Sunday, February 19, 2017

Tea For Sixty-two and Sixty-Two for Tea

Tea Sets - 1

This lurid display is another of the short projects run by the BA class, this time to introduce them to various technologies, including turning, press-forming, spining, sand-casting, thread-cutting, riveting, laser-cutting, and finishing. Yes, each one of these tea-sets has all of these processes in it and some have more!

Tea Sets - 2

There was another small exhibition event for this.

Tea Sets - 10

Some of the results are fantastic:

Tea Sets - 8

Tea Sets - 9

Tea Sets - 6

Also this week, "The Path of Inspiration" and a film premiere held at the School for a new film by Alexander Kormarov about Russian jewellery, with a particular emphasis on the work of the husband and wife Bischoff team.

The Path of Inspiration - 1

The film itself is a curate's egg. The parts about the history of jewellery in Russia are all excellent: the revolution, the emergence of mass-production jewellery in the USSR, the rise of the fine-jeweller in the new Russia. The sections about how the Bischoffs design and make their jewellery are good in as far as they go. The "dramatised" sections with lingering shots of 'the muse' - yes, that is how the actress is credited - are risible. Fortunately, these sections are short. In fact, for the first time in ages, I found myself wanting the film to be about twice as long and I think that in a film twice as long and which focused on the history and current production, the "dramatised" sections wouldn't even merit comment.

The Path of Inspiration - 7

It was good for the students to get to see some contemporary, commercial, fine jewellery:

The Path of Inspiration - 4

The Path of Inspiration - 5

The Path of Inspiration - 6

Digital project for me this week. Quite unusually, I have taken on a commercial, digital job for one of my colleagues, Sian Hindle. She makes these quite lovely word pieces from her own handwritten poetry and wanted to convert one to a bangle.
I spent some of last weekend making the conversion:

And this week we had it printed out in wax, ready for casting:

Text Bangle - 1

I'm not sure there are enough sprues, but our tech-hub guru, Keith, insists that this will be enough. I'll keep you all posted.

More soon!

Sunday, February 12, 2017


There is a lot of sellotape in this post.

This week saw Birmingham host Spring Fair, the largest jewellery and giftware fair in the UK. Quite aside from being the largest collection of utter tat I have ever witnessed in one place, the jewellery and watch section of the fair is always interesting and over the years, I've made a few visits here. This time around, we decided to take our entire cohort of HND Jewellery and Silversmithing students as a number of them had won some quite prestigious prizes from the jewellery industry.

Every year, we, uniquely, set up a number of industry-sponsored and industry-judged design and make competitions as part of the HND, giving the course a grounding in the challenges of the jewellery industry. These competitions are quite varied and this year saw the start of our association with Rofin/Coherent - who make laser welding and marking equipment - as well as the continuation of our long association with the CAD and casting company, Weston Beamor.

Rofin sponsored prizes for the best use of laser technologies in jewellery.

Spring Fair - Rofin - 1

The winners this year included some fine jewellery, some small siverwares, some costume pieces and some kinetic pieces and the winners variously received cash prizes and work-placements in industry.

Spring Fair - Rofin Weston Beamor - 10
Winners! Left to right, Ophelia Stoker, Poppy Middleton, Sarah Parry, Daniel Bollard and Yuying Hu.

Spring Fair - Rofin - 9
Most of the HND students with the teaching staff, along with the staff of Rofin, on the Rofin stand.
The afternoon was the prize-giving for the CAD project set by Weston Beamor, to come up with a contemporary take on a "halo" engagement ring with a matching wedding band.

Spring Fair - Weston Beamor - 12

The fantastic thing about this project is that the chosen pieces are made up and are included in the commercially-available Weston Beamor range. We were particularly thrilled as PatrickFuller, owner of the company, took the time to come and speak to the students and award them their prizes.

Spring Fair - Weston Beamor - 13
Patrick Fuller with Hwai-Jen Shiau.

Spring Fair - Weston Beamor - 14
Patrick Fuller with Bethany Ross.

Spring Fair - Weston Beamor - 15
Patrick Fuller with Ruth Hallows.

At the Parkside building this week, I discovered an amazing installation made by first year students on the BA Visual Communications course alongside students on the BA Theatre Design course. It was made in one week, using only brown-paper and sellotape and is a magical exploration of the world of Roald Dahl:

Roald Dahl - Paper Installation - 1

Roald Dahl - Paper Installation - 2

Roald Dahl - Paper Installation - 3

Roald Dahl - Paper Installation - 4

Roald Dahl - Paper Installation - 5

At the School of Jewellery, as we have a large cohort of students from China, we decided that we would have a celebration of the Chinese New Year, with Chinese food, tea and... Sellotape Cinema!

Sellotape Cinema - Chinese New Year - 1

The students used a variety of printed images and old slides, transferring the images to sellotape which is then processed and linked together into long reels for projection.

Sellotape Cinema - Chinese New Year - 3

Sellotape Cinema - Chinese New Year - 4

Sellotape Cinema - Chinese New Year - 2

The students loved this process and while we broke for food, Steve and Steve of Sellotape Cinema patched together the final product.

Sellotape Cinema - Chinese New Year - 6

Sellotape Cinema - Chinese New Year - 7

The end result is fascinating and it is incredible that such an apparently unco-ordinated experience could produce such an interesting result.

Sellotape Cinema - Chinese New Year - 13

Sellotape Cinema - Chinese New Year - 14

If you are interested, there are more films on the Sellotape Cinema Vimeo site.

Finally, a musical outing to hear a BEAST (The Birmingham Electro Acoustic Sound Theatre) presentation of works by the EMS - Elektron Musik Studion - from Stockholm. Introduced by the charmingly funny Mats Lindström, we were treated to a marvellous selection of live diffusions, live digital performances and his own spectacularly visceral "Low Fidelity", performed on malfunctioning electronic devices:

EMS Stockholm at BEAST - 2

EMS Stockholm at BEAST - 1

There is more about the EMS Studios here:

Sunday, February 05, 2017

Iron Man

A bumper two-week post this week as I've been away in Brighton and London as well as generally very busy with marking and assessment at work. It is really remarkable what the students can do when I set them to it. My Level 4 students are half-way through their first year and already they can make proper, fine jewellery:

Student Assessment - 3
Hayley Jones
Some of them get very creative in displaying the work for assessment:

Student Assessment - 1
Erica Laver
And others go to town on making up experimental samples and documenting the results:

Student Assessment - 2
Menna Jones
I love this sort of enthusiasm and creativity even though it makes it really time-consuming to mark.

Still with the students, this last two weeks has seen the Level 5 BA students working on their mid-term series of fast projects, each one taking no longer than a day. The object of these projects is not so much to generate wearable jewellery but to encourage the cross-pollination of ideas from other areas into jewellery. Over the last two weeks, they have completed a marathon three different projects, each culminating in a mini-exhibition.
Speculative Futures was about ideas for wearable technology which might be possible in the future:

Speculative Futures - 4

Speculative Futures - 2

Speculative Futures - 1

Speculative Futures - 3

This was followed by an issues-based project, where the students had to decide on a topic which concerned them and make pieces which responded to that theme:

Issues - 3

Issues - 1

Issues - 4

Issues - 6

Finally, came a one-day workshop run by Jessa Fairbrother (who currently has an exhibition at the Vittoria Street Gallery in the Atrium at the School of Jewellery) all about the concept of "Selfies":

Selfie - Jessa Fairbrother - 1

Selfie - Jessa Fairbrother - 2

Selfie - Jessa Fairbrother - 3

There have also been a couple of our "Talking Practice" lectures over this time, including one by Jessa - after the workshops mentioned above  - which I couldn't attend. We've had Anne Melke from Copenhagen talking about alternative readings of Jewellery History and Jon Privett from West Dean talking about colour and patina and the importance of these in (re)creating the history of an object.
I met Jon almost ten years ago, so it was a real pleasure to be able to meet up with him again.

Jon Privett - Talking Practice - 3

Jon Privett - Talking Practice - 2

Jon Privett - Talking Practice - 4

Jon Privett - Talking Practice - 1

Newton After Blake

Spent the day in London last weekend where we had a very successful meeting at the British Library, discussing the forthcoming ACJ Conference. We vetted the papers and submissions for presentations and have secured a keynote speaker of legendary stature - more on that to follow!

I also took the opportunity of heading off to see the Paul Nash exhibition at Tate Britain. I've been a fan of Nash's work for a long time, admiring his understated, un-hysterical Surrealism and will always go out of my way to see the odd work by him which has ended up dotted about the country in little galleries here and there. This is one overwhelming, comprehensive and enormous show and I was unable to get round it without taking a couple of breaks.

One of the main advantages of getting to see his work collected together like this is that it allows the viewer to appreciate the themes which run through his work - it is possible to recognise individual trees and locations which pass from the very earliest to the very last works - as well as the broad sweeps of his explorations.

I have always maintained that the true home of surrealism is the UK: it was a flash-in-the-pan in France, modish Italy and in Spain and dominated by deChirico and Dali, never really rooted in Germany. In the UK, there is still a strong tradition of surrealism and it seeped into so many other movements here, from Pop Art to the NBA crowd, as well as colouring popular culture to a degree that is strikingly absent in the rest of Europe. Paul Nash in many ways set the template for British Surrealism, rooting it in the ancient woodlands, the seaside, the landscape, creating calm works - even his work as a War Artist are calm and coolly detached - within a very limited and unique pallet.

For me, the most surprising element was the final room: a series of canvases depicting the sun in various ways and painted in the last few years of his life. The pallet shifts, the forms change subtly (but the landscape remains) and it is as if he were about to embark on a whole new creative chapter.

The exhibition closes on the 5th of March 2017 and is an absolute must-see.

Finale - Black Sabbath

Ending with The End.
This week I went to see the penultimate gig by Black Sabbath. I would have gone to the very last but by the time I had sorted out the booking system with my credit card - months ago - the tickets had all sold, unsurprisingly.

Needless to say, it was an amazing gig, complete with "Spinal Tap"-style overlong drum solo! Opening on "Black Sabbath" and closing with "Paranoid" to the very un-Rock 'n' Roll accompaniment of enormous baloons and confetti canons, it was an absolutely blistering tour-de-force in which all the band members showed what it is that has made them so amazing over the years. It is quite incredible to see - in a live setting - Ozzy change from the shambolic, mumbling creature we get on television into a coherent, charismatic and commanding stage presence and, of course, Tony Iommi's endlessly inventive riffs.
I was so pleased that they included "Iron Man" in the set as it has been a bit of a constant in my life, even before I became obsessed with making iron jewellery, since which it has become a theme. I first heard it in University when my friend, Dan Gotts, played it and I was hooked: up to that point I'd been fascinated by experimental and electronic music and had mostly written off Heavy Metal - despite really enjoying Led Zeppelin - until that moment.

Black Sabbath Confetti!