Sunday, February 25, 2018

Off With His Head

Last week kicked off amusingly with a tweet from an ex-student, Christina Leon, who found this in the Tower Of London:

Tower of London Head

Remind you of anyone? Probably there because Queen Theresa has had enough of my carping about the folly of Brexit.


I've had an interesting week in and around the Jewellery Quarter almost none of which I was able to photograph, due to commercial constraints. From taking the students on a tour of the ever-fascinating Assay Office to a tour of the incredible facilities at Thomas Fattorini, not one bit was photographed, except this:

IAAF WIC 2018 Medal Die

It's the die from which the Birmingham World Indoor Games medals were struck!

IAAF WIC 2018 - Medal Launch - 6

My student, Menna Jones, who designed these medals arranged the tour for us and I'm really grateful as I now have a much better picture of what services can be arranged through Fattorini.

This is a bit of a "placeholder" post as there is so much coming up next week, including the School of Jewellery staff exhibition, "In The Loupe 2".

In The Loupe 2 - 2

The Vittoria Street Gallery in the atrium at the School looks as if The Riddler has been at work!

We were each given a plain cardboard box and told to fill it. We could decorate the inside of the box but not the outside. I am SO excited about seeing what everyone has put in their boxes and also about revealing what I put in mine - a piece which strikes out in a radical new direction: I have genuinely no idea what people will make of it.

Another talking practice this week, this time environmental artist, Nikki Pugh.

Niki Pugh - Talking Practice - 1

Interviewed for an "in conversation" with Sian Hindle. The graphic behind is a representation of how Nikki locates and defines her practice. She is going to be based at the School of Jewellery for the next year and I look forward to the opportunity to engage with her practice.

I've never considered myself to be an artist who works through drawing but in the last couple of months, the opinion of other people has made me reconsider the role of drawing in my work. Mostly, in terms of my work, I draw to problem-solve:

Fashion:Victim - In Memoriam ALMcQ - Sketchbooks - 10

But there is another class of drawing that I have always done, a type of almost sub-conscious drawing which I do when my mind is focused on other things: drawings done in meetings, when watching films, listening to music, etc. These drawings are very different. Here is an example of a "to do" list made in a programme leaders' meeting a few days ago:

The Normal Papers - 2

After a conversation with Zoe Robertson about my sub-conscious drawings - which fed into the contents of my cardboard box, see above - she sent me a link to an exhibition at the Bath Festival Fringe called The Normal Papers, in which artists are invited to submit for a show which
"invites its audience to look more closely at incidental mark making of doodles, the simple beauty of a to-do list, colour coding, setting out of information, work plans on the back of an envelope and so on, in order to appreciate their unassuming simplicity and visual qualities."
I'm not sure that my drawings are "simple beauty" or of "unassuming simplicity"!

Some of my drawings have been accepted and will be shown in this exhibition and there will be much more on the role of drawing in my work very soon.

Anyone interested in submitting their own drawings should follow the link above. The closing date for entries is 20th March, 2018.

I spent a really nice day yesterday, wandering around the Jewellery Quarter, taking photographs, having a beard trim, meeting friends for dinner and generally not doing very much. Some of the photographs:

Rusty Fittings -  1

Pickering & Mayell - Old Signs - 1

Pigeon Loft

By far my favourite website about music is The Quietus, an independent magazine focusing on mainly music but also film and culture in general. I really enjoy the fact that they manage to get unique interviews with the most amazing musicians and that they can bring to my attention new bands and artists about whom I know nothing. Yesterday, they published an article by Robert Bright about Don Delillo's "White Noise", which I read in the early 1990s and remember really rating and enjoying. In the article, "Too Much Information: Don DeLillo’s White Noise", Bright suggests that the book is more relevant today than it was when it was written, arguing that even though the method of information has now changed, the way in which we are manipulated through it has not.

Given my excitement a few years back on re-reading Orwell's "Nineteen Eighty-Four", I was immediately compelled to re-read the book: I'm already 40 pages into it and it is every bit as good as I remember.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

No Spring Blues

Spring Fair is upon us again, so off we trouped to the NEC with the students in tow for the biggest jewellery event in the UK calendar. The main reason for us going is that we take the opportunity to promote the students at the event in conjunction with Weston Beamor, who generously sponsor prizes in a design competition every year.
This year, they had to use their digital skills to design a matching wedding and engagement ring:

NEC Spring Fair - Weston Beamor Presentation - 1

The competition has been run for many years, since before I started teaching there, and we're really proud of the relationship we have with the company - each winning student gets not only a cash prize and their rings made up in precious materials, but they also get a work placement in the company.

NEC Spring Fair - Weston Beamor Presentation - 7

The winning designs are picked by Weston Beamor and they have to be both innovative and commercial, a difficult thing to achieve. It gives the students an excellent grounding in designing for the industry.

We went mob-handed and, unfortunately, attracted the attention of security...

NEC Spring Fair - Weston Beamor Presentation - 2

Went out for lunch with colleagues this week to a very unusual pop-up restaurant in one of our favourite pubs in the Jewellery Quarter, 1000 Trades. It was being run by Nick Astley who used to run the now-defunct Two Cats Kitchen which, just before it shut, was being tipped for a Michelin Star, so it was exciting to be able to take the advantage of this lunch pop-up, "Salt and Earth".

We were not disappointed...

This was the most amazing food! Top to bottom: sweet potatoes with dried olives, agave and feta; yucca fries with ponzu mayonnaise; Japanese style fried chicken with dirty 1000 island; tilapia ceviche, chia seed, seaweed; white chocolate cheesecake, blood orange honeycomb and shisho.

Didn't feel like going back to work after that lot. It did inspire Claire to make her own honeycomb, however, which was rather good later in the week:

Chinese New Year Animation Workshop - 2

Chinese New Year this last week. As we have a lot of students from China in the School, we generally celebrate it in some way. This year it was an animation workshop followed by a feast of Chinese food. The animation workshop - run by Sellotape Cinema - was excellent and well-attended and the food was fantastic, provided by a new Chinese restaurant in the Jewellery Quarter, Lisa and Pann's Kitchen.

Chinese New Year Animation Workshop - 5

Chinese New Year Animation Workshop - 6

Cambridge - From Great St. Mary's Church - King's College Chapel

I've been incredibly busy myself, writing bids for Arts Council funding for a project next summer, working on the piece for the School of Jewellery staff show, In The Loupe 2, and I spent a day in Cambridge with Dan Russell, planning a collaborative show for 2019. The title of the show was decided and it will be "Don't Care Was Made To Care". Details of that to follow.

Cambridge is lovely but was incredibly busy. It is nearly 30 years since I was last there and my memory of it is hazy, rather like the above photograph but it was a most enjoyable day.

Cambridge - Universal Sundial - 3

Cambridge - Stone Mammoth

The highlight of the day was definitely climbing the tower of Great St Mary's Church to get views of the city!

Cambridge - From Great St. Mary's Church - Towards the Library

Cambridge - From Great St. Mary's Church - King's College Lawn and Shadow

It's been a week for new music, too, what with the release of a new album by Laurie Anderson, "Landfall" with the Kronos Quartet, one by Steve Reich and one by Franz Ferdinand, all superb in their own way. I was most excited by the Laurie Anderson album as she's been a musical constant in my life since I saw her perform to a tiny audience in Edinburgh in 1978 or 1979, just before her unlikely "O Superman" hit. As I also love the Kronos Quartet, this was a marriage made in heaven and it is even remarked in the liner notes that it is surprising that it hasn't happened before!

The Franz Ferdinand album is also very good and clearly shows the influence of their working with Sparks on the FFS project!

I will leave with a couple of tracks, one from each:

Monday, February 12, 2018

A Lot Of Lin

It's been fairly quiet since my last post but I've managed to squeeze in a trip to London with my ex-colleague and still-friend, Rachael Colley, a trip which involved culture and a lot of work by Lin Cheung. We started off with a visit to the V&A to see the final choices for the Women's Hour Craft Prize, a prestigious new award which has been awarded for the first time this year, described on the website as:
The Woman’s Hour Craft Prize aims to find and celebrate the most innovative and exciting craft practitioner or designer-maker resident in the UK today, in the most comprehensive prize of its kind.
 And very excellent the choices for the final proved to be. Less excellent was the back-of-beyond corridor end in which the V&A had chosen to present it:

Woman's Hour Craft Prize - 1

To find this, we not only had to ask a member of staff - it was not listed on any of their "what's on" guides - but then had to walk past education rooms, up some stairs, and round a corner, indicated only by a photocopied sign on an easel. The whole thing felt slightly contemptuous and definitely not like an exhibition of work by some of the most interesting craft practitioners in the UK.

The exhibition is really very good and jewellers and metalsmiths are featured heavily, most notably Romilly Saumarez Smith:

Woman's Hour Craft Prize - 4 - Romilly Saumarez-Smith

An exquisite bicycle by Caren Hartley and Lin Cheung's most recent work around the concept of "badges" (or "buttons" to those in the US).

Woman's Hour Craft Prize - 2 - Lin Cheung

Woman's Hour Craft Prize - 3 - Lin Cheung

These badges are made in carved gemstones, which Lin carves herself.

The overall winner was Phoebe Cummings, a ceramics artist who creates marvellously baroque unfired clay sculptures which then auto-destruct:

Woman's Hour Craft Prize - 5 - Phoebe Cummings

In this case, the object is a fountain which runs for a few minutes every day, washing away the carefully-sculpted flowers.

It is such a great shame that this exhibition would never be seen by anyone who did not go out of their way to find it.

After this, we headed through Hyde Park - dropping into the Serpentine Gallery to see the vacuous tosh of Wade Guyton, a big, boring mistake - and enjoying the "wild" parakeets:

Hyde Park Parakeet - 1

Very odd on a bitterly-cold and wet February morning!

We had lunch in a fondue/raclette restaurant - yes, such a thing exists in central London...

We then went to see Lin Cheung's solo show at Gallery SO. If you have a look at the website, you can better see the backs of the badges shown above and see what makes these "badges" rather than "brooches".

Lin Cheung - 1

This was only my second visit to Gallery SO (I'm ashamed to say) and the welcome we received from Valentina and Chris - whom I had met during last summer's ACJ Conference - was fantastic. We had the chance to see not only Lin's work:

Lin Cheung - 2

But also work by Hans Stofer, Andi Gut, Otto Kunzli, Bernhard Schobinger and Lisa Walker, amongst others. Well worth a visit when in London.

On the back of my previous post about the House of Beauty and Culture, I decided that I had to visit the last-remaining element of their collective, The Old Curiosity Shop:

Old Curiosity Shop IMG_0970
Image courtesy of OZinOH on Flickr.
In this shop, the lovely, welcoming Daita Kimura, who now uses John Moore's lasts to make the shoes, showed us around and told us a little bit about the shoes, which are beautifully-made around all their rough-edges:

The Old Curiosity Shop - 2

The Old Curiosity Shop - 1

I have, of course, commissioned a pair of hog-toe boots and this is John Moore-created last around which they will be made. It's a great pity that I can't get down to London to document the making process.

Cursley & Bond - 5

Just back from a weekend in Brighton and Folkestone, where I collected my work from the erstwhile gallery, Cursley & Bond, now, alas! closed. It was lovely to see Chris and Nicola again but sad to bring a nearly six-year partnership to an end. They are off to the US now to possibly set up a gallery there and to allow Nicola to develop her own practice.

The gallery will be sadly missed on The Old High Street in Folkestone, where it trailblazed the regeneration of the area.

I'll end this post with a few highlights of my times there.

Meet The Maker - Cursley & Bond - 6
in time of daffodils - 23
Cursley & Bond - 1
Cursley & Bond - 3
20000 Leagues Under The Seas - Talk at Cursley & Bond Gallery - 3
Folkestone Triennial Visit - 2017 - 1