Tasting Tales from the Toolbox

Narrative Jewelry: Tales from the Toolbox has arrived!

I don’t know about y’all, but my eyes popped at the initial photos I saw of this book. Scale is a big thing with me, and a little part of me went “Eep, they’ve stuffed it.” when I saw the pics on the socials with editor Mark Fenn holding his advanced copy. Why? Because it is a mammoth book.

What can I say? I was just so wrong. Happily wrong (is that a thing?)

Mark and Schiffer have done a really beautiful job here, producing a book that I am really keen to sit down and read. There are so many artists and just soooo many works, packaged respectfully with each makers words, and laid out so carefully, all one book! I was so excited to turn the pages and see familiar ‘faces’ of artworks that I know and love, by artists who I respect, admire and of course also love.

Congratulations to Mark Fenn, to Jack Cunningham for his words, and to Dauvit Alexander (Mr Justified to those in the know,) on the beautiful cover, and to all of my friends in this one (all 241 of us!) We’ve done a good, and beautiful, thing. Please enjoy!

Monday – gun day

Colt 1911. Drawing by Melissa Cameron, 2017

Last week I decided that a Sturm & Ruger Co pistol was to be my default pistol in this project, and it will be; I’ve narrowed down that search to a couple of their pistols, and introductions will be coming soon. But you may have noticed that the drawing above is of a Colt…

I could not find a Ruger (for short, from now on), in their regular models (read: highest selling, still in production) that had a chrome finish. And there’s so little about the weapon that killed Quonterio Davis, except that it was a “chrome semi-automatic pistol”. So the search was back on.

I went back to my top-5 of top-5’s list of pistols from last week. Most of those guns came in black, black or black. In fact, among the advertised regular finishes for these weapons, only in the Colt M1911 did I see a chrome version. And because you want to know, I found the two biggest gun stores as listed by the Washington Post as the “U.S. gun dealers with the most firearms traced over the past four years.” (article is admittedly from 2010 but is partially explained in the opening paragraphs) and used weapons found within their wares for my research.

The Colt 1911 has a long and storied history that I’m not going to get into here, apart from to say that it is on Wikipedia’s list of Most Produced Fire Arms (of Self-Loading Pistols it’s at #3, with over 5 million made [including variants], and is the only one of those 3 that’s made in the US – though I don’t know if they were all made here), and that it was originally made for the US government/armed forces, so has a long and storied career in military and policing.

While this is probably not the weapon that killed Davis, it fits the description and is a common pistol in the USA. And the version above comes in a finish called hard chrome.

Monday – Gun Day

To pick up where I left off last Monday, I’d just mentioned that around 71% of all homicides in 2012 involved hand guns. My next self-assigned task is to find the most popular hand gun in the USA, which is a harder ask than what it might look on paper. I have found out that of hand guns, pistols are more popular than revolvers, at least nowadays (The last time the USA manufactured more revolvers than pistols is 1986). According to this, in 2015 the US made more than 3.5 million pistols, (and it made over 100,000 thousand more rifles than that), I can’t tell if these stats includes those destined for the military (I hit a paywall, one in which I may yet invest). I realise this is just manufacturing, and does not account for weapons exported, but this NBC report from 2012 says that as of 2009, the Congressional Research Service puts the numbers at “an estimated 310 million firearms in the United States (not including weapons on military bases), of which 114 million were handguns, 110 million were rifles, and 86 million were shotguns.”

Looking over The United State Department of Justice – Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives publication Firearms Commerce in the United States: Statistical Annual Update 2015 (quoted above), it explicitly states that:

“The AFMER report excludes production for the U.S. military but includes firearms purchased by domestic law enforcement agencies”

According to their data, in recent years (I’m sticking as close to 2017 as I can) imports have well outstripped exports – 2013 imports of hand guns: 3,095,528, exports in same period: 188,889 (pistols: 167,653 + revolvers: 21,236).  And local manufacturing produced a combined total of 5,167,008 hand guns, the bulk of which (4,441,726) were pistols. So I think we can safely say that the 2015 figure above was not inclusive of military.

All of which proves what was intimated last week, the most popular US gun is a pistol. But what kind? No-one is handing out that data, unfortunately. When I searched I came up against a proliferation of less-than-adequate top ten lists; everyone with a vested interest, from gun store sites to news outlets (looking at you, CBS News) wants to give the curious reader a top 5, or 10, or 50. (I’m not going to run you, gentle reader, the risk of trashing your google mojo and ruining your online ad tracking data through one thoughtless click, so I’m not going to link those articles. I’ve done my utmost to protect myself, so I’ll let you know if I post anything even slightly questionable.)

Suffice to say, my top 5, culled from the #1 spot from six different most popular/best-selling gun lists, is:

01/ Kel-Tec PMR-30
01/ Colt M1911
01/ Smith & Wesson M&P Shield (this was a multiple #1 place-getter)
01/ Sturm, Ruger & Company
01/ Honor Guard 9mm

I’m sparing us all the images associated with these lists (often stills from movies; Mel Gibson and Bruce Willis are memorable repeat offenders) as well as a few other names that were repeated multiple times with similar placements in the lists.

The best list, in my own option, is the one I will finish with; a great Mother Jones top-10 which is safe for y’all to read. The subhead says it best:

“Meet the moguls making a killing from gun sales in the United States.”

Fully Loaded: Inside the Shadowy World of America’s 10 Biggest Gunmakers

Needless to say, their ten is a scorcher, and at #1 is a familiar name: Sturm Ruger. (That’s the Wikipedia link, and I recommend it over http://www.ruger-firearms.com/ any day.)

Now knowing that I simply don’t have the resources to find the biggest selling pistol of all time in the US (because, for better or worse, my search stops today. Hey, I know, surface barely scuffed, but this is just the first stage in building a collection of weapons on which to base an object work that will eventually be exhibited in a gallery, and I gots to move on…)  I’m going to work with a Sturm, Ruger & Company weapon as my default pistol, thanks to this research. This may or may not be the gun used in the homicides that I will now continue to focus on, but since Ruger is based in the US, makes the most amount of hand guns domestically in a year, is on my list of all lists in taking the biggest share of gun sales, and makes the bulk of its profit from hand guns (see the Mother Jones article quoted above for most of this detail) and since Ruger features in Wikipedia’s list of Most Produced Firearms with pistols, revolvers and rifles, I think they’re as good a candidate as any.

Now to decide which model.


// coda //


Oh shit.


Just reading the Sturm, Ruger & Co. Wikipedia link from above, and I see I need a second trigger warning.

“A Ruger AR-556 was used on November 5, 2017 in Sutherland Springs, Texas in the mass killing of 26 churchgoers who were praying at the First Baptist Church”

Nancy’s Sewing Basket is closing

This is my favourite room in all of Seattle:

I’ve written about this place before, because I love it, and it’s chief inhabitant (at least in the hours that I visit), the dedicated 77 year old ribbon mistress Susan Pasco.

But now it’s closing. I’ve been in three times since I got the email, and no doubt I’ll sneak in one more time before it closes. In one of my missions I bought a yard of wool binding that I promptly used on a Halloween jewel (see instagram). On finishing that piece I quick-marched back up there to get some more. On the second trip I got 3 yards, then Susan, having remarked on liking the colour both times she measured it out for me, said she was “Going to deep six the rest of this.” and piled it behind her, then shuffled papers over it. I look forward to what she makes out of it – more likely a suit than jewellery.

Anyway, the ribbon room does not look like that photo (from 2015) any longer,  it’s been well depleted already, but if you do want to stock up on vintage grosgrain, this might be your last chance.

Goodbye, dear friend.


Monday – gun day

I want to know what guns were used in the first 59 killings of 2017, but I’m not sure if that information is going to be available. I checked the incident material on the Gun Violence Archive source list that gives the name and location of the victims, as well as links to police and new reports for each killing. Quonterio Davis, a Jefferson, Missouri resident, is the first person on my narrowed-down January 1, 2017 list (from last week’s post). The suspected killer is also named, but the weapon he used was not. A bit more digging found that Davis was shot with what a witness called a “chrome semi-automatic pistol”. I have not found a more detailed description, and I think that might involve having to find court documents.

In this research I think I’m likely to find that pretty common –  getting knowledge of the weapon or the rounds is maybe a bit more intel than people want to know. Then again, I may yet be surprised.

One thing that did not surprise was that the crime involved a hand gun. Wikipedia: “According to the FBI, in 2012, there were 8,897 total firearm-related homicides in the US, with 6,404 of those attributed to handguns.” Contributor Aude has even created a chart to visualise this:

By Aude – Self-published work by Aude, CC BY-SA 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1367669

An initial attempt at trying to find out the most popular handgun in the U.S. (at this stage, it looks like it’ll be a pistol,) to use as a proxy for a series of ‘unidentifiable pistol’ works, indicates that it could be another entire research project. Luckily, I found another great data source this week to add to the heavy-hitting Gun Archive. It’s called Statista: The Statistics Portal has Firearms in the U.S. – statistics and facts.

Ring Master

No, not me, I’ve made maybe a dozen rings in my career – but at least four of them will be on show at Bilk Gallery for the opening of Ring Master tonight! This group show of rings by makers from all over the world is a part of the Design Canberra Festival. To get into some jewels designed in AutoCad and handmade by me (with some laser cutting involved, though not in the little number above mind, it was hand-sawn all the way) you’d better get in quick 😉

Did I mention the show is on til Christmas eve? Timing!


Monday – gun day

Just back from Canada, where you’ll be happy to know there are 30.8 guns per 100 residents, versus the USA, where there is over 100 guns per 100 residents. (see the above link for Wikipedia’s take, I’ve seen conflicting statistics that put the US rate at higher than the 101 guns per 100 people listed there.)

Anyway, that’s just a gentle aside.

Today’s topic is the beginning of my research for a new work. I wanted to see the first 50 or so gun deaths in the US for 2017. Cut to the absolutely incredible Gun Violence Archive, and their overwhelming score sheet. Naively I went in and just tried to get data on all the gun deaths of 2017 thus far, but unsurprisingly that’s too big a number; the website will only output results that run to about 18 web-pages, give or take. I had to narrow my search query, so I thought I’d go in for just the month of January. That was too big, so eventually I went for the first 10 days of January and got what I wanted and exported that to CSV.

Turned out that list gave me more than six times the amount of data than what I was in pursuit of. If I want to find out about the first 60-odd gun deaths in the USA for 2017, I only need to get the data of January 1st. The Gun Violence Archive’s count for gun deaths on January 1, 2017, is 63. Sixty-three lives lost to guns in one day, across the country (interactive Map of Jan 1 deaths).

As a microcosm of one year of killing (here’s just one of several web articles to put that at about 33,000 deaths annually), it’s doing well so far – the biggest single event this list says four people died, so it includes at least one mass shooting, which on average happens here on nine out of every ten days. The thing that actually surprised me in the key statistics for a year’s worth of deaths is that about two thirds of gun deaths annually in the US are suicides. (I don’t watch news or read newspapers regularly any more, so I can be surprised by the obvious sometimes.) I hear about so many other grave mistakes and serious offenses in the media I do follow that I missed that incredible statistic.

At least at first glance, the interactive map of 63 deaths seems to echo the general spread of the deaths over the country in the year to date, which Gun Violence Archive has prepared:

http://www.gunviolencearchive.org/charts-and-maps – October 23, 2017

It’s a big map. A quick guess is that the clusters echo the population distribution, but that’s research for another day.


Interesting aside: this map reminds me of a piece that I saw recently, which overlaid the locations of hate groups onto a map of the USA . It was a piece by artist (and recent Betty Bowen Award runner-up) Deborah F Lawrence  at the Speaking Out exhibition (disclaimer, yes, I’m in it).


Ring Master – opening next Friday, Oct 27th

Ring Master, an exhibition exploring the notion and designs of the humble (and not so humble) ring. Featuring rings by; Helen Britton, Julia deVille, Johannes Kuhnen, Helen Aitken-Kuhnen, Carlier Makigawa, Godwin Baum, Julie Blyfield,  Melissa Cameron, Cinnamon Lee, Chris Robertson, Sean O’Connell, Jane Bowden, Bin Dixon-Ward, Philip Noakes, Vincent Pontillo-Verrastro, Mikki Trail, Sam Mertens and Mio Kuhnen (and many more).

This year Bilk Gallery is pleased to be part of Design Canberra Festival 2017 with Ring Master, an exhibition exploring the notion and designs of the humble (and not so humble) ring.

Monday – Gun day

Wow, a whole week has rolled around without an intervening post – sorry team, that wasn’t mean to happen, but the Northwest Jewelry and Metals Symposium took over my focus late last week (from making works for Bilk Gallery in Canberra – more on that soon…) and the whole weekend, and what can I say, it was a CORKER! The best yet. If you’re ever in the area for the third weekend in October, you HAVE to head to it. And I can say this with unbiased hand to unbiased heart, as I’ve been off the organising committee a full two symposia now 😉

So, it’s Monday – gun day, part II.

I have a bunch of gun research that stretches back to 2012, which I’ve decided to start sharing, and lucky for y’all, this seems to be the obvious place. I’m not trying to trigger anyone, so if you’re not keen on following this line of thought, know that on Monday (Tuesday in some time-zones,) there will be posts generated as a result of my past and ongoing gun research.

The above images comes from a really interesting post that I first saw a couple of years ago, in 2015. I see it semi-regularly, as the post has been open in my web-browser since the day I came across it. I found it really arresting, but I didn’t know what to do with it. It’s so affecting, however, that I now count it amongst my always-open tabs (there are a random assortment of site alongside this, not just my mail client.) When I occasionally run across it, I’ll again scroll through to see what 33,636 guns looks like.

The author of this really unusual ‘article’, Matt Haughey writes; “According to the Centers for Disease Control, in 2013 all deaths due to firearms in the US amounted to 33,636 people.” He found a unique and very compelling way to visualise this, which proves really ‘sticky’ (you know what I mean?), at least to my brain.

I hope you take a look.

Monday – gun day

In a not-so-happy coincidence, on the same day that many of us found out about the latest mass killing in the USA, I received the cheque for the sale of my Gun work to the University of Iowa Museum of Art.

So here’s a little about work, for which I began the research in December 2012, and finally finished the last part of about a year later, in early 2014.

Gun (2013/2014) consists of:
154 @ 30 rpm – scale 1:4
(scale 1:4)
AR-15 (bandolier)

The work Gun (a suite of three wearable pieces) is from the Escalation series. The works in Escalation are each made from domestic objects, taken out of their usual context and transformed into loaded jewels. Together the complete series reflects thousands of years of human history, the history we have of making weapons of war. The works (there is at least two wearable items for each ‘piece’) are loosely grouped into branches, based on the proximity to which the assailant would have to have to the victim (and vice versa) when used, which makes the whole Escalation project into a kind of family tree of tools for killing.

The Gun work is the Sword’s companion on one branch, as I see the gun as the successor to the sword in close combat situations. Rifles were the earliest effective firearms, so it was not a huge leap to use the Bushmaster XM15-E2S as my gun archetype. Sold as a hunting rifle in the USA, it is “a variant of the AR-15 first built by ArmaLite,”[i] “as an assault rifle for the United States armed forces.” (also known as the M16)[ii]. This Bushmaster is the weapon that was used for the Newtown massacre in 2012. If you see the whole series together, it becomes more obvious that this piece is the only one in my Escalation series that does not focus the wartime outcomes of a particular weapon. In making this exception, I wanted to make the point that these military grade weapons are available far too easily to the citizens of the US, and thus are in the homes and lives of ordinary people, which results in the premature deaths of this country’s most vulnerable citizens.

I made this piece from a strangely long and slightly medical-looking tray I bought new, at Daiso. I gave it 30 full-sized NATO shells (I chose there to depict the military round rather than the hunting round made by Remington), as 30 is the magazine’s capacity. I made 77 holes in the tray in the unfired bullet diameter, and strung the 77 cutouts on steel cable, which together add up to the 154 bullets expended within the school. The gun is made at 1:4 scale, making it very obvious to wear and more realistic than the miniature gun bling that is occasionally in fashion. The neckpiece with the 77 cutouts is 15m/40′ long, to represent, again at 1:4 scale (full scale being at least 60m/197′) the minimum distance that the shooter would have traversed inside of the school. I read the police report and literally plotted the shooter’s movements onto a floor plan of the school that I found online, to calculate the approximate length.

Finally, in all the pictures that accompany this series, I am wearing the works. They are photos I took of myself, by myself, and when these works are shown, they were a part of the display. It is important that the works, and the troubling histories that they represent, are on me. Like they are on all of humanity. And I for one am not at all happy about it.

[i] ‘AR-15’. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia, 26 April 2013. http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=AR-15&oldid=551188045.

[ii] Ibid.