Tuesday, May 24, 2011

catching a breath

Since Thursday evening last week, it has been absolutely non-stop! I spent the weekend in Birmingham, a city I love for its energy, friendliness and genuine multi-culturalism: ignore the naysayers who deride the place... It is WELL worth a visit.

The reason for visiting Birmingham this time was for a board meeting of the Association for Contemporary Jewellery, roughly the UK equivalent of SNAG, albeit on a slightly smaller scale. The meeting was held in the Jewellery School in the city and gave me the chance to catch up with Yi Liu again and see what he has been making in his role as Artist-in-Residence at the school, a post he has taken up since we last met:

Yi Liu

His work is less figurative than before and more abstract, but still very detailed and dark. I also saw some fascinating works by his colleague, fellow Artist-in-Residence, Rachael Colley, who makes fascinating works from precious materials and dried meat and blood:

Rachael Colley

The meeting was very constructive and loads of work was done to further the ACJ.
After the meeting, I went out with James to eat some Ethiopian food in the very odd little restaurant we found some time back. (Both times we have visited, we've been the only people in there!) The staff are lovely and the food is cheap and good. He's just back from St. Petersburg, which sounds fascinating.

On Saturday, I decided it was time to socialise a bit and met up with yet another fellow jeweller, Miriam Rowe, an American living and working in Birmingham. After a very leisurely lunch - at the eternal and brilliant Cafe Soya - we went to the Jewellery Quarter in the city to have a look at her studio in the Designspace project:

Designspace Workshops

This is a fantastic initiative by the City Council to encourage recent graduates to become more business-aware and to offer them workshop spaces where they can develop their materials with guidance from business support people, including marketing and accounts. All very useful. It is such a great pity that this type of initiative is not duplicated in other cities.
Miriam is working on some new pieces just now, as you can see from her bench:

New Work By Miriam Rowe

And she is in an environment where she is surrounded by very, very creative and exciting people, such as Natalie Salisbury, the work of whom I think is quite brilliant:

Natalie Salisbury 2

I'm a sucker for a bit of complex piercing!
After the studio visit, we wandered around the jewellery quarter for a bit, looking in some of the open studios which were available to view on that day but the whole quarter was disappointingly quiet. It strikes me that if Birmingham were really serious about promoting new talent - and I think that they probably are - they should get rid of all the pedlars of Chinese mass-produced jewellery from the quarter and force it to concentrate on handmade, specialist and unique work: it is very sad that people are deceived by dishonest advertising into thinking that everything bought in the jewellery quarter was also made there...

In between all this, I spent loads of time taking photographs which can be seen here, if you are really interested!

Since arriving back on Sunday evening, I've done a bit more work on "A Forest".
I finally managed to get the boss for the base of the main "theatre" milled out and cast. This has been a terrible pain as I couldn't quite get it to mill properly, due to the flexibility of the wax and the very thin leaves, but it finally worked:

A Forest (WIP) - 46

A Forest (WIP) - 45

I think that this makes the piece look much more balanced.
The lid is now on the inner box, which will hide the way in which the inner box fits into the outer box and has been decorated with applied silver and gold leaves:

A Forest (WIP) - 47

Finally, I managed to get some of the intermediate layers cut, one from some scrap galvanised steel, one from an old nickel electrode:

A Forest (WIP) - 49

I've started work on the chain now and can see it at last shaping up as I had imagined it!

Hope that I can get away this weekend as planned. Not wanting to be stuck in miserable glasgow over a long weekend, unable to access the workshops due to bank holidays.

Monday, May 23, 2011

thought for my day

"Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former." - Albert Einstein.

A thought in the wake of the hubristic non-apocalypse.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Birmingham Weekend

Off to Birmingham this weekend to meet with fellow jewellers, Miriam Rowe and Yi Liu. I'm going down for a meeting of the board of the Association for Contemporary Jewellery and it's always good to make these things a bit social too.

Been doing a lot of work on "A Forest" too. I managed to complete the top of the main box structure:

A Forest (WIP) - 36

A Forest (WIP) - 37

The central section is going to hold an obsidian skull with oak leaves around the head in a kind of "green man" motif. (I wanted to make this an especially English piece as The Cure have always seemed to me to be a band which could really only have come from England, hence the oak leaves, acorns and green man.)

I also managed to get started on making the liner for the box which will create the sense of depth and of peering through the trees:

A Forest (WIP) - 39

The green is just the colour of the cardboard I was using to make the macquette. The actual inner structure will be on a copper frame:

A Forest (WIP) - 40

There won't be any progress on this now until I get back from Birmingham.

Saturday, May 14, 2011


Well, I got loads done today despite having a strange 'flu-like thing which is making me cough a lot and sneeze loads - not good for soldering - without making me feel bad in any other way...

Attached most of the top section of "A Forest":

A Forest (WIP) - 32

A Forest (WIP) - 31

I would have finished this section, but the building in which I have my workshop closes at 1pm on a Saturday.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Transgenic Acorns...

<p>Got quite a lot of work done on "A Forest" today:</p>
<p> </p>
<p><a title="A Forest (WIP) - 32 by the justified sinner, on Flickr" href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/the_justified_sinner/5713682019/"><img class="align-center" alt="A Forest (WIP) - 32" height="640" width="481" src="http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2603/5713682019_7630e4b30d_z.jpg" /></a></p>
<p> </p>
<p>This has easily been one of the most challenging silver-iron soldering exercises!</p>
<p>I wanted a large bullet cabochon for the bottom of the piece, to make into an "acorn" but my stone-dealer had nothing in stock and while I could have asked her to get one cut for me, I don't really have the time, so I decided to make my own by milling one in hardwood...</p>
<p> </p>
<p><a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/the_justified_sinner/5714245540/" title="A Forest (WIP) - 28 by the justified sinner, on Flickr"><img class="align-center" src="http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3378/5714245540_9229136d7c_z.jpg" width="640" height="481" alt="A Forest (WIP) - 28" /></a></p>
<p> </p>
<p>The sharp-eyed among you will have noticed that it is being milled from Walnut, a kind of transgenic acorn!</p>
<p>Here's the cap, waiting to be cast:</p>
<p> </p>
<p><a title="A Forest (WIP) - 29 by the justified sinner, on Flickr" href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/the_justified_sinner/5714244764/"><img class="align-center" alt="A Forest (WIP) - 29" height="481" width="640" src="http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2233/5714244764_c642439ecb_z.jpg" /></a></p>
<p> </p>
<p>Not much more to say as 1) My main computer won't boot up and 2) I'm very tired!</p>

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

scent of a forest

Because of time constraints, "A Forest" is having to be made to serve two purposes: 1) to enter for consideration in the show outlined in a previous post and; 2) to enter an informal "contest" between friends, colleagues and associates where we all tackle the same idea in our own way. The current challenge is to create a wearable perfume holder. I'm not quite sure at what point it occurred to me to combine the two projects, but they are now quite unified in my head!

I made the bottom part of the "theatre" today. I have to confess that I was in some doubt as to whether this would work at all or not...

A Forest (WIP) - 27

It did. This will be the part which holds and diffuses the perfume. Because of the dual nature of the challenge, I wanted a perfume which smelled like the earth, like soil and woodland and decaying plant matter. It surprised me to find that such a thing exists! Black Phoenix Alchemy Labs make it and the woman who runs the place was excited enough about the project to offer to send me a bottle of her "Black Forest" scent:
This is the captured scent of a cold, moonless night, lost deep within the darkest wood. Haunting and desolate, this scent evokes images of fairy tale tragedy and half-remembered nightmares. Thick, viscous pine with ambergris, black musk, juniper and cypress.

Seems perfect!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

sawblade supplies

After Satuday's debacle of the sawblades, I managed to get started again on Monday morning with 1 dozen borrowed from one of my students - another of my students brought me half a gross in the afternoon (I have the best students!).

I managed to cast some of the silver elements which will be used in the piece:

A Forest (WIP) - 23

These were all drawn in Rhino and milled out on a Roland mill. The acorn cups and leaves will become finials on the top of the "theatre". The lump in the top left of the picture below is the "mossy" support for the mushrooms. It looked like this originally:

A Forest (WIP) - 19

I also finished the cutting for the structure of the box:

A Forest (WIP) - 20

And re-cut the girl so that she looks to be of a more appropriate scale:

A Forest (WIP) - 22A Forest (WIP) - 21

I'll keep the bigger one and make her into something later.

And now, off to bed...

Saturday, May 07, 2011

renaissance-allegorical humour

(Though the owners might not realise it.)

I've just been sent to this site by a colleague. I've never seen such incredible (in every sense of the word) jewellery...

never run out of blades on a saturday...

A new maxim for metalsmiths, in the UK at least. I was hoping to finish the piercing on the box flat which will make up the main body of "A Forest" but broke my last 6/0 blade on the back panel:

A Forest (WIP) - 18

As you can see, there are about half-a-dozen sections to go and the right-hand panel isn't even started. I can't use 4/0 as they are too coarse and I can't use 8/0 because they aren't strong enough to cut this steel. SO, I have to wait until the tool shops open on Monday!
I suppose I should view this as a charming left-over of the Victorian era, but I don't. Of course, I should really have bought more blades when I saw that I was running out...

Friday, May 06, 2011

Attack Of The Fifty-Foot Woman!

I started cutting the box for "A Forest" today:

A Forest (WIP) - 14

The trees were drawn in Inkscape from photographs of real trees (in Rye, East Sussex) and then transferred to Rhino to make the cutting plans;

A Forest (WIP) - 15

Unfortunately, I cut the element of the girl yesterday and my scaling is a bit out...

A Forest (WIP) - 16

A friend of mine described this as "Attack of the 50ft Woman".
(Though the mushrooms which will be in here are meant to be outsized, so perhaps this is OK. I'll cut another - smaller - girl tomorrow and see how it looks.)

Thursday, May 05, 2011

the kiss - a forest

I've been planning my entry for BJ Johnson's call for pieces based on inspirations from the works of The Cure. Since I first read about this exhibition, I've been planning what to make and have ended up going with my initial feelings that I should work with the initial idea I had after reading the proposal: to make a piece around "A Forest", their 1980 single and a song which, for me, encapsulates their very essence, both lyrically and sonically.

"A Forest" tells a tale of mystery and loss in, unsurprisingly, a dark forest, the primitive forest beloved of the Gothic novelists. A bleak, disturbed tale elegantly told in five minutes and fifty-five seconds, minimally spare but pounding nervously to a breathless conclusion of loss.

My piece returns to the "theatre" format of Cold Genius and will be a pendant in the form of a shadow-box. One of the reasons for the delay is that I've been waiting for some porcelain mushrooms to be made for me by Lisa Stevens, who also made the figure of the Cold Genius. They arrived today, so it is full-speed ahead with this one.

A Forest (WIP) - 11

Some of the initial drawings plus a silver cut-out of "the girl".

A Forest (WIP) - 12

Two porcelain ink-cap mushrooms.

A Forest (WIP) - 13

The basic structure of the theatre shadow-box.

A Forest (WIP) - 10

Wax elements for casting in gold and silver. These were designed in Rhino and milled out on a Roland mill. The blue pieces are "acorn cups" to be set with bullet cabochons.

Published my first Rhino script today! This came about as the result of a student asking me how to do something, to which I replied, "We can write a script to do that".
Four hours later, the PipeAll command was born, based on a flawed basic script I had found elsewhere. It was this script which allowed me to make the acorn caps shown above. The script can be downloaded at Rhinoscript.org.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

seed in the sand

Some time ago, a friend of mine in the US, knowing of my fondness for the films of the Quay Brothers and Jan Svankmajer sent me a copy of a film of which I had never heard: Christiane Cegavske's melancholy and beautiful "Blood, Tea and Red String". The same friend today contacted me to tell me that Cegavske is making a new film - Seed in the Sand" - and is using a novel method of raising funds by public subscription. Given the cutbacks and attacks on "the arts" in general, this struck me as an interesting way of raising funds for arts - not wholly satisfactory, but certainly better than being cut off from funding entirely - and have pledged my support.

Anyone interested in the project can find details here.