Wednesday, July 18, 2018

From Melanie To Melania

What a few weeks!
First off was the visit to the RCA Graduate Show to see the work by my friend and colleague, Anthony Wong. I have barely seen him since he started the MA at the RCA two years ago and I was intrigued to see what he would come up with.

Royal College Graduate Show - 2018 - 8

I was not quite prepared for this, however! Nor, I learned, was he. As a British citizen, born in Liverpool to Chinese parents, he was surprised to find himself in a cohort of students who were Chinese and born in China, awakening his interest in the lives of his parents and, specifically, the Blue Star Line which brought them to the UK. This photograph gives absolutely nothing but an overview of the depth of the work, which features not only metalsmithing and jewellery but text and graphics as well, all exquisitely made.

Also in the show was Iona McCuaig.

Royal College Graduate Show - 2018 - 4

Iona has made a body of work which challenges the notion of "value" in the education she received at the RCA. A bold move, but one which paid off and which resulted in a witty and varied selection, playing with her background in traditional jewellery and allowing her to gently take the piss out of some of the famous artists who preceded her (such as Zandra Rhodes).

I also loved the work of Kelly Toode:

Royal College Graduate Show - 2018 - 7

Royal College Graduate Show - 2018 - 5

Combining ideas about armour and tailoring. Quite wonderful. The dress on the left, above, is tufted, like a rug:

Royal College Graduate Show - 2018 - 6

On the jewellery front, I got a chance to catch up with Jonathan Boyd on his meteoric rise (currently acting head of Jewellery and Metals at the RCA).

We didn't have a lot of time to see the rest of the disciplines, but I am glad I went to Ceramics - normally, I avoid ceramics: I don't get it and there are to many ugly lumps of clay for my tastes. However, this year, I was thrilled to find the work of Ian Thompson:

Royal College Graduate Show - 2018 - 13

Royal College Graduate Show - 2018 - 11

Royal College Graduate Show - 2018 - 9

Nothing to add to this. These are fantastic and utterly compelling.

After this, we wandered across London in the baking heat to get to New Designers, the annual festival of graduate design talent.

New Designers - 2018 - 1

The School of Jewellery stand was expanded this year to include some work by my HND students - the ones who are leaving with an HND and not progressing to the BA - and some of the horologists:

New Designers - 2018 - 2

I was in a bit of a dual role here, supporting the students of the School but also in terms of making introductions to the students who have been awarded our new ACJ School prizes. (The ACJ is giving a free one-year membership to a star student on each of the jewellery and silversmithing courses run around the UK.) These prizes are awarded at the discretion of the teaching staff in each institution and it was great to see some of them present at New Designers. First one I encountered was the voluble and engaging Ailsa Morrant from Glasgow School of Art:

New Designers - 2018 - 5

Glasgow is increasingly presenting top-notch work, which is great to see.

New Designers - 2018 - 8
Work by Shona Dobie.

New Designers - 2018 - 10
Work by Astrid Jaroslawsky.
Pin Yak Tin from Sheffield Hallam University produced a body of work which I found to be quite challenging and controversial, seeming to play with tropes of BDSM:

New Designers - 2018 - 11

New Designers - 2018 - 12

I asked her about this and she staunchly defended the work as being about her own internal monologues, about how it prevented the outside from getting in, which, in my mind, opens up a whole other series of issues. A very successful collection!

New Designers - 2018 - 14

Also at Sheffield, I loved Paige Newall's work in Whitby jet and fossils:

New Designers - 2018 - 15

New Designers - 2018 - 16

Off to Dundee, Duncan of Jordanstone, and another ACJ prize-winner, Ieva Jankovska who is making fascinating work from 3D printed models of muscles in motion while she grinds enamel and then using sections of that model to create work in conjunction with the enamel, fired onto metal. It sounds complicated and contrived but the work is lovely:

New Designers - 2018 - 18

New Designers - 2018 - 17

This is where the show became really interesting... I kept bumping into students who had been studying on my course in Glasgow the year I left, which was also the year that the Scottish Government decided that we could no longer run our degree. What a pleasure to see how far these people had come since their brief time with me.

First up, again at Dundee, was Erin Dyer, with a lovely collection of fine jewellery:

New Designers - 2018 - 19

I then bumped into Nicola Fabian at Edinburgh College of Art:

New Designers - 2018 - 20

New Designers - 2018 - 21

Also at Edinburgh was the fantastic work of Hongzhi Zhu:

New Designers - 2018 - 23

New Designers - 2018 - 24

Not visible here, these little "mouths" have details such ass tongues and teeth!

In a surprising revelation, I met with Jasmine Brown, partner of my collaborative partner, Dan Russell, showing her collection of deeply political brooches, verging on badges:

New Designers - 2018 - 25

I particularly love "Hello! I am an Intersectional Feminist".

Outside of this year's graduates were some remarkable works in the "One Year On" section, featuring people who had been making more work in the year since graduation. I fell in love with the work of Miki Asai in Japanese lacquer and traditionally-associated materials:

New Designers - 2018 - 26

New Designers - 2018 - 27

Also in this area, Romany Starrs (best name ever!), one of my ex-students, now working as a self-employed designer and maker. What a pleasure to see her again:

New Designers - 2018 - 29

New Designers - 2018 - 30

I've been a fan of Rosie Deegan's conceptual craft work since I saw it at Lustre some time ago and it was a real surprise to find her in the "One Year On" section as I thought she had graduated some time ago. Impressive to have achieved so much in such a short period of time. Her most recent work is exploring her concept of the "pink tax", the idea that pink objects cost more than objects in other colours, relating this to feminist thought in a rather brilliant display of elegant and witty cast-glass:

New Designers - 2018 - 31

New Designers - 2018 - 32

The last thing at New Designers which particularly appealed was pointed out to me in advance by Sam Ritte, a graduate of Plymouth College of Art with whom I have been in conversation over the last few years. He suggested that I check out Hereford College graduate, Tom Nicolson, and I was not disappointed... his massive iron collars are based on ancient African forging techniques and are compelling:

New Designers - 2018 - 35

New Designers - 2018 - 37


I've never been to Wolverhampton before but it is a short ride on the tram from Birmingham city centre to go and see "Ghost Horses and Guns", an exhibition of work by my friend and colleague, Melanie Tomlinson.

Ghost Horses and Guns - Melanie Tomlinson - 1

Melanie is primarily an illustrator but has moved into three dimensions, making illustrated work in metal, wood and automata. For this show, she worked with groups of young people from around Wolverhampton and with a group of refugees. This formed the first part of the exhibition and is marvellous:

Ghost Horses and Guns - Melanie Tomlinson - 2

Ghost Horses and Guns - Melanie Tomlinson - 4

Ghost Horses and Guns - Melanie Tomlinson - 3

Using her metal-embossing techniques, she got the participants to create "2.5-D" portraits of themselves which were then exhibited. Unfortunately, what with there being a world-cup football match on at the same time as the opening, none of them turned up to see their work displayed so amazingly!

All of Melanie's work tells stories: from the appearance of mystery lights in the sky over a residential suburb of Birmingham, through a love affair between punks in the back of a wrecked Reliant Robin car, to the animals which roam the streets as we sleep (including the five white horses of the exhibition title).

Ghost Horses and Guns - Melanie Tomlinson - 6

Ghost Horses and Guns - Melanie Tomlinson - 7

Ghost Horses and Guns - Melanie Tomlinson - 12

A fantastic show and worth travelling to see.
It was great to catch up with Melanie and her partner, as well as Deirdre from Craftspace, who opened the exhibition.

Make Your Future - 2018 - 1

Time again for the collaborative exhibition "Make Your Future", setting makers from the School of Jewellery in place as tutors and mentors to school teachers and pupils in a variety of schools around the West Midlands. Working with the Crafts Council and the School of Jewellery, some of our tutors and some of our students worked with teachers and class groups to teach them skills which they can use in their craft, design and art teaching, all things which are under deliberate attack by a philistine government.

Make Your Future - 2018 - 7

The atrium of the school filled up with makers, proud parents and teachers for a show of what is possible even under the most dire of circumstances and a collection of brilliant work.

Make Your Future - 2018 - 4

Make Your Future - 2018 - 5

Make Your Future - 2018 - 6

Carnival of Resistance - Stop Trump - London 2018 - 8

To London and the Carnival Of Resistance!
So, the odious Donald Trump was in town to hold hands with the incompetent Theresa May and to be boorishly rude and patronising to HM The Queen. (Jewellery fans: a good article here about how The Queen may have subtly slighted the monster with her brooches. Shades of Madelaine Albright.)

Carnival of Resistance - Stop Trump - London 2018 - 6

Some people, 250000 of us in London alone, decided that we couldn't let that go unmarked and someone in the weather department turned on the sun for us as we crossed London to Trafalgar Square, bearing all manner of wittily scurrilous banners. There is something about the Great British Protest that is really inspiring:

Carnival of Resistance - Stop Trump - London 2018 - 3
From "Father Ted" quotes...

Carnival of Resistance - Stop Trump - London 2018 - 4
To "bigly ugly" puppets.

Carnival of Resistance - Stop Trump - London 2018 - 7
Music references and blank statements of truth.

Carnival of Resistance - Stop Trump - London 2018 - 15
A lot of craftivism.

Carnival of Resistance - Stop Trump - London 2018 - 14
Ultra creative projects, such as this mobile punchbag...
And a LOT of "Handmaids". I am not sure what Margaret Attwood would make of that, but she might like this:

Carnival of Resistance - Stop Trump - London 2018 - 9

I took my favourite shot of the day on my phone...

Under His eye.