Monday, November 28, 2016

Pecha Kucha and Paper

Vittoria Street Gallery - Talking Practice - 13

A fairly quiet week this last week but with some notable events, including the opening of the inaugural exhibition at the Vittoria Street Gallery. This is a new enterprise in the School of Jewellery to bring a public contemporary jewellery gallery to the Jewellery Quarter in Birmingham. Curated by Zoe Robertson, the gallery is calendar is already full until the autumn of 2017, which is brilliant and I am really looking forward to seeing what is exhibited.

The opening show was "In The Loupe" about which I have written previously when it was in Plymouth at Vicky Sewart's gallery there.

The show opened with a series of very short "pecha kucha" type talks by some of the exhibitors, where there were three slides about their practice, each lasting for one minute, which makes for a lively performance.

Vittoria Street Gallery - Talking Practice - 3
Beaulagh Brooks
Vittoria Street Gallery - Talking Practice - 4
Rachael Colley
Vittoria Street Gallery - Talking Practice - 9
Jo Pond
Vittoria Street Gallery - Talking Practice - 8
Bridie Lander
Jo Pond is to be especially congratulated for completing her three slides in rhyming couplets in - approximate - iambic pentameter!

A reception followed which was really well-attended and the meet-the-artist aspect was much appreciated by the visitors.

Vittoria Street Gallery - Talking Practice - 15

I was invited to a bit of fun this week, too. The MA Jewellery and Related Products students were being introduced to ideas about "extending the body" and changing the way in which the body moves. This session was led by Zoe Robertson - of FlockOMania fame, all about those themes - and was exactly the sort of creative, playful fun that I like to see in the classroom. The students were given rolls of sturdy lining paper and told to create a short performance for their peers in a limited time-frame, which they did with gusto.

MA Jewellery - Modifying the Body - 1

MA Jewellery - Modifying the Body - 4

MA Jewellery - Modifying the Body - 5

MA Jewellery - Modifying the Body - 6

MA Jewellery - Modifying the Body - 10

Brighton Open Studios - 3

Brighton for the weekend where the Artists Open Houses programme was in full swing and I went to visit my ex-colleague and friend, Sam Chilton who was exhibiting with Jez Webb and her sister Michelle Chilton in a gallery on Spring Street. Well worth a visit and it is open weekends until the middle of December.

Brighton Open Studios - 1

Sunday, November 20, 2016


Trajet - 1

Not much to report this week, except that I've been to a couple of excellent concerts. The first up was "Trajet" at St. Phillip's Cathedral in the city centre, a piece for solo 'cello which was written from seismic recordings taken of filled-in shops in a closed-off underpass under Old Square in Birmingham, which sounds like pretty odd material for a piece of music.

Trajet - 4

The piece was written as a collaboration between a conceptual artist, Jane Callow, a seismographer, Dr. Sheila Peacock, composer, Kathy Hinde and 'cellist, Juliet McCarthy. Given the source of the material and the committee-like nature of the composition (which Jane Callow described as being a "collaboration" between all parties) the music holds together rather beautifully and actually feels like a complete suite of 9 "interruptions" or movements, reminiscent of Michael Nyman (before he fancied himself as the new Elgar) or of "Les Noces"-era Stravinsky.

There was a discussion afterwards which went on long after most of the audience had drifted away.

Trajet - 2

One of my students, Andrew Cowley, has made it through to the finals of the UK heats of the World Skills Competition, which effectively means that he is one of the six best young jewellers in the UK today. The finals were held from Wednesday until Saturday this week in the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham and the test was to make this ring:

World Skills - UK Heats - 1

World Skills - UK Heats - 4

He had 15 hours to do this.

World Skills - UK Heats - 2

I went to see him first thing in the morning: apparently this was hell on the previous day, when hundreds of schoolkids were running about and trying to ask him questions!

World Skills - UK Heats - 3

World Skills - UK Heats - 5

He won't find out how he's done for a few days yet, but I will post the results on here when I know.

My birthday was this week and my excellent colleagues found me a superb present:

Chocolate tools and "Birthday Jam". Unbelievably, the chocolate nuts and bolts thread together, just like the real thing. Claire Price made the birthday jam (rhubarb).

Friday night saw a visit to the CBSO centre in Birmingham to hear the Thallein Ensemble, conducted by Richard Baker, performing some new works by Canadian composer, Michael Oesterle.

Frontiers - 3

The Thallein Ensemble are a contemporary music group based at the Birmingham Conservatoire and, as such, are all students, which makes their achievement of performing and promoting new music all the more impressive. The programme consisted of music for a variety of forces, some by Oesterle and some by composition students at the Conservatoire.

Frontiers - 2

An excellent evening.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Limited Edition Living

Limited Edition Living

In a week dominated by Trump and other fascist excesses, this terrible marketing puff for - believe it or not - flats in the Jewellery Quarter in Birmingham struck me as desperately appropriate. On another week, I might have mused on the hilarity of a speculative builder inadvertently commodifying death but I will leave the musing to you this time.

I am not going to dwell on Trump but will link to two essays which I think are important. The first is by Masha Gessen of the New York Review of Books on why we must NOT compromise and attempt to work with him but must vociferously oppose him every step of the way (also applies to the UK leaving the EU and our own sad little fascists): Autocracy: Rules for Survival. The second is a positivist manifesto by the marvellous thinker and musician, Brian Eno, in which he states something similar but less bleakly: Trump Is A Wake-Up Call.

On Wednesday morning, I had to cycle to the University "Curzon" campus in town. It was icy cold but sunny and the ride was pleasant. At the campus, I got into the lift with a woman who commented that I "looked cold" but as I'd been on bike, I wasn't at all cold. She came from West Africa and thought that she would never get used to the cold and was laughing about the fact that the weather forecast was for snow. She got out the lift and I continued to the top floor.

I don't ever want to be in a position where these everyday interactions stop. My life is better for having an irrelevant chat with a woman from West Africa. It is a privilege to have spoken to her, to a Norwegian woman, to a student from Lithuania, another from Israel, and to a vegetable-seller from Afghanistan, all in the course of one week. I am proud of the fact that they have come to Birmingham for whatever reason brought them here and that they are comfortable enough to talk to me as freely as the people who were born here would speak to me.

I am prepared to fight long and hard for that privilege.

It is two weeks since I last posted - I didn't get time last weekend as I was in Brighton - and so much has happened, so speeding rapidly backwards to a time before 'Orange was the new Black', the BA Jewellery and Related Products students had a small show to look at the work they are developing for their final graduation shows and it was very exciting to see what is coming:

BA Jewellery and Related Products - Sneak Peek 2016 - 4

BA Jewellery and Related Products - Sneak Peek 2016 - 7

BA Jewellery and Related Products - Sneak Peek 2016 - 5

One piece which intrigued me particularly was not jewellery but a manifesto by Rachel Jones:

BA Jewellery and Related Products - Sneak Peek 2016 - 2

(Looking at this and at the poster at the head of this entry, I realise that the influence of Jenny Holzer is everywhere!)
The content of this manifesto caused me to think rather a lot and to gradually question the content: is "failure" a luxury? Contextually, in terms of the University, studying jewellery, being in a space where one can safely fail, then yes, it is a luxurious position: in terms of human achievement, it is the only way progress is made. I have always questioned the idea that jewellery is a luxury, an inessential - I believe it fulfils some deep-seated psychological need for decoration (which is why I also think that 'minimalist design' is a cultural dead-end) but there is definitely a question around luxury to be answered. (See my post from this time last year on the superb "What is Luxury" show at the V&A.)

Anyway, I emailed my thoughts to her tutor, Rachael Colley, and she passed the comments on which led to me having a lunchtime meeting with Rachel herself and a long, rambling, wide-ranging discussion about such varied topics as Class War, Hyperreality, Naomi Klein, Umberto Eco, Deyan Sudjic, Jean Baudrillard... I cannot wait to see her graduate show!

Next up was a design development day which was more of a drop-in to which students could come along if they felt so inclined. My colleagues, Rachael Colley and Sian Hindle organised a "Drink and Draw" tea-ceremony, where hand-made brushes, pens and other tools would be used to draw with tea in various forms whilst supping the same beverage (and eating home-made cakes).

Drink and Draw - A Tea Ceremony - 5

Rachael has been experimenting with making brushes for some time now and it was good to see the students engage with her practice.

Drink and Draw - A Tea Ceremony - 1

Drink and Draw - A Tea Ceremony - 9

Drink and Draw - A Tea Ceremony - 3

Drink and Draw - A Tea Ceremony - 2
Rachael Colley (left) with Sian Hindle (centre) and a student at the Drink and Draw event.

I noticed this week that the "Forward Rolling Mills" - where I had found all the materials for my "Run of the Mill" work for Craftspace - is almost completely demolished:

Forward Rolling Mills - The End

You can see what it looked like in my previous post here.

With a lovely circularity, I finished my work for Craftspace with a piece for their permanent collection of handling pieces:

Run of the Mill - Handling Collection

With colleagues, we headed off to Grand Union for an exhibition of work by Mitra Saboury. Saboury's work reminds me a lot of the work of Matthew Barney but with a very different focus and a lot more roughly-hewn. (In fact, it did make me question the style-over-substance issues in Barney's work again.) Her work is pleasingly odd, very visceral and hovers somewhere between horrible and hilarious and it was interesting that we all had very different feelings from each of the pieces presented.

Mitra Saboury - Pulling Walls - 1

On leaving, I spotted a tiny remnant of Matt Gale's installation from some months ago, abandoned on the stairs:

Tiny glow-in-the-dark silicon "fungi"! Matt has been doing some work at the School recently, which is how I came to know his work.

Installed my little one-case show at the Birmingham and Midland Institute last week. The B&MI have been running a rolling programme of work by the artists at the School of Jewellery and this month it is my work which is going into the case:

Birmingham and Midland Institute Exhibition - 1

Birmingham and Midland Institute Exhibition - 3

Birmingham and Midland Institute Exhibition - 2

This week saw the display by the first-year BA Jewellery and Related Products students of the first things that they had made in the workshops, their "Pots of Joy" and some stone-setting samples.

Pots of Joy - 2016 - 1

Pots of Joy - 2016 - 4

Pots of Joy - 2016 - 7

Pots of Joy - 2016 - 8

Last night, I went to Lustre with my friend and colleague, Anna Lorenz. For those of you who don't know it, this is a superbly-curated and well-organised "craft fair", though that does not do it justice at all. The quality of the venue and the products being displayed is of the highest standard and the focus is on the very best and most interesting craft products being made in the UK.

Lustre - 2016 - 1

It was really nice to see some of our graduates there:

Lustre - 2016 - 2

You may recall that I bought one of Amber's brooches at her graduate show, so it was really nice to see her new work in this context.

Graduate Show 2016 - 41 - Amber Cooper-Green

We were also there to support Sally Collins and Drew Markou in their really interesting collaborative project, "Studio 100". This saw them creating a body of new work which was inexpensive but which didn't compromise on their individual aesthetics. They also agreed on colour pallet and scale so that the show works as a whole.

Lustre - 2016 - 4

Lustre - 2016 - 4

I think that the whole works really well.

Lustre - 2016 - 3

Last but not least, as a fan of social enterprises, I was delighted to discover that the excellent Patrick Grant (of Sewing Bee fame!) is the brains behind a new Blackburn-based co-operative, Community Clothing, making modestly-priced, quality clothing. On the recommendation of one of my favourite fashion bloggers, Grey Fox, I bought a pair of their jeans and have to say that they are quite wonderful. I wore them last night to go to Lustre:


Made from heavy, selvedge denim, these are very well cut and beautifully made. I can tell that they will really improve with wear. So good to find an exciting enterprise like this.
An aside to this, I really like the way that Community Clothing have modified the classic British Utility Clothing logo for their own use!