Friday, September 27, 2013

Enough Violence

Enough Violence: Artists Speak Out - 2

Tonight sees the opening of the exciting "Enough Violence: Artists Speak Out" exhibition at the Society for Contemporary Craft in Pittsburgh, an exhibition which features work from many artists and makers and which I am honoured and pleased to have been invited to take part in. To date, I have published no work from the show as I wanted it to be viewed at the gallery before making it public to try and preserve some of the shock which I feel when I consider the work at a distance of several months since having completed it. For this exhibition, I collaborated with my friend and colleague, photographer Simon Murphy and a group of young people who had various experiences of violence in their lives. It is probably best explained by the text which I wrote for the SCC for the exhibition catalogue: 

When the Society for Contemporary Craft asked me to participate in their exhibition, our initial discussions revolved around my use of themes of violence in my work, works with titles like “Noli Me Tangere” and “Mace”, pieces based on mediaeval weaponry and tales of bloodshed. None of these works seemed to me to be a direct response to the title, “Enough Violence: Artists Speak Out”, but rather to be dealing with themes of violence as distant, perhaps even romanticised concepts which have no bearing on modern lives or real people. We live in an increasingly violent society: violence is real and affects the real lives of real people. I wanted to take the concept of the title and really say something.

I am fortunate in having been spared any real violence in my life: mugged once in the streets of Glasgow, but other than that, nothing. I needed other people to give me the starting point, people for whom violence has played a part in their lives and who have perhaps even had their lives changed by the effects of violence.

Thus I came to the idea of interviewing people who have experienced violent events first-hand, perhaps even instigating those events themselves, allowing them to tell their stories and giving me something to work around, creating a piece specifically for their story. Once the interviews started, I realised that my response, the jewellery piece, was not enough... it needed to be given context, to be presented with the narrative upon which it was based and in discussion with my photographer friend and colleague, Simon Murphy, it was decided to use a multi-disciplinary, collaborative approach, presenting text, photographs and objects as the response, the dynamics and tensions between the three giving a rounded picture of how deeply violence can affect lives.

The exhibit consists of entirely new work made for the exhibition. No material from the exhibition has been published or exhibited in any form prior to the show. For each of the four people in the project, the installation will be:

  • a landscape-format high-quality photographic book (10”x8”) presenting their story;
  • a framed photographic portrait of the person (20”x 30”);
  • a framed photographic triptych of the person and their environment (16” x 40”) and;
  • a piece of jewellery made from found objects, gemstones and precious metals.
 After the exhibition is over, the jewellery and the portrait image will be given to the person for whom they were made. The book will be available for gallery visitors to buy online.
This is exactly what Simon and I then proceeded to do. We found five young people who had experienced violence in their lives, heard their stories and Simon Photographed them and their environment; I made pieces of jewellery which reflected their stories and then we photographed them again with the jewellery.

Enough Violence: Artists Speak Out - 3

Shown above is a bangle made from a discarded kitchen knife and set with five diamonds. The person wearing it lost five friends to gang-related knife-crime.

Enough Violence: Artists Speak Out - 1

This pendant was made in response to a story by a young woman who was a victim of a deliberate hit-and-run assault with a vehicle. The piece is made from pieces of a burnt-out car, polycarbonate reflector from a crashed car, silver, quartz, garnets and black spinels. The heart reflects her willingness to forgive her attacker.

Should anyone be interested in seeing more of the work or reading the narratives, the book is available for purchase through Blurb. I apologise in advance for the cost of the book but the quality of the production is wonderful and I am sure that anyone buying one will not be disappointed.

If you get the chance to go to Pittsburgh to see the show, it is well worth having a look: the range of works which have been included is wonderful and it is sure to be a thought-provoking and maybe even controversial show.

Enough Violence: Artists Speak Out - 4

Working drawings for one of the pieces in the show.

Other things!
I've completed the commissioned Post-Apocalyptic Cocktail Ring, "Autumn Resonance" made from bashed iron conduit, silver, a huge citrine, champagne diamonds, hessonite garnets, peridot and a pink tourmaline:

Autumn Resonance - WIP - Post-Apocalyptic Cocktail Ring For Stacy - 13

Autumn Resonance - WIP - Post-Apocalyptic Cocktail Ring For Stacy - 12

As well as two more of the "Tank" bracelets:

"Tank" Bracelets - 6

Weekend in Brighton now!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Tank Bracelets, Revisited

I was so excited about the "Tank" bracelet that I made in a minimal style last week that I have started to make three more, two in the ultra-minimal style of the first, using only silver and one large gemstone: - though as 2Roses pointed out, it does show something of the mutability of the concept of "minimal".

"Tank" Bracelets - WIP - 1

I've been working on these between working on the commissioned Post-Apocalyptic Cocktail Ring, "Autumn Resonance", which is now completely constructed and has only to be cleaned, set and polished:

Autumn Resonance - WIP - Post-Apocalyptic Cocktail Ring For Stacy - 8

It is going to be set with a 28ct golden citrine (not shown), peridot, a large pink tourmaline, champagne diamonds and hessonite garnets:

Autumn Resonance - WIP - Post-Apocalyptic Cocktail Ring For Stacy - 7

While I was working today, the email from "Suspended in Green" arrived, telling me that I had not been selected. I had kind of guessed that my work wouldn't fit into the curatorial direction anyway as I know that the previous two shows have been heavily minimal-conceptual and while my work has concepts, it could never be described as "minimal". As John and Corliss pointed out, what is minimal for me is not necessarily what other people would see it as, thus I decided that the fourth of the bracelets would be anything but, hence this scribbled page for "The Spoils of War" where engraving, enamelling, gemstones, pattern and colour come back with a vengeance!

Tank Bracelet Notes

Sunday, September 22, 2013

"A Chance To Cut"

Continuing with my determination to finish all the unfinished work in the workshop, today saw me start on one of the pair of knife/pendants made from a pair of broken vintage scissors. I originally got the idea for these from my good friend, Janos Gabor Varga in Italy:

"Foreign" scissor knife

Janos made his simply to be a knife. I had a discussion with him and he encouraged me to try my own hand using a pair of scissors which have been on my bench since I can remember, usually used to open watch-cases and letters. In the whirl of activity last year, they were put aside and only today have I returned to them, cleaning up the silver sheaths and preparing them for engraving. I engraved one of the pieces - "A Chance To Cut", the other one is called "A Chance To Cure" - and made a time-lapse video of me actually engraving.

Unfortunately, it took me longer to learn how to make the video than it did to do the engraving!

I've also been asked for some photographs of cufflinks for a fashion blog, so Saturday was spent doing that:

RGB Cufflink Trio
Bird Skull Cufflinks
Red White And Blue Cufflink Trio

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Bring Back The Dead

Bring Back The Dead - Jewellery Exhibition - 3

Last night was the opening of Jo Garner's amazing conception for a jewellery exhibition, "Bring Back The Dead" which only runs until Sunday night in the Whitespace Gallery in Edinburgh so if you want to see it, there is a certain urgency about going! It is certainly worth making the effort to see it. This is no ordinary jewellery show.

Bring Back The Dead - Jewellery Exhibition - 1

Jo's concept for the show was based around the sad fact that every maker has at least one piece lying about which has never sold, which is sitting forlornly in the back of a drawer or cabinet or is perhaps awaiting recycling. She invited jewellers from around the world to submit one of those pieces on the understanding that at the end of the show, the piece would be brought back to life by being given to one of the other exhibitors to wear or re-purpose themselves.

The roster of makers is impressive, with exhibitors from the UK, Norway, Taiwan, Germany, the US and more. Jo writes,

Bring Back the Dead aims to create dialogue between jewellers, whilst promoting the work in a new way and giving older work a new life.
How many artists have work in the back of their studios, still in good condition but never sold? What if this work was to be given to another artist, and worn by them? The work would be rejuvenated in the eyes of someone new, and promoted far beyond its confines of the lonely studio corner. 
The work on show during this exhibition will not be for sale. It will be swapped between jewellers and sent off to live a new life with a new owner.
Come along on Friday 20th September 2013 6-9pm to celebrate the opening of the show and view the works.
Music will be provided by Wasabi Disco.
34 participants from 7 different countries. Lets break down the barriers.
This show features work by Carly Petitt Taylor, Cristina Zani, Dauvit Alexander, Dr Grace Page, Emelie Westerlund, Elin Flognman, Farrah Al - Dujaili, Fiona Hermse, Gill Forsbrook, Hannah Eccles, Hannah May Chapman, Heather Woof, Jaimie Macdonald, Jayne Stephen, Jennifer Nicolson, Jessica Howarth, Joanne Garner, Joanne Haywood, Jo Lavelle, Kathryn Williamson, Kirsty Eaglesfield, Laura Bradshaw – Heap, Laura Munteanu, Lital Mendel, Mark Fenn, Masako Hamaguchi, Mark Mcleish, Molly Ginelly, Nicola Turnbull, Rita Rodner, Ruth Hollywood, Weronika Marek, Wes Designs and ZondermanLidchi.

(More information and images can be found on the "Anomaly" website.)

The opening was really well-attended, which is a great sign, especially on the back of an article I had read earlier in the month in The Scotsman newspaper about the National Museum of Scotland promoting the idea of curation amongst young people: it seems to me that what Jo has done is actually a step beyond this.

My own submission was "Dr Strangelove", the first of the missile pendants I made from discarded CO2 cylinders:

Bring Back The Dead - Jewellery Exhibition - 5

For which I wrote the obituary:

It is with some regret that we announce the passing of Herr Doktor Merkwürdigliebe, better known to most as Doctor Strangelove. 
It is probably many years since you have thought about the good Doctor as he has slipped from being an everyday television and newspaper personality into relative obscurity, but take a moment to reflect on what Strangelove meant to you. 
He began to lose his mysterious powers from the moment the Berlin Wall fell and was further weakened by the rise of global terrorism in recent years until finally fading away to a symbolic cypher in the face of governments who can instil fear and terror in their populations without recourse to anything more than a  prismatic beam-splitter and an iron-grip over the media. 
Strangelove will be fondly remembered for making us realise what side we were on; for making the other side seem “bad” while we seemed “good”. Despite his capactity for destruction, Strangelove sought to simplify our lives – something at which he did not wholly succeed – but by being divisive, by being a high-risk strategist, ultimately became irrelevant. 
Carry Strangelove over your heart. Remember always how much you are held in contempt by your government.
I was very proud to be featured right next to one of Dr. Grace Page's "Miracle Cures", this one for "Rising Sea Levels":

Bring Back The Dead - Jewellery Exhibition - 12

The show is bursting with brilliant work: there is not a poor piece in the gallery and the obituaries are mostly very funny or at least informative.

Bring Back The Dead - Jewellery Exhibition - 4

Apart from Dr. Grace's piece, shown above, my favourite work in the show was definitely Mark Fenn's amazing "Grim Reaper" ring:

Bring Back The Dead - Jewellery Exhibition - 11

Followed closely by Wes Design's "Poseidon Poison":

Bring Back The Dead - Jewellery Exhibition - 10

(Unfortunately, I could find no website for Wes Designs.)

It is hard to imagine how the works in this show remained unsold!
I can't wait to see who's piece I get. Further post when I finally know.

Thanks to Jo and her Anomaly team for putting together such a great show, dynamic, humorous and thoughtful.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

WHAT? The Justified Sinner goes MINIMAL?

Surely some joke?
Well, not really... I have to confess to having created something so minimal it surprised even me when it was finished:

Baby's On Fire - 6

Baby's On Fire - 8

Baby's On Fire - 5a

This is made from one of the kiln chains given to me by Glen Gardner when I visited his studio in Pittsburgh over the summer. Set with smoky quartz and orange sapphires.

I also finally got started on the commission for the post-apocalyptic cocktail ring:

Autumn Resonance - WIP - Post-Apocalyptic Cocktail Ring for Stacy - 3

This will not be so minimal!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The Week So Far

Having completely botched that post, here it is, edited and re-posted!

First of all, I said:

Sometimes it is OK to be envious! My friend and associate, Cari-Jane Hakes is married to the inspired designer Julian Hakes who has recently been presenting some fascinating shoes at London Fashion Week and met with not only fashion legend Zandra Rhodes, but a hero of mine, Andrew Logan.
Yes, I am envious!

What a crazy week!
I have been trying to work on a commission for client but something went wrong with the post and it took a week to get a pair of stones from Germany for approval, which has meant that I have had some time to work on more of my residual projects, today finishing "It's A Sin", a pendant and chain I started in Touchstone.

It's A Sin - 7

It's A Sin - 4

The gemstones arrived today and while I am waiting for her to pick one, I unpacked the box of stuff I had been sent from Pittsburgh... potentially a dangerous move!

Pittsburgh Treasures, 2013

The lenses at the centre of the photograph are specifically for a piece I am going to make but just behind them are some short loops of industrial chain just the right size for a bracelet. These were given to me by Glen Gardner and are from devices which are used to slide trays of metal in and out of kilns when they are being sintered. I started work on one of these today...

Baby's On Fire - WIP - 1

Baby's On Fire - WIP - 3

Other than that, I have been at a wedding in London, which was brilliant. The reason I wasn't posting much in the middle of August was that I have been working on a collar and earrings for the bride - my friend, Julia - to wear on the day. It was the sort of commission I absolutely love: some constraints but mostly to "make what you want". My constraints were colour - had to be a range of blues - having to include a string of magnificent vintage pearls and using some of my sewing-machine needle elements as part of the design. This is what I came up with:

Julia's Wedding Suite - 2

Julia's Wedding Suite - 4

Julia's Wedding Suite - 7

Julia's Wedding Suite - 8

The wedding was held in London and the reception was a cruise from the ceremony to central London on a boat, followed by dinner on a bigger boat. Dingo and I agreed that it is the best wedding we've ever been to.

Night Thames And OXO

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Re-construction Time Again

What a few weeks! Ever since Madelyn Smoak reminded me that some years ago - 2009 - I had started to make a set of Chimæric cutlery, I've been working furiously to finish all the work which, over the years, has been started and left incomplete. I am determined that there will be no unfinished work by Christmas!

There were a few projects which I knew about, having put them aside to work on commissions or exhibition work - the Coco Chanel-inspired piece, for example - but most I had completely forgotten. As I mentioned in the middle of August, I used the visit of the painters to the workshop as a good reason to tidy and organise everything which had the knock-on effect of making it fairly easy to find all the boxes and drawers into which I had tucked the work. What surprised me most was not the number of pieces but the age of the earliest ones. Yesterday, I found this:

Untitled Early Works - WIP - 2

I have tried to work it out, but I think that this is nearly 20 years old, dating from the mid-1990s. Certainly, it is entirely made from precious materials with none of my now indispensable corroded iron or found objects. It was tucked into the bottom of a box along with this sheet of notes:

Untitled Early Works - 3 - Sketches

What really pleases me about this piece is that it prefigures a lot of the forms and "signature" elements which were to come. The little spikes in the drawing were made for the original "Mace" pendant which dated from about the same time-period and which I re-made for myself in 2006 (and have made again for a customer this week!) and have persisted into my current work; the form of the box, however, recurred in much more recent works, such as "Cold Genius", "A Forest" and "The Eyepod".

With a bit of work, I completed the piece today. What is surprising to me about it now - now that I use Rhino and a microscope at the bench - is the inaccuracy of the marking-out and cutting.

Pearl Reliquary - 2

Pearl Reliquary - 3

Tucked alongside this delicate piece, I found a chain made of silver and lumps of rough quartz:

Untitled Early Works - WIP - 1

I had absolutely no idea what these were going to be used for. I don't even remember buying them or making the chain from them and I can't be bothered going through my receipts from the gem-dealers to find out. Anyway, I combined them with a cast-iron finger-guard from a doorknob, an amethyst, some labradorite and a pink quartz for which I had already made a setting and came up with this:

Re-Construct - 1

Re-Construct - 3

The finger plate was a piece I bought from "Construction Junction" in Pittsburgh for $1 in 2011!

As noted above, the "Mace" pendant was also finished this week:

Mace Repeat - 14

Other pieces I cleared out and dusted off, sometimes finishing elements and sometimes just re-making bits of them to suit included these two pieces I made for a theatre performance in Edinburgh in the early 2000s:

Theatrical Pendant - 1

Trophy Handle Pendant - 1

Both of these are a bit the worse for wear, having been used on stage and then stuck in a toolbox in my workshop, presumably with the intention of breaking them up and re-using the materials. As I quite like them, they are on my Etsy shop in a new "clearance" section, selling for a small consideration more than the material costs.

The upper pendant is entirely silver with paste stones (the smaller stone chipped) and the lower pendant is made from two white-brass trophy handles, silver, quartz, titanium and amethysts. The pendant quartz is a bit chipped too but not badly.

I also found and cleaned up a piece which, when I made it, I really disliked, "The Alembic of Hermes Trismegistus: Inrō":

The Alembic of Hermes Trismegistus: Inrō - 43

The Alembic of Hermes Trismegistus: Inrō - 46

Now that I see it again, I have no idea what I took against when it was finished.

What I like about this project of finishing projects which are almost complete is that it makes me feel really productive!

On Sunday, having a day of mostly leisure to myself, I tackled photography again, this time photographing some of the works from the previous week, including "Twisted: For Annie Ross" and "Deep Sea Sketch" then trying to produce submission-quality images from them:

Twisted: For Annie Ross - Portfolio Shot

Deep Sea Sketch - Portfolio Shot

I also photographed my own piece from last year, "14th Century Nightlife" which had also been started some years ago and left unfinished, though in that case it was to do with my inability to deal with the electronic components in it:

14th Century Nightlife - Portfolio Shot

14th Century Nightlife - Portfolio Shot

I'm not sure if the second image looks like the nut is glowing or not, but I've convinced myself it does.

FINALLY, don't forget to have a look at the online exhibition curated by me and Jeff Zimmer, "Scotland the What" at Crafthaus.