Sunday, February 22, 2015

A Strange Definition of Mental Illness

I remember hearing an article on Radio 4's "All in the Mind" programme about how the definitions of mental illness were changing due to the re-writing of a single book which is generally used to define all mental illnesses. A psychiatrist who disagreed with the new definitions pointed out,

"most people in the west do not consider themselves to be fundamentally happy... because the majority of the population do not consider themselves to be happy, we could say that anyone who does consider themselves fundamentally happy is suffering from a mental illness because that is not the 'normal' mental state".

I paraphrase but probably not by much as the whole thing struck a chord in me and I've remembered this comment ever since. On Thursday last week, I had cause to remember the comment as I sat shivering over a bowl of hot pasta, having sat about four four hours in an icy studio before cycling home in icier weather, reflecting on the joy and excitement of meeting someone fascinating with whom you just immediately "click", someone who understands the notion of basic happiness and who sees the truth in the unfashionable, Marxist notion of 'the dignity of labour'.

At The Studio of Al Blair - 8

Just before Christmas, I received an email from Alan Blair suggesting that we shared a similar aesthetic and that it might be a good idea to meet up. He enclosed this picture of a chandelier he had made from discarded skull-shaped vodka bottles and I, of course, agreed completely!

Alan is bursting with creative energy, excitement and sheer joie-de-vivre; like me, he shares a past in scarifying experiences of playing on rubbish dumps as a child but unlike me, his background is strictly technical engineering, thus his work goes off in related but technically different directions to my own.

At The Studio of Al Blair - 3

Al is currently working on refurbishing the legendary "Bar Ten" in Glasgow and I'll post photographs of that when it is finished.

At The Studio of Al Blair - 4

You can see more of Alan's work and inspirations here and here.

Back in my own workshop, I've been mostly working on the pair of bangles which I'm making in response to the Kickstarter rewards to make the publication of the ScotStreetStyle book happen. I offered a bangle to someone pledging a sum of money, which they duly did but for some reason, the reward part didn't happen. Understandably, he got in touch and I have been working on the bangle ever since. Largely because he has been kind of vague about what he actually wants but also because I wanted to do it, I've made a pair of bangles so that he can choose the one he prefers. The only instruction I had was "basically a vampire", "lots of romantic gothic designs then, something very punk". Which is what I have done:

Profound Darkness - 15

Profound Darkness - 16

The rib-cage "charms" are removable, which allows them to be worn separately on chains which I haven't yet finished.

Profound Darkness - 18

Next week will be the last workshop week I have to myself as Alan Moore (Ten30) has commissioned me to make the cufflinks which will be worn with the uniforms he is making for the new Caledonian Sleeper trains! You can get an idea of how the uniforms will look from the website but the cufflinks are under embargo until the full launch.

Other than that, I've been celebrating my mum's birthday, Dingo's birthday, visiting my tailor for a fitting and seeing the last few days of Alasdair Gray's retrospective in Glasgow (see last post for details).

Sphere of Influence I

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Disagreeing With TS Eliot...

... I find February to be by far the cruellest month and the raw, icy blasts this year have not done anything to make me change my mind.

Light Snow

Lots of odd things to report on since my last post, including a box of "gingerbread gimps" which was handed into the workshop by one of my students:

Gingerbread Gimps!

Quite what this person thinks of the staff in the jewellery section is unclear but I can report that after taking off the silver balls (I had to think about the phrasing of that), they were most delicious. And made us all laugh a lot.

Been really busy at the bench, what with making new cufflinks for Susannah Hall (more on those later), a pair of matching kilt-pins:

A Pair of Kiltpins - 1

A replacement wedding ring for Russ at Dirty Pen after he decided that his existing wedding ring did not match the bangle I made for him last month:

Six-garnet Nut Ring - WIP - 1

And a master-pattern for the cufflinks which will be worn as part of the uniforms of the new Caledonian Sleeper, uniforms designed by my friend and colleague, Alan Moore at Ten30 design.

Caledonian Sleeper Cufflinks Macquette - 1

This last week has been spent working on a pair of bangles for a customer who wanted something "As dark as possible... I'm a bit of a goth" and who then gave me carte-blanche to do whatever I thought was appropriate. As this is the Kickstarter reward for someone who pledged to Gordon's ScotStreetStyle "Onward" book, and as they pledged well over the amount I had agreed to make to, I can afford to spend a lot of time on constructing this. Although only one of these is going to the customer, I decided to make two simultaneously to allow him to have a choice:

Profound Darkness - WIP - 5

One is going to be in red and black stones and one in purple, black and grey.

Out and about in Glasgow, I recommend popping into my newest favourite place. It isn't the most comfortable of places, but the food is excellent, the coffee way better than most and, most importantly, it is a social enterprise.

Social Bite

Social Bite is a proper cafe which seeks to challenge the corporates like Pret and Starbucks, beating them at their own game whilst engaging fully with the problems and issues of the city. As they say on their website, "...we are a ‘Social Business’. This means that 100% (every single penny) of our profits are given to good causes and 1 in 4 of our team are formerly homeless people. We also feed the local homeless community through our ‘Suspended Coffee and Food’ initiative".

Emphatically not a charity, I think that this place is brilliant. I've always believed in Social Enterprise as a means of making a big difference within the framework of the mess that people believe to be the "free market" but it can only work if the product or service being offered is able to compete in the free market. Social Bite most certainly does and is a far cry from those awful "Tearcraft" sub-standard products of my University days, being run by a Michelin-starred chef!

I've been going through my old 35mm slides again, scanning them and uploading them. I found one from 1980, when I was in my last year in school...

Lost Children - Slide Scan

I remember this being taken by my friend Janice and even more strangely, I know exactly where that coat is today as I gave it to a friend of mine in Edinburgh who still wears it. It is really strange to see that there was a time when I had long hair and no beard:

St. Amand-Montrond, France - 13

I spent last weekend in Brighton and London, picking up a pair of rather remarkable trousers which were made for me by Susannah Hall. These are based on a 1930s pattern which had been interpreted by Nigel Cabourn but which were only available in a 30" waist. Susannah offered to make a pair for me and I'm so pleased with them:

It's The RIGHT Trousers - 3
With Susannah.
It's The RIGHT Trousers - 4

These were a very deliberate stand against the current fashion for skinny, shortened trousers. The bonus is that, made-to-measure, they cost less than the off-the-peg originals.