Saturday, July 25, 2015

Summer Holidays

Such a lot going on and I've not posted again for two weeks. SO, since my last post, summer has been an intermittent affair of hot sun and cold rain and the last week or so, the weather has turned decidedly cool. On one of those cool days, I got to catch up with my friend and journalist and sometime Sci-fi/Horror writer, Michael Logan, which was great fun.

Michael On The Beach

Even though it was every bit as cold and windy as this looks!

Next, it was off to Birmingham for a visit, a city of which I am very fond and, of course, the centre of the jewellery industry in the UK - despite what London would claim! I always love going there as it is not only still industrial and people actually make things there, but it is also genuinely multi-cultural and seems much more integrated than most of the rest of the UK. Add to the fact that it has some of the finest industrial landscapes and architecture within the city itself and it all becomes most appealing:

Ornate Brickwork - 1

Canal Scene With Boat

Although I was there for business reasons - which will be disclosed very soon - there was time to take in one of my favourite pursuits and to visit an abandoned factory. I noticed this when I was walking to the meeting in the morning, a hole in the wall off the canal footpath:

Forward Rolling Mills, Birmingham - 1

I knew that I was going to go back!

There are some phenomenal Victorian buildings in the city which has only really recently started to suffer from the "high-rise" syndrome of most other large cities in the UK, consequently the history of the place is still visible:


Derelict Buildings - 2

Unfortunately, all too many of these properties are in this sad condition.

After the meeting, I returned to the factory for more explorations -

Forward Rolling Mills, Birmingham - 21

Forward Rolling Mills, Birmingham - 6

Forward Rolling Mills, Birmingham - 32

I discovered from discarded paperwork that this place used to be a foundry and rolling mill for processing metal and that it shut down in 2006. It was also good to stock up on the nuts that I use for rings!

Forward Rolling Mills, Birmingham - 44

I then met up with an old friend, James, and we went off to explore one of the architectural oddities of the city, Pugin's positively Hanseatic St Chad's Cathedral:

Basilica Of St. Chad - 1

This is a remarkable building for many reasons, for me largely to do with the disconnect between the expectation generated by the exterior structure and the unexpected Catholic opulence within:

Basilica Of St. Chad - 2

Basilica Of St. Chad - 8

Basilica Of St. Chad - 7

I then spent some time catching up on the jewellery gossip with Norman Cherry - whom I have not seen in ages - before heading back to the hotel and Brighton.

Club Logo

For ages, I've been wanting to visit The Magic Circle in London for one of their tours and to see the museum and finally this happened. I had wanted to see it before preparing the work for the ACJ show, "Sleight of Hand", but lining up my own availability with the limited visiting was rather difficult. I didn't get a chance to take many photographs, but the tour is well worth taking as it comprises not only a visit to the premises and the museum but also two small magic shows, one close-up and one in the theatre at the top of the building.

The museum is brilliant and had an exhibit which would have been good to see before making the piece for the "Sleight of Hand" show, the cufflinks of Chung Lin Soo:

The Cufflinks of Chung Ling Soo - 1

A few more shots from the museum:

Sooty (and others)

Heads in a Case

Not much else to report except that the Brighton garden now has peanuts growing in it!

Arachis hypogaea

I just planted some unsalted, unroasted red-skin peanuts and they grew.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Money Transfer Services and Best of Britannia

I have recently had cause to find a serious alternative to cross-border money exchanges since my spat with PayPal last summer which has left me relying on other methods to take payments for work. Google Wallet will only work within the country in which you are resident; a couple of other transfer services wouldn't identify my bank correctly; direct bank-to-bank transfers are costly if you are crossing borders (this is a pleonectic curiosity of UK and US banking - it is, of course, free within Europe). After  a bit of research, we discovered the Richard Branson-backed Transferwise, which is not only an amazing concept - peer-to-peer money transfers - but is cheaper than banks and has had excellent reviews in The Economist and Financial Times.
We tried it. It worked. It was inexpensive. OK, so it is not a full transaction service but it works if both parties trust each other. Definitely worth supporting.

On holiday in Brighton just now and although the weather has been decent, we've only had one really warm day. I went up to London last week to visit the "Best of Britannia" exhibition, which is a kind of trade-fair which is also open to the public, showcasing makers who make their work in Britain, generally from British materials. It was brilliant to meet up with some of my favourites, such as Susannah Hall (who has once again helped me out with a "shirt emergency", more on that later in the week):

Best of Britannia - 9

and also with the lovely people at Cravat Club:

Best of Britannia - 6

One of the best things about the show was meeting new people and I spent ages talking to two makers in particular Denise of Deni-Deni leather goods, a remarkable family business which, as Denise said, will make "anything from leather, but I'd rather not do a sofa"!

Best of Britannia - 2

Best of Britannia - 1

I've rather boringly commissioned a new wallet from her but I am sure more will follow. Still on the theme of leather, I also spotted this remarkable chair by TwoMakers, made from bicycle tubing and saddle-leather. Being a cyclist and also a fan of Ron Arad's "Rover Chair", this appealed enormously:

Best of Britannia - 5

Rather like the Rover Chair which I saw in "One Off" in the early 1980s, I couldn't afford this one either and will probably live to regret not stretching myself to buy it!

I also spent loads of time talking to Andrew English, a fellow jeweller, about jewellery, technology and politics. A lot of politics! I really like his "Moebius" bangles and rings, not a new idea but freshly and sharply interpreted here:

Best of Britannia - 8

The main revelation of the day was, for me, the discovery of a British watchmaker who is actually making the movements which go into the watches... Garrick Watchmakers.

Best of Britannia - 3

Unlike the "Randonneur" chair above, I was really surprised to learn how (relatively) inexpensive their hand-made movements were and I'm now really excited by the idea of making a watch with a completely hand-made movement in it.

One of the best things I got to try was tea which has been grown in the UK. I knew that this had been done but have never previously tried it. There are two tea plantations in the UK, one in Scotland, the other in Cornwall and it was the Cornish "Tregothan" tea that I tried (no photographs). I normally can't drink black tea as the tannin makes me nauseous but this black tea is so low in tannin that it didn't affect me at all. The green tea is wonderfully fresh too. Unfortunately, I forgot to go back and pick up a packet.

I got to Folkestone last week for the open-night in the Creative Quarter, stopping off first at Dungeness to collect lots of new scrap metal. A visit to Dungeness is worthwhile for the unique landscape, wildlife and plants in the shadow of the nuclear power-station (which sounds odd, I know!).

Dungeness Cottage

Nuclear Power Station

Echium and Glaucium sp.

In the evening, it was off to Cursley and Bond to their evening event and to meet and have dinner with a couple of my most enthusiastic supporters, as well as Chris and Nicola who own the gallery. I also dropped off a lot of the stock I had been working on for the last few weeks before the holiday.

Nathan Coley - Talking Heads

There is always something interesting going on in Folkestone.

Back in London yesterday for the ACJ board meeting and off to Birmingham at the end of next week. More on that after I've been!