Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Over A Month

It has been over a month since I last posted and this is just not good enough! However, I am working on some very interesting projects about which more will be revealed in the coming months. Here's a whistle-stop tour of what I've been up to for the last few weeks.

Box Project - 2018 - 2

We've had the "box project" with our BA Jewellery and Object students. This consists of them having to make a box in one week and the results this year have been fantastic!

Box Project - 2018 - 1 - Yan Zhang
Box by Yan Zhang, "The Pain of Ice-Cream"!

Box Project - 2018 - 3 - Xilin Hu
Box by Xilin Hu.



There has also been another run-down of work by our Artists-in-Residence. Here Nikki Pugh reveals some of her wearable technology which alters perception about the environment, ably assisted by Rebecca Steiner and one of my HND students, Jack Deeley:




I went back to Wolverhampton for another exhibition, this time by another of our Artists-in-Residence, Zoe Fitzpatrick Rodgers. Organised around a theme of "Hauntology" at the Asylum Art Gallery in the town, it proved to be a very interesting evening and it was great to see jewellery presented in the context of a mixed-media exhibition of fine arts:

Zoe Fitzpatrick Rodgers

The exhibition itself was somewhat provocative:

NOI┴∀ƆIɹq∀Ⅎ

No more to be said!


Whizzed off to London for a few days at the UCAS careers fair, representing the University and caught up with my friend, Julia and her family. We went to the most wonderful and crazy restaurant in Peckham, Persepolis, a Persian restaurant run by the author of some very fine vegetarian cookbooks:


Peckham is a very interesting place. Quite run-down but lively, with lots of fantastic old signs and buildings.

Ten Station Way


Spent a day at the symposium held here on Magnesium and the use of magnesium for innovative technology. Unfortunately, of limited use for jewellery - it is used to some extent in watch cases - the symposium was interesting and a good event for meeting people.

Magnesium Dinner/Symposium - 1

Best thing was getting out onto the 5th-floor balcony at the Curzon building to see a panorama of the city:

Birmingham Eastside Panorama



Went to hear contemporary baritone, Thomas Buckner perform a variety of contemporary pieces for (wordless) voice and electronics at the Conservatoire.

Thomas Buckner

He was singing works by some of my absolute favourite composers, Phil Niblock, Alvin Lucier and Robert Ashely and introduced me to the work of Annea Lockwood. It was complete chance that I spotted this was on and I'm so glad to have been able to attend.



Marianne Forest - Acts of Resistance - 3

Back to the School of Jewellery and the opening of a new exhibition at our Vittoria Street Gallery of work by Marianne Forrest, who designs watches and time-related pieces, including time-related collaborative drawings. At the private view, we had the chance to take part in one of her collaborative drawings:

Marianne Forest - Acts of Resistance - 2
Jo Pond leading the way in collaborative drawing!
Marianne Forest - Acts of Resistance - 5



Fiona Harris is one of the Artists-in-Residence here at the School but she is in the unusual position of being placed within the Museum of the Jewellery Quarter, making work there and  developing a collection of pieces from the archive for sale in the Birmingham Museums shops. We had the pleasure of being at her presentation of the work for production and sale:

Fiona Harris - Artist in Residence - 1

Fiona Harris - Artist in Residence - 2

I can't show any of the work at the moment, but it will be shown as soon as it is no longer under embargo. We did get a chance to look through some of the old Smith and Pepper design books, which was very exciting!




Time for a soujourn in Brighton. Not much going on and the weather wasn't very good but it was nice to have a break!


Back to the Conservatoire for an amazing concert of music by Tommy Fuller, one of the final-year students on the Jazz course, performing works by Philip Glass and Frank Zappa (and others) in conjunction with two students from the Orchestral Percussion course.

Tommy Fuller Presents



It's that Lustre time of year again, always a good start to the wintry month of November. I drove up for the opening with Anna Lorenz. Loads of our graduates were taking part, as was my friend and colleague, Jo Pond:

Jo Pond at Lustre - 1

Jo Pond at Lustre - 2



Shelanu Product Launch - 4

This last week saw the launch of the new Shelanu collection of jewellery at the Assay Office. It is so good to see that they are producing a quality product and I was pleased to be able to introduce them to potential outlets in the Jewellery Quarter.

Shelanu Product Launch - 3

Shelanu Product Launch - 2



I went up to Derby last weekend to meet with Rachael Colley. Neither of us had visited the city before and had wanted to go purely on the strength of the industrial areas which the train passes through on the way between Birmingham and Sheffield! We were not disappointed.

Ewart Chainbelt Co Ltd

Osmaston Works

W.E. Savage - 2

Strangely, the highlight for me was lunch at the Yaffle Cafe and bookshop.


A proper, old-school radical bookshop with a vegan cafe attached! This reminded me so much of my student days and I couldn't have been happier to discover "Barleycup" on the menu and that all the food was basically brown... It was like the 1980s all over again and the radio even played Joy Division to make the illusion complete. What a place!

There are some very odd things in Derby. I particularly liked the joke shop which specialises in wedding supplies:

Only Joking Ltd.

"I do."
"Only Joking!"


Sunday saw a night out at the Ikon gallery for music by Jo Thomas playing music inspired by Daphne Oram, Delia Darbyshire and others. We also got to see the legendary visual synthesiser developed by Daphne Oram, the "mini-oramics":

Mini-Oramics 1

Highlight of the evening for me was getting to see a live performance by Olivia Louvel. I've been wanting to see her since reading this interview with her in The Quietus and was not disappointed. What a compelling performance for live voice and electronics with visuals, all about the creative spirit of Mary, Queen of Scots. You can hear some of the music on her Vimeo page.
Olivia Louvel



Delighted to have been selected for the 2018 Wiener Schmucktage in, of course, Vienna, Austria. I was representing the UK, which is very exciting, with this piece made from old clay pipes from the Thames:

Ko Si Iruufen

Ko Si Iruufen - Professional Shot




I've been focusing a lot on litter and waste recently. It is depressing to walk about and see through the autumn branches, mixed up in the dropped leaves, low-grade litter: cans, bottle-tops, cups, crisp-packets, things just dropped or dumped because people couldn't care less.

Cereal Offender

But it is not just that. Cars, fridges, shopping trolleys, clothes... all this and more, just dumped in the street, an anthropogenic mess.

What has been making me think about this waste?
I'm working on a collaborative project with jeweller, Dan Russell, of whom I have previously written here, exploring the ubiquity of waste in the environment.

More on this project soon.

Sunday, October 07, 2018

Reading and Listening


The wisdom of the "Ladybird Leaders" book, Sounds by Alan P. Sanday and illustrated by Bernard H.Robinson, published 1975. I wonder what his record is? In 1975, there were some choice releases, including Physical Graffiti (Led Zeppelin), Rubycon (Tangerine Dream), Tomorrow Belongs To Me (The Sensational Alex Harvey Band), Wish You Were Here (Pink Floyd), Indiscreet (Sparks), Discreet Music (Brian Eno), Siren (Roxy Music), Young Americans (David Bowie)... It seems that some of my absolute favourite music was released in this year and this is only a scattered selection.

I've never been much enamoured of the concept of "Britpop", loathing both Oasis and Blur with equal venom, foolishly ignoring Elastica because Justine Frischmann was tainted with whiny Damon Albarn (I've got over that one now) and only really enjoying one Pulp album, This Is Hardcore. At that point, I was immersed in obscure electronica of the sort produced by Toshimaru Nakamura, the post-pop of Stereolab and Black Box Recorder and the industrial of the re-emergent Einsturzende Neubauten and Laibach. There are clear links between this and the list above from 1975.

It is a bit surprising that the first band to be christened with the title of "Britpop", was Suede with their swooping, falsetto vocals, strings, unexpected melodies and a plundering of British pop history which was so far from obvious, unlike the crass thieving of Oasis or the oh-so-clever fake barrow boy shtick of Blur. Suede managed to make pop music which is British without being obvious, wearing their references clearly but not ripping anyone off or being smugly intellectual: Bowie, The Associates, The Smiths, Roxy Music... All my favourites. Brett sang of British things like class: class warriors, not class tourists (Blur) or anachronistic class stereotypes (Oasis) and of the claustrophobia of urban life. Not an album went by without mention of disenfranchised youth, desperate drugs and desperate sex, road systems and traffic.

This week, I got round to buying the latest Suede album, released last month, inspired by a review on my favourite music website, The Quietus.


And it is fantastic. Everything is there that should be there: the disaffection, the swooping vocals, swelling strings, angular guitars and memorable melodies but while there are discreet songs, this is a concept album... Complete with orchestra, choirs, spoken word parts, a story about a missing child, or, perhaps, the missing child that we lose when we become adults.

I've listened to this every night since it arrived. Especially wonderful is the track pair, "Chalk Circles/Cold Hands" which has more than a whiff of the "Wicker Man" about it.



I have no idea why author, Jonathan Coe has passed me by until last month. I found reference to his novel "The Rotters' Club" in an article in The Guardian and bought it, thinking it sounded interesting.


Since reading that, I've finished "What A Carve Up!" and have just started "The Terrible Privacy of Maxwell Sim". It is a long time since I felt so compelled to read a writer's entire output. These books are political, cultural, humorous, warm and easy-to-read, yet are written with enormous literary intelligence, with endless references, quotations and allusions, often in differing styles. (The last chapter of "The Rotters Club" references Joyce's "Ulysses" and is, apparently, the longest sentence in the English language.) There are also references to another of my favourite authors, Alasdair Gray, in the books I've read so far.

Like Suede, there is something essentially English about this writing: not the English of Wodehouse or Agatha Christie but the English of "Middle England". (Not to be confused with "Little Englanders".)


On Friday, I went to hear the fantastic Anna Meredith at the Town Hall, a rather sparsely-attended event which was, nonetheless, thrilling.

Anna Meredith

Performing with an orchestra, rock drummer, a tuba standing in for a bass player, a guitarist, a superstar 'cellist and electronics, this really defied definition: lying somewhere between rock, rave and Michael Nyman, her music and personality had the whole audience dancing. Here is "Nautilus" to give you an idea...


Wonderful! And this is it without the full orchestra.


Sunday, September 30, 2018

Summer's Gone...

...and I'm back at work.

Summer kicked off with a new car:


Yes. I bought a 2-seater Smart Car! It is SO good. We were all over the country this summer and unlike the old car, the air-conditioning works in this one. Also, it doesn't leak when it rains.

Started off in Brighton - of course - and a trip to West Dean to see Bob Ebendorf there, in excellent spirits as always and so good to catch up:

Bob Eberndorf - West Dean Workshops - 3

Bob Eberndorf - West Dean Workshops - 4

We then headed off to Bristol for an ACJ meeting, then to Scotland to see my mum - an event which found us staying in the worst hotel I have ever been in - and travelled back in a leisurely fashion, visiting towns in the borders which I had been to when I was much younger and had not been back to since. Places like Moffat, famous for the sour toffee:


and the sculpture of a ram in the high-street:

Ram 1

Unlike the baking hot weather which had preceded the holiday, this dull grey followed us around the whole of Scotland. The rest of the summer was spent in Brighton and Birmingham and the usual nonsense:
Megan and the Ginger One

Gormless and More Gormless



First thing back at work - after the 300+ emails - was the MA Jewellery exhibition which included a recreation of Bjork's "swan" dress in thousands of Iceland shopping bags:

MA Jewellery and Object - Graduate Show 2018 - 4 - Hannah-May Chapman

Made by my Hannah-May Chapman of "SpamGlam":

MA Jewellery and Object - Graduate Show 2018 - 5 - Hannah-May Chapman

Also featured was a video with none other than Phil Jupitus being turned into a monster by Chloe Henderson:

MA Jewellery and Object - Graduate Show 2018 - 2 - Chloe Henderson

Bridie Lander and I had fun with the sleep inducing wearables by Yueshang Wang:

MA Jewellery and Object - Graduate Show 2018 - 9 - Yueshang Wang

MA Jewellery and Object - Graduate Show 2018 - 7 - Yueshang Wang

My own favourite work was environmental, with Jingyao Sun's work made from dead leaves:

MA Jewellery and Object - Graduate Show 2018 - 14 - Jingyao Sun

And Haochen Chi's work in single-use plastic bags:

MA Jewellery and Object - Graduate Show 2018 - 17 - Haochen Shih

Both really looking at the transformation of the materials.



A very brief trip to Lichfield, which is lovely, to visit a magnesium casting plant. I've not been to Lichfield before and will take a longer visit soon. The mediaeval cathedral is incredible.

Lichfield Cathedral Reflections

Lichfield Cathedral

I particularly enjoyed the "Kings of England" arrayed across the front!

Kings of England



A very quick visit to see my old colleagues in Glasgow at Glasgow Kelvin and City of Glasgow colleges (it rained, of course), I was horrified to discover that the awful bronze statue "The Spirit of St. Kentigern" which used to sit in Buchanan Street and which my friends and I referred to as "the flying jobby" has reappeared. I was delighted some years back when it disappeared and I imagined that the ugly sub-Henry Moore had been quietly retired but it is back:


Tucked away in the car-park at the back entrance to the City of Glasgow College. Not sure what the college did to deserve this. I still think it is hideous but my art-critical language has improved since I was 14!

(The sculptor was one Neil Livingstone, about whom I can find nothing.)



V&A Dundee - 1
It was opening night at the new V&A museum in Dundee!
I was on my way to Dundee for the Handmade By Machines conference, held in Dundee University, where I was presenting a paper on "Technofreaks and Technophobes". The conference was excellent and saw an expansion of the event from an exhibition some ten years ago to an exhbition and symposium in 2013 and now this major event with an exhibition at the MacManus arts centre.

The programme was really varied with friends and colleagues, as well as new speakers. Sandra Wilson kicked us off with her researches into retrieving precious metals from mobile phones, a project in which she is collaborating with Edinburgh University department of chemistry:

Handmade by Machines 2018 - 1

We heard presentations from a wide range of makers, mostly about their practice. Antje Hiller spoke about her work using digital technology to make medical products more appealing:

Handmade by Machines 2018 - 2

Bin Dixon-Ward spoke about her concept of "digital cities" and how grids in her work reflected some of this:

Handmade by Machines 2018 - 3

The coup of the event was definitely getting Wendy Yothers to come over from the US to talk about her practice and meeting her for dinner afterwards was the highlight for me.

My own talk was not about making but about the philosophy and politics of technology and how we should be thinking about teaching it. You can read it here.

The exhibition afterwards was excellent.

Handmade by Machines 2018 - 4

Handmade by Machines 2018 - 6



New students have all returned. We had an amazing ice-breaker this year where they all had to turn newspapers into wearable costumes, working in groups. The results were amazing!

Paper Fashion Parade - 3

Paper Fashion Parade - 5

Paper Fashion Parade - 10

Here is a video of the final parade:




It was also time for our unique programme, the BA Jewellery and Silversmithing Design for Industry (DFI for short) to celebrate 10 years since it first began. This is the course which was so good that we stole the idea when I was still in Glasgow: convert a 2-year HND qualification into a BA with a 1-year technology- and business-based course. It's been run by Claire Price since the outset and it has produced some very well-known makers.

10:10 - Ten Years of the DFI - 1
Left to right: Alison Honour, Dean of Faculty; Gaynor Andrews, ex-Head of School; Claire Price, Course Director, DFI.
It was lovely to see so many people from the industry turn up for the reception:

10:10 - Ten Years of the DFI - 2

I think that they were most impressed that Claire had laid on Gin & Tonic instead of the usual wine!

10:10 - Ten Years of the DFI - 4
Work by Jack Rowe, one of the graduates from the first year of the course.
10:10 - Ten Years of the DFI - 5
Work by Daisy Grice, one of the graduates from the most recent year of the course.



FINALLY! Took a trip to London with the new students this week to see the legendary Goldsmiths' fair. Unfortunately, I was so engaged with talking to people (Chris Boland, Jonathan Boyd, Susi Hines, Steph Holt, Hazel Thorn and Lukas Grewenig were all there) that I forgot to take many photographs.

Kevin Gray introduced me to the pleasingly eccentric Ryan McClean who shot these beakers out of a cannon:

Ryan McClean - Goldsmiths' Fair

The videos of these being made are fascinating:




I'll end on an autumnal shot from my ride into work earlier this week:

Autumn Scene