Sunday, July 30, 2017

Making for Change


Making For Change - 10

A portmanteau word meaning "activism through craft". I don't think it has made the dictionary yet - though it has made Wikipedia - but when it does, you can be sure that it will be the definition of a project I was involved with for young people in their final years at school or college in the Aston and Newtown areas of Birmingham, "Making for Change". This is yet another project from the powerhouse that is Craftspace - of whom I have written many times over the two years since I moved to Birmingham.

The idea is to engage young people in making while engaging with their concerns about their worlds and without a doubt, they worked hard. I was there for 2 days out of the five that they were working and the amazing thing was that they didn't know each other before the project, having all come from different schools and different parts of the area: by the end they were all firm friends.

As everyone involved was between 16 and 19, I am not allowed to show any images of them at work but can show some of the work-in-progress.

Making For Change - 7

Making For Change - 8

The project in the two images above was the one I was mainly involved in, devising a game which encouraged people to look at the real stories behind the social-media "hashtags" and to think about the implications of using hashtags without translating their use into real action. They discovered some amazing facts about the use of some popular tags, such as #GrenfellTowerFire, #BlackLivesMatter and #IceBucketChallenge, fundamentally proving that the use of a hashtag does not necessarily indicate an engagement with the subject thereof and suggesting that many uses of these tags is merely fashionable.

I loved this model of Grenfell Tower, which was part of a project looking at similar issues but specifically around the fire in the London tower-block:

Making For Change - 9

In this case, the issue was around the contemptible fake charity accounts which appeared in the aftermath of the fire - and, which I didn't know, in the aftermath of almost any disaster.

I was doing my 'guerilla etching' with them, which allowed them to make etched metal plaques and they had workshops on data analysis and research, film-making, laser-cutting and 3d printing, book-making and metal colouring and forming. It was great to see that all the processes ended up in the final presentations.

Making For Change - 12

Making For Change - 13

I've been finishing off my own work for The Old Cinema this week. Finally got it all completed and I'm happy to be able to go on holiday for four weeks!

Three Circular Pendants

Macho Bracelet - 8

Macho Bracelet - 9

This has been the weekend of the Jewellery Quarter Festival and I went along to support friends and see what is going on. Unfortunately, I forgot my camera, so here are a very few mobile phone shots...

Open Studios in the Jewellery Quarter with Tina Francis, Deborette and others.
New lampshades by Zoe and Steve at The Dual Works.
I bought one of these lampshades.

Other than that, I've been doing a lot of gardening, including harvesting my garlic:

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Dressing Up

Another busy week with no chance to wind down from the post-conference activities. Not so much to report - finishing off a lot of work before the holidays:

Some for The Old Cinema in Chiswick, some for Cursley & Bond in Folkestone. I'm particularly pleased with the pieces for Folkestone, where they are part of the Triennial exhibition at C&B on the theme of "Double Edge". I'm making a pair of pendants from a pair of broken Victorian scissors:

Set with peridot, rhodolite garnet and a natural quartz "lens" which makes it into a kind of lorgnette magnifier.

There is an excellent exhibition on at the IKON gallery in Birmingham just now: work by Sheela Gowda made from old metal drums, flattened out, cut and some of them spun into bowls. Well worth a visit:

Sheela Gowda - IKON - 2

Sheela Gowda - IKON - 1

Graduate Certificate Show - 2017 - 2

One of the courses at the School of Jewellery which is often overlooked a bit is the unusual Graduate Certificate course which is a short course designed to prepare non-jewellery graduates to enter the MA Jewellery course, run by Bridie Lander. Bridie is tasked with taking a cohort of students with BA qualifications in anything but jewellery, mostly from the Far East and South East Asia, and preparing them in 6 short months to be able to make jewellery. This sounds impossible, but...

Graduate Certificate Show - 2017 - 3
Work by Xinrui Fu, exploring masks and Chinese theatre.

Graduate Certificate Show - 2017 - 6
Work exploring "preciousness" by Qiao-Zhen Lin.

Graduate Certificate Show - 2017 - 7
Work exploring "preciousness" by Qiao-Zhen Lin.

Graduate Certificate Show - 2017 - 8
Angelia Chen's surrealist ear-cuff.

Friday night took me to Sleaford to the National Centre for Craft and Design (NCCD) where I have work in their newest show, "The World Is Your Dressing Up Box", covering all aspects of radical fashion, including jewellery. Once more, both Zoe Robertson and I are in the same show:

And I've just realised that this is the third consecutive show that I've been in at the NCCD! (Made in the Middle, ACJ 20:20 Visions and this one.)
The show is superb, great fun, thought-provoking and really well-curated, featuring a nice mix of big names, relatively mainstream makers (such as Irregular Choice) and some emerging voices.

The World Is Your Dressing-Up Box - 1

The World Is Your Dressing-Up Box - 4

There is a really pleasing mix of the thoughtful, the wearable and the outlandish too.

The World Is Your Dressing-Up Box - 5

I was really pleased that my work opens the show with a little section of its own about men and jewellery...

The World Is Your Dressing-Up Box - 3

And, of course, there is work for sale in the shop!

The World Is Your Dressing-Up Box - 7

Holiday soon!

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Jewellery International

A bit of ruff: image by Boris Bally.

I've just re-set the house and am preparing to get myself back to work for the final two weeks of the year. The last ten days have been a whirlwind, what with the ACJ Conference - the image above was taken at that - and entertaining and getting to know the marvellous Melissa Cameron and Boris Bally, both of whom have been staying with me in Birmingham after the conference ended in Sheffield - though not, thankfully, at the same time.

The conference was, frankly, a triumph. That might sound a bit egomaniacal but aside from suggesting that we take a political theme and giving the names of a few speakers who might be involved. The main body of the work was done by our organising committee, the board of the ACJ, our administrators, Tam and Haru, and the two conference organisers, Rachel Darbourne and Laura Bradshaw-Heap.


I kicked off on the Friday with a visit to Birmingham Airport to collect Boris from his flight - that could have gone better but somehow British Airways took well over an hour to get the bags off the plane. We headed straight up to Sheffield and got there just in time to go on the visit to the Sheffield Assay Office.

ACJ Conference - 20:20 Visions - Sheffield 2017 - 1

We then returned to Sheffield Hallam University for the main conference.

ACJ Conference - 20:20 Visions - Sheffield 2017 - 2
A roster of famous faces in the front row!
First up was our keynote speaker, the ever-engaging Simon Fraser, who spoke to us on the theme of "Crash! Bang! Wallop! Designing strategic narratives for the 21st Century":

ACJ Conference - 20:20 Visions - Sheffield 2017 - 4

Considering how all aspects of the jewellery world - both commercial and art - have changed and how they are likely to change through the impact of changing demographics, geopolitics and technology. This was followed by "Contemporary Jewellery as Stuff" by Liz Shaw.

ACJ Conference - 20:20 Visions - Sheffield 2017 - 5

Liz talked about the problems of mass-production and -consumption and the issues arising from the "sustainable studio".

ACJ Conference - 20:20 Visions - Sheffield 2017 - 8

After a break, we came back to Johanna Zellmer and her "Visions from the Colonies" looking at identity, collaborative practice and how her own work around displacement, passports and identity looks at ways in which jewellery can engage with the displaced and people struggling with their identity.
ACJ Conference - 20:20 Visions - Sheffield 2017 - 11

Next up was our pre-dinner "entertainment" with Rachael Colley and Nuala Clooney, who presented an aperitif, as it were, in the form of "By|With|By", a multisensory experience derived from their backgrounds in jewellery and silversmithing but very much focused on food...

ACJ Conference - 20:20 Visions - Sheffield 2017 - 14

There were edible menus:

Strange cocktails in even stranger cups:

Beautiful and disturbing objects:

ACJ Conference - 20:20 Visions - Sheffield 2017 - 19
All cast from Nuala's own mouth....
And all very delicious food!

ACJ Conference - 20:20 Visions - Sheffield 2017 - 20

Appropriately enough, it was time for dinner, which was followed by a short talk by the first Chair of the ACJ, Norman Cherry, and the current chair, Terry Hunt. This was followed by a series of Pecha Kucha talks from the regional groups about what they have been doing over the year.


First up today was Norman Cherry again, this time discussing "The Chinese Question". Norman's own personal experiences in China have given him a unique insight into the issues around working with China and the Chinese approach to creativity. Interestingly, he was much more positive about the future of working with China than Simon Fraser was in yesterday's keynote.

ACJ Conference - 20:20 Visions - Sheffield 2017 - 21

This was followed up by Boris Bally (of whom, much more later!) who was talking about his pro-peace project about gun crime, "I.M.A.G.I.N.E. Peace Now", a show in which I have a 'piece'!

ACJ Conference - 20:20 Visions - Sheffield 2017 - 22

Some of you will recall this:

Walk Like A Man (Sex Crime) - 24

Which appeared in the presentation about how artists can make powerful points. It was great to see him point up some of the idiocy of people who oppose an exhibition of work which represents a move towards a safer, more peaceful society by showing us some of the emails he had received from gun-nuts.

This brought us on to our first practical sessions where people could choose to learn about tool-making with Tim Blades, learn soldering techniques with Rebecca Skeels or take part in our innovative jewellery walk, "Seeding the Cloud" by Roseanne Bartley which involves removing hard plastic waste from the environment by turning it into jewellery. Fortunately, it was a fine, sunny day and even though Sheffield is one of the cleanest cities in the UK, we still managed to find lots of waste!

ACJ Conference - 20:20 Visions - Sheffield 2017 - 28

ACJ Conference - 20:20 Visions - Sheffield 2017 - 31

ACJ Conference - 20:20 Visions - Sheffield 2017 - 27

ACJ Conference - 20:20 Visions - Sheffield 2017 - 36
Work in progress - seeding the cloud.

ACJ Conference - 20:20 Visions - Sheffield 2017 - 33
Rebecca Skeels demonstrating soldering.

ACJ Conference - 20:20 Visions - Sheffield 2017 - 35
Tim Blades talking tools.
After the break-out sessions, it was back to the talks and this time it was Christoph Zellweger with a talk which caused a slight outbreak of nausea in the audience as he showed some rather intriguing slides of cosmetic surgery in action!

ACJ Conference - 20:20 Visions - Sheffield 2017 - 37

In his quiet, humorous way, Christoph was probably the most controversial of the speakers with his talk on "The Cultured Body - an artistic investigation" which questioned notions of 'beauty' and I think that he has been the dominant theme of all the main conversations I've had over the last ten days.

This hard-to-follow act was followed with calm aplomb by Melissa Cameron and "The Body Politic" which outlined her move towards being a politically-engaged maker.

ACJ Conference - 20:20 Visions - Sheffield 2017 - 38

ACJ Conference - 20:20 Visions - Sheffield 2017 - 39

Talking about the sense of distance between her born identity and her adopted identity and how this distance allows for critical observation, especially in the post-Trump, post-truth USA.

Light relief came in the form of the irrepressible Silvia Weidenbach with "The Cherry on the Top", a talk about her research at the V&A and the digital work she has produced from that.

ACJ Conference - 20:20 Visions - Sheffield 2017 - 40

ACJ Conference - 20:20 Visions - Sheffield 2017 - 41

With titles like "Granny's Chips, Reloaded", her work takes a very playful, feminine, intuitive approach to digital creation - one which is very much at odds with much of the cerebral work and precise work which tends to be associated with digital productions.

The business day finished with a performance of Zoe Robertson's "Flockomania 4", about which I have written before. As ever, it takes time but eventually everyone got into it and tried on the pieces...

ACJ Conference - 20:20 Visions - Sheffield 2017 - 44

Which only left dinner and the legendary Pin Swap! Unlike the SNAG Pin Swap, the ACJ one went for one pin from each maker and a lottery to re-allocate them and what a fantastic collection we had:

ACJ Conference - 20:20 Visions - Sheffield 2017 - 24

ACJ Conference - 20:20 Visions - Sheffield 2017 - 23

ACJ Conference - 20:20 Visions - Sheffield 2017 - 25

Keen-eyed observers will notice that mine is missing... I left it in the house when I set off to the conference but fortunately, it was won by Boris, who was staying with me after the conference, so that worked out well!

My pin is "The B Of The Bang":

The B Of The Bang - WIP - 1


Brought Sian Hindle to the podium to talk about jewellery and embodiment, "Jewellery at the boundary of the self".

ACJ Conference - 20:20 Visions - Sheffield 2017 - 48

Illustrated with her own drawings of the conference participants so far...

ACJ Conference - 20:20 Visions - Sheffield 2017 - 47

To be fair, she did invite the conference participants to draw her and send the drawings to her

This was followed by Maria Hanson and her "Making as Agency: a jeweller's reflection".

ACJ Conference - 20:20 Visions - Sheffield 2017 - 49

In which she looked back at her practice in a range of areas, from the JUNK project to working with NGOs in West Africa. After a tea-break, it was back to a couple of technical presentations from Cóilín Ó Dubhghaill and AnnMarie Shillito.

ACJ Conference - 20:20 Visions - Sheffield 2017 - 51

Cóilín spoke about a very exciting development in metals, "friction-stirred" metals which he has called "Mikana" and which looks amazing:

It is emphatically NOT a mokume... have a look at the website for more details.

ACJ Conference - 20:20 Visions - Sheffield 2017 - 52

AnnMarie spoke about and gave a demonstration of her Anarkik3D haptic software which is an innovative way of generating more intuitive and sculptural 3D work. Unfortunately, it only generates STL files. If only it could use T-Splines to make NURBS surfaces...

A plenary session followed with Maria Hanson, Norman Cherry, Boris Bally and audience member and ex-student of mine, Anne Walker.

The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. I think the pressure is on for another one in the next few years.


After the conference, I took a few days off work to show both Melissa and Boris around Birmingham, kicking off with introducing Boris to Kevin Gray, an international meeting of metalsmiths.

International Metal Minds

We headed off to the Museum of the Jewellery Quarter after that:

Museum of the Jewellery Quarter - 2017 - 6

There was a trip round the School of Jewellery (which I did again with Melissa later in the week), a visit to the Staffordshire Hoard (which Melissa went to later in the week: I declined a return visit, having seen it several times before!), dinner with Professor Norman Cherry (which I did again with Melissa later in the week) a trip to The Custard Factory to check out the local graffiti - where I found a pink Bialetti coffee pot in the street:

And made a little promotional piece about not taking drugs:

When Melissa arrived, the pace changed a bit and we went to the amazing Compton Verney, a Robert Adam building set in grounds by Capability Brown.

A Visit To Compton Verney - 2

The museum has a lovely, well-curated collection in the main house and while we were there, an exhibition of "Op-Art" in the contemporary gallery, which was excellent - can't beat a bit of Bridget Riley! One of the most remarkable parts of the collection is the British Folk Art, which I loved:

A Visit To Compton Verney - 7

We then headed off to the Pen Museum, another of my favourites:

The Pen Museum - 2017 - 1

The Pen Museum - 2017 - 5

The Pen Museum - 2017 - 4

Where some old ladies critiqued Melissa's calligraphic style!

I now have my own brooch by Melissa, too:

Altogether a fantastic 10 days.

Meanwhile... back at the School, it's been the exhibition of work by school children who have been working with both staff and students to create work as part of the Crafts Council's "Make Your Future" event:

Make Your Future - 3

Make Your Future - 1

Somehow or other, I've still been managing to get a bit of work made too:

Making Stock - 2

Making Stock - 1

Making Stock - 3