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

Sunday, January 28, 2018


Kicked off the week of 16th January with an exhibition of work by one of my colleagues, Toni Mayner, who brings her fine-jewellery skills to the most unlikely of materials, in this case found fragments of wallpaper taken from the rather lovely Lightwoods House - which is about ten minutes' walk from my house and from Toni's house!

Toni Mayner - Lightwoods House - 1

Toni Mayner - Lightwoods House - 4

The wallpaper was revealed when the house was being refurbished after many years of neglect and the work Toni has made is quite delightful.

Toni Mayner - Lightwoods House - 1

Toni Mayner - Lightwoods House - 1

The BA students have been working on another of their exciting one-day projects, this time using sheets of paper to make large-scale wearable objects...

Paper Wearable Project - 2

Paper Wearable Project - 3

Paper Wearable Project - 5

Made in the Middle at Rugby Art Gallery - 2

The Craftspace "Made in the Middle" exhibition is in the last venue, Rugby Art Gallery and Museum - it seems like only moments ago it opened in Coventry! I went along for the opening, which was great... really well-attended and nice to catch up with the other makers in the show. The exhibition looks great in the space and if you haven't seen it yet, this is the last chance.

Made in the Middle at Rugby Art Gallery - 1

I'm still very pleased with the collection of my work in this show:

Made in the Middle at Rugby Art Gallery - 5

One of the advantages of being part of a big university is that there are opportunities and events to which I have access and which I would never get to be a part of in a smaller place. This week I had the pleasure of listening to the wonderful Professor AC Grayling speaking.

City Talks - Professor AC Grayling

He was speaking about what "brexit" means for the UK and how it can be stopped. It was a most encouraging talk and I'm glad to know that he is convinced that the UK will remain part of the EU, either immediately or in the longer term.

It doesn't look like it here, but I am pleased to report that the lecture theatre was well-filled! Grayling is an engaging speaker, witty, focused, effortless... my favourite comment of the night was almost an aside, "Theresa May is not the brightest button in the box". Enough said.

We had a new gem-dealer in the School this week, Maria Gross, who enticed the students with displays of stones which can only be described as "luscious"! She called the plates, "Gemstone salads".

Maria Gross - 1

Maria Gross - 2

As someone with an almost synaesthesic urge to taste gemstones when I'm working with them, I very much appreciate this form of display!

Weekend concerts this weekend... all Elliott Carter, performed by the BCMG and associates. Last night was a lecture-recital of his "Epigrams", a marvellously concise set of pieces for piano trio. It was great to hear these explained to us by the players in advance of the full performance tonight.

Elliott Carter - Epigrams - Lecture 1

More on the performance next blog.

I've been working on something rather unusual. In a meeting two weeks ago, I was doing my usual of subconsciously doodling on my notepad...

The Zoe Challenge - WIP - 1

I have reams and reams of this kind of (almost) "automatic drawing" in all of my notebooks. I can actually remember doing this kind of thing when I was a kid - probably still at primary school (and I'd love to find some of those, which I clearly remember drawing on the back of sheets of vinyl wallpaper).

A couple of months ago, Drew Markou suggested that I should do something with these drawings and this last week, Zoe Roberston was overcome with enthusiasm for the same idea, so much so that I decided to accept her "challenge" and actually turn this drawing - the one which enthused her - into a piece of jewellery. The very next page shows me starting to work things out...

The Zoe Challenge - WIP - 2

No found objects. No narrative. Can I cope with this new "pure" process of creating jewellery?

What has been really interesting for me has been turning the original drawing into something much more three-dimensional. There are hints of dimensionality in the drawing, but nothing explicit. Needless to say, much use has been made of CAD in developing the idea and I've now got it into production in silver and stainless-steel:

The Zoe Challenge - WIP - 3

The unexpected bonus is that I had to make two shapes to create the layered effect I was after, completely failing to notice that this would give me the leftovers with which to make a second, related piece!

There will be more...