Monday, June 23, 2014

Two Presentations in Three Days!

What a week! Not only have we been finishing off with the students for the year - and sometimes for ever, really - but I've been doing my best to help Karen Dicken to get the "Handmade By Machines" exhibition and symposium together. I have to confess that I rather fell short on that one as we had far too much work to do for the marking of the degree students, but I was able to volunteer the services of our excellent technician, Iain, just visible in the white shirt at the end of this shot:

Handmade By Machines - 2014 - 22

The exhibition runs at The Lighthouse until 13th July and I urge everyone to have a look. It is fantastic. Last year was good but this year is exceptional.

Handmade By Machines - 2014 - 13

It is an exhibition of jewellery by HNC and HND Jewellery students (and the staff who teach them) and all the work must have used CAD/CAM processes at some point in the development. Some of the work is pure CAD/CAM but most of it integrates the processes with those of tradtional bench skills:

Handmade By Machines - 2014 - 4

Handmade By Machines - 2014 - 12

The work is universally exceptional and fresh.

Handmade By Machines - 2014 - 16

Handmade By Machines - 2014 - 20

The difference between this year and last is that this year ALL the Scottish colleges with a jewellery course have taken part and Karen organised a symposium to discuss process, philosophy and politics relating to the use of technology in the jewellery industry. Karen opened the symposium with a talk about the history of the exhibition and a little about her own work:

Handmade By Machines - 2014 - 23

On the platform, alongside myself, there was John Edwards who was talking about limitations and advances in direct metal printing:

Handmade By Machines - 2014 - 25

Unfortunately, I have no photographs of my own talk in process - perhaps obviously! - but if you are interested in reading the talk (and the speaker's notes), they are available here: By MachinesTalk.pdf

My basic thesis is that if you are going to use this technology, it had better be an integrated part of your bench practice or there are pitfalls awaiting.

During the interval, there were various people from industry to speak to, including John Edwards with his direct-printed metal samples:

Handmade By Machines - 2014 - 27

My colleague, David Webster, quizzing John:

Handmade By Machines - 2014 - 26

There were also samples of Solidscape waxes to handle:

Handmade By Machines - 2014 - 28

Can you spot the Ted Noten wax?!

Next up was Kathryn Hinton who spoke about her incredible silverwares and her marriage of very traditional processes with digital processes which she has developed herself:

Handmade By Machines - 2014 - 29

Handmade By Machines - 2014 - 30

Finally came Jonathon Matthew Boyd who gave us a talk about the role that digital design and manufacture play in his own work, including a bit about the phenomenal medals which he has designed for the 2014 commonwealth games in Glasgow:

Handmade By Machines - 2014 - 31

He showed us the best illustration of the lost wax casting process I have ever seen, drawn by the 5 year-old son of one of his friends:

Handmade By Machines - 2014 - 32

The whole event was brilliant and the turnout was huge - about 150 people. I knew that it was a success when I spotted this illustrious line-up in the audience:

Handmade By Machines - 2014 - 24

Middle left (in pink), Anne Marie Shillito, centre, Elizabeth Moignard, middle right, Stephen Bottomley.

There is a video about the exhibtion on The Lighthouse YouTube stream:

Can't wait for next year. The Lighthouse have asked for it to be even bigger!

Handmade By Machines - 2014 - 21

Next morning, I set off in the car for Sleaford in Lincolnshire, where I was to be speaking again on Saturday on a completely different subject. Unfortunately, due to hassles over a lost hard-drive (found in a plate of half-eaten cake), I managed to leave my suit hanging in the workshop. I was wearing a scruffy old teeshirt and red shorts. Not suitable for presenting a serious talk...


I stopped in at Lincoln and spent £120 on a new outfit, which was somewhat annoying but which managed to look OK and not at all improvised:

Conference Wear

Much better!
Sleaford is an attractive town with a fine mix of mediaeval and Victorian details. You can really see that the town came into its own in the Victorian era but there is something very odd about the place. First of all, it is incredibly traffic-heavy with a ridiculous one-way system which loops around the railway station, meaning that there are not one but two level-crossings in the loop; there is no long-term parking and it is almost impossible to cross the road at any part of the town. Second, there are a very large number of very fast "mobility scooters" used by elderly residents. Third, the main paper shop is entirely covered by advertising for "The Daily Mail". Indeed. It it feels a bit "UKIP". Fourth is that it is home to the National Centre for Craft and Design.

National Centre For Craft And Design

This is a remarkable place and is quite unique in the UK, being an enormous resource for makers and craftspeople with a number of exhibition spaces, workshops, a very fine shop selling the work of UK-based makers and a good, reasonably priced cafe/restaurant.

ICONS - ACJ Exhibition - 35

The ACJ "ICONS" show is being hosted there and it looks fantastic in the roof gallery:

ICONS - ACJ Exhibition - 2

The theme of the exhibition was fairly open and allowed the makers to create a piece responding to their own personal icons - I chose David Bowie's "Diamond Dogs" album and Alexander McQueen as mine - and the range of choices was excellent. It was sometimes surprising to see what was chosen and we spent ages looking at the exhibits and talking about the choices and the resulting pieces:

ICONS - ACJ Exhibition - 29

I especially enjoyed meeting with Poppy Porter - for whom I made the commissioned "Futurism" pendant - and Mark Fenn, who's "Grim Reaper" ring I own.

ICONS - ACJ Exhibition - 1

It would be hard to select favourites from the show and the choices of the selection committee are superb. It makes such a difference when the selection for a show is good and focused. Here are three that I did respond to especially:

ICONS - ACJ Exhibition - 19

Michelle Fernandez chose the Delahaye 165 Roadster as her icon and her piece captures the excitement and streamlining of the car.

ICONS - ACJ Exhibition - 31

Terry Hunt chose to make a piece on the iconic Monty Python "Dead Parrot" sketch.

ICONS - ACJ Exhibition - 22

Elizabeth Jane Campbell made a series of brooches for Louise Bourgeois.

As part of the exhibition, there was also the symposium where myself, Joanne Haywood and Helen Noakes talked about our Icons and our work for the show:

ICONS - ACJ Exhibition - 6

ICONS - ACJ Exhibition - 8

Again, no photographs of me speaking but you can have a look at the talk here:

An excellent event and it was good to meet with everyone, hang out afterwards - Helen and I had a most enjoyable dinner in a restaurant which doubled as a bathroom and fireplace shop, the walls of which had televisions showing looped adverts for Sleaford while we listened to vaguely flamenco-tinged muzak based on Phil Collins and George Michael tracks. The food was good, though.

Ugly Bench

I should say that Sleaford is well worth a visit, especially St Denys' Church (the Parish Church) which has elements dating back to the 12th Century and some amazing stained glass - some of which was vandalised ten minutes before I entered the building.

St Denys' Church, Sleaford

St Denys' Church, Sleaford - 8

St Denys' Church, Sleaford - 9

St Denys' Church, Sleaford - 15

It is always sad when exceptional and personable students leave and this year was no exception. Anyone who teaches knows that this is true and they also know that the students develop their own narratives about what goes on in the department. I found one of those out as one of my best students - best ever, that is, not just of the year - gave me this:

Gummy Cola Bottles

And told me that when she had been in the first year, every time I said to the class, "I am off to the casting room", they would all laugh as some strange narrative had developed imagining that I was sneaking off there to eat fizzy cola bottles... So now I really can do that in the casting room!

I did manage to get some rest and relaxation in as well, however, and was delighted to have been able to attend "Scott Bradlee and the Postmodern Jukebox", a phenomenal musical tour-de-force, consisting of 11 musicians, including four vocalists - one of whom doubles as the MC - and a tap-dancer! It was just great FUN and so good to hear absolutely first-rate musicians enjoying themselves as much as the audience.

Scott Bradlee and the Postmodern Jukebox - 3

For a flavour of why you shouldn't miss them, hear what they do to Psy's unlistenable crap, "Gentleman":

I rather like the flappers copying his moves!

Sunday, June 15, 2014

GSA Jewellery Degree Show, 2014

I think the whole arts world knew about the fire in the Glasgow School of Art, the functional art-school building by Charles Rennie Mackintosh which was SO fit for purpose in the early 1900s that it is was still used on a daily basis until the fire a few weeks ago. I had messages from all over the world expressing regret and sympathy - as if someone had died - and I don't even work there. Several people have told me that they were in tears as it burnt, such is the emotional attachment people feel for the place. I hadn't seen the damage until the GSA degree show on Thursday night and it is much more shocking to stand outside with the vague smell of damp, burnt wood and see the shell of a building that I grew up admiring and knowing to be important.

Glasgow School of Art - Degree Show 2014 - 51

Everyone has said that it will be reconstructed but the library has gone. I took this photograph almost exactly a year ago:

Art School Library

I was having a meeting with Callum Rice about his own degree presentation. While I am sure that it will be reconstructed perfectly, what will be missing is the patina of age that has been given to over 100 years of people using this space - the chips, the layers of tobacco staining (the library was a smoking room as well until the 1950s), the scuffs on the floor. Callum is a bit of a buff about the history of this place and I bumped into him on Thursday night and he, too, feels that something more than "just a building" has gone forever. As he said, "Those lamps were hammered out by men on the Clyde more used to building ships..." Something else that has gone forever.

A degree show is no place for an observer to be maudlin or political but is time for graduates to celebrate their successes and it was in stark contrast that directly across the road in the brand-new Reid Building which is a pretty standard-looking contemporary building of little interest from the outside.

Glasgow School of Art - Degree Show 2014 - 1

It replaces the "Newbery Tower" which was another favourite building of mine, a brutalist monstrosity covered in copper plates. Horrible inside, it has to be admitted, but a remarkable structure from the outside.

newbery tower

The space inside the new Reid building, however, is quite amazing, very light and airy and reminiscent of 1930s "ship" architecture of the likes of Mendelssohn's "De La Warr Pavilion".

Glasgow School of Art - Degree Show 2014 - 2

A big year this time around with 22 jewellery and silversmithing graduates and I wandered round the show more-or-less in the order presented from the entrance.

First off was a selection of exquisitely textured rings by Kirsty McQueen which manage to convey the sense of something found in the wild:

Glasgow School of Art - Degree Show 2014 - 3

Glasgow School of Art - Degree Show 2014 - 4

I particularly liked the first three above.
Catriona Clark has taken her theme from the many bridges which span the River Clyde in Glasgow. It is good to see that she has looked at the structure on a smaller scale than the perhaps obvious use of the arch structure and her use of enamel is subtle and intelligent:

Glasgow School of Art - Degree Show 2014 - 5

Glasgow School of Art - Degree Show 2014 - 6

I actually really enjoy it when the students take the time to talk about their work. As someone who can - and will - talk endlessly about my own work, I admire the passion in others and Hannah Ryan spoke to me at length about how she came up with her brilliant conceit of imagining that she had been commissioned to make pieces for Ludwig II of Bavaria:

Glasgow School of Art - Degree Show 2014 - 7

Glasgow School of Art - Degree Show 2014 - 8

Some of my favourite work in the show was Lindsay Hill's digitally-developed pieces exploring the internal structure of gemstones. She also took time to explain this work to me although it appealed greatly to me as soon as I saw it:

Glasgow School of Art - Degree Show 2014 - 9

Glasgow School of Art - Degree Show 2014 - 10

It may not be immediately obvious, but many of the stones are free to move within the pieces.

Jordane Symington's work contrasts natural and found materials with cast sections of the same material, for example wood or seaweed:

Glasgow School of Art - Degree Show 2014 - 11

Glasgow School of Art - Degree Show 2014 - 12

Roisin Hearn is presumably an undergraduate but there was something very conceptually advanced about her intriguing silverwares exploring aspects of not only the casting process but the function of the objects she was casting:

Glasgow School of Art - Degree Show 2014 - 14

Glasgow School of Art - Degree Show 2014 - 13

In every show, there will be some work which does not appeal to me and Duan Hangchen's work in plastics, pearls, gems and precious metals falls into that category. I am not really clear what she is doing with this collection, though I can see why some people will be sure to love it (and it is really nicely made):

Glasgow School of Art - Degree Show 2014 - 15

Glasgow School of Art - Degree Show 2014 - 16

Morna Darling has put together a lovely collection of very fine pieces made from mixed and patinated metals. The intense blues against the white silver is a seductive combination:

Glasgow School of Art - Degree Show 2014 - 17

Glasgow School of Art - Degree Show 2014 - 18

Over the last couple of years, I've noticed porcelain appearing in jewellery shows more and more. Maybe I'm only noticing it more now that I'm aware of it as a jewellery material thanks to working with Lisa Stevens on some pieces of my own. Whether it is just me noticing or whether more students are finding it an interesting material, I am pleased to see it.

Sarah-Louise McKay has produced a collection of work using porcelain which she has chosen to back-light. While I can understand her reasoning - porcelain being translucent - it actually made the pieces quite hard to see (more on the lighting of the show later...). Her shell-like pieces deserved a rather better presentation:

Glasgow School of Art - Degree Show 2014 - 19

Glasgow School of Art - Degree Show 2014 - 20

Another enthusiast who took time to engage with her audience was Nicole McCarron who not only invited people to pick up her work but to actually play with them, plucking and bending the elements to make them ring. The work is rather lovely and this dimension really adds to it.

Glasgow School of Art - Degree Show 2014 - 21

Glasgow School of Art - Degree Show 2014 - 22

Because these are not my own students, I am allowed to have favourites and my own favourite - as predicted by Sally Morrison! - was the remarkable work of Joy Bonfield-Colombara. I will let these pieces speak for themselves.

Glasgow School of Art - Degree Show 2014 - 23

Glasgow School of Art - Degree Show 2014 - 24

Glasgow School of Art - Degree Show 2014 - 25

Her work immediately made me think of the work of "Arman":

Hermes and Dionysus Monument to Analysis

Which I also love.

Ellis Mhairi Cameron is making work which, for me, is redolent of the coastal wildernesses around the north of Scotland:

Glasgow School of Art - Degree Show 2014 - 27

Glasgow School of Art - Degree Show 2014 - 26

I may well be wrong but the influence of Beth Legg seems strong in a couple of the graduates this year.

Liu Tong's comedic work with plastic toy animals is playful and interesting enough:

Glasgow School of Art - Degree Show 2014 - 28

Glasgow School of Art - Degree Show 2014 - 29

But it reminds me rather too much of the work of one of my own ex-students and now friend, Ellen Wilson and her "Purebrassneck" jewellery which she made in her final year with me in 2009...

It is nothing new to use plastic toys, I suppose - Felieke van der Leest has done it and I have even done it:

The Use of Ashes 8

So perhaps it is just a coincidence.

The very subtle colouring of the resins in smooth lumps to contrast with the matted silver of Lotte Letch's work is intriguing:

Glasgow School of Art - Degree Show 2014 - 30

I really like the restrained forms of Ailie Lawson's pieces, especially the rings:

Glasgow School of Art - Degree Show 2014 - 31

Glasgow School of Art - Degree Show 2014 - 32

The rings are particularly brilliant, I think, and I want them to be pomanders or nutmeg graters. Unfortunately, I didn't get to speak to the maker to find out.

One of the most interesting exhibits in the show was definitely the installation by Ciara Blath Stapleton who used video, thread, 18ct gold and mixed materials to create a moving and compelling piece of work from disparate jewellery pieces, including a neckpiece and brooches:

Glasgow School of Art - Degree Show 2014 - 33

Glasgow School of Art - Degree Show 2014 - 34

Glasgow School of Art - Degree Show 2014 - 35

I was really taken with Mairi Preston's work, another maker who has been exploring porcelain amongst other materials - once more, the influence of Beth Legg - to create slightly sinister pieces which are also ultra-feminine and which reference far more traditional styles of jewellery:

Glasgow School of Art - Degree Show 2014 - 36

Glasgow School of Art - Degree Show 2014 - 37

Glasgow School of Art - Degree Show 2014 - 38

She cast the porcelain into quail's eggs and made casts of a sparrow's feet (which her cat had caught!) to make some of this work.

From here to the end of the review, the photographs are not so good as the light was reflecting off the cabinets at this end of the gallery.

Kara McAulay's work left me a little bewildered and while I like some of the elements very much - the long, tubular forms with dots of colour, for example, didn't really understand how the other elements hung together.

Glasgow School of Art - Degree Show 2014 - 40

Glasgow School of Art - Degree Show 2014 - 39

Adam Henderson's work took two distinct paths, both perhaps dealing indirectly with ideas of identity. One set of his work used 3D prints of QR codes, distorting and damaging them, while the other - actually the work I preferred - looked at drawings of people which only resolved when viewed in very specific ways.

Glasgow School of Art - Degree Show 2014 - 42

There is something really appealing about the jewellery of Cao Zhouyi who presented brightly-coloured, spiky pieces in plastics, possibly wood and silver. These pieces have a real comic-book quality and are really nicely finished:

Glasgow School of Art - Degree Show 2014 - 43

Glasgow School of Art - Degree Show 2014 - 44

There is something dark or uncanny about Jennifer McKinlay's work, something I can't quite pin down. She uses a combination of traditional and non-traditional materials to work with what she describes as "the human need to protect oneself".

Glasgow School of Art - Degree Show 2014 - 45

Glasgow School of Art - Degree Show 2014 - 46

Glasgow School of Art - Degree Show 2014 - 47

Sun Yingzhou takes her inspiration from planetary orbits and the origins of the universe:

Glasgow School of Art - Degree Show 2014 - 48

Glasgow School of Art - Degree Show 2014 - 49

As ever, there is an excellent GSA Jewellery and Silversmithing webpage giving the contact details for all the students.

It is always good to catch up with people and I went round the show with my friend, Anthony Wong - who was up from Liverpool with his wife for their daughter's end-of-year performance at the Conservatoire - and my colleagues, David and Gordon. Jonathan Boyd was there, looking very tired but relieved and happy!

Glasgow School of Art - Degree Show 2014 - 50

Other than that, I've been playing with the new "Pressovac" over-pressure vacuum casting machine and using it to cast stainless-steel:

Pressovac - 1

Pressovac - 2

For many years, I've been thinking about exploring the famous "Berlin Iron" jeweller but have never had the wherewithal to cast steel. I've explored the forms a little before in my previous work, "Ich gab kein Gold für dieses Eisen":

Ich gab kein Gold für dieses Eisen (Professional Photograph)

Now I can produce elements which are more direct references. In keeping with my usual working practices, I melted down old flatwares!

Cast Steel Elements - 2

Cast Steel Elements - 1

In case you are interested, this form refers to Whitby Abbey and is for the continuation of a piece I started in 2007.

Whitby Abbey overview 5