Thursday, September 25, 2014


Polling Place Way In - 2

I feel really deflated after all the stress leading up to the referendum and although my sleeping patterns are back to normal - for the four or five days prior to the event, I was getting about 2 hours a night! - I'm still pretty exhausted. Unfortunately, what this really means is that I've not had so much time to make things or even to think about what I might make. For the first time in years, I've not been able to focus on my work and boxes with part-completed projects have been moved about and peeked into in a most desultory fashion.

Two days after the polling day, David at the marvellous GreyFox Blog ran an article on the photoshoot which you've all seen before, the collaboration between me, Alan Moore at Ten30 and Simon Murphy.

This fired me up again - for which I am very grateful - and I started tidying up my bench, on which I found the left-over castings from the collar featured in my last post. I had been watching the excellent "Oh You Pretty Things" on BBC iPlayer, a programme about two of my favourite things, British pop music and British fashion, and was thinking about how the reverse of the collar I had made reminded me of the 1960s work of Paco Rabanne, especially his mid-60s metal dresses.

I had never really paid any attention to British icon, "Biba" before watching this programme and was amazed to learn that founder, Barbara Hulanicki was not only still alive but was still very much the dynamo that she must have been in the 1960s. In the programme, she revealed her love of mediaeval stylings, something which really resonated with me, and suddenly I knew what to do with the left-over pieces: I would make a tribute piece to Barbara Hulanicki, combining the Paco Rabanne idea with a very Biba colour.
In the end, I made two...

Barbara Hulanicki - 1 & 2 - 4

Barbara Hulanicki - 1 & 2 - 2

It's been a week of atypical pieces for me. These cannot really be described as classic "Justified Sinner" works, being made entirely from new materials, simply sterling silver and rubies - although I could push a point and argue that the cast elements were "scrap" - and I also found myself making a 14ct and emerald ring from a customer's scrap (apologies for the terrible photograph - taken with my phone):

An unlikely foray into modernism! 14ct gold and emerald ring made from a customer's scrap metal and stones.

As well as some sets of collar-stud/buttons in silver, 9ct, black onyx and pearl for a customer of my tailor's:

Tie Studs - 1

Off to the south coast for the weekend, Brighton and Folkestone. I am speaking at the Folkestone Triennial on Saturday in the excellent Cursley & Bond Gallery and I'm delighted to say that tickets for the talk have sold out!

Cursley & Bond - 5

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Ife Head and Collar

I've been in the workshop a lot over the last week - not all of which has been to bury my head in the sand away from the increasingly nasty pro- and anti-independence campaigns in Scotland (which is also why I've not been so active on social media recently). Mostly, I've been working on commissions - a set of buttons, a couple of rings - and the collar made from the pipe-stems which I collected from the Thames over the summer.

The collar is more-or-less completed. I have to give it a final polish:

Ko si Iruufin - WIP - 33

Ko si Iruufin - WIP - 30

One of the things I really like about this collar is the way it moves:

The idea for making a collar like this came from the same day as we went mudlarking on the Thames and afterwards visited the Docklands Museum, which I have to say is really exceptionally dull. I was, however, absolutely entranced by these Ife heads:

Mudlarking On The Thames - 19

These are normally in the British Museum and there is an exceptional Radio 4 programme about them which I recommend listening to. I wasn't quite sure where to go with the idea but on researching the heads, found that they were probably made some time in the 15th Century and that when they were discovered in 1910, they overturned previous thinking about Africa and African art, undermining the received thought about dionysian "bon sauvage" view of the continent. I wanted to capture some of this tension in my piece and tried a new way of working through the ideas, drawing directly on the images:

Ko si Iruufin - Workbook - 4

These are drawn directly on the photocopies in correction-fluid and ink. The image on the left is the one I finally chose to work with, interpreting the rough porcelain pipe stems (savage) in the sophisticated form of a gem-set ruff.

Ko si Iruufin - WIP - 31

Tomorrow I have a real treat in store! I'm off to see a new 35mm print of Béla Tarr's "Sátántangó". I first saw this film on a really terrible VHS transfer which had then be digitised; two years ago, Tarr released a DVD copy of the film, which I bought and watched but never really imagined that I would have the chance to see it in the cinema.

It is hard to explain what appeals about Tarr's films: they are usually very long - "Sátántangó" is just under eight hours long - and very static. They are studies in nothing happening, but nothing happens so poetically in his films that they are utterly beautiful and compelling.

Here is the trailer, in case you are interested...

Sunday, September 07, 2014

The Clark Sisters and More

Today I headed off to Edinburgh with one aim: to see the show of work by the wonderful Judy Clark and her twin sister, Christine. I've written of Judy before - commissioning a coat from her - and she's borrowed my jewellery to accessorise her Spring collection but I had only ever seen one drawing by her sister before, one which was hanging in the studio when I visited.

The Clark Sisters - 1

I strongly recommend that you visit if you get the chance. Judy and Christine work in very different ways, both overlapping on an understated but undeniably Romantic idiom and the fusion of the work is subtle and intriguing. The most obvious thing for any fashion designer to do when working with a painter or graphics artist is to put the work on a teeshirt or sweatshirt and they have done this but this does not make up a major part of the show.

The Clark Sisters - 3

The collaborations on the other work are very subtle... on one painting, Christine has used Judy's lace as a stencil to create texture on the canvas:

The Clark Sisters - 5

The Clark Sisters - 6

On a jacket, the lining is printed with one of the paintings:

The Clark Sisters - 4

continued onto the cuff detail.

Christine's paintings and drawings were new to me and reminded me very much of Klimt, Schiele, Alan Davie, yet directly reference none of them. There is a humour to them and a darkness to some which really appeals to me; they are essentially narrative works.

The Clark Sisters - 2

The remarkable thing here is that neither sister dominates. One is just as drawn to the clothes as to the paintings and the gallery - actually a generous patron of the arts' front-room in Edinburgh New Town - is the perfect space in which to appreciate the works.

The Clark Sisters - 9

Anyway, I'm raving! I love Judy's work and think that she is creating clothing which is Romantic, deeply rooted in Scottish culture and practical, and I learned today that I love her sister's work too for some very similar reasons.
The show runs until 12th September.

It was off to the John Byrne show at the National Portrait Gallery after that

John Byrne

I have been a fan of John Byrne's work - be it literature or artworks - for many years and it was great to see a show of his portraits together in one place, including his famous ones of Billy Connolly and his self-portraits. It was especially good to see some of his more intimate and less-stylised studies of the people in his life - his children, partner, friends - and the letter from René Magritte is a little surprise pleasure tucked away at the end!

I took my camera with me, as always, but have somewhat bastardised it by turning it into a "toy" camera with a £18 plastic lens. In keeping with the lo-fi (hipster!) experience, I set it up to take over-saturated, square-format images. It was an unbelievably refreshing way of taking photographs and although I found myself re-visiting things I had photographed before, it was brilliant to be able to see them in a new and different way.

Wellington Artificial Colour Lovely Hat
Buddleia Blur Stone Rose No. 13
Stockbridge Steps Garlic Galore Smug Salmond Scraped

It's been quite a week in the workshop as I've been working on the collar using the porcelain pipe-stems I picked up when mudlarking on the Thames during the summer. It has taken a while to get started on this piece as I was waiting for the stones to be delivered from Thailand - sapphires, spinels and garnets:

Ko si Iruufin - WIP - 9

and for the basic elements to return from the casting company:

Ko si Iruufin - WIP - 8

The whole collar will consist of around 100 individually-supported pieces of porcelain pipe stem, each surmounted by a small gemstone and connected to form a mobile "fabric" which moves with the wearer. What I hadn't really thought about was the number of steps required to create each element in the piece...

Ko si Iruufin - WIP - 6

These are the two starting rows to which the catch will be formed. I am working from the outside inwards to the centre, the pipe stems having been graded by length, so these are the shortest. Each stem requires me to make a pin and set the head of the pin with a gemstone:

Ko si Iruufin - WIP - 15

The settings were cast - each one needs to be cleaned up and attached to a wire - and then set; the pin is then put through a pipe stem and this is inserted into the back plate. Each back-plate also needs cleaning up! The back-plates are then joined together with jump rings which are about 3.5mm diameter and because of the length of the piece, each one has to be soldered. There are eight jump rings on the central two plates and six on the outside two:

Ko si Iruufin - WIP - 17

Although very happy with the way this is progressing, I'm particularly pleased with the Paco Rabanne-style back!

Ko si Iruufin - WIP - 18

Ko si Iruufin - WIP - 19

My bench has never been so untidy.

Ko si Iruufin - WIP - 10