Another busy and exciting week at the School of Jewellery. I knew it would be interesting but had never imagined that so much would be going on all the time! This week it was the phenomenal "East Meets West" exhibition of work by ten graduates of the school who had come here from China and who then returned to China to set up their own practices. Yip Chang then got the group involved with a master jade-carver, Jinwen Liao and brought together an exhibition of their most recent work plus their responses to traditional jade carvings which were then realised by Jinwen Liao.
The set-up began on Monday morning and was complete by the evening for yet another reception.
It was an absolute delight to meet again with Li-Chu Wu. Some of you will recall that I blogged about her work years ago (I think it may have been on the old blog) and it was lovely to see her back with some work which is immediately recognisable:
As well as some new work which is very different but which still makes use of paper, albeit in a more disguised manner:
It is great to see that lots of our graduates go on to become classic "fine jewellers" and that in addition to the design skills that are so demanded of jewellery students in other establishments, they also get to learn to make. The market for contemporary jewellery in China would most kindly be described as "emerging": some of the graduates were less generous, and perhaps this is what makes them focus more on the fine-making skills once they have returned there. Yip Chang's own work is very much fine jewellery and while it is also very much within the framework of the cultural norms of his homeland, it is immediately appealing.
The same can be said of Ching-Chui Tseng:
There were lots of facets to the show and one of the main aspects was a cabinet of work in which Jinwen Liao had interpreted way less traditional designs by the group and had then given them back jade objects which they transformed into jewellery.
These last three images are all based on the jade "doughnut" form which has enormous resonance within Chinese culture.
My own favourite work was by Jichan Chai with whom I struck up an immediate affinity, strengthened later in the week when he referenced Kevin Coates in a talk he gave about his work. I really wanted to buy his "Conqueror" brooch, but it was not for sale:
This is from his latest collection, which also included this crazy neckpiece:
He also displayed some of his early work from his time in the School of Jewellery:
We will be keeping in touch, so expect more from the man I came to know as Frank!
The exhibition ran for a week, during which time there were demonstrations of jade-carving for every group in the school:
As well as the chance to handle some of the amazing objects and to learn about the curious material that is jade:
There were talks from gemmologist Miranda wells and from the exhibitors:
The whole event was brilliant and I'm so pleased that the students got the chance to see some of the opportunities which are available to them as well as to seeing another aspect of the jewellery world which is rather hidden to us generally in the west.
I also finally got to meet with Steven Medhurst this week. I've been talking to him on-and-off online for about a year now and although we work in very different styles, I like his work a lot:
He had to come up to Birmingham to meet some trade contacts and we went for lunch, then I showed him round the exhibition and the school which decided him that he should change his centre of supplies and services from Hatton Garden to the Jewellery Quarter. Eminently sensible, I think!
I do enjoy the odd things that appear in the studios. This week it was a box of daisies:
And a misanthropic drawing:
This week also saw the announcement of the SNAG fund-raiser, the Halstead Challenge, in which $25 buys a kit of 'stuff' from which a kinetic brooch has to be made to some rather stringent conditions.
The stringent conditions are:
- Create one kinetic brooch from the Halstead Design kit utilizing as many components as possible (minimum 50% of items should be used in final work).
- Add one clearly visible found item component.
- Size restrictions: Maximum: 4 x 4 x 1 inches
- Retail price max. $400
And the weekend after I saw this, went out and bought a wooden automata kit (which also neatly ties in with the current ACJ exhibition, "Sleight of Hand"!):
Oddly enough, the week before I met John, I had bought the book, "How to Build Simple Automata" by John's friend and associate, Robert Race:
It seems that everything is conspiring to one end: my next big piece will be an automaton!
This resurrected an idea I've had for a while for a piece based on the writings of John Cage and using a small musical-box movement which I found at a junk shop years ago. However, poking through a very preliminary research, I was reminded of something quite other which has piqued my interest more...
I was quite fascinated when talking to John to find out about the way in which "toy" only relatively recently came to be applied to playthings for children and that prior to that, it would have been used where we now use the term "bibelot".
Also this week, I bought a pendant from one of my favourite jewellers, Nicolas Estrada.
I spotted it in a photograph by Monserrat Lacomba whom I have also been in contact with on-and-off over the years (she interviewed me for her fantastic blog in 2010!) and who posted photographs of her visit to Joya Barcelona. I hadn't seen this piece of Nicolas' before and was immediately in touch with him. "Suffering" arrived this week:
And finally, one of the events being organised at the School of Jewellery is my own!
Every year, the British Art Medal Society organise a student competition and normally Birmingham do rather well in it. My own students from Glasgow have also done well in it and I was keen to continue with the project. Last year, for reasons of staffing and due to re-structuring of courses, no students from the School of Jewellery took part, which caused consternation amongst the organisers, so when I suggested a different approach, it was accepted enthusiastically. Thus I am organising the one-day symposium, "Art Medals: History, Philosophy and Practice" and have some amazing speakers and support from Thomas Fattorini, Toye Kenning & Spencer, The British Museum, British Art Medal Society and some of the best medallists in the country.
Additionally, to get round problems with catering, we've engaged The Real Junk Food Project Brum to supply lunch.
You can book free tickets here - select the "public" tickets if you are not a student or staff at Birmingham City University:
Art Medals: History, Philosophy and Practice, 4th November 2015, School of Jewellery, Vittoria Street, Birmingham, B1 3PA; starting at 10.30am.