Sunday, September 27, 2015

Welcomes and Inductions and More

The new intake of students were in this week: gemmologists, horologists, jewellers, silversmiths, CAD designers; the new HND, BA, MA starts. It was brilliant to be in the school when it is buzzing and we spent Monday avoiding horrible "ice-breakers" with much better ways to get people to know each other, such as making a gigantic paper necklace for The Atrium:

Paper Chain And New Students

The Atrium in the school is such a great resource and it gets used constantly for exhibitions, teaching, drawing, socialising, relaxing, studying and setting up little sales and demonstrations, which is how it was used this week. We're SO lucky being bang in the middle of the jewellery quarter as it means that tool suppliers, gem dealers and bullion dealers are quite literally just across the road. This week they came to visit:

Welcome Event - 1

Welcome Event - 2

I forgot to photograph this when it was alive in the early afternoon and these were taken towards the end of the day, so it is quieter. I think that Chrome Yellow books (lower shot above) sold more books to the staff than to the students!

Cooksons, said bullion dealer across the road from the school were having an amazing charity cake sale with lots of delicious cakes made by the staff there. The School of Jewellery staff made several forays:

Charity Cake Sale

The weekend was lost in a whirl of arts activity as the Birmingham Weekender kicked off. I met up with a good friend and headed off for some new music. First up was the performance of a new work called "Requiem to Let" by Michael Wolters in an abandoned shop in the Western Arcade.

Requiem To Let - 1

In keeping with the Birmingham Contemporary Music Group, this is a challenging piece for solo instrument and electronics. More challenging in this case because we had to sit on a hard floor for an hour while it was performed... The piece was played on Bass Clarinet by Jack McNeill.

Requiem To Let - 2

(Look at the floor we had to sit on!)

We followed this up with a bit of Klezmer music by She'Koyokh in the square outside the town hall:

Klez Be Friends

Which was superb but we had to leave to be on the way to our next performance, "The Waiter's Revenge" by Stephen Oliver and sung by Birmingham Opera Company. A miniature opera (20 minutes at top), this is wordless and sung a capella, the musical noises conveying all the meaning.

The Waiter's Revenge

It was performed in the tearoom of St. Martins in the Bullring with people sitting about drinking tea: very funny, very silly and performed brilliantly.

The Waiter's Revenge

After a delicious dinner from one of the street-food vendors dotted about the place, it was off to Centenary Square for the highlight of the day. A strange and ritualistic performance by French acrobatic percussionists, Maudits Sonnants. This was odd and engrossing: it felt like something mediaeval, echoes of Punch and Judy, of the York Mystery Plays; yet was completely modern.

Maudits Sonnants at Birmingham Weekender - 7

Maudits Sonnants at Birmingham Weekender - 5

After a crowd-pleasing but somewhat incomprehensible opening around the arena, the performers moved into the centre rig and began to climb...

Maudits Sonnants at Birmingham Weekender - 11

And began to play their percussion instruments...

Maudits Sonnants at Birmingham Weekender - 12

And were raised up above the crowds, playing the whole time on bells and drums...

Maudits Sonnants at Birmingham Weekender - 13

Maudits Sonnants at Birmingham Weekender - 14

Maudits Sonnants at Birmingham Weekender - 22

Maudits Sonnants at Birmingham Weekender - 24

Before coming back to earth to ecstatic applause.

Maudits Sonnants at Birmingham Weekender - 28

There is a short video of part of the performance here -

Today I was back in town to meet up with one of my ex-students, ex-technician and ex-employee at Thomas Fattorini, Fiona who is now working in a quite other area than jewellery and is no longer in the jewellery quarter. After a minor fiasco with the place we planned to eat, we ended up in my favourite Cafe Soya again! Excellent catching up.

On the way home, there was a giant puppet in Centenary Square:

Giant Puppet - 1

It really is non-stop here just now!

Time to brag a bit!
The Scottish Gallery has done the ACJ (and me, specifically) proud. Their webpage promoting the show in Edinburgh in October is superb and prominently features my "Pulling Rabbits Out of a Hat" watch and chain. As always, you can even browse or download the catalogue on the website if you can't get to the show. I do like The Scottish Gallery: they just get it right.


Here are the invites to the private view, which I received yesterday.
Just wish I could go!

Students in the workshops tomorrow and my first proper teaching at the School of Jewellery.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

125, Punk and Food

125 Today!

I've started work at the School of Jewellery just as it turned 125 on Friday 18th September, 2015.
From the Birmingham Daily Post of 19th September 1890:

This sign from that day is still on the building:

Municipal School

We had a little celebration in the new - but not quite finished - "Technology Hub" which is going to house all the digital and high-tech equipment:
There is a programme of events to celebrate, next up is Jivan Astfalck's "Junk: Rubbish to Gold" project and my own "Art Medals - History, Philosophy and Practice" symposium which is so new that I've not even put up a webpage about it! More about that very soon.

I've been out and about in Birmingham, exploring around where I live and getting to meet people. Last night I went to the opening of an exhibition by Birmingham City Univesity's Media and Cultural Research department entitled, "Punk Rock!! So What?" a kind of reflective evaluation of what became of the punk movement.

Punk Rock!! So What? - 6

Curated by Russ Bestley and presented by Matt Grimes (above), this was a brilliant evening, hosted by the Parkside Gallery to the east of the city centre.

Punk Rock rather passed me by. It is only in the recent years that I've come to appreciate it both musically and culturally, yet it would be foolish to suggest that my own work does not have a punk element to it:

Noli Me Tangere

It is this far-reaching impact, as well as the fact that for many countries - think Ukraine, Madagascar and Tibet - punk is still a very real and valid social rebellion, which is explored to an extent by this exhibition.

Punk Rock!! So What? - 3

The exhibition is really just an opener for the really exciting event which is happening in October, the second "Punk Scholars Network" conference! Yes, even I struggle with the tension between concepts of 'punk' and 'scholars' but in the context of the exhibition and film shown last night, it makes a lot of sense. Hearing Jock Blyth (left in the image below) of GBH talking, or listening to Penny Rimbaud from Crass in the film shown, there is no tension at all between these ideas.

Punk Rock!! So What? - 10

That punks wanted to change things was in no doubt; what has happened is that they have started thinking seriously about how to do it. I've linked to the film which was shown below. It is absolutely fascinating but I should warn viewers that there are some pretty nasty scenes of animal cruelty in there. Even if you don't watch it all, do watch the first and final scenes of the charming and slightly unhinged Dick Lucas (Subhumans):

Today was the second Bearwood food festival, organised by The Bearwood Pantry food collective and I am so pleased that I decided to go along and support it. One of my neighbours had told me that last year it had been completely cleared out by about 2pm, so I decided to go along early - meeting some of my work colleagues whom I had also warned about the "swarm of locusts" effect - and see what was happening. By 11.30am, it was jumping!

Bearwood Pantry - 2015 - 2

Bearwood Pantry - 2015 - 2

There were loads of amazing stalls, all enthusiastic and keen to talk about their products. I bought some beetroots (seen above) which had been grown about 1.5km from my house at Salop Drive Market Garden, another very local social enterprise project; I bought Mexican coffee from a Feral Trader (I can track the coffee from where it was grown to my house!) and; I bought a plum cordial which appears to be part of an art project by Dale Hipkiss.

By far the highlight of my day, however, was speaking to the people at The Real Junk Food Project Brum.

Bearwood Pantry - 2015 - 5

This collective 'recycle' food. That great bugbear of mine, the "Sell By" and "Use By" dates, is being tackled head on by this wonderful group who take food which cannot be sold and pass it on, either as raw materials for cooking - and today I got a sour-dough loaf, a cabbage and some spelt - or as cooked food in a cafe in Ladywood. This fantastic group of people are political; they are activists; most of all, they are humane and have realised the importance of food not as a commodity but as a social bond. I'll be continuing to support them.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Sleight of Hand

The ACJ annual exhibition for 2015, "Sleight of Hand" opened last Thursday at The Brewhouse Arts Centre in Burton-on-Trent. It is incredible to think that this show took 18 months to pull together, especially as it feels like moments ago that one of our board members, Linda Lambert, threw the idea for the title into the conversation: everyone loved it and now it is "up" and open.

Some of you will recall that I made a pocket-watch for the show, entitled "Pulling Rabbits Out Of A Hat" and this week I bought the catalogue image by Russell Barker at Progressive Imaging as it is so good:

Pulling Rabbits Out Of A Hat - Professional Photograph

I think that the jury have pulled together a superb show, one which is varied, shows both new and established makers and which - for all the diversity of submissions - hangs well together. I had originally though when I made my piece, "nobody else would be so obvious as to make a rabbit in a hat..." but I was wrong, of course! I particularly liked Susan Wainwright's "Conjuring Trick":

Sleight Of Hand - ACJ Member Show 2015 - 5

And Anthony Wong's Tommy Cooper-referencing "Spoon-Jar, Jar-Spoon" and "Fez Bracelet":

Sleight Of Hand - ACJ Member Show 2015 - 9

Sleight Of Hand - ACJ Member Show 2015 - 10

Terry Hunt's work also displays a sly humour:

Sleight Of Hand - ACJ Member Show 2015 - 2

And I especially liked Karen Westland's Molecular Cloud:

Sleight Of Hand - ACJ Member Show 2015 - 7

And Maria Whetman's Material Landscape Cluster:

Sleight Of Hand - ACJ Member Show 2015 - 4

I would have photographed more but have to confess that the venue is not really suited to a jewellery display. It is very dark, the cabinets are not jewellery cabinets but vitrines which would be more suited to larger works and the lighting is inconsistent.

The show travels on from Brewhouse to The Scottish Gallery in October - where the hanging and display is always impeccable - and to the gallery space at Plymouth College of Art.

I didn't get to see much of the town. All I had previously know about it was that it had been largely a brewing centre and that Jonathan Meades heaped opprobrium upon the planning director who tore down all the Victorian brewery buildings. It is still very much a brewing centre:


and there is still a lot of fine Victorian and Edwardian architecture to be seen.

Burton-on-Trent Town Hall

B. Grant & Sons - 1

And back to Birmingham...

Bullring Owl

I've no idea what these owls are all about but they are everywhere. Some of them are even quite funny, like this one outside the Selfridge's building (by Future Systems). Yet another photograph of this building to my collection!

Friday, September 11, 2015

End of First Week

Well, it's Friday and I'm home in Bearwood, Birmingham, my new home. I suppose I should feel a bit unsettled, maybe even a bit down, but I don't. From the moment I turned up at the School of Jewellery on Monday to wishing my new colleagues goodnight at 5pm and cycling home, it has been a fantastic week of developing courses, staff development, meeting my colleagues and bringing all my teaching materials in line with Birmingham City University, ready for the onslaught of students a week on Monday week.

Unfortunately, I've not had much to report on this front, given that I've been so busy that I've not had a chance to take any photographs, annoying given that I keep spotting things I want to photograph on my rides to and from work.

Metaform - Entrance Display

This week saw the opening of the graduate show for the MA Jewellery, Silversmithing and Related Products, "Metaform", an exciting and diverse show which shows a more exploratory approach to jewellery than would perhaps be seen on other courses and featuring vessels made from rice grains, wearable books, lace made of compressed paper pulp and pieces which are designed to revolt!

I present a selection here with all of the photographs being on my flickr stream. For more information, see the Metaform website.

For maker details, roll over the image.

Metaform - Yunqian Li - 2

Metaform - Youdi Luo - 2

Metaform - Anqi Di - 1

Metaform - Hangchen Duan - 2

Metaform - Chenjiajing Shao - 1

Metaform - Chang Han - 1

Metaform - Francesca Antonello - 2

Metaform - Hao Zhong - 2

Metaform - Tianshu Chou - 1

Metaform - Zhaoran He - 2

Metaform - Yingzhou Sun - 1

Metaform - Jieyuan Kuang - 1

Metaform - Shichu Xia - 2

Metaform - Tianyin Xu - 1

Metaform - Lana Crabb - 1

Metaform - Jing Li - 2

Metaform - Yuan Ruan - 2

Metaform - Yu Zhang - 2

Metaform - Francisca Onumah - 2

Metaform - Jingheng Li - 2

Metaform - Zheheng Ye - 1

Metaform - Zheng Yu - 2

Metaform - Yu-Ting Lin - 1

Metaform - Yu-Chu Huang - 2

Metaform - Boya Yu - 2

Metaform - jing Zhang - 2

Metaform - Fanmiao Tang - 1

Metaform - Junyang Xu - 2

Metaform - Chih-Ning Li - 2

Metaform - Robert Goldsworthy - 2

Metaform - Xiaofeng Guo - 1

Metaform - Sheng Jiang - 2

Off to Burton-On-Trent tomorrow for the ACJ "Sleight Of Hand" show.