5 years

Australia and the USA from the Coat Hanger series, 2012. Recycled steel, steel, vitreous enamel.

St Patrick’s day; the middle day of 3 straight days of anniversaries, for me. From the image above I think it’s easy enough to guess what happened to me on the 17th of March 2012. My life, my work, everything changed. But, one can say that about every day that we get to share on this planet. For me, this last 5 years has been full of days like these.

More upcoming

my studio, circa 2016

Announcing more stuff! Here’s some other things that I’ll be doing over the coming months:

March: Starting March 18th I’ll be in an exhibition curated by the irrepressible Maggie Smith (not the dame, but a grande dame) called Tech in Craft. So far we have two dates, from the 18th-27th of March at Libbie Mill Library, Henrico Co Virginia, and then directly after at CodeVA’s Eureka Workshop, Richmond VA until May 5th. These are non-traditional exhibitions venues as this series of exhibits is focused on education, so I can’t wait to see what people have to say! More on this shortly.

Studio disruption – Also in March we’ll be having our basement – aka my studio space – waterproofed. On the place side I won’t have to navigate through the space on pontoons during the wet season (and being Seattle, it rains only a paltry nine months.) but on the down side I have to pack up the studio to keep the sensitive equipment – and the sandblaster – away from the dust. (It is well timed to sort out the taxes though…)

May: From the 9th of May I’ll have work in a show at the new Studio 2017 Project Space in Sydney organised by the impressive Sarah Heyward, entitled:

FORCES: Strength and Fluidity in contemporary jewellery and object practice using steel – the dirty metal

Also in May: Along with everyone else I’ll be at the SNAG Conference in New Orleans – come along to the Trunk Show where I’ll have my little collection (including some of the RESISTance) laid out and bag yourself a pretty.

July: I’ll be speaking at the Association for Contemporary Jewellery’s 20:20 Visions Conference in Sheffield in the UK. My presentation will be on my work, and the political turn it has taken which began at a residency I undertook at the University of the West of England in 2011.

August: It’s looking very likely that I’ll head over to Arrowmont for the Enamel Society Conference, where you can see my previously mentioned latest attempt at curating, the exhibition Plate Glass.

At Arrowmont I’ll also have works in the exhibition Alchemy4, the 16th Juried International Enamel Exhibition, sponsored by the Enamelist Society. So please come along to see that too! I plan to be there for the opening on the 4th of August. After Gatlinburg the show will tour, first to the Ohio Craft Museum, Columbus, OH and then beginning early in 2018 it will be exhibited at the National Ornamental Metals Museum, Memphis, TN.

September: In the first week of this month I’ll be teaching an enameling workshop as a part of the Radical Enameling Workshop series presented by the Center for Enamel Art at The Crucible in Oakland, California.

 

So, if this is ‘more stuff’, what was the original stuff?

Resist

Plan for a new work, Resist. Part of my ongoing series of Body/Politic works.
Plan of a work-in-progress piece, Resist, which forms part of my ongoing series of Body/Politic works. To get the colouring I’ll use vitreous enameled tiles against the raw sandblasted steel. The layout of colours is done to spell ‘resist’ in binary, with the 0’s represented by grey tiles, and the 1’s by blue.

Dunno about you, but I woke up with all the nerve endings firing in my gut on Wednesday morning, just before 3am. After nigh on an hour of bleary-eyed semi-consciousness, and after the hopes that sleep would take me back into her embrace had been dashed (such a temperamental lover) I caved in and checked my phone. My sisters in Australia had offered condolences that I didn’t need to swipe through to see, especially the one from Courtenay that ran thusly:

Ffffffffaaaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrkkkkk

Fuck.

That was the entire message, but it told me that counting had finished and the map had been painted orange. Finally having the early predictions confirmed (I’d gone to bed early, both to avoid the anxiety of waiting and to read a good book – Mary Beard’s recent SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome – which turns out to be quite an apt companion for right now,) was definitely not going to help me sleep.

So I did some thinking. And a bit of googling. And at around 5:30am I placed an enamel order. I’ve never had much call for blue enamel before, so my stocks are paltry. Once this was done, around 6am, I went back to sleep reading about an ancient fallen empire.

My early morning thoughts ran something like this; I already have a body of work that is about putting encoded messages into the world, like this piece:

your body is your vote, 2016. Stainless steel, 585 yellow gold, titanium.
your body is your vote, 2016. Stainless steel, 585 yellow gold, titanium.

Body/Politic is a series of jewels where the medium is part of the message. The two-toned grids of pixels represent lines of binary code. Each piece literally spells out a message on the body of the wearer; readable to those who can interpret binary, the language that is the foundation of our digital culture. (These borrow from the visual language set up for the Drone works.) The messages reflect on the human condition, on how we are embodied, and what that means. The words/phrases that became works in the first series exhibited in March include your body is your vote (above), body, vote, unrepresented body, power and recently (just last week, for an upcoming show in May) I completed intensely embodied.

These are pieces are personal and political. They are words that reflect on my own physical body and its position in the world, and on the bodies of others who are in significantly more compromising situations, most particularly those bodies in combat areas, migrating bodies and those bodies who are suffering with illness.

Now before this gets too heavy, lets get back to the quality thinking time that my sleepless hours gifted me. So I have a trunk show booked for next week, and while I’ve been making the measured and politically/socially reflexive jewels like the work above over the last few years, none of those pieces are slated to be on the table next week. My plans for this week were to spend some time reorganising my stash of jewels to find some things that the good folks of Seattle haven’t seen before, and to make a few last pieces from the leftover parts of my La Geometrie laser-cuts to take along with me.

But then y’all had to go and elect an orange for a president.

I very purposely chose a blue top to wear yesterday, in protest (stay with me, this is relevant). And I’m in blue jeans today. Why? Because in my waking hours I was fixating on the fact that blue is the complimentary colour to orange on the colour wheel. Yep, this means it’s the opposite. So I’ve taken all this care dressing because I want to be the opposite of orange (yeah, despite my red hair.) But blue doesn’t just stand in opposition. It is the colour of the tears being shed for this and other depressing and alarming recent political events.

Blue is the colour of that soon-to-be pendant at the top of this (very long) blog post. It is the colour of the stockings on the women fighting to inform, enlighten and protect themselves, and it is the colour that HRC used to paint her campaign, and Bernie Sanders his. It’s the colour of the sky, of steel, and a bloody nice colour for an absolute shit-tonne of enamelled earrings.

And lets reiterate here, in RYB colour theory it’s the colour diametrically opposed to orange.

Body/Politic - Resist earrings

As it turns out, blue is the colour of the logo of Islamic Relief USA as well.

My search to find the opposite of an orange charity also began in the wee hours of Wednesday, and I’ve selected this one to give 10% of the purchase price of each pair of my brand new line of Resist earrings (pictured above) sold anywhere in the world. They’re going to retail for $30 US, and orders will be direct through me. (For anyone outside of Seattle, my postage price is being confirmed – please see below.)

About my blue charity:

Islamic Relief USA (IRUSA), based in Alexandria, Virginia, is a non-profit 501(c)(3) humanitarian agency and member of the Islamic Relief Worldwide group of organizations. IRUSA was founded in California in 1993. In addition to international relief and development initiatives, Islamic Relief USA also sponsors and funds domestic projects ranging from emergency disaster responses to assisting the American homeless population and supporting those who cannot afford basic healthcare.

Wikipedia

My pitch:

Resist Earrings, $30 (US dollars) a pair.
stainless steel + blue enamel.

For your set you can mix and match or play it straight, or even buy an extra one so you can decide what kind of (blue) day you’re having. More colours (yup, all blue*) coming soon. How to get yours? See below or email me: resist@melissacameron.net

Trunk Show!

If you’re in Seattle, please come along next week if you’re keen to check out my rainbow of blue earrings* or if you just need a shoulder. Together we can chat about resistance. It’s on at:

Danaca Design
5619 University Way NE, Seattle, Washington 98105
Thursday, November 17 at 5:30 PM – 8:00 PM
(Facebook event – do them a favour for catering and let them know if you can 😉 )

Earring suppliers!

Australia: you can count on Bilk and Bini Galleries getting a stack of these in the next week also, and for my sistren in Perth, I’ll see y’all in December and I’ll be sure to carry a few of these in my pocket.

USA: If you’re not in the PNW keep a look out, I’ll be posting the postage details ASAP

Canada – OK, BC: I’m heading up to Vancouver in a couple of weeks (no, not seeking asylum, though did I tell you the one about my grandparent who was born 12 miles south of Tisdale??) so let me know and I’ll bring them with me. The rest of you? Let me figure something out. We’re family!

Everywhere else: If you’re keen please get in contact and I’ll figure out your shipping rate. (I will be in Munich for the second week of March, and might even head to the UK for a hot minute, so if you can hold out that long…)

 

In the mean time, know that while my heart is blue, my gaze is steely.

 

*My Dad bought me my first car, back in the day. While we were looking around at listings he told me, “You can have any colour you like, so long as it’s blue.” I gratefully received a Corolla in midnight blue, despite preferring the burgundy…

From the ephemeral to the very corporeal

I have to share this: Zadie Smith’s latest piece for The Guardian, What Beyoncé taught me. I’d like to explain my thoughts on it, but it would be a disservice to do more than quote:

The connection between writing and dancing has been much on my mind recently: it’s a channel I want to keep open. It feels a little neglected – compared to, say, the relationship between music and prose – maybe because there is something counter-intuitive about it. But for me the two forms are close to each other: I feel dance has something to tell me about what I do.

I’ll leave you to read the rest, if you fancy.

I’ve been thinking about writing quite a bit lately, as I struggle to make my writing and my work parallel one another for a few different fora. I’ve had occasion to write both proposals for new work as well as explanatory texts for pieces (and in some cases, both, in remarkably quick succession) and it’s been interesting to look back over ‘projections’ versus ‘justifications/explanations’. In more than one piece I worried that I talked a good game, but that the work wasn’t going to live up to the rhetoric. That remained in the back of my mind over separate making processes, and probably changed the outcomes in some way that I’m not yet able to put my finger on.

Meeting my own written expectations wasn’t something that I had worried about before; first of all because I didn’t think the writing was ever veering out of it’s lane by aiming for a poetic display that I would rather the work be in charge of, and secondly because I didn’t think I had a good enough handle on writing about my work in anything but as a kind of documentation.

But the works in my most recent exhibition changed many of my ways of working, including what was written and where the work needed the writing to support it. I don’t subscribe to the idea that an accompanying text is only necessary when the work fails to do all the talking, and thanks to Ben Lignel for reminding us that the British Museum (I think it was… I can’t find the article on AJF) was using words as an interpretive tool to help democratise access to the collection (ie, make it accessible to the burgeoning middle class) back in the 1800’s.

I do and don’t want to explain my work. I want it to do well in the world and so I am prepared to give it context, but I also think, like many others, that it exists because I can’t communicate what it does in any other fashion. To me, making is a form of communication outside written and spoken language, that has its own set of symbols (alphabet) and that makes connections that are not impeded by having to find the word or the flow of words to explain itself, and that it might even navigate inside of us without engaging with the conscious (and word-forming) part of the mind. But now I have recognised that being quite a language-y person, my penchant for writing and talking (my hobbies include calligraphy, for heavens sake) could have the potential to get in the way.

I’m not sure it will, (though perhaps it already has, what a mortifying thought!) and I don’t doubt that it has happened before, but I would hate for my words to set the scene for objects that don’t/can’t deliver. On the flip side, I’m starting to realise why so many artists don’t want to talk about their work.

You have my empathy, if not my allegiance.


Replica 1989 Lapua Magnum sniper rifle cartridges in handmade Combat Paper (made by Drew Cameron from military uniforms) with surgical catgut stitching.
Uniform Shells, 2015. Replica 1989 Lapua Magnum sniper rifle cartridges in handmade Combat Paper (made by Drew Cameron from military uniforms) with surgical catgut stitching.

To get down to earth again for a bit, I want to put this out there: Combat Paper needs a new van.

Drew F Cameron (no relation, really, there’s a few more Camerons here than there were back home, I even met one on the phone last week…) is an ex US service-person, and he makes paper all over the US, with, among others, other ex-military personnel, out of their old uniforms.  He kindly gifted me with some of the offcuts of his toil last year, and I used them to make art about war and its effects on the body – the body politic specifically –  as in us, and all of humanity.

Suffice to say, his cause has my heart, and his need for a van (since his last one was recently stolen) has rallied the rest of my body to the cause. If you can help out, please do. I can vouch for the work that he does, and I hope to be able to meet him one day and tell him as much. And maybe even make some paper.

The sky is falling?

G’day contemporary groovers. Just back from a visit to the old country, where I’ve been assured that I’ve no need to brush up on my accent. But just in case, it’s about to get ‘Aus – as’ round here. At least for today.

There’s been a bit a bit of a palaver around the ole contemporary jewellery (we’re going to use CJ for short from now on, and not just because if you squint while you say it, it can sound kinda off-colour..) scene in the last little while. I didn’t want to draw attention to it until I could point towards some more positive views (that weren’t just my own – yawn – ) that could also be found around the place. Since I’m one of those terrible disbelievers that you heard tell of in yer yoof, and because I can barely be bothered with the nay-sayers who seemed to have ganged up all of a sudden, I wanted to be able to present more than one take on the issues being discussed. And perhaps that’s also in part because I am also of the persuasion that a convincing argument deserves a convincing counter-argument. So, here goes:

Are you worried that the sky is falling on the CJ movement on Susan Cohn‘s, Ted Noten‘s and Liesbeth den Besten‘s say so? Is your brow furrowing further because those who leapt to respond to these CJ luminaries –  André Gali and Ezra Satok-Wolman – have gone against the best advice of those soothesayers on The West Wing, and accepted the premise of the arguments that were being made?

If, like me, you have accepted the one truth that is The West Wing and therefore have fully absorbed Annabel’s advice to veteran party-room ‘fixer’ Leo McGarry, “If you don’t like what they’re asking, you don’t accept the premise of the question.” and thus have refused to accept the premise of the current dominant argument (ie. that our mate CJ is faaarked), or perhaps simply because you personally are yet to have been pelted with acorns to the head and therefore are stubbornly clinging to the notion that there is a little bit of wind left in CJ’s sails, or, if in fact you never did think that Munich was the centre (apostate! somebody get her!) and you weren’t making works as if you were responding to some greater aestheic in-joke, should you believe the hype?

(Hey, in my defense, turns out I’m not the only person responding to the current cavalcade of words with rap, thanks Alexander Blank!)

Well, lets all join hands, we can get through this together. We’re going to be ok. Or at the least, we’re not alone. If you, like me, were sitting solo in your garret, worried that you’re wasting your life on CJ, let me tell you that you’re not. Not alone, at least, you’re up there nose-to-nose with a massive bunch of people, each of whom is equally wasting their lives in the pursuit of a creative career! Thanks AO Scott of the New York Times, I feel so much better now 😉

But if you’re worried that in the CJ world we’re only preaching to the converted, never fear, over in the worlds of literature and music and fine art, people are worried about the exact same things. Specifically, Charity Singleton Craig for Curator Magazine notes that authors too are being encouraged to buy more books and make more criticism in her article, and artists are being told that, “We can all do it anyway — make our own videos and songs, write our own poetry and personal essays, exhibit our paintings and our selves — even if it doesn’t pay.” according to The Paradox of Art as Work by A.O. Scott for the New York Times (incidentally the article I refer to in the previous paragraph also.) Scott goes on to remind us that CJ is not alone in dwindling audiences comprised of fellow fans/makers:

…The idea that everyone can be an artist — making stuff that can be shared, traded or sold to a self-selecting audience of fellow creators — sits awkwardly alongside the self-contradictory dream that everyone can be a star.”

OK, ok, if that is not the good news story you were hoping for, and you’re still thinking that it might be time to ditch this sport we call CJ and move away from all things creative, perhaps you ought to read this and just feel better about yourself, because by going into your studio and whacking out a beautiful, wearable object, you’re at least achieving something.

And finally, there is some good news for those of you who still feel inclined to stick to the CJ trail – first up, you can call it whatever you like (thanks Glenn Adamson – I’ll continue to do so while citing your backing, mate!) Also, in that same article; we are getting some good, and well educated in the mysterious ways of CJ, press this year in some print media that we didn’t have to create for ourselves, so chin up CJ-er. Don’t believe me? Well even the papers in Australia are razzing up the movement.

Think positive! We’re in this together, and we’re (eventually) gonna make it! (Just like Kellie says!)

And finally… lest all my levity around these treatises gives you the impression otherwise, I really think there is some good reading in what our experienced and knowledgeable forebears have to say, so if you haven’t yet, as auntie Molly would say, “Do yourself a favour.”:

Ted Noten Manifesto, on the Current Obsession blog

Liesbeth den Besten The golden standard of Schmuckashau, in Overview magazine

and while I’m at it, once again here’s their critiques:

André Gali After the End of Contemporary Jewellery for Norwegian Crafts magazine

Ezra Satok-Wolman Identity Crisis: An Essay about the Current State of Art Jewellery and the Future of it, on the Klimt02 blog

If you want to discuss this, lemme know, I’ll be in my studio.