Thursday, December 19, 2013

End of Year

Today was the last full day in the workshop before I shut for just over two weeks. I'll be in for the morning tomorrow, the workshop festive breakfast, the "Secret Santa" and then heading off to Brighton. Although I normally take holidays in my stride, this last three months since summer has been utterly crazy, what with commissions, finishing off unfinished projects, photoshoots, the Scottish Style Awards... there is enough in that time to fill a normal year.

In terms of finishing off the unfinished work, I've been completely focused on finishing my Alexander McQueen tribute piece, "Fashion:Victim - In Memoriam ALMcQ", a cuff based on a handcuff from which hang two spherical "handbags" made from recycled iron spheres which I found in a burnt-out factory in Kent.

I finished the bangle and the sphere titled "The Illusion of Freedom Buys The Power of Destruction" this week. Followers of the blog and people who know about McQueen will understand the falconry imagery.

Fashion:Victim - In Memoriam ALMcQ - 91a

Fashion:Victim - In Memoriam ALMcQ  - 87

Fashion:Victim - In Memoriam ALMcQ  - 85

Fashion:Victim - In Memoriam ALMcQ  - 88

All the metalworking is done and all that remains is to get the piece lined. I want to line it with feathers but fur would be just as good and probably more robust.

Today I started on the second sphere, "Before The Fall" which is going to be colourful and much lighter in tone, though the imagery is still pretty dark. It features a pendent apple which I started to make today by chasing out some thick copper:

Fashion:Victim - In Memoriam ALMcQ - WIP  - 96

For some reason, I've had Marilyn Manson's "Apple of Sodom" in my head the whole day while chasing this and so it made me laugh when I took the other half out and found that it looked rather more like the "Red-Pepper of Sodom". Not quite the same. It still has a bit of a red-pepper quality but I've knocked most of that out of it!

Fashion:Victim - In Memoriam ALMcQ - WIP  - 97

The plan is to pavé-set this with zircons. There are going to be a lot of stones in this piece:

Fashion:Victim - In Memoriam ALMcQ - WIP  - 96

I received a lovely and unexpected present today. Over a year ago, I got in touch with William Mitchell to find out if he was behind the amazing tower in the shopping centre in Cwmbran, Wales:

Concrete Aztec

As it turned out, it was by him and we had a few email exchanges, during which he mentioned that he was writing his autobiography and I asked him to keep me posted as to when it was published. It was with some surprise that I received this today in the post:

Self Portrait

It seems only fair that I promote it to you if you are interested! It is listed on Amazon and on the publisher's website.

Hope that everyone has a great festive season and a good new year. I'll leave you with the very un-festive Marilyn Manson!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Christmas Rush...

Another two-week hiatus between posts and it is only because I've been too busy to be able to find a moment to write things down. So much has happened, from being asked if I were "eligible" for inclusion in a list of "eligible bachelors" - my non-bachelor status making me ineligible for the inclusion - to being asked to write an article for a new jewellery magazine about something which isn't jewellery!

The main thing on the workbench has been another of my projects which was started and then unaccountably abandoned, though I think that perhaps the complexity of it put me off. I've been working on the piece for two weeks and have only just started to approach 2/3 complete. This piece is a tribute to Alexander McQueen and the idea to make it first came to me in 2011 after visiting the McQueen retrospective at the Metropolitan Museum in New York.

Fashion:Victim - In Memoriam ALMcQ is made up of three parts, the first being a bangle-handcuff made from silver, inlaid with corroded iron and set with garnets:

Fashion:Victim - In Memoriam ALMcQ - WIP  - 66

Fashion:Victim - In Memoriam ALMcQ - WIP  - 67

I have to confess that this part was completely finished apart from the setting and it was the setting of the stones which was putting me off! In fact, because I had digitally milled the settings and cast them, it only took an hour or so to complete.  I'm pretty pleased with the way this came out. The little skull is the head of a bolt which can be unscrewed to open the bangle. It is fairly easy to put on and take off single-handed too, which is good.

Hanging from this bangle are going to be two large metal spheres. These are really "handbags" as it were, the idea taken from pieces made by Shaun Leanne for McQueen, polished silver containers which were hung from leather straps. The spheres were found by me in 2008 in a burnt-out furniture factory:

Accidental Gehry 8


I actually have six of these but have only used two for this project. Each ball has been cut in half and has become the basis for the two bags which hang from the bangle, "The Illusion Of Freedom Buys The Power Of Destruction" and "Before The Fall"; ultimately, it will be possible to wear these separately or together on the bangle. Until I picked these up again, the spheres were identical and for no reason other than whim, I started first with "The Illusion Of Freedom..." which tackles McQueen's fondness for falconry, something which is perhaps not so well known about him.

Some of you may recall that ages ago, I was trying to make falconry bells and that was for this project. One of them has now been attached to an element which is pendent from the base of the ball:

Fashion:Victim - In Memoriam ALMcQ (WIP ) - 56

This is cast from a taxidermy model of a falcon's foot. The large "brilliant" is slightly included quartz.

The ball has also grown claws!

Fashion:Victim - In Memoriam ALMcQ - WIP - 62

I spent last weekend cutting and engraving a monogram element for the base. This is the section which will hold support the claw and crystal and is based on the letters "McQ". It can be read from both sides as well as upside-down or the right way up!

Fashion:Victim - In Memoriam ALMcQ - WIP  - 79

I'm really pleased with the way that this came out and it made me re-design the top section which features a porcelain hooded falcon made by Lisa Stevens. The top section still has to be carved, engraved and polished but it looks something like this:

Fashion:Victim - In Memoriam ALMcQ - WIP  - 77

I've still got a lot to do to this, including fitting the magnetic catches, soldering the hinge shut and lining the ball with something (no idea what yet!). More on this and the other ball to follow.

There has been another photoshoot this week, once again with my friend and colleague, Simon Murphy behind the camera, this time with another photographer modelling! When I initially asked Simon to take the photographs of my brooches for Sharon Massey and Cortland Dewitt's "Supbrooch" project, I really wanted an older man as one of the models. In fact, I actually wanted all the men to be over 50 but for various reasons, it didn't work out that way. Tommy Cairns is someone I met at the Scotstreetstyle/Harvey Nichols event in Edinburgh, a friend of Simons and someone who looks exactly the way I had imagined the models for the brooches looking so we discussed him coming to the studio for a second shoot which we did yesterday. What a brilliant day! I haven't seen the final shots from Simon yet, but my shots of the shoot in process are enough for now. Simon's will, of course, be magnificent!

Second Brooches Photoshoot - 6

Tommy wearing my "Macbeth" brooch.

Second Brooches Photoshoot - 7

Wearing the "Verklärte Nacht" brooch.

Second Brooches Photoshoot - 9

In between all this, I've been reading rather a lot recently, including doing some research for a post-Christmas commission. I've been asked to make an interpretation of the Maltese Cross cuff bracelets which Verdura made for Chanel and found this book second-hand:

Which I proceeded to read cover-to-cover. Inspiration on every page and such a fascinating life. Another book which I have read cover-to-cover, though it looks like what is disparagingly called a "Coffee-table book", is the new book on emeralds called "Emerald"!

Luxuriously covered in emerald green silk (though the lighting in my room doesn't make it look that colour at all) this is subtitled, "Twenty-one Centuries of Jewelled Opulence and Power" and is utterly compelling, as well as being a luxurious publication bursting with beautiful images of emerald jewellery.

Finally, I've been reading a rather amazing novel: Rupert Thomson's "Secrecy", which I haven't finished yet. Set in 17th Century Florence and by some exceptionally deft writing, dealing with some very complex and challenging issues facing contemporary artists today. Although the book is utterly modern, it creates the world of renaissance Florence compellingly and is a must-read for anyone who is interested in the period or in the darker side of contemporary art. Perhaps most interestingly, it deals with real historical characters...

There is a superb review of the book and the work of the real character behind it here.