fearing rejection - and decided to write to him on Monday 8th February. I have no idea what finally persuaded me to write, where that courage came from but it was all to no avail. He died on Thurdsday 11th February.

Jump to March 2013 and I have not really discussed this incident with many people. Dingo knew of my plan to write and I have told a handful of people subsequently but when I was visiting California College of the Arts at the invitation of Curtis Arima, I fell into discussion about Alexander McQueen with one of the students, Trevi Pendro:


As part of a class she was taking with Marilyn da Silva, she had to make a thimble for a famous person and contacted me to discuss using ideas from my own work - especially the "Four Cocktail Rings of the Apocalypse" - in her thimble which is made for McQueen, admirably incorporating my lensing of jewellery history into my own personal history.



I love this piece. An "unusable" thimble, referencing the way in which I used gemstones on "War" and Pestilence":

The Four Cocktail Rings Of The Apocalypse (Professional Photograph): War

The Four Cocktail Rings Of The Apocalypse (Professional Photograph): Pestilence



A fantastic project and one which has garred me to action to finish my own tribute to Alexander McQueen, "Fashion:Victim" -

Fashion:Victim - In Memoriam ALMcQ (WIP 56)

Now heading up the "to do" list!

Fashion:Victim - In Memoriam ALMcQ (WIP 46)