Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Coco's Channel Settings

I've never channel-set round stones until today...

Coco's Cogs - WIP - 16

I'm genuinely surprised that it is easier than channel setting square stones, which I have done before on many occasions. I had always imagined that the round stones - not fitting so squarely into the channel - would rock about, but they don't. The problem with these garnets (3mm) is that the girdles are all over the place, from wafer-thin on one side of the stone to about 1mm thick at the other on some of them!

Alpha Male Ring - WIP - 1

Also on the bench today, my "Alpha Male" ring! I found a piece of mild steel stamped with "ALPHA +" for some reason: it had to be used.

Other than that, it is preparing for San Francisco at the weekend. "Ferrous" opening at Velvet da Vinci on Friday, the Craft Forward symposium on Saturday and then speaking at the California College of the Arts on Monday. Exciting stu

Monday, February 25, 2013


One of the publicity images for Ferrous, the Crafthaus show at Velvet da Vinci, San Francisco...

Ferrous Poster

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Short Post About A Small Show

One of my students, Inness Thomson, though only part of the way through his course, has just opened his first small show at Scotland Art.Com, a gallery in the centre of glasgow. As you can understand, he is justifiably proud:

Iness Thomson - 1

I especially like his silver and topaz necklet:

Iness Thomson - 2

The show runs for the next month and is worth a visit.

I've been promoting a new "Crafthaus"-type of website for British jewellers - it seems that it is specifically for British jewellers, but I wonder for how long - called Young British Jewellers. It already seems that you don't have to be "young" - as proven by my own membership! - but you have to have young ideas... or something like that. That makes it sound like I am sniping, but I am emphatically not! I support this fully and hope that other makers in the UK will too.

Further to last week's dressmaking pin frenzy, I've been at work with the pins again. Unfortunately, I forgot to photograph how the piece is looking so far. Update tomorrow.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Vikings! Death and Wendy Ramshaw

Edinburgh over the weekend and what an exhausting marathon it proved to be, jumping from gallery to gallery before collecting my new kilt (no photographs as yet!).
I started off at the Vikings! exhibition at the National Museum of Scotland, a phenomenal tour-de-force of utterly gasp-inducing metalwork with some glass, wood and textiles on the side. A joint exhibition between NMS and The Swedish History Museum in Stockholm. The jewellery in the exhibition is of special note but, unfortunately, I was not allowed to take any photographs of it to share with you. Suffice to say that anyone expecting brutish primitivism which would suit the popular image of the Viking is going to be disappointed in one way but can't fail to be amazed in others. There are pieces in the show for which I couldn't work out the method of manufacture at all!
One non-jewellery exhibit which compelled me to sneak a photograph was this fantastic recreation of the form of a Viking longboat from the corroded nails alone:

Viking Boat

Viking Boat

There is a little brain-worm in the back of my head now about creating something using the idea of these nails floating in space...

Sco Natio Gallery O Mo

After the Viking exhibition, I jumped on the bus to the Scottish Gallery of Modern Art to see the From Death To Death show. This show should have been right up my street, and bits of it were, being billed as "the diverse ways in which 20th and 21st century artists have approached the subject of the body". Unfortunately, it was somewhat curatorially vague, lacking in clear direction or focus and with an over reliance on some artists whom I didn't think merited the volume of inclusion (Robert Gober, for example). Like the curate's egg, it is good in parts: and the parts which are good are very, very good but are not enough to make the exhibition feel complete and satisfying.
The star of the show, for me, is the wonderfully sensual installation by Brazilian artist, Ernesto Neto:

Ernesto Neto - 1

A room full of these intestinal tubes made from nylon and filled with raw spices, each one pungent and colourful. The smell fills the entire gallery, from the moment the viewer walks in the door, and the smell in the room is ravishing. The great joy of this piece is that for all its monumental simplicity, it is also endlessly subtle. I especially enjoyed the way in which the spices leaked out of the tubes:

Ernesto Neto - 4

As well as the way in which the nylon took on the colour of the spices:

Ernesto Neto - 3

This has been the work which has been garnering all the press attention but I was actually quite surprised to see how few people lingered to enjoy it. Most of the visitors walked right through without stopping to enjoy the smells or the details. Their loss.
There is a lot of video in the exhibition, a form for which I have a very low tolerance, but it was nice to see that all five of Matthew Barney's Cremaster Cycle films were being shown (simultaneously) in the gallery. A great shame that they are not also being shown individually in a cinema too.

After finishing at the Death to Death show, I trotted off into town to see the two exhibitions of work by the British jewellery high-priestess, Wendy Ramshaw, which proved to be a bit of an eye-opener for me. The show is in two parts, a small selling exhibition in The Scottish Gallery - a model for what a small, independent gallery can and should be - and a larger retrospective in the public arts space, The Dovecot Studios.
Ms Ramshaw is most famous for her "ring towers", sets of rings which can be worn separately or together and which are displayed when not worn on turned towers:

Wendy Ramshaw at The Scottish Gallery

Wendy Ramshaw at The Scottish Gallery

Her other work is very geometric and abstract and seems to deal with flat space rather than dimensional space. These recent brooches at The Scottish Gallery are a good example:

Wendy Ramshaw at The Scottish Gallery

More recently, she has been working on a much larger scale, making gates other architectural and landscape works - some of which were shown at The Dovecot Studios - and which look like scaled-up versions of these brooches in many ways.

Wendy Ramshaw at the Dovecoat Arts Centre

Unfortunately, I wasn't allowed to photograph inside the gallery at the Dovecot, so I took this from outside! You can see one of the gate models on the far wall.
Which brings me to what I have been thinking since I saw these shows... While I appreciate what she has done in terms of bringing the idea of contemporary jewellery to a wider UK audience and while I can see that she is a very talented designer, I find her work utterly sterile: completely devoid of passion. It doesn't speak to me on anything but a technical level. I can find no wit, humour or humanity in it, merely a flinty, disconnected intellect.
Don't misunderstand me... I think that everyone who is interested in contemporary British design should see these exhibitions - especially the jewellers - as this is important work. It is me personally who finds it cold, lifeless and unexciting.
Perhaps someone can change my mind?

On Friday afternoon, before I set off to Edinburgh, I was at a loose end. All my students were working in a most admirably self-directed way and one of the fashion students foolishly left a box of pins in the computer room. The pins were thicker than usual dressmaking pins and really pleasing to touch. I sat down to experiment at the bench and found that I could fuse the ends of the pins into beads, meaning that I could trap them in a hole...
The "Friday Fun" kinetic ring was born...

Friday Fun - 7

Friday Fun - 5

Sunday, February 03, 2013

Coco's Cogs

I quite often find myself a bit "drained" when I've finally finished a piece of work and, having finished the codpiece, I could relax a bit and make some less challenging work, such as some earring trios to offer to the "Earrings Galore" show at Heidi Lowe Gallery, the call for which is here. I had the annoying problem of a flask of castings of settings for one set failing twice, but have managed to get four sets together so far, the fifth to follow when the castings finally work...

Bike Chain Earring Trio -

Bike-chain Earring Trio, made from sections of found bike-chain, set with CZs and synthetic sapphires. The backs of these are set too:

Bike Chain Earring Trio -

I made a set from a broken Archimedes Drill. I've had the core of this for ages but have never wanted to do anything with it as it is such a beautiful form. Set with garnet, black spinel and amethyst:

Archimedes - Earring Trio - 3

Archimedes - Earring Trio - 1

There is a set made from my old stalwart of steel rule, the 17, 18, 19 set. The stones used here are blue topaz and opal:

17, 18, 19 - Earring Trio, 3

17, 18, 19 - Earring Trio, 2

Finally, my "monochrome" set, made from found, corroded washers and set with beads of natural rock-crystal, howlite and a freshwater pearl:

Monochrome - Earring Trio - 2

Monochrome - Earring Trio - 1

I was sent a link by the BJA (Brittish Jeweller's Association) - a rather staid body largely representing the retail and commercial jewellery outlets in the UK - to a video about how Coco Chanel came to launch her famous 1932 show of jewellery featuring diamonds. The video itself is somewhat annoying but one fleeting glimpse of a piece, shown for only a few frames at about 3'32", a sautoir diamonds and chain, has led me down an unlikely path...

I am not entirely clear why Mlle. Chanel has managed to stay under my radar for so long. She was associated with so many of the people who have been of interest to me in the past - Stravinsky, Cocteau, Picasso and others - but I've never paid any attention to her work: more specifically, I've never paid any attention to her jewellery. This strikes me as especially odd given that her own design influences and sources were Renaissance, Byzantine and Baroque...
Last summer, in Pittsburgh, I found some beautiful and odd cogs in "Construction Junction" and I have been saving them for "something" without having any clear idea of what I wanted to make. My own interpretation of the Chanel sautoir is where they will be used.
I discovered in my researches so far that Mlle. Chanel liked her jewellery to be multi-purpose: she liked pieces which could be taken apart and reconfigured or worn as separate pieces, a conceit which appeals to me too. In my own interpretation, this will be a major feature too, including a brooch element, a bracelet, various chain and pendant configurations and possibly earrings. So far, only the central brooch element is clear in my mind and on the bench:

Coco's Cogs - WIP - 3

For some years, I have been a keen follower of Cari-Jane Hakes and her work but over the recent months we have been talking a lot more about our respective practices. She recently commented on how much she liked the little silver antlers which I had made for the kilt belt buckle:

Silver Antler Pile

So I sent her a pair around which she has started to make a piece of work. In conversation, we decided that it might be a good idea to build an exhibition around this, inviting makers to use a pair of antlers to create a piece of jewellery and sending the antlers to them. At the moment, it is all a bit vague, but if anyone has any comments on this idea, they would be very welcome. I am going to be meeting with Cari in March to work out some ideas in detail.

Finally, a little "charm" I made from some odds and ends on the bench. The setting was made for something else and not used and the back part is from a Shimano cassette for a bike:

Shimano Pendant