Saturday, May 18, 2013

290° - The First of the Scottish Degree Shows


It is that time of year again, when the degree shows in Scotland all kick off. As usual, the roll is started by Dundee's Duncan of Jordanstone College of  Art & Design - DJCAD for short. Regular readers of my blog will know that Dundee is my favourite Scottish city and has been for many, many years, so it is something of a surprise to realise that until last night, I had never been to the degree show there. As DJCAD is now our new partner in the two-year degree programme at our own college - as of two weeks ago - there was no excuse for not visiting this year.

Arrival at DJCAD Degree Show

As usual, it was sunny and clear in Dundee when we arrived and after some dinner, we headed off to the college to find it surrounded by crowds with a party of drummers performing on the steps. Inside, we headed straight to the Jewellery department where we stayed for the whole evening, not even getting a glimpse at the fine art, or any of the other sections of the show. Delightfully, the first person we saw was the DJCAD jewellery tutor, Teena Ramsay and as we spoke to her, she was presented with a bunch of flowers by her students, kicking the whole evening off on a high note.

Teena And Students

The DJCAD Jewellery show is a winner. 21 makers, all very different and fresh, all very interesting: the bar is set very high for us at North Glasgow College and the students at Edinburgh College of Art and at Glasgow School of Art.

At this point I am going to make a confession and say that I have singularly failed not only my followers on here but also two of the makers in the show: I got so engrossed in conversation with them that I failed to take any representative photographs of their work, so as a sort of compensation, I am going to put them first and urge you to visit their websites to see what they have been making. For me, the most "now" and also the most marketable work in the show was by Pamela Goodman and Ali Taylor, both of whom interested me so much that I talked rather than recording! That is not to say that the other makers were any less engaging, but from a personal point of view, their work appealed to me the most.

Pamela makes work from leather. Not my favourite material, but what she is doing with it is brilliant. Working within the ideas around the "fetish" nature of leather, she has produced work which is both interesting and commercial. I could easily imagine her work gracing a Helmut Lang catwalk show. Unfortunately, the only photograph I found was of her least representative piece:

Pamela Goodman

Aided by the ubiquitous Dougie Kinnear (!) this was her first foray into CAD/CAM. I do urge you to look at her website to better understand she is doing. Pretty Vexed.

Ali Taylor has taken ideas around religion and faith and has interpreted them in a seriously "Gothic" fine-jewellery manner. His work uses very simple - but not simplistic - forms of skulls, crosses and pearls and builds them into delicate, intricate little pieces which are reminiscent of Victorian mourning jewels without being in any way pastiche. He uses CAD/CAM extensively and his display - in a separate room from the rest so that we nearly missed it - played with religiosity, inviting visitors to worship the jewels, which some of my students took the opportunity to do:

Ali Taylor

Once more, please do visit his website to see what he is making. Ali Taylor Jewellery Design.

So, apologies aside and on with the rest of the show...

I started off with laser-cut work by Jennifer McGurk, work which contrasts the burnt edges of laser-cut wood with the sharpness of form and of cut brass:

Jennifer McGurk - 2

It was nice to see a body of playful, thoughtful work which bridges the rigorous approaches of some conceptualists with the real-world concerns of what jewellery means to most people. Kirsty Isla Nicholson does this beautifully with her edible jewellery - white chocolate pearls, below! - and her jewellery which plays with the form of jewellery, thus rings become bangles and earrings rings.

Kirsty Isla Nicholson -  1

Lucie Hunter works with ideas about "place" and all the work in her degree show was about her visit to Staffa, off the west coast of Scotland. Lovely pieces:

Lucie Hunter - 2

Over the last week, I've had cause to think about what is "male jewellery" - more on that in posts to come, I hope - so it was interesting to find this work by Catherine McLaughlin, who is working in CAD/CAM and 3D printed materials to create spectacular collars and rings:

Catherine McLaughlin - 3

Fay McGlashan works in porcelain to create cabochons based on insect elytra, sometimes including dead insects in the work which she then makes from the cabochons:

Fay McGlashan - 2

The work which I found most interesting - though I own to not actually liking it as jewellery - is the latex and mixed-materials work of Deanne Holden in which she takes her beautiful forms and renders them strangely tactile, sticky even, by using latex rubber to encase them. Her work is all derived from old medical textbooks and even from casts of skulls. What I do like very much is the hidden intent in this work:

Deanne Holden - 2

Kirsten Manzi's work consists entirely of work built around her sketchbooks from when she lived in New York and not only does she manage to very effectively capture a nostalgia for the city, but she has come up with some great designs for a reversible brooch!

Kirsten Manzi - 3

Progressing up the gallery, I couldn't help but notice the strong smells emanating from the corner of the first room where Patricia Lip had installed her piece about scents. Presenting a body of research work and three wall-mounted objects which one could walk past and sniff, her show was somewhat removed from the concept of "jewellery" and I couldn't really get a handle on what she was doing, though the ideas presented were a little reminiscent of Jivan Astfalck's work.

Patricia Lip - 2

By far my favourite single piece in the show is Anaïs Paulard's "hug" brooch, a piece which, when the wearer hugs someone, explodes, showering both people with coloured powder. It is just such a joyful, fun idea:

Anaïs Paulard - 3

Megan McGinley set up a little workbench in the corner of her space as she said that it is important for people to see how she makes her work. Her work is also very concerned with "place" and she uses various seaside locations around Scotland as thematic material.

Megan McGinley - 2

The next maker I came to was Beth Lamont, or at least is should have been, but I couldn't find her, so I'm sorry to say that I don't have any background to her work which is made from porcelain and silver:

Beth Lamont - 1

Rachel Bruce is rather hard for me to write about... anyone who knows me knows that I don't like dogs and that I'm not very fond of the whimsical. So to write constructively about a body of work dealing in whimsical dogs is actually a huge challenge for me... What I will say is that the work is well-made and that I am sure it will be successful. On a personal level, not for me.

Rachel Bruce - 1

Linsay Thomson makes work using the sort of materials I enjoy using myself: found iron wire, bits of old signs and fences. Needless to say, her neckpieces appeal to me hugely, though she works in a very different way. I love the way that such unlikely material becomes delicate in her hands.

Linsay Thomson - 2

I was wrong-footed by Rachel Alexander's display of brooches which appeared to have been made from enamelled copper. In fact they are made from natural twigs which she has dried and then coated in resin, using precious metals to mount them:

Rachel Alexander - 1

Followers of jewellery-related things on Twitter may have been finding that they kept getting references to "Jellyman" and "Dundee" appearing in their tweets... it is just as well that I was well-prepared to finally meet him, as sported by his maker, Zoe Davidson who makes quite spectacular body pieces from copper, latex, silver, electroluminescent wire... Zoe is one to watch out for, in so many ways!

Zoe Davidson - 1

I felt it was something of a return to the 1980s with Cat Doyle's fabric and metalworks which seemed to me to reference the spirit of Zandra Rhodes:

Cat Doyle - 1

The outsider! What happens when a jewellery student decides that she doesn't want to make jewellery any more? Well, Rachel Deas has turned her hand to making lighting from found objects, which I absolutely love: I'll be emailing her later to commission one as these had all sold:

Rachel Deas

There was only one silversmithing exhibit in the show, work by Sarah Finnigan. It is always good to see people making larger work than just jewellery, especially when it has the elegance of form of her bowls:

Sarah Finnigan - 1

Samantha Lain, unusually, appears to specialise in making wristwear - cuffs, bracelets and bangles:

Samantha Lain - 2

Overall, a most impressive show. What impresses me most of all is that Teena largely works on her own in this department, working with four year groups. That she has managed to get 21 students, all working in such diverse ways, through to this stage of their careers is a testament to her skill, patience and dedication.

Those of you who will be going to New Designers will have the chance to check out this work there.

If anyone wants to contact the students shown above, their details are on the DJCAD website.

The End

And after all that, I can't be bothered talking about what I've been making over the last couple of weeks. I'll save that for tomorrow.