Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Wish You A Merry...

Christmas Tat

The last few weeks have been busy but ultimately I've not really achieved very much. The photograph above just about sums up my current attitude to Christmas and the plasti-tat landfill festival it has come to represent, not much aided by reading this important if miserable report by the wonderful people at MakeWorks: Christmas, Handmade in China.

Handmade in Scotland, however, I've been pretty busy in the workshops and making up not only work for myself in the form of a watch-chain of my own - after being so pleased with the one I made for Simon, but also finishing off some other pieces. One of my students - Inness Thomson - made the latest addition to my wardrobe, this pair of 1950s-inspired jet-pack cufflinks:

Space-Age Jet-Pack Rocket-Ship Cufflinks - 1

This is only the second piece I've ever bought from a student and I really love the humour of them, as well as the quality of the manufacture.

My own watch-chain was also completed this week, a double-Albert chain with a fob and a swivel seal in the centre.

My Own Watch Chain, Completed - 1

The whole is set with garnets, a black diamond, amethyst, carved bone and tsavorite garnet. The little key hanging from the central section is the key for my 1812 Birmingham-made full-hunter pocket watch and the chain contains bits of bike chain, keys, one of the silver antlers and a cast-silver skull from a tiny mammal (no idea what it is - one of my students gave me it a while back).

I made the seal digitally and I'm really pleased that the impression is as clear as it is:

My Own Watch Chain Completed - 7 - The Seal

The fob was constructed from one of the discs from a broken date-stamp which I found last summer, set with garnets and a large moonstone:

My Own Watch Chain Completed - 11


My Own Watch Chain Completed - 10

The cufflinks I was making for Dapper Gent have proved to be somewhat fraught but at long last they have been finished and delivered, despite the best efforts of the Post Office/Royal Mail to fail to get them there. Although completely unlike my usual work, I think that these are a success:

The Dapper Gent Cufflink Order - 2

Having banned the students from making heart-shaped forms for the annual Christmas sale - which was probably the best-ever in terms of turnover and profit - the degree students challenged me to make a heart-shaped piece. I have tackled hearts before when I made the "Beneath the Skin" work a few years ago:

Beneath The Skin (WIP) 60

This time I decided to make another anatomical piece but thought that I would go with the very standard "heart-shape" stone and make something anatomical around that. I've been making some experiments with texture in Rhino and started to model up a vaguely anatomically-correct ribcage:

Ribcage Model

This was then produced in two forms, firstly I tried to mill it myself but it was also sent to be printed in castable wax at Shapeways. The milled version partially failed due to the limitations of tool access and the wax had to be cleaned up manually, which led to the loss of the textures on the wax but it cast well and I made it into a small pendant with a heart-shaped garnet stone inside and bio-mechanical aorta, set with garnets sticking out. Unfortunately, at this scale (about 25mm long) the internal stone isn't really visible as a heart:

I Am Lazarus - Pendant - 3

I Am Lazarus - Pendant - 4



Down in Brighton now and relaxing! Excellent. Sunday night was spent at the annual "Burning the Clocks" festival, a kind of pseudo-pagan fire festival to celebrate the winter solstice:

Burning the Clocks - 13

Burning the Clocks - 14

Burning the Clocks - 6


Burning the Clocks - 2

That's all from me for the season. I'll post a review of the year next week. Have a good holiday!

Saturday, December 06, 2014

Festive Frenzy

Edinburgh Christmas - 5

A busy week in the run up to the festive season.

Kicked off with the pleasing completion of a watch-chain for my friend and colleague, Simon Murphy. I've worked a lot with Simon over the year and his photographs of my work being worn have been important in getting it out to a wider audience. He already wears a bracelet I made for him ages ago:

Antler Bracelet - 2

And I wanted the watch chain to reflect this but also to have something about his photography in it. I have a large collection of lenses and camera parts in the workshop, so put together a chain which has a detachable fob element consisting of a broken "magic lantern" slide behind a lens and a glass element from a camera:

Watch Fob For A Photographer - 2

In classical "Double Albert" style, this is worn on the opposite side from the watch and is nearly always a decorative foil to the watch worn on the other.

Photographer's Watch Chain - 7

By removing the fob and swinging the chain over, it can be worn as a Single Albert.
The carved bone face in the middle of this is a classic swivel seal:

Photographer's Watch Chain - 6

Photographer's Watch Chain - 10



This week was also the week of the student Christmas sale and it was something of a bumper year, largely due to the fact that the product was - dare I say? - rather better than in previous years. I think that there was less work but of a much higher standard and which also managed to be both interesting and "commercial".

Student Christmas Sale 2014 - 2

There was a good range of work, too, including smallworks and jewellery for men:

Nicola Fabian - 1

Paula Sloan

Catherine Innes


John O'Neill

The sale travelled around Glasgow to the various campuses of the college, which was absolutely brilliant and surprisingly they took more on one day in one of the campuses with less activity than they did on the main campus over three days!



Off to Edinburgh for the "Limited Edition" show at Edinburgh College of Art. This is a brilliant project to introduce their third-year degree students to digital manufacture and involves them in having to produce and sell commercial product in conjunction with an external casting company and the third year graphic-design students who make the packaging.

Unfortunately, I was really remiss and didn't manage to get notes on the names of the people who showed us around or who made what. The ECA website doesn't help either, as there is no list of participants, which is sad as some of the work is lovely.

Limited Edition - 4

Some of the ECA students talking to my students about the works.

Limited Edition - 1

Limited Edition - 5

Limited Edition - 10

Limited Edition - 7

It makes me wish that we had a graphics design department to help with the packaging!
Although the show is over, it is still possible to catch it for one weekend at the National Museum of Scotland on the 13th and 14th of December.



We headed from there to Dovecot Studios to see their "Selected" show, a selling show of work by a variety of contemporary craftspeople around Scotland and it was lovely to see some of my "old favourites" (if I can be forgiven for calling people in their early 20s "old favourites"!) from the degree shows over the years now represented as serious makers, including new work by Emelie Westerlund:

Selected - Dovecot Arts - 2

And classic work by Ana├»s Paulard:

Selected - Dovecot Arts - 3

This is not just a jewellery show, but there are works in glass, ceramic and textiles. One of the particularly fine aspects of this show is that the viewer is invited to interact with some of the works and this is a departure to be encouraged. It is incredibly bold of Jessica Howarth to allow the viewer to actually handle her precious metal and enamel pieces, for example:

Selected - Dovecot Arts - 4

Some of the work really needs to be handled to be appreciated, such as the laser-cut neckpieces by Naomi McIntosh:

Selected - Dovecot Arts - 5



This week also brought me the unexpected invite to attend a fashion show celebrating the "Little Black Dress". Not something I would necessarily have chosen to go to but Mary McGowne of The Scottish Style Awards and The Vine PR company suggested that I might know someone who would like to go with me and I invited Janine along for a French Martini and a fashion show!

Janine and French Martini

Needless to say, Betty and Bee were there in the form of their stylish selves and Sheri was looking quite the part as she sashayed down the catwalk to the bar...

"Little Black Dress" - Fashion Show - 1

We genuinely thought her LBD was one of the best of the night!
(Yes, that is David Barbarossa in the DJ booth: more at the end of this post.)

"Little Black Dress" - Fashion Show - 3

It is funny to think that just about 18 months ago, the world of "fashion" was a closed book to me, even though I knew a lot about it.



There is a slight hiatus in the workshop just now as I am waiting for the delivery of a batch of cufflinks from my caster, so I decided to start making a watch chain for myself, inspired by the one I made for Simon. I do wear a watch chain on my waistcoats but I made it many years ago and while it is not an ordinary chain by any means, it is not exactly inspired, nor does it reflect my more recent work:

My OWN Watch Chain

This, too, will have a swivel, a seal and some sort of a fob.



I had a night out in Edinburgh last night with my good friend, John. Our visit to the Christmas Market is an annual event and while we never buy anything at it, it is just good to walk about and see what is going on.

Edinburgh Christmas - 2

With any luck, the rest of the weekend will be quiet.



As mentioned above, David Barbarossa played at the fashion show on Thursday night and he opened his catwalk set with Moloko's "Pure Pleasure Seeker" which I love: the bass clarinet gives me goosbumps. It reminded me that I've not listened to Moloko for a long time and commented on this on Twitter, to which Mary replied that I should listen to Roisin Murphy's own album of Italian songs which came out earlier in the year. I hadn't heard of this at all and it is brilliant. Not only that, but Roisin has it on a Soundcloud page for you to enjoy.

And just because I can, here is not only "Pure Pleasure Seeker":


But also my absolute favourite song by her, "The Truth" with Handsome Boy Modelling School:


Sunday, November 23, 2014

Long Winter Nights

An eventful week which included my 50th birthday!

I've been in Edinburgh again for a couple of events, taking in the current show of work by the Northern Irish family of Silversmiths "The McCrory Family" as well as Tania Clarke Hall's incredible jewellery made from leather. My main reason for visiting was to pick up my brooch by Dorothy Hogg from The Scottish Gallery:

Brooch By Dorothy Hogg

I loved this brooch the moment I saw it in the company of two others and I'm delighted to say that all three sold. It is made from blackened, satinised steel and has been embellished simply and elegantly with silver and gold wire inlays.

The show of work by the McCrory family really stands out for simplicity, beautiful use of colour and elegant forms. Consisting of husband-and-wife team of Michael and Deirdre McCrory and their daughter, Cara Murphy, the show is very fresh, assured and quite delightful. It is lovely to see a collection of work which is "just" superb craftsmanship and this is exactly what is on display here.

This candelabra is without a doubt my favourite piece in the show.


Cara Murphy - Growing Wild - Image courtesy of The Scottish Gallery

You can download the illustrated catalogue here.

There is a lot of enamel in the show too - the candelabra above has subtle purple enamel in some of the cups - but it is enamel used calmly to create tranquil and beguiling surfaces:

Michael McCrory - Enamelled Small Blister Box - Enamel by Deirdre McCrory - Image courtesy of The Scottish Gallery

Alongside this, by complete contrast, was work by an artist I had never previously encountered, Tania Clarke Hall, showcasing work made from hand-cut leather which is then gilded or painted to create bold, sculptural forms which demand interaction.


Tania Clarke Hall - Twist And Shout - Image courtesy of The Scottish Gallery

Tania Clarke Hall - Entropy - Image courtesy of The Scottish Gallery
I love the curatorial practice at The Scottish Gallery, where the primary concern appears to be craftsmanship.



Next up was the opening of the new gallery space at the Precious Metals Workshop in Edinburgh.

PMW Gallery Opening - Wall Decoration

The workshops were set up by Iain Nicholson and are a mixture of rentable bench-spaces and artists-in-residence and until last week had no gallery space in which to show work. They are based in one of the new multi-function artspaces which have been springing up everywhere, this one a converted army drill hall. While these spaces present problems for makers using specialist equipment, Iain has done a brilliant job of equipping the studios to a very high standard and in bringing in the very best of Edinburgh's contemporary jewellers.

PMW Gallery Opening - General

I was invited by Jenny Laidlaw, whom I hadn't seen in ages and it was pure serendipity that the opening happened to be on an evening when I had been going to be in the city anyway.

PMW Gallery Opening - Jenny Laidlaw and Another


PMW Gallery Opening - Jenny Laidlaw


The gallery is small but there is a good selection of work, including a number of pieces of work by silversmiths. (It is encouraging to see more silverwares being shown recently in various venues.) The work is all by makers who use the workshops and is exceptionally varied, from found object works by Jo Garner:

PMW Gallery Opening - Jo Garner

Through the new digital jewellery works of Kathryn Hinton (as well as the silverwares we all know and love!):

PMW Gallery Opening - Kathryn Hinton 2

There are phenomenal silver objects by Jamie Hamper:

PMW Gallery Opening - Jamie Hamper

And the seeming oxymoron of "exquisite barbed-wire" by Iain Nicholson:

PMW Gallery Opening - Iain Nicholson 2

Rather than link to individual makers, have a look at the makers page on the PMW website.

At this point, I have to make an apology to Hilda Toothill, who spent time showing me round the workshops - for which I was very grateful - then when I got home I found that my photographs of her work were unusable. Make sure to have a look at her work here!



All the students are beginning to make up work for the Christmas sale. I've only just realised that I don't usually blog this and have no idea why. We've run this event for about 20 years now and every year it has just got better and better. The students get to make work and sell it and the department gets a small percentage to buy a piece of equipment. This year we are going to get a high-power ultrasonic cleaner.

If you're in Glasgow, you would be very welcome to attend!


There will be more on this over the next few weeks.



On the subject of Christmas, anyone in Folkestone should have a look at the Cursley & Bond Christmas event. My "Lobster Quadrille" earrings feature on the flyer!




As to my own bench, it is awash with projects, including a double-Albert watch chain:

Photographer's Watch Chain - WIP - 1

A ring which I can't publish just now, the conversion of one of my "Chance to Cut/Chance to Cure" letter-knives into a brooch which still allows the piece to function as a knife:

Trepanation/A Chance to Cure - Brooch and Knife - 3

A tension-set pendant for the student fund-raising raffle prize:

Sprung Washer - 2

Which then led to a commission which I also can't yet show! There is also a garnet and iron ring made from an old roller-bearing:

Roller Bearing (Boogie) - WIP - 1

And the beginnings of a collar made from pen-nibs to compliment the earrings I made some time ago:

Calder Serafiniamus - WIP - 1


Written Word Earring Trios - 9



While in Edinburgh, I picked up a copy of Fraser Moodie's "PROFOUND", a new Scottish fashion publication featuring some of my work:

PROFOUND - Fraser Moodie - 1

This magazine is enormous!

PROFOUND - Fraser Moodie - 2



As I mentioned above, it was my 50th birthday this week and although I've not really ever been bothered by birthdays before, this one seemed important. When I was a kid, I thought that it would be cool to be "50" and even remember asking my mum for a suit when I was about eight. I think that I had the idea that my father and his friends must have been fifty - although they were probably only about 30! - and since then it has always seemed important, some sort of goal and strangely, as I've approached it, things have got better and better, so no complaints from me... no mortgage, good health, my bike, Dingo, my work being appreciated, a job I enjoy, voluntary work. Long may that continue.

As a bit of a celebration, I bought a new shirt from the excellent S.E.H Kelly - the tweed and corduroy shirt I am wearing in the image at the top of this post - and found that I had no room in the wardrobe, so have spent the last few days redding out the clothes I no longer wear, the odd socks, the ill-judged choices and preparing it for either recycling or for giving to the college fashion department for their annual second-hand clothes sale. Three suitcases filled, four large carrier bags full, five pairs of shoes...

My colleagues at work found me some excellent presents, which I was not expecting at all - we don't really have a culture of celebrating birthdays at work - and there was cake!

Birthday Presents

Lots of cake. One from the staff and another one from the students, one of whom gave me this:

A birthday present from some of my ex and current students!

I went down to Brighton for my actual birthday - on the Sunday - and there was cake.

Cakes for Tea

I'm reminded of Louis Jordan's song lyric, "Lawdy, lawdy, you're fat and forty..."!