Sunday, September 25, 2016


How could I forget?
In my last post, I completely forgot to note that I'd also taken a trip to the New Ashgate Gallery in Farnham for the opening of the ACJ "Choice!" show there on the Friday night. This is the 2016 edition of the annual show of work by members and we were delighted when the trustees of the New Ashgate invited us to show it there.

ACJ Choice! - New Ashgate Gallery - 1

The gallery is one of the major craft galleries in the country and exhibits a number of well-known makers and is a hugely popular cultural hub in the town.

ACJ Choice! - New Ashgate Gallery - 2

Our annual shows are only open to the members and they are juried. One of the brilliant things about the ACJ shows is that they are incredibly varied, reflecting the range of practice within the Association.

It was great to meet with some of the members there, especially with Amanda Denison, who makes some wonderful enamel works:

ACJ Choice! - New Ashgate Gallery - 6

Also working in enamel - but in a very different way - is Su Trindle:

ACJ Choice! - New Ashgate Gallery - 10

I've been a fan of Su's work for years and I really enjoy her classically "modernist" work which wouldn't have been out of place at the Festival of Britain!
Poppy Porter surprised me with her colourless "Synaesthesic" rings (she designs these to the shapes she sees when she listens to music):

ACJ Choice! - New Ashgate Gallery - 7

Her work is normally brightly coloured.

Needless to say, my own work is represented in the show, too. I put in a selection of bracelets made using my new "improvisatory" approach to the materials:

ACJ Choice! - New Ashgate Gallery - 5

And it was good to see that we had work from one of the members to whom we awarded a research grant, Mirka Janeckova:

ACJ Choice! - New Ashgate Gallery - 4

An excellent show which runs until 5th November.

Tuesday night saw me back at the Birmingham and Midland Institute for a brilliant talk from the witty and knowledgeable David Williams about the history of gunsmithing in Birmingham.

Birmingham Gunsmithing

I now really want to go and visit the Proof House in the city!

Thursday night, it was off to the Royal Birmingham Society of Artists for their "Next Wave" show, in which my colleague, Anna Lorenz, had some work, an interesting crossover from her jewellery into a conceptual/installation piece.

Next Wave - 1

Next Wave - 2

Needless to say, the School of Jewellery staff turned out en masse!

Next Wave - 3

Overall, a strong show, with a couple of superb exhibits - I especially liked some "magnifying glass" drawings by Caroline Ali and the plaster and wood installations by Claire Hickey (visible in the photograph below).

Next Wave - 4

Off to Plymouth on Saturday to the opening of the exhibition of work by the staff at both the School of Jewellery and Plymouth College of Art, being held at the Victoria Sewart gallery in the city. The opening was part of a larger arts festival in Plymouth which included the Ocean Studios complex which houses the workshop of Rachel Darbourne. I met Rachel last year when she was helping to run the "Junk" performance at the school and it was a pleasure to catch up with her and to discover that "Junk" still operates on a certain level in her studio!

Rachel Darbourne - Studio - 2

Rachel Darbourne - Studio - 1

She had told me to park in the car-park behind her studio, which is at "Devil's Point" and said that it had some spectacular views. I can't disagree:

Devil's Point, Plymouth - 1

Best viewed large! Click on the image to see full-size.

After visiting here, it was off to Flameworks where Rachel's partner, Noah Taylor has a studio. I could have spent all day there...!

Flameworks - 5

Flameworks - 7

Flameworks - 4

Flameworks - 3

After this, it was off to the gallery.

In The Loupe - 1

This exhibition was organised by Zoe Robertson from the School and Vicky from the gallery and it really pointed up a lot of the connections between the School of Jewellery in Birmingham and Plymouth College of Art with staff and students regularly moving between the two. It was also really nice to see the range of work presented by the staff: one is aware that the staff have a huge range of talents but it is not until something like this where that range is pointed out.

My own piece was one from two years ago, "20000 Leagues Under The Seas", displayed amazingly in the middle of the room:

In The Loupe - 8

Zoe's work is in the window.
I'm especially fond of Maria Whetman's new work in found Cornish tin:

In The Loupe - 10

And also Sian Hindle's pigment holders for drawing:

In The Loupe - 16

The drawing theme continued with Rachael Colley showing some brushes she had made:

In The Loupe - 13

Alongside some brooches which not only show a sensitive approach to colour but which also explore unusual materials, including pressed beef!

In The Loupe - 12

Jo Pond put in some of her new work:

In The Loupe - 14

And Claire Price showed some of her digital work:

In The Loupe - 5

And Andy Howard's comically pornographic pieces - not shown here, not out of prudery but because I couldn't get a good shot of them -  attracted much comment.
Needless to say, this is just a few of the exhibits and almost every member of staff took part.

The event was busy and I am particularly glad that I took the time to go down and meet with Vicky and her customers and look forward to the show returning to Birmingham in the spring of next year, when it will be augmented by additional works from all the staff.

In The Loupe - 22
Vicky Sewart, Karen Bartlett and Zoe Robertson.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Oh, Make It Magnificent

What a week!
Quite apart from the preparations for the new students starting next week (and the previous ones returning, of course), I've spent a lot of time in the workshops - on Tuesday evening as much to avoid violent thunderstorms as anything else - making up work for the Made In The Middle show, work which shows a completely new way of working for me, eschewing applied - illustrative - narrative for a more 'improvised' narrative of material, being braver about allowing the material to do the work. On the selling pieces, this is perhaps not so obvious as they are very similar to the sale pieces I've made before:

Run Of The Mill - 48

Run Of The Mill - 47

The exhibition pieces are much more stripped-down than my usual exhibition work:

Run Of The Mill - 36

Run Of The Mill - 38

Run Of The Mill - 44

In some ways, the key to this is the ring that I always wear made from a corroded nut:

Nuts For Rings!

I made this in 2011 and have worn it ever since. Whenever anyone I meet asks about my work, I show them this as the absolute essence of what I do and I think that the new works for the "Made in the Middle" show are much more 'essential' than anything I've exhibited before. Of course, I have made a host of nut rings for the show too:

Run Of The Mill - 56

Wednesday night saw an astonishing event at Coventry Cathedral, of which I wrote a previous entry here. Mogwai performing their soundtrack to a film by Coventry-born Mark Cousins, "Atomic: Living in Dread and Promise". Mogwai have the power to write film-saving soundtracks and while their soundtracks for the interminably dull "Zidane" and the excruciatingly banal "The Fountain" are the sole saving features of these films, "Atomic" is a film which comes up to the same remarkable standard of intellect and emotion as their music.

Atomic  - 2

Before the performance, in the bombed-out ruins of the original cathedral, there were gigs by local bands and a showing of Cousins' "I Am Belfast", a film of great charm, painting a picture of the human side of a city which is all-to-often stereotyped as a bitter, sectarian ghetto. The soundtrack to this film was by David Holmes, one of my favourite composers of electronic music.

Atomic  - 3

The support bands were particularly well-chosen in view of the main show - though I didn't get their names - I especially enjoyed the first band to perform who sounded rather as early U2 would have sounded if they had found a better singer than Paul David Hewson.

(What is the difference between God and Bono? God doesn't walk about in sunglasses pretending to be Bono.)

After this we all trooped into the Cathedral for the main event. Coventry Cathedral has set itself up as a centre for "reconciliation" and peace and, as such, it is perfect that "Atomic: Living in Dread and Promise" was shown in a setting so innately rooted in the anti-war and anti-nuclear movements, born in the same era as the new Cathedral and there was something very pleasing, symmetrical, about knowing that I was sitting in the same place for which Britten's "War Requiem" was written and performed at the consecration - from the outset, Coventry Cathedral has taken a leftist, pacifist stance.

Atomic  - 6

Atomic  - 8

Mogwai, of course, are loud. Very, very loud and the visceral nature of the sound perfectly matched the visceral nature of the film, which is constructed from "found footage", including the legendary BBC film, "The War Game".

I remember seeing The War Game when I was about 16. It was screened in Hamilton Town Hall as a part of a progressive leftist response to the start of the new cold-war era of Reagan and Thatcher. The film had, at that point, never been screened on television, having been suppressed by government after government and I left that screening with what I now understand to be nuclear angst. This performance of "Atomic" feeling somewhat the same way.

Atomic  - 9

Atomic  - 10

Mogwai were fantastic. The film is quite brilliant and deserves to be shown widely. Coventry Cathedral is to be applauded and encouraged for engaging with something so deeply political - this in the same week that the British government signed an outrageously expensive contract with China to build an unwanted nuclear plant at Hinkley Point in Somerset.

Gentler things...

Honey Bees

It was time for the Bearwood Food Festival again this weekend, held in the local Baptist Church, and very good it was too with everything from vegan cakes to organic vegetables and a rather magnificent stall from the local allotment holders, which made me envious:

Bearwood Allotments

After this, Dingo and I took advantage of the very last of the summer weather and headed off to Somerset for a bit of time in the country, ending up in Portishead (alarmingly close to Hinkley Point).

Portishead Sunset

Home-made sourdough pizzas for tea, my own home-grown basil, organic tomatoes from the food festival: a perfect weekend!

Ocimum basilicum var. "Opal"

Relaxing before the students return and it all kicks off at work again.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Autumn Leaves

Yes, indeed. It may only be early September but I've been clearing the falling leaves from the garden, planting out my winter leeks and sowing land cress, radicchio and lettuce for winter salads, as well as poring over the seed catalogues which dropped through the door over the last week. (I'm not really sure why I get printed catalogues by post as I order my seeds and plants from the same companies online!)

This week I've been mostly working on the pieces for "Made in the Middle" and there is going to be a glut of photographs of the work in next week's blog as I've been working between the School of Jewellery workshops and the workshop at home, making the structures there and doing the setting here. Most of the work then has to go back for final finishing, which is where things stand at the moment. The "Made in the Middle" show comprises two parts: the exhibition and a collection for selling through the venue hosting the show. As it runs for nearly 2 years, this means making a LOT of work! I've managed to complete a couple of the selling pieces:

Run Of The Mill - 29

Run Of The Mill - 31

This weekend, I finally joined the Birmingham & Midland Institute after going along for a quick tour with the wonderful Art-Historical Curatorial Cake-Making Connie Wan, who is responsible, among other things, for the programming of the events at the B&MI.

The Birmingham & Midland Institute - 1

After one of her cakes - she had the very modest but picturesque cupcake baked by someone else - and a coffee, we headed off to the strange world that is the B&MI. (Of which I have written previously here.)

"Founded by Act of Parliament in 1854, for 'the Diffusion and Advancement of Science, Literature and Art amongst all Classes of Persons resident in Birmingham and the Midland Counties,'" the institute feels like part Victorian Gentleman's Club, part 70s school, part crumbling post-war institution and is wholly wonderful:

The Birmingham & Midland Institute - 2

The Birmingham & Midland Institute - 3

The Birmingham & Midland Institute - 6

The first event I plan to go to is the talk on Gunsmithing in Birmingham, being held later this month!

One of Connie's projects is to develop links between the School of Jewellery and the institute - alas! their library seems to have no books on jewellery - and this month sees the opening of a new display of work by Rachael Colley, "meat-elsmith" (her joke, not mine!) extraordinaire with her works made from preserved meat and other materials:

Rachael Colley - 1

Rachael Colley - 2

Rachael Colley - 3

Only one week until the students start back!
More soon.