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

Visit: Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery

I had a spare moment last week and snuck off to have a look at the silver collection at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery.  The collection covers many centuries and each time I visit I seem to spot something that I hadn’t seen before.

How did I miss this?

Jewel Box by Alex Telford in silver 1974-5, Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery

I love the pebble shapes on the lid (it isn’t exactly clear how it opens …) which are beautifully, asymmetrically smooth and quite inspirational for the fly pressing I’m planning to do later this week. I would love to know exactly how it was made.

Detail of Jewel Box by Alex Telford in silver 1974-5 at Birmingham Museum and Art Galler

The only other example of Alex Telford work I’ve been able to find is in the V&A:

Coffee Pot, Sugar Bowl and Milk Jug, 1974 by Alex Telford at V&A

the gorgeous mix of silver and flawless enamel is here again – plus the bulbous, pebble-esque shapes in the handles of the vessels. I really like how clean and modern the enameled body is, it sits really well alongside those polished handles.

I’ll be keeping an eye out for his pieces in museums in the future …

Facebook Finds #1

Facebook steals hours of your life. Snooping through old acquaintances photographs at 3am is something everyone does but no one talks about. Right?

Recently though, I’ve started using my Facebook time a little more constructively by exploring Facebook pages. Pages allow businesses and organisations to have a kind of Facebook profile and stay in touch with people interested in what they do. Folksy has done some super articles on how to use them to promote your handmade business (like this one here) and I’m really starting to love mine.

This recent exploration has turned up some lovely, lovely things that I thought I’d share:

1.

Bekki Churcher here is from Glasgow and her gorgeous, almost fragile looking work is inspired by urban decay – she uses some beautiful textures to evoke the broken buildings that inspire her and her ‘geomatric granulation’ is especially wonderful. It reminds me of Ruth Tomlinson somehow crossed with Elaine Cox

2.

Hannah Livingston is based in Edinburgh and her fascination with hidden secrets and quirky little containers makes her work beautifully intricate and utterly tempting. Many of her neat little lockets contain folded paper – forming a story of your own just that’s just waiting to unfold.

3.

Rebecca Little is another Glasgow resident whose work is both deceptively simple and fiendishly clever – as the best things often are. Delicate twists in precious metals are all lined up neatly to form textile like structures that would, I imagine, flow through your hands rather nicely and defy the solid, mathematical look of them.

I’ll keep hunting through Facebook in the small hours – though if you’ve got a suggestion for a page you love do leave me a comment!

The Worcestershire Guild’s Autumn Show

I spent the weekend doing my first selling fair with the Worcestershire Guild of Designer Craftsman at the Malvern Autumn Show. I joined the Guild back in January but this was the first opportunity I had to get involved with what it’s really about. The Guild is designed to bring individual craftsmanship to public attention, through fairs and shows, and encourage us craftspeople to make a living doing what we love.

It’s a noble aim and, looking around at the variety and quality of work on show this weekend, I think that they might just be achieving it.

One of the things I find when I do events is that people are always surprised by the sheer quantity of talented craftspeople around … and so was I when I stumbled across the Guild. I had no idea that so many of them were hidden away, scattered around Worcestershire, where I’ve lived for most of life. It’s clear that I don’t get out of the Jewellery Quarter and explore enough!

Among the jewellers on show were Sian Elizabeth Hughes and Melanie Hamlet (who runs the inspirational contemporary jewellery business, Kokkino) both of whom will be exhibiting at Goldsmiths Fair next week.

Left: Sian Elizabeth Hughes - Right: Kokkino

But I was really taken in looking at the Crafts that I have very little experiene of. There’s a staggering wealth of these in the Guild:

Marie-Therese King is a batik artist who creates original artwork in a medium that I only ever managed to get burned with, when I attempted it way back in school. Her inspiration ranges all through the natural world and her images are dealt with using a bright, bold palette that’s confident, assured and quite beautiful. She puts stunning levels of detail into her work, this was on of my favourites:

Marie-Therese King, Seagulls

though I loved this series too:

Marie-Therese King, Aquilegia and Honesty

And, just across the hall from Marie-Therese, hung the work of Rowan McOnegal. A stained glass artist Rowan’s glass panels made me want to build a cruck framed house, Grand Designs style, so that I had a home to do justice to her work. Based around botany and with a real rural feel Rowan combines colours and somehow works a sensitive, textured feel into the flat surface of her glass:

Rowan McOnegal, Pink and amber Sunflower

She says that she feels that “this medium perfectly combines her love of image making using drawing, painting, colour and changing light” and that’s shown off perfectly here:

Rowan McOnegal, Willowherb Portrait

Needless to say I’m now looking forward to the next Guild show, Innov8:

to be held on the 26th – 28th of November at  Number 8 in Pershore where another selection of Guild members, hopefully including me, will be on show.

Wirksworth Festival 2010

Wirksworth, in Derbyshire, is a strange little town. On one hand it’s very much a traditional 18th-19th century village with a slightly touristy feel and some rather wonderful views.

And then, every September, the creative energy of the place expresses itself beautifully in the form of the Wirksworth Festival. Suddenly, overnight, this seeming sleepy town is filled with a truly inspiring buzz of energy:

(Now, I realise that there’s no one buzzing with energy in this particular photo but I did take it at 7 am when I was up to get my stand ready. Once 10am rolled round and the studios opened there were plently of people out and about!)

So, for a whole weekend local artists throw open the doors of their houses, cottages, studios and garages to let the public wander ‘round, getting a first hand look at the creative process. This year there were a good sixty or so venues to explore – almost too much for one weekend – alongside performance events, community projects and 2 actors telling stories while driving you around in a rickshaw. (No, really, they stayed in the same B&B as me so I knew they were real …)

I got to participate by setting up a stand at one of two Maker’s Markets, filled to the brim with local and regional contemporary craft. You’ll be pleased to know that I made good use of my bunting:

and had some great comments about how summery my stand looked.

Of course I wasn’t the only jeweller there, Lucy Palmer had brought her gorgeous mythical pieces back to the festival, Laura Creer had beautifully textured work on show and I met the lovely Helen Shere too. Helens work has a wonderfully quirky and illustrative feel:

Helen Shere - Birds in the Garden Rings

She says that:

I am particularly interested in the use of pattern and naïve folklore in illustration and seek to combine these ideas in my jewellery.

Her ranges are inspired by birds, nature and pattern, it was all so tempting but in the end I came away with one of these:

Helen Shere - Silver Birds Pendant

plus a little mushroom patterned dipping bowl (from ceramicist Mary Johnson) which will make a super present for my mum – who’s an olive fiend:

Mary Johnson - Small Mushroom Bowls

The only really sad thing about it was that I didn’t get to go and explore the towns trails myself, but with events all through September the festival is still going strong and I might get the chance to go back and look at some of the more permanent installations …

Edinburgh Retrospective and a look at the West End Craft Fair

As the Edinburgh Festival draws to a close, the performers pack up and the theatres go back to running one show a day (not ten) it almost feels like I wasn’t there at all. The whole world of theatre is such an illusion that you do sometimes wonder if the festival is some kind of mirage or mass hallucination. No doubt the organisers are already starting to think about 2011 and how to make it better and brighter than 2010.

Entrance to the West End Fair and St Johns Church

Another highlight of the Fringe is something else that isn’t technically theatre – but that I love nonetheless. It’s the West End Craft Fair that hugs the side of St Johns church on the western end of Princes Street and sprawls through the old Victorian graveyard. It seems to go from strength to strength each year with new sections being added forming a tempting maze of tents to venture through. Hung with colourful bunting it’s the perfect place to stroll on a sunny day:

Shopping at the West End Craft Fair

And (of course) it’s a brilliant spot to find some new makers:

Dazed by Dorothy

It’s always dangerous to take me near a  bag stall and these beauties were simply stunning. All individually handmade with gorgeous combinations of leather, suede, buttons and embroidery Dazed by Dorothy had a beautiful stand and, fortunately, has an equally lovely website.

Ring and Necklace from Genna Design

Also on show was Genna Delaney with her Geometric Colllections which are totally stunning and exhibit a lovely balance between metal and stone. The range gives you a tangible sense of that kind of harsh, organic landscape you find in Northern Scotland and Wales and makes me long for misty mornings in Cardigan Bay.

Copper and Silver Leaf Earrings from Ali Bali

After having a good look ’round I brought home a pair of these lovelies, made by Ali Bali Jewellery – just to prove that the whole thing did happen after all.