Two scarred fingers, walking the Quarter

The Jewellery Quarter has two historic Pavement Trails, put in as kind of DIY walking tours around the time of the millennium. I see parts of them pretty much everyday but this is one of my favourite markers:

It’s a homage to the humble benchpeg, an incredibly simple thing that takes a lot of punishment. The faithful benchpeg soldiers on until (in my case) you’ve drilled so many holes in it that it disintegrates. I rarely give mine much credit but I’d hate to try making anything without its support.

If you fancy heading out to soak up a little history then you can download a PDF of the pavement Trail right here:

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Facebook Finds #2: Colour me bright …

It’s a little dreary and grey today so here are a few of my brighter Facebook finds to cheer things up:

Thea Clark goes to town exploring mixed media and modern technology to produce pieces that are at once soft and structural, they’re a neat play of very organic surfaces against harsher prints:

Thea Clark. Cyan Chain, mixed media brooch, paper, plastic, nickel , pearls, wood, tinted plastic, 2010

Thea Clark. Cyan Square, mixed media brooch with cyanotype on silk, wood, plexiglass, tinted plastic, nickel, 2010.

Jacqueline Ryan is much more traditional in her approach to getting colour onto metal  – she uses enameling – but the way she makes up her pieces, from tiny units inspired by the natural world is just breathtaking:

Jacqueline Ryan

Jacqueline Ryan

Jacqueline Ryan - Sketchbook Image

And then there’s Stephanie Tomczak who combines enamel and natural materials to superb effect, bringing out the wonderful qualities of each:

Stephanie Tomczak, Oceanic Gems Collection

Stephanie Tomczak, Oceanic Gems Collection

Press Form Practice #4

So, where was I with my press forming?

Ah, yes – earrings:

I’ve played around with the balance and hang of the larger piece a little more and I think I’m finally settled. I much prefer slightly asymmetric shapes to the precise structure of symmetrical ones – these look a little more like the fish/boats and sea of the coast that inspired them. I’ve got some new etching patterns in mind to decorate them too.

So far the range is shaping up like this:

though there’s at least another large brooch form already cut and waiting to be sampled on my bench …

Made in the Middle – MAC, Birmingham

I wandered down to the MAC in the wintery sunshine today and paid a visit to Craftspace’s new Made in the Middle exhibition which moved in a couple of weeks ago. Featuring work from 35 makers in the middle of the UK (and, bizarrely, at least one from Wales…) the show covers the broad sprectrum of contemporary craft from ceramics to textiles via silversmithing and glass.

Made in the Middle at the MAC

It’s great to see so much diversity in a show like this – there’s a lot to connect with no matter what your taste and, while obviously I was drawn like a magpie to the metalwork, I was also fascinated by this:

Made in the Middle - detail of Charlotte Clark's glass

It’s a close up of Charlotte Clark‘s cast glass sculptures which are just stunning. She cuts through blocks of glass that are filled with voids and swirls of colour to expose the rough textures within – this one contained a hole host of beautiful tones and bubbles that evoked a storm at sea.

Made in the Middle - Charlotte Clark

There’s a posied sense of balance about her work, while the shapes of the sculptures are all geometric their harsh, mathematical lines are broken as the internal bubbles and ‘flaws’ in the glass touch the surface. Working with a substance like this must make for a constantly suprising results …

Just next to Charlotte’s work is case full of Kevin Grey‘s silversmithing. He’s something of a rising star at the moment with his distinctive, layered pieces that are gently organic and show off a dedicated attention to detail:

Made in the Middle - Kevin Grey

One of the nice things about this show is that it’s set out to discover how people made their way into working in contemporary craft, whether they’re straight out of uni or have come into it as a second career. Kevin is one of the latter, with years of experience in the luxury automative industry impacting his work. This background, blended with traditional skills means that he’s pretty free to bend the age old ‘rules’ of silversmithing to good effect. On the Made in the Middle website there’s a super photo diary of how Kevin made one of these gorgeous pieces which is well worth a look, here.

Made in the Middle - Kevin Grey

And, as I was heading out I spotted these:

Made in the Middle - Marcus Steel

With industrial overtones these base metal and silver sculptures are part giant chess pieces and part art deco factory buildings. They’re suberbly constructed with neat, smooth lines and clever details that are understated yet elegant. The base metals that make up most of the pieces have been chemically treated to patinate the surfaces – leaving rich, deep colours that highlight the silver details.

Made in the Middle - deatil of Marcus Steel's work

I really would recommend a visit if you’e got an hour or so to spare. Made in the Middle is open at the MAC until the 15th of April then it heads off on tour around the middle of the UK, finally closing in July 2013.

Made in the Middle - feedback board

Earrings today #2 …

I soldered up that test earring press form today and I’m really encouraged by how nicely it turned out.

Fitting the ring to the top was a little fiddly (luckily I have a lot of fragments of firebrick lying around) but I got it balanced in the end:

here it is, all sanded down and in my ear (just to give you an idea of scale)

I think the form works well, but I’m a little concerned that the asymmetry of the shape is causing it to hang ever so slightly off centre. I’m going to make up a couple more and adjust the positioning of the ring – just to see if that helps it to hang more evenly.

Of course, I might be the only one who notices it …

Earrings today …

Earrings are some of my favourite things to wear (… and buy) but lately I’ve been rather addicted to making studs and haven’t really got very involved in the world of the drop earring.

So, I have a plan to remedy that:

and a press form:

… and some more when I’m back in the studio on Wednesday …