Wednesday, December 30, 2015

2015 - Big Changes: Review of the Year

I would never have imagined in January of this year that I would end up in such a different situation from the one I was in...

A busy month, making up work for Susannah Hall and for Cursley & Bond and, in a pleasing symmetry - having just finished a second piece for him - making a piece of work for Russ at The Dirty Pen.

Pointing-Tool Bracelet - 14

Cufflink Commission - Susannah Hall Tailors - 1

It was also the month of the excellent "Beauty by Design" at the National Portrait Gallery in Edinburgh.

Beauty By Design: Fashioning The Renaissance - 1

I went to this show with Jeff Zimmer and we spent a lot of time discussing our collaboration for the 2017 ACJ exhibition, "20:20 Visions", a piece made from unground spectacle-glass lenses:

1694: An Eye For Optical Theory - WIP - 2

I also submitted a piece for the Goldsmiths' Craft and Design Awards, dusting off "20000 Leagues Under The Seas" from the previous summer

20000 Leagues Under The Seas - Packing

I got to see underneath Glasgow Central Station - very exciting!

Glasgow Central Station Tour - 1

And ended the month at the long-overdue retrospective of one of my favourite Scottish artsits, Alasdair Gray:

Alasdair Gray Art Walk - 1

Brought lots of foul weather which kept me in the workshop and looking for things to do at home in the evenings, so I started a project of digitising my 35mm slide collection - which had a very unexpected consequence later in the year.

Lost Children - Slide Scan

These slides are from my late school-days and university days. I think that the one above was taken in 1979 when I was in my last year at school!

Commissions-wise, it was a very busy month as I had to design and make masters of cufflinks for the launch of the new Caledonian Sleeper train service, a collaboration with Alan Moore at Ten30 design:

Caledonian Sleeper Cufflinks Macquette - 2

I also made a bracelet/pendant/charm combination piece for Julian Kynaston at Illamasqua cosmetics:

Profound Darkness - 18

Profound Darkness - WIP - 19

Perhaps surprisingly, this is one of my favourite pieces that I've made to date.

This month also saw me connect with one of the most creative people I've met in a long time, Al Blair, artist, maker, designer and motorcyclist.

At The Studio of Al Blair - 7

At The Studio of Al Blair - 5

This was also the month in which I started to make "Pulling Rabbits Out Of A Hat" for the ACJ Annual Exhibition, "Sleight of Hand".

Pulling Rabbits Out Of A Hat - WIP - 3

And collected a pair of handmade trousers from the wonderful Susannah Hall:

It's The RIGHT Trousers - 4

Brought the mayhem of having to actually make and finish the thousands of pairs of cufflinks for the Caledonian Sleeper - the contract having been agreed in January - for delivery in April.

Caledonian Sleeper Cufflinks - WIP - 3

Caledonian Sleeper Cufflinks - WIP - 2

Continued the work on the Watch Chain, "Pulling Rabbits..."

Pulling Rabbits Out Of A Hat - Drawing -  27

and became involved in The Contemporary Jewellery Exchange, 2015, which saw me paired with Jan Donaldson, a maker from Australia of whom I had been hitherto unaware and which proved to be an amazing pairing. Jan's work deals with dolls and puppets and I just happened to have a moulded glass doll's body lying about in the workshop:

My Iron Lung - TCJE 2015 - WIP - 1

This month also saw the re-opening of Glasgow's famous "Bar Ten" as "Tabac" with interiors by Al Blair:

Tabac / Bar Ten - 5

And also the re-launch of the National Museum of Scotland's "Silver of the Stars" exhibition.

"Silver of the Stars" - 5

"Silver of the Stars" - 2

Was a relatively quiet month with a long holiday in the middle but I managed to complete my piece for Jan, "My Iron Lung", based on the Radiohead song of the same name.

My Iron Lung - TCJE 2015  - 34

I also began work on the 'diffusion' pieces for sale alongside "Pulling Rabbits..."

Pulling Rabbits Out Of A Hat - WIP - 36

During the Easter break, I gave a talk at Cursley & Bond, the gallery in Folkestone who are exceptionally good at promoting my work. It is always brilliant to meet with the people who buy and wear my work.

20000 Leagues Under The Seas - Talk at Cursley & Bond Gallery - 3

Commissioned a new summer suit from the radical tailors in London, "The Earl of Bedlam"

Mark and Caroline

At their studio, I got to try on a very famous jacket by Gaultier which featured in the Luc Besson film, "The Fifth Element"!

The Justified Sinner Wears A Legend!

Received my piece from Jan at the end of this month, which led to us discussing her coming to visit me in the UK later in the year.

TCJE 2015 - St. Dauvit: Fragments from the Alter - Jan Donaldson - 4

Saint Dauvit: Fragments From The Alter - Worn

Saw the completion of "Pulling Rabbits..."

Pulling Rabbits Out Of A Hat - 71

Pulling Rabbits Out Of A Hat - 68

I also made a couple of bangles from found horse bridle-bits.

Horse Rotovator - Nag Nag Nag

Had a final fitting for my suit from Bedlam:

The Scottish graduation shows all began this month, first of all with the Glasgow Kelvin College show, a show which was dominated by two stars, Anne Walker and Inness Thomson, two graduates I'm very proud to have taught.

Glasgow Kelvin College Degree Show - 2015 - Anne Walker - 2

Glasgow Kelvin College Degree Show - 2015 - Anne Walker - 4

Glasgow Kelvin College Degree Show - 2015 - Inness Thomson - 4

This was also the month of the opening of Carrie Fertig's new glass studio.

Golden Fleece

This was also the month in which the Edinburgh College of Art graduation show opened (Dundee too, but I didn't manage to get to that one) and it was an especially strong show this year with work by Maisie Welsh

ECA - Graduate Show - 2015 - Maisie Welsh 1

And by Alexandra von Trapp being some of my favourites:

ECA - Graduate Show - 2015 - Alexandra von Trapp - 1

Saw a hectic month of making as well as conferences, meetings and exhibitions.

Dungeness Works - Ship-Chain Bracelets - 1

Simple Key Pendant - 1

If You Go Down... - 6 - Wolves

Sapphire Fleur-de-lys Earrings

With my colleagues, we organised a Jewellery Technology Day at Glasgow Kelvin College:

Digital Jewellery Day - Glasgow Kelvin College - June 2015 - 1

Digital Jewellery Day - Glasgow Kelvin College - June 2015 - 5

And this was the month of the Glasgow School of Art Graduate show, highlights of which included Karen Westland:

Glasgow School of Art - Jewellery Degree Show 2015 - 6 - Karen Westland

Rachel Blair,

Glasgow School of Art - Jewellery Degree Show 2015 - 1 - Rachel Blair

And Ieva Mikutaite:

Glasgow School of Art - Jewellery Degree Show 2015 - 26 - Ieva Mikutaite

The 2015 "Handmade By Machines" exhibition and symposium was something of a triumph and also saw the first outing of my Earl of Bedlam suit!

Handmade By Machines - 2015 - 31

Handmade By Machines - 2015 - 23

It was nice to meet up with Jack Meyer again and to meet new people, including Katherine Childs.

Handmade By Machines - 2015 - 24

As always, the work by the students was phenomenal.

Handmade By Machines - 2015 - 9

After this, I spent some time in London at "Best of Britiania", meeting interesting makers who all make their work in the UK, some of whom I knew, such as Susannah Hall, but others who were new to me, including jeweller, Andrew English

Best of Britannia - 8

And leather-workers, Deni-Deni.

Best of Britannia - 1

Also, around this time, an interesting advertisement for a post teaching on the HND programme at the School of Jewellery in Birmingham appeared in The Guardian...

I should have been on holiday this month but that was not really to be! As usual, I packed off for a summer in Brighton.

Not Again...

This started out well with a visit to Dungeness to gather materials and an evening event at Cursley & Bond early in the month.

Dungeness Cottage

Then came an unexpected but welcome visit to Birmingham for an interview for the post I had applied for in June and what proved to be the first in a long line of visits back and forward between Brighton, Glasgow and Birmingham. On the day of the interview, I even managed to squeeze in a bit of Urban Exploration - and material-gathering - in a derelict factory in Aston!

Forward Rolling Mills, Birmingham - 32

Forward Rolling Mills, Birmingham - 44

This month, Dingo and I finally made it to the Magic Circle in London for a tour of the museum, library and for a show of close-up conjuring, which was brilliant. I'd been wanting to go for ages but had never managed to get any tickets.

Heads in a Case

Sooty (and others)

As we left the building, Gaynor Andrews called and offered me the job in Birmingham. I'm glad this happened after we'd been in the Magic Circle as I was unable to think straight or to process anything afterwards. In fact, I was so confused and unfocussed that Dingo made us come back to Brighton rather than spend the rest of the day in London, the original plan.

Despite everything else that was going on, we did manage to get a holiday this year, heading off to north Norfolk to stay in Sherringham.

Sherringham Beach

Norfolk is as odd as the reputation preceding it:


A somewhat "Daily Mail" kind of a place.

Then it was back to Birmingham to find somewhere to live. Having been out of rented accommodation for 30 years, I can't believe how complicated it had become to rent a house! Finally found somewhere to live in Bearwood - where else?!

Tempus Fugit Bears

Then back to Glasgow for my final month at Glasgow Kelvin College and the shock of my friends and colleagues there.

Glasgow Kelvin College - Last Night Out - 4

This month was spent packing up the house, packing up the workshop, having the Glasgow house re-decorated and sold, arranging for removals, closing down utilities and setting up new ones.

On September 5th, I started my new life in Birmingham, starting at the School of Jewellery on the 8th.

This was taken on the first run out to the school on my bike to see how long it would take.
It's been especially good getting involved with the School in this year as it is the 125th Anniversary:

125 Today!

The School is a quite amazing place and I still can't quite get over the fact that I'm working there; a place with such history and home to so many amazing jewellers who have had such an influence on contemporary jewellery in all areas, from fine jewellery to the most radical contemporary works to cutting-edge technological innovations.

Swingin' '60s!

Metaform - Yu-Chu Huang - 2

It's also been brilliant finding out what else goes on in the University generally and I've been taking the opportunity to go to other events, including the Punk Rock: So What? exhibition.

Punk Rock!! So What? - 6

It was also the month in which I tried to orient myself within the city - largely on my bike - connecting with local community events in Bearwood, but also going to see events in the city centre, including the marvellous Maudits Sonnants:

Maudits Sonnants at Birmingham Weekender - 13

This was part of a weekend-long arts festival in town.

Brought the realisation that I am now in a position to be able to go to Brighton for a weekend, whenever I feel like it! No more having to book flights in advance: now I can drive down in a few hours on a Friday night and back again on the Sunday.

I also finally got myself re-established at the bench and making again as the commissions started coming in:

Old Jack's Charms -  7

This month also saw several exhibitions at the School, the first of work by graduate, Fei Liu, now a very well-known designer.

Fei Liu Exhibition - School of Jewellery - 7

Fei Liu Exhibition - School of Jewellery - 10

Next up was the first show of work by the new BA students, who had only been in the school a few weeks.

Container Project - 1

Container Project - 3

Then came "East Meets West", a fantastic exhibition of work by Chinese graduates of the school who have returned to China and have begun work with a master jade-carver, Jinwen Liao:

East Meets West Exhibition - 24 - Jinwen Liao

Apart from being a great show, one of the pleasures here was meeting Jichang Chai, someone with whom I had an instant bond:

East Meets West Exhibition - 4 - Work by Jichang Chai

As a member of the University, I get to go to a lot of concerts at the Conservatoire either free or at a much-reduced price and intend to take full advantage. This month saw a series of electro-acoustic concerts there.

Frontiers: Legacies in Technology XIV.1, .II, .III and .IV - 3

This was also the month in which I met the wonderful John Grayson and he showed me his "Chaterama" automaton:

#Chaterama - 3

And caused me to become interested in them too!

At the end of this month, I sold my house in Glasgow.

End of an Era

Having sold the house, I started on the purchase of a house in Birmingham. All the changes have been fast, if nothing else. One of the previous tutors at the School, Eimear Conyard, was renting her house to one of the technical support staff - Karen Bartlett, a fantastic maker in her other life. Karen had bought a house and was moving out, Eimear wanted to sell, I wanted to buy. Couldn't be better!

It really seemed as if the year was accelerating toward the end, starting off with a visit to Manchester to represent the School at a careers fair: best bit about that was getting to meet other members of staff from the University and to meet up with Scott again, whom I haven't seen for a good few years.

Next was the symposium on Art Medals which I organised with the British Art Medal Society and the British Museum, "Art Medals: History Philosophy and Practice".

Art Medals: History, Philosophy and Practice - Symposium - 1

This was particularly enjoyable as it allowed me the chance to get out into the Jewellery Quarter and meet with the industry.

Next up in this hectic month, came the excellent JUNK: Rubbish To Gold, organised by Jivan Astfalck:

JUNK: Rubbish To Gold - 37

Assisted by Rachel Darbourne and Laura Bradshaw-Heap. I had a load of fun on this project with my collaborator, Toni Mayner.

JUNK: Rubbish To Gold - 21

JUNK: Rubbish To Gold - 17

With my colleague, Rachael Colley, we took in a crazy antiques fair at the NEC and went to a lecture about Whitby Jet.

Hammond's Whitby Jet - 2

Then it was off to London for my talk at the Society of Jewellery Historians about the influence of new technologies on jewellery, most impressively in the Royal Society buildings on the Strand!

At The Royal Society - 2

At The Royal Society - 4

Next day, it was off to Plymouth to the College of Art there to give a talk about my work as part of the programme around the visit of the ACJ "Sleight of Hand" show. I also taught a workshop on Electrolytic Etching.

The Gallery - Plymouth College of Art - 1

Electrolytic Etching Workshop - 2

Also during this month, I started a commission to make another pocket-watch and chain.

DirtyPen - WIP - 13

Kicked off with the BA Jewellery students' selling show, a highly professional event, held in a bar in Birmingham city centre:

Lot Fifty-Eight - Selling Show - 2

This month also saw my new students completing their first project, as well as them taking part in their very own selling project in the form of a pop-up shop.

Pop-up Shop - Jewellery - 1

I went to the "Textiles &..." show at the Parkside Gallery and saw the work of my colleague, Sally Collins and the incredibly moving work of Jenni Dutton:

Sally Collins - Textiles &... - 7

Jenni Dutton - Textiles &... - 1

This month also saw the opening of the Technology Hub at the school, which is incredibly exciting... lots of new technologies just for jewellers!

Additionally, I completed the watch-chain commission for Russ - hence the pleasing symmetry of opening and closing the year with a commission from him - and another for a piece using a key which the customer had given me:

DirtyPen - WIP - 29

Lady Baird - 9

In Brighton for the Christmas break now and have concluded the purchase of the house in Birmingham and found out that I've been accepted for the Made in the Middle show at Craftspace in late 2016. A very satisfactory conclusion to the year.

West Pier Sunset

Happy New Year to everyone!
Thanks to everyone who has been so helpful and supportive and who have made my potentially difficult year so much easier, especially those colleages who supported me so thoroughly in my move - I know that my leaving left a huge headache for you all - and my new colleagues for making me so welcome.

I'm off to buy a greenhouse.