Sunday, July 17, 2016


After the political ructions of the last few weeks, I've retreated to my workshop! Best place for me, really, but it makes for a fairly brief blog post...

The week kicked off with a visit to Walsall Academy to work with some pupils there on their CAD and Casting jewellery project. This is an impressive project, where the students have to work to a brief - which I set in September, "Beauty and the Beast" - and then make a piece of jewellery to that brief. They work by making digital models of the piece that they want to make and then directly mill a mould, into which they cast pewter.

Here is Gill Willis, the teacher who organised the project, inviting the pupils to have a look at my sketchbooks and handling collection. The results are really superb:

Walsall Academy - 1

There were prizes - the first prize is (rather annoyingly for me) shown on the far left, to the side: this pupil had not only come up with a really fresh interpretation of the brief but had included laser-cutting and engraving in his design!

A lovely project which we will be running again next year.

Sam Chilton is one of the longest-serving members of staff at the School of Jewellery and this week saw her retirement party there. She specifically requested a "Mad Hatter's Tea Party" and so we obliged, of course...

Mad Hatter's Tea-Party - 3

Mad Hatter's Tea-Party - 5

Mad Hatter's Tea-Party - 6

You might notice the absence of "tea" from the teacups!
Frank Cooper's daughter made the cakes:

Mad Hatter's Tea-Party - 2

Mad Hatter's Tea-Party - 8

Sam and I, surprisingly, go back a long way: I remember meeting her in the early 1990s when I was doing experiments with deliberately disrupting anodised aluminium surfaces:

Emergent Fossil: Aluminium 2

(Sam is an expert when it comes to anodising aluminium.) We then met again at the World Skills in about 1996 when we took a stand down from Glasgow and Sam was working with a group of her students who were in the competition. The brilliant thing about that is that we only just realised in the last month that we had both been at that event.

We'll all miss her, but her expertise means that I know she will be brought back in as a visiting tutor.

I've been working on my pieces for "Made in the Middle" over the last week. Although I had completed one piece some time ago, it now absolutely does not fit in with the aesthetic of the pieces I have started making over the last few days!

From my original idea of creating a range of related but discreet pieces, I made "Venus of the Garden Pond":

Venus of the Garden Pond - 8

Which is in no way related to the pieces which started to appear on the workshop table:

Made In The Middle - WIP - 1

I've been using sand-casting to replicate the corroded iron links in silver.

Made In The Middle - WIP - 3

And then re-attaching the silver links to the iron, rather as I did for "The Ancient Mariner":

The Ancient Mariner - 14

This time, however, the chain all came from an abandoned factory in Aston, Birmingham, which you may recall, with a rather lovely symmetry, I gathered on this day exactly last year, when I had my interview for the job at the School of Jewellery.

Forward Rolling Mills, Birmingham - 1

Made In The Middle - WIP - 2

There can be no denying that I work with some phenomenally talented people. One of our ex-members of staff, Richard Witek, is an incredible stone-setter and he was in this week to give a master-class in stone-setting. While I was chatting to him, he mentioned something that he thought I might want to see and I came in to find this on my office chair:

George IV Diadem - Richard Witek  - 1

I assumed it was a hat left over from the party but was not prepared for the actual contents:

George IV Diadem - Richard Witek  - 2

A life-size, identical copy of HM The Queen's "George IV Diadem":

George IV Diadem - Richard Witek  - 3

George IV Diadem - Richard Witek  - 4

George IV Diadem - Richard Witek  - 6

George IV Diadem - Richard Witek  - 7

Nothing more to say.

Oor Wullie (Denture Repair)

Spent the weekend in Glasgow, collecting my microwelder, returning the books I stole from the workshop (!) and seeing friends. I was so busy that I didn't even get a chance to take many photographs.