Sunday, October 07, 2018

Reading and Listening

The wisdom of the "Ladybird Leaders" book, Sounds by Alan P. Sanday and illustrated by Bernard H.Robinson, published 1975. I wonder what his record is? In 1975, there were some choice releases, including Physical Graffiti (Led Zeppelin), Rubycon (Tangerine Dream), Tomorrow Belongs To Me (The Sensational Alex Harvey Band), Wish You Were Here (Pink Floyd), Indiscreet (Sparks), Discreet Music (Brian Eno), Siren (Roxy Music), Young Americans (David Bowie)... It seems that some of my absolute favourite music was released in this year and this is only a scattered selection.

I've never been much enamoured of the concept of "Britpop", loathing both Oasis and Blur with equal venom, foolishly ignoring Elastica because Justine Frischmann was tainted with whiny Damon Albarn (I've got over that one now) and only really enjoying one Pulp album, This Is Hardcore. At that point, I was immersed in obscure electronica of the sort produced by Toshimaru Nakamura, the post-pop of Stereolab and Black Box Recorder and the industrial of the re-emergent Einsturzende Neubauten and Laibach. There are clear links between this and the list above from 1975.

It is a bit surprising that the first band to be christened with the title of "Britpop", was Suede with their swooping, falsetto vocals, strings, unexpected melodies and a plundering of British pop history which was so far from obvious, unlike the crass thieving of Oasis or the oh-so-clever fake barrow boy shtick of Blur. Suede managed to make pop music which is British without being obvious, wearing their references clearly but not ripping anyone off or being smugly intellectual: Bowie, The Associates, The Smiths, Roxy Music... All my favourites. Brett sang of British things like class: class warriors, not class tourists (Blur) or anachronistic class stereotypes (Oasis) and of the claustrophobia of urban life. Not an album went by without mention of disenfranchised youth, desperate drugs and desperate sex, road systems and traffic.

This week, I got round to buying the latest Suede album, released last month, inspired by a review on my favourite music website, The Quietus.

And it is fantastic. Everything is there that should be there: the disaffection, the swooping vocals, swelling strings, angular guitars and memorable melodies but while there are discreet songs, this is a concept album... Complete with orchestra, choirs, spoken word parts, a story about a missing child, or, perhaps, the missing child that we lose when we become adults.

I've listened to this every night since it arrived. Especially wonderful is the track pair, "Chalk Circles/Cold Hands" which has more than a whiff of the "Wicker Man" about it.

I have no idea why author, Jonathan Coe has passed me by until last month. I found reference to his novel "The Rotters' Club" in an article in The Guardian and bought it, thinking it sounded interesting.

Since reading that, I've finished "What A Carve Up!" and have just started "The Terrible Privacy of Maxwell Sim". It is a long time since I felt so compelled to read a writer's entire output. These books are political, cultural, humorous, warm and easy-to-read, yet are written with enormous literary intelligence, with endless references, quotations and allusions, often in differing styles. (The last chapter of "The Rotters Club" references Joyce's "Ulysses" and is, apparently, the longest sentence in the English language.) There are also references to another of my favourite authors, Alasdair Gray, in the books I've read so far.

Like Suede, there is something essentially English about this writing: not the English of Wodehouse or Agatha Christie but the English of "Middle England". (Not to be confused with "Little Englanders".)

On Friday, I went to hear the fantastic Anna Meredith at the Town Hall, a rather sparsely-attended event which was, nonetheless, thrilling.

Anna Meredith

Performing with an orchestra, rock drummer, a tuba standing in for a bass player, a guitarist, a superstar 'cellist and electronics, this really defied definition: lying somewhere between rock, rave and Michael Nyman, her music and personality had the whole audience dancing. Here is "Nautilus" to give you an idea...

Wonderful! And this is it without the full orchestra.

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Summer's Gone...

...and I'm back at work.

Summer kicked off with a new car:

Yes. I bought a 2-seater Smart Car! It is SO good. We were all over the country this summer and unlike the old car, the air-conditioning works in this one. Also, it doesn't leak when it rains.

Started off in Brighton - of course - and a trip to West Dean to see Bob Ebendorf there, in excellent spirits as always and so good to catch up:

Bob Eberndorf - West Dean Workshops - 3

Bob Eberndorf - West Dean Workshops - 4

We then headed off to Bristol for an ACJ meeting, then to Scotland to see my mum - an event which found us staying in the worst hotel I have ever been in - and travelled back in a leisurely fashion, visiting towns in the borders which I had been to when I was much younger and had not been back to since. Places like Moffat, famous for the sour toffee:

and the sculpture of a ram in the high-street:

Ram 1

Unlike the baking hot weather which had preceded the holiday, this dull grey followed us around the whole of Scotland. The rest of the summer was spent in Brighton and Birmingham and the usual nonsense:
Megan and the Ginger One

Gormless and More Gormless

First thing back at work - after the 300+ emails - was the MA Jewellery exhibition which included a recreation of Bjork's "swan" dress in thousands of Iceland shopping bags:

MA Jewellery and Object - Graduate Show 2018 - 4 - Hannah-May Chapman

Made by my Hannah-May Chapman of "SpamGlam":

MA Jewellery and Object - Graduate Show 2018 - 5 - Hannah-May Chapman

Also featured was a video with none other than Phil Jupitus being turned into a monster by Chloe Henderson:

MA Jewellery and Object - Graduate Show 2018 - 2 - Chloe Henderson

Bridie Lander and I had fun with the sleep inducing wearables by Yueshang Wang:

MA Jewellery and Object - Graduate Show 2018 - 9 - Yueshang Wang

MA Jewellery and Object - Graduate Show 2018 - 7 - Yueshang Wang

My own favourite work was environmental, with Jingyao Sun's work made from dead leaves:

MA Jewellery and Object - Graduate Show 2018 - 14 - Jingyao Sun

And Haochen Chi's work in single-use plastic bags:

MA Jewellery and Object - Graduate Show 2018 - 17 - Haochen Shih

Both really looking at the transformation of the materials.

A very brief trip to Lichfield, which is lovely, to visit a magnesium casting plant. I've not been to Lichfield before and will take a longer visit soon. The mediaeval cathedral is incredible.

Lichfield Cathedral Reflections

Lichfield Cathedral

I particularly enjoyed the "Kings of England" arrayed across the front!

Kings of England

A very quick visit to see my old colleagues in Glasgow at Glasgow Kelvin and City of Glasgow colleges (it rained, of course), I was horrified to discover that the awful bronze statue "The Spirit of St. Kentigern" which used to sit in Buchanan Street and which my friends and I referred to as "the flying jobby" has reappeared. I was delighted some years back when it disappeared and I imagined that the ugly sub-Henry Moore had been quietly retired but it is back:

Tucked away in the car-park at the back entrance to the City of Glasgow College. Not sure what the college did to deserve this. I still think it is hideous but my art-critical language has improved since I was 14!

(The sculptor was one Neil Livingstone, about whom I can find nothing.)

V&A Dundee - 1
It was opening night at the new V&A museum in Dundee!
I was on my way to Dundee for the Handmade By Machines conference, held in Dundee University, where I was presenting a paper on "Technofreaks and Technophobes". The conference was excellent and saw an expansion of the event from an exhibition some ten years ago to an exhbition and symposium in 2013 and now this major event with an exhibition at the MacManus arts centre.

The programme was really varied with friends and colleagues, as well as new speakers. Sandra Wilson kicked us off with her researches into retrieving precious metals from mobile phones, a project in which she is collaborating with Edinburgh University department of chemistry:

Handmade by Machines 2018 - 1

We heard presentations from a wide range of makers, mostly about their practice. Antje Hiller spoke about her work using digital technology to make medical products more appealing:

Handmade by Machines 2018 - 2

Bin Dixon-Ward spoke about her concept of "digital cities" and how grids in her work reflected some of this:

Handmade by Machines 2018 - 3

The coup of the event was definitely getting Wendy Yothers to come over from the US to talk about her practice and meeting her for dinner afterwards was the highlight for me.

My own talk was not about making but about the philosophy and politics of technology and how we should be thinking about teaching it. You can read it here.

The exhibition afterwards was excellent.

Handmade by Machines 2018 - 4

Handmade by Machines 2018 - 6

New students have all returned. We had an amazing ice-breaker this year where they all had to turn newspapers into wearable costumes, working in groups. The results were amazing!

Paper Fashion Parade - 3

Paper Fashion Parade - 5

Paper Fashion Parade - 10

Here is a video of the final parade:

It was also time for our unique programme, the BA Jewellery and Silversmithing Design for Industry (DFI for short) to celebrate 10 years since it first began. This is the course which was so good that we stole the idea when I was still in Glasgow: convert a 2-year HND qualification into a BA with a 1-year technology- and business-based course. It's been run by Claire Price since the outset and it has produced some very well-known makers.

10:10 - Ten Years of the DFI - 1
Left to right: Alison Honour, Dean of Faculty; Gaynor Andrews, ex-Head of School; Claire Price, Course Director, DFI.
It was lovely to see so many people from the industry turn up for the reception:

10:10 - Ten Years of the DFI - 2

I think that they were most impressed that Claire had laid on Gin & Tonic instead of the usual wine!

10:10 - Ten Years of the DFI - 4
Work by Jack Rowe, one of the graduates from the first year of the course.
10:10 - Ten Years of the DFI - 5
Work by Daisy Grice, one of the graduates from the most recent year of the course.

FINALLY! Took a trip to London with the new students this week to see the legendary Goldsmiths' fair. Unfortunately, I was so engaged with talking to people (Chris Boland, Jonathan Boyd, Susi Hines, Steph Holt, Hazel Thorn and Lukas Grewenig were all there) that I forgot to take many photographs.

Kevin Gray introduced me to the pleasingly eccentric Ryan McClean who shot these beakers out of a cannon:

Ryan McClean - Goldsmiths' Fair

The videos of these being made are fascinating:

I'll end on an autumnal shot from my ride into work earlier this week:

Autumn Scene

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

From Melanie To Melania

What a few weeks!
First off was the visit to the RCA Graduate Show to see the work by my friend and colleague, Anthony Wong. I have barely seen him since he started the MA at the RCA two years ago and I was intrigued to see what he would come up with.

Royal College Graduate Show - 2018 - 8

I was not quite prepared for this, however! Nor, I learned, was he. As a British citizen, born in Liverpool to Chinese parents, he was surprised to find himself in a cohort of students who were Chinese and born in China, awakening his interest in the lives of his parents and, specifically, the Blue Star Line which brought them to the UK. This photograph gives absolutely nothing but an overview of the depth of the work, which features not only metalsmithing and jewellery but text and graphics as well, all exquisitely made.

Also in the show was Iona McCuaig.

Royal College Graduate Show - 2018 - 4

Iona has made a body of work which challenges the notion of "value" in the education she received at the RCA. A bold move, but one which paid off and which resulted in a witty and varied selection, playing with her background in traditional jewellery and allowing her to gently take the piss out of some of the famous artists who preceded her (such as Zandra Rhodes).

I also loved the work of Kelly Toode:

Royal College Graduate Show - 2018 - 7

Royal College Graduate Show - 2018 - 5

Combining ideas about armour and tailoring. Quite wonderful. The dress on the left, above, is tufted, like a rug:

Royal College Graduate Show - 2018 - 6

On the jewellery front, I got a chance to catch up with Jonathan Boyd on his meteoric rise (currently acting head of Jewellery and Metals at the RCA).

We didn't have a lot of time to see the rest of the disciplines, but I am glad I went to Ceramics - normally, I avoid ceramics: I don't get it and there are to many ugly lumps of clay for my tastes. However, this year, I was thrilled to find the work of Ian Thompson:

Royal College Graduate Show - 2018 - 13

Royal College Graduate Show - 2018 - 11

Royal College Graduate Show - 2018 - 9

Nothing to add to this. These are fantastic and utterly compelling.

After this, we wandered across London in the baking heat to get to New Designers, the annual festival of graduate design talent.

New Designers - 2018 - 1

The School of Jewellery stand was expanded this year to include some work by my HND students - the ones who are leaving with an HND and not progressing to the BA - and some of the horologists:

New Designers - 2018 - 2

I was in a bit of a dual role here, supporting the students of the School but also in terms of making introductions to the students who have been awarded our new ACJ School prizes. (The ACJ is giving a free one-year membership to a star student on each of the jewellery and silversmithing courses run around the UK.) These prizes are awarded at the discretion of the teaching staff in each institution and it was great to see some of them present at New Designers. First one I encountered was the voluble and engaging Ailsa Morrant from Glasgow School of Art:

New Designers - 2018 - 5

Glasgow is increasingly presenting top-notch work, which is great to see.

New Designers - 2018 - 8
Work by Shona Dobie.

New Designers - 2018 - 10
Work by Astrid Jaroslawsky.
Pin Yak Tin from Sheffield Hallam University produced a body of work which I found to be quite challenging and controversial, seeming to play with tropes of BDSM:

New Designers - 2018 - 11

New Designers - 2018 - 12

I asked her about this and she staunchly defended the work as being about her own internal monologues, about how it prevented the outside from getting in, which, in my mind, opens up a whole other series of issues. A very successful collection!

New Designers - 2018 - 14

Also at Sheffield, I loved Paige Newall's work in Whitby jet and fossils:

New Designers - 2018 - 15

New Designers - 2018 - 16

Off to Dundee, Duncan of Jordanstone, and another ACJ prize-winner, Ieva Jankovska who is making fascinating work from 3D printed models of muscles in motion while she grinds enamel and then using sections of that model to create work in conjunction with the enamel, fired onto metal. It sounds complicated and contrived but the work is lovely:

New Designers - 2018 - 18

New Designers - 2018 - 17

This is where the show became really interesting... I kept bumping into students who had been studying on my course in Glasgow the year I left, which was also the year that the Scottish Government decided that we could no longer run our degree. What a pleasure to see how far these people had come since their brief time with me.

First up, again at Dundee, was Erin Dyer, with a lovely collection of fine jewellery:

New Designers - 2018 - 19

I then bumped into Nicola Fabian at Edinburgh College of Art:

New Designers - 2018 - 20

New Designers - 2018 - 21

Also at Edinburgh was the fantastic work of Hongzhi Zhu:

New Designers - 2018 - 23

New Designers - 2018 - 24

Not visible here, these little "mouths" have details such ass tongues and teeth!

In a surprising revelation, I met with Jasmine Brown, partner of my collaborative partner, Dan Russell, showing her collection of deeply political brooches, verging on badges:

New Designers - 2018 - 25

I particularly love "Hello! I am an Intersectional Feminist".

Outside of this year's graduates were some remarkable works in the "One Year On" section, featuring people who had been making more work in the year since graduation. I fell in love with the work of Miki Asai in Japanese lacquer and traditionally-associated materials:

New Designers - 2018 - 26

New Designers - 2018 - 27

Also in this area, Romany Starrs (best name ever!), one of my ex-students, now working as a self-employed designer and maker. What a pleasure to see her again:

New Designers - 2018 - 29

New Designers - 2018 - 30

I've been a fan of Rosie Deegan's conceptual craft work since I saw it at Lustre some time ago and it was a real surprise to find her in the "One Year On" section as I thought she had graduated some time ago. Impressive to have achieved so much in such a short period of time. Her most recent work is exploring her concept of the "pink tax", the idea that pink objects cost more than objects in other colours, relating this to feminist thought in a rather brilliant display of elegant and witty cast-glass:

New Designers - 2018 - 31

New Designers - 2018 - 32

The last thing at New Designers which particularly appealed was pointed out to me in advance by Sam Ritte, a graduate of Plymouth College of Art with whom I have been in conversation over the last few years. He suggested that I check out Hereford College graduate, Tom Nicolson, and I was not disappointed... his massive iron collars are based on ancient African forging techniques and are compelling:

New Designers - 2018 - 35

New Designers - 2018 - 37


I've never been to Wolverhampton before but it is a short ride on the tram from Birmingham city centre to go and see "Ghost Horses and Guns", an exhibition of work by my friend and colleague, Melanie Tomlinson.

Ghost Horses and Guns - Melanie Tomlinson - 1

Melanie is primarily an illustrator but has moved into three dimensions, making illustrated work in metal, wood and automata. For this show, she worked with groups of young people from around Wolverhampton and with a group of refugees. This formed the first part of the exhibition and is marvellous:

Ghost Horses and Guns - Melanie Tomlinson - 2

Ghost Horses and Guns - Melanie Tomlinson - 4

Ghost Horses and Guns - Melanie Tomlinson - 3

Using her metal-embossing techniques, she got the participants to create "2.5-D" portraits of themselves which were then exhibited. Unfortunately, what with there being a world-cup football match on at the same time as the opening, none of them turned up to see their work displayed so amazingly!

All of Melanie's work tells stories: from the appearance of mystery lights in the sky over a residential suburb of Birmingham, through a love affair between punks in the back of a wrecked Reliant Robin car, to the animals which roam the streets as we sleep (including the five white horses of the exhibition title).

Ghost Horses and Guns - Melanie Tomlinson - 6

Ghost Horses and Guns - Melanie Tomlinson - 7

Ghost Horses and Guns - Melanie Tomlinson - 12

A fantastic show and worth travelling to see.
It was great to catch up with Melanie and her partner, as well as Deirdre from Craftspace, who opened the exhibition.

Make Your Future - 2018 - 1

Time again for the collaborative exhibition "Make Your Future", setting makers from the School of Jewellery in place as tutors and mentors to school teachers and pupils in a variety of schools around the West Midlands. Working with the Crafts Council and the School of Jewellery, some of our tutors and some of our students worked with teachers and class groups to teach them skills which they can use in their craft, design and art teaching, all things which are under deliberate attack by a philistine government.

Make Your Future - 2018 - 7

The atrium of the school filled up with makers, proud parents and teachers for a show of what is possible even under the most dire of circumstances and a collection of brilliant work.

Make Your Future - 2018 - 4

Make Your Future - 2018 - 5

Make Your Future - 2018 - 6

Carnival of Resistance - Stop Trump - London 2018 - 8

To London and the Carnival Of Resistance!
So, the odious Donald Trump was in town to hold hands with the incompetent Theresa May and to be boorishly rude and patronising to HM The Queen. (Jewellery fans: a good article here about how The Queen may have subtly slighted the monster with her brooches. Shades of Madelaine Albright.)

Carnival of Resistance - Stop Trump - London 2018 - 6

Some people, 250000 of us in London alone, decided that we couldn't let that go unmarked and someone in the weather department turned on the sun for us as we crossed London to Trafalgar Square, bearing all manner of wittily scurrilous banners. There is something about the Great British Protest that is really inspiring:

Carnival of Resistance - Stop Trump - London 2018 - 3
From "Father Ted" quotes...

Carnival of Resistance - Stop Trump - London 2018 - 4
To "bigly ugly" puppets.

Carnival of Resistance - Stop Trump - London 2018 - 7
Music references and blank statements of truth.

Carnival of Resistance - Stop Trump - London 2018 - 15
A lot of craftivism.

Carnival of Resistance - Stop Trump - London 2018 - 14
Ultra creative projects, such as this mobile punchbag...
And a LOT of "Handmaids". I am not sure what Margaret Attwood would make of that, but she might like this:

Carnival of Resistance - Stop Trump - London 2018 - 9

I took my favourite shot of the day on my phone...

Under His eye.