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.

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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:

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There were also samples of Solidscape waxes to handle:

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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:

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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:

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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:

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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!

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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.

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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!