Sunday, July 07, 2019

A Quiet Month - Not So Quiet Month

A fairly quiet month, May... towards the end of the submission period for the students, followed by the assessments, then graduate shows.

"Talking Practice" at the School of Jewellery with alumnus, Peter Taylor of the Goldsmiths' Centre who is being given an honorary doctorate by the University. I've known Peter for years and it was great to hear him talking about his surprising route from bench jeweller to project manager for the Centre.

Talking Practice - Peter Taylor

Our "Talking Practice" events have become increasingly successful, with the last couple being capacity, which is very encouraging.

Flux - AiR Exhibition, 2019 - 3

The same night, we hosted "Flux", the exhibition of work by our Artists-in-Residence, a programme which has been running for some years now and which grows every year. This year, we had 17 artists working across the programmes, helping out with the teaching, advising students and, most importantly, using the facilities to make their own new work.

Flux - AiR Exhibition, 2019 - 4

Flux - AiR Exhibition, 2019 - 2
Work by Nikki Pugh - when you realise what it is, this is very funny.

Graduate Show 2019 - 6

June brings marking and the GRADUATE SHOW! Always a time for panic but this year, the co-ordinating team had it all thought out and it went really, really well. Everyone said that it was the best in years and I agree. The quality of the work produced was overall much higher than usual too, and I am very proud of my HND students, more than half of whom got much-deserved "Merit" and "Distinction" grades.

Graduate Show 2019 - 2
Horology - Robbie Isaac

Graduate Show 2019 - 4
BA Jewellery and Object - Oliver Dodd

Graduate Show 2019 - 8
BA Jewellery and Object - Jordan Petit-Furze

Graduate Show 2019 - 3
BA Jewellery and Silversmithing Design for Industry - Huub Boekhurst
As you can see, the full range of skills on show. Unfortunately, I was so caught up with everything that I failed to photograph any of the HND work. I do, however, have photographs and will post them soon. Here are the graduates, however:

Graduate Show 2019 - 12

Genuinely one of the very best classes I've ever taught. Lovely, lovely people.

Home of Metal - Show Your Metal - 8

Craftspace are an amazing organisation. Regular readers will have noticed that I have mentioned them rather a lot since my move to Birmingham and I feel very fortunate indeed that I had the opportunity to connect with them and work with them. Deirdre Figueiredo heads up the dynamic team which can bring together an exhibition like "Show Your Metal" in the space of about 8 weeks, from conception to opening!

Working with two graduates of the School of Jewellery - Daisy Grice and Jordan Herry - we pulled together a show looking at how Heavy Metal, Jewellery and Birmingham go together as part of the much larger "Home of Metal" exhibition which is happening across the city this summer.

Show Your Metal Workshops - 4

Working with fans and volunteers from the project, we had five, two-hour sessions to make pieces of jewellery which reflected their love of the music... Which, amazingly, they did! I will confess to having been very worried about whether this could work or not, but the results are superb:

Home of Metal - Show Your Metal - 4

This is a big show - it is in one of the smaller galleries at the Midlands Arts Centre until the middle of August alongside some marvellous photographs and the quilts by Ben Venom.

Home of Metal - Show Your Metal - 3

The choice of bands for the cakes at the private view were somewhat controversial, I would suggest:

Home of Metal - Show Your Metal - 1

Radiohead? Really?

New Designers next. Not an especially great show overall but it was good to catch up with some of the people I had met in Rochester for the opening of "A Waste Land" earlier in the year and to finally see William Romeril's automatic pencil-sharpener finished and working:

New Designers, 2019 - 9

Also really nice to have a guided tour of the Glasgow School of Art stand by one of my ex-students, Cat Dunn!

New Designers, 2019 - 7

By far the most exciting work, for me, was not, however, jewellery. Fred Andrews makes very beautiful Aeolian harps and has been working on a method of allowing them to be 'played', for the user to influence the sounds which would normally be made by the wind:

New Designers, 2019 - 1

New Designers, 2019 - 4

New Designers, 2019 - 2

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Wales, Liverpool, Timperley...

The Three Compass s

Easter holidays kicked off with a visit to Wales to see my friend and colleague, Mark Fenn, which was brilliant. Spent the whole afternoon in a cafe in Newcastle Emlyn catching up with him and passing over my "Macbeth" brooch, which featured on the front of his book, "Narrative Jewelry" (sic).

Macbeth Brooch

We then drove up to Liverpool for a few days and, thankfully, the grey, dull weather broke and everything warmed up. Our journey took us through the lovely Usk, which is well worth a visit, especially for the remarkable church, the Priory Church of St. Mary, which has the oddest church organ I've ever seen:

Priory Church of St. Mary - Usk - 3

We drove north from there, making the mistake of stopping in Wrexham, only notable for the Brutalist court building:

Wrexham Court - 2

Liverpool was fantastic. The weather was warm - really warm, especially given that it was only late April - and everyone was relaxed and friendly. The whole place is a heap cleaner and brighter than when I last visited in the mid 1990s and Dingo and I had a great few days, kicking off with a trip on the Peter Blake "Dazzled" ferry, 'Snowflake'. I've wanted to ride on this since the project was completed and it was great to be able to finally get round to it. Of course, what I hadn't realised was that you don't get a very good view of the artwork when you are on board!

Mersey Ferry Trip - 1

Mersey Ferry Trip - 6

After that, we wandered up to the Metropolitan Cathedral, another amazing Brutalist building and one which I had wanted to see for years as it has doors and reliefs by William Mitchell, another favourite artist.

Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral - 2

The doors, representing the "Liver Birds" (not the dire Carla Lane-penned 70s sitcom), are wonderful:

Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral - 5 Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral - 4

What is most remarkable about the building, however, is the use of light within the space:

Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral - 15

No photograph can really do justice to the way that the light changes as you move around the building, an effect achieved by huge panels of glass and the superb lantern:

Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral - 9

Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral - 14

In the evening, we met up with Anthony Wong and went to the most remarkable vegetarian restaurant - The Egg. A proper, old-school vegetarian restaurant with ramshackle furniture, agit-prop posters on the walls and vast portions of wholefoods! Fantastic.

Vegetarian Lobscouse!

After that, it was off to Southport to see Anthony Gormley's "Another Place", which would have been great but the place was overrun with horrible dogs.

Another Place

We drove by by way of Timperley specifically to see the Frank Sidebottom statue!

Timperley - 1

Timperley - 2


Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Whatever Happened To All Of The Heroes?

This week I discovered the writings of David Widgery, the man who was instrumental in organising the legendary "Rock Against Racism" with the words:
"Racism is as British as Biggles and Baked Beans. You grow up anti-black, with the golliwogs in the jam, the Black and White Minstrel Show on TV and CSE dumb history at schools. Racism is about Jubilee mugs and Rule Britannia and how we won the War … it would be pathetic if it hadn't killed and injured and brutalised so many lives, and if it wasn't starting all over again."
It was the 60s and 70s and Britain was a very different place. We no longer have the "Black and White Minstrel Show" and Robertson's don't even make jam any more but there is still that nonsense about "winning the war" and the monarchy and the ghastly spectre of "Rule Britannia" at the Proms. Has anything really changed? Now we have National Action flags on the streets of London, a Prime Minister who is proud to talk about a 'hostile environment' for immigrants and killers in Christchurch telling 'supporters' to follow the vile resident of my second hometown, Brighton, Felix Arvid Ulf Kjellberg (he may be Swedish but his views and attitudes are 100% Little England).

It is strange that after a youthful dalliance with early Marx, hunt 'sabbing', a visit to Greenham Common, Derek Jarman, Class War, Clause 28 and more, followed by a drift into liberal middle-age, I find myself reading left-wing and anarchist writings again, this time David Renton's fantastic history, "Never Again: Rock Aganst Racism and the Anti-Nazi League 1976-1982" which is not only incredibly well-researched but is also very readable and discursive: it challenges the reader. It was through this that I discovered Widgery and an article by Renton about  him, a man I can truly respect, a role model in some ways, for what a white, middle-class, middle-aged man can be.

In some ways, it is easier to act against the likes of National Action, a dictatorially racist Prime Minister and Kjellberg: obvious outsiders to the mainstream of culture, they lack the 'lite entertainment' quality of The Proms or The Black and White Minstrel Show (which can be trivialised, even if the racism is every bit as real). The saddest thing is the realisation that part of the blame for the re-emergence of these horrors lies with me, with my 'drift into liberal middle-age', with a white-privilege unconsciousness of things happening outside of my immediate comfortable life. Fortunately, it is not too late: my political radicalism has been ignited once more.

Out for dinner at the JQ BID annual dinner which - like last year - was held in the remarkable training restaurant at University College Birmingham and we were once more served food made by students by people learning to work in the catering industry. The food and service were amazing and it was so good to meet with other people in the Quarter who are interested in the work that we do at the School, this year I was sitting with Luke Crane, head of the JQ BID, Alex from Birmingham Museums - with whom I have worked before - and people from a law firm and a training agency, all of whom are keen to work with us in some way. A fantastic event for 'networking' without being the horrific 'networking event'.

JQ BID Dinner - 2019

Medals - prize awards ceremony for the British Art Medals Society's annual Student Medallist competition and, as usual, several of my students won prizes and commendations.

British Art Medals Prize-Giving - 2
Hamed Arab Choobdar and Rebecca Pilot a the BAMS Prize-giving.
There was a lovely reception at the Art Workers' Guild in London.

On The Way - MA Jewellery and Object - Interim Show - 2019 - 9

Time for the interim show for the MA Jewellery and Related Products. I love the interim shows as they can be really exciting and it is always good to speak to the students about what they are thinking about and to be able to encourage them and maybe get them to think about things in  a different way. 

On The Way - MA Jewellery and Object - Interim Show - 2019 - 1

From forged aluminium bones to musical 'chiming' pieces to frightening toys, this was another exciting show and I can't wait to see the final works. 

On The Way - MA Jewellery and Object - Interim Show - 2019 - 4

On The Way - MA Jewellery and Object - Interim Show - 2019 - 7

On The Way - MA Jewellery and Object - Interim Show - 2019 - 8

Off to Chatham for the take down and finissage of "A Waste Land" at Sun Pier House. This was the last event of the show, though Dan and I are hoping to take it to other venues in the future. We were very impressed by the lady who turned up wearing a coat made of found crisp-packets!

A Waste Land - Chatham - The End - 1

We had music from local musician, Razorhead:

A Waste Land - Chatham - The End - 2

And on the Sunday, took the exhibition apart, recycling everything. So that is the end for now. We are planning a book, next...

Some of my colleagues and I went for dinner around the Jewellery Quarter - which has become a bit of a fine-dining haven in the city: I am certain that there is a connection between jewellery and very high-quality cooking - in the amazingly good "Secret Supper" event in aid of research into Parkinson's disease, organised by Parkinson's UK. We turned up at The Jam House to be allocated our restaurants and then proceeded to go to one restaurant for starters, one for main and one for pudding and coffee... very simple idea and great fun.

The food was fantastic - exceptionally high-quality and at a very modest price - and it was great to hang out with colleagues from work, meet people from the Quarter and also, perhaps surprisingly, talk to some people with the condition, which was interesting.

We were quite lucky in that we didn't have far to walk!

Starting Locanta Italian, back to The Jam House and then into Anderson's - which I didn't even know existed - for pudding. The food was superb throughout. We're already looking forward to the next event!

Main at The Jam House.

Talking practice and a pecha-kucha-style event for a number of makers who were in the FerroCity event at Munich Jewellery Week ("Schmuck") and now at Vittoria Street Gallery. This project originally started in 2016 and should have been in Munich in 2017 but due to being mucked around by the gallery we had booked, it fell through. It was re-invented in a larger form by Stephen Bottomley and was on show here in Birmingham for the month of April.

FERRO-City - 2
Work by Tim Carson, Timothy Information.

My own submission was the "Sig-nut" rings which I made for the show last year, before it was cancelled:

Nut Rings - Repair Series - 7

A brief interlude for Ed and Rhea's wedding...

Rhea & Ed - Wedding - 3


Happy easter!!