Shadowy figures

So about a billion years ago I made a two-fold piece, entitled The Raven and The Fishes, for the biennial Contemporary Australian Silver Award.

The pieces were my interpretation of the works of singer, musician and writer Nick Cave, with the Fishes work a meditation on the Nick Cave and the Bads Seeds song Breathless.

This weekend, thanks to evil genius Aran Galligan who has set up the night, built the stage and who will of course be performing her own piece, I’ll be debuting a familiar-looking shadow puppet performance in between acts at a punk rock gig here in shadowy Seattle.

If you’re in the area, consider yourself invited! We’ll be starting after the first band:

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.

Imagine Peace Now – RSVP, books and Metalsmith article

NB: a post about guns and where you can see an exhibition of them. With a snow-friend chaser.

For those of you in the greater Boston area whose interest was piqued at the mention of the opening of Imagine Peace Now at the Society for Arts and Crafts last week, there’s a place to RSVP if you’re planning to attend.

Opening reception for I.M.A.G.I.N.E. Peace Now (IPN) will be held on Thursday, February 23, 2017 from 6:00 PM to 9:00 PM (EST) at the new Society of Arts + Crafts in Boston.

And if your interest was piqued by mention of the catalogue, then you might want to go here to grab yourself a copy. I received mine last week, and it’s an intense read. The images are universally great, and as you might imagine, the included artist statements are by turns affecting, depressing and thought-provoking.

There is also a new Findings section in Metalsmith Magazine (in the newly refreshed format – something we have had in the pipeline for the last eight months – I have mine and I’m proud to have my name in it as it’s a corker!) featuring a couple of the works from the IPN exhibition. You can see it via a digital free trial or you can purchase yourself a hard copy to keep forever!

Finally, Boris Bally, the man to whom we owe this whole exhibition, the man who sourced, stored and then sent out all of the ‘hardware’ used to make pieces for the show, is a keynote speaker at the ACJ 20:20 Visions Conference in Sheffield in July. He will be speaking about this show, and no doubt his deep antipathy towards guns. And as I mentioned last week, I’ll be there too, speaking about the evolution of my work from my residency in the UK in 2011 until today, namely all of the protest art (including the pieces about/with guns) that I have created over this period.

Phew, heavy topics.

OK, we’re in dark times, and sometimes you just need a breather. This is not something I would normally share, but I think it’s time to take a moment to contemplate a (very) simple joy:

For anyone experiencing grief

I feel for you, I really do, if you are grieving right now. I’ve had a pretty intense year myself, and I thought I’d share my favourite distractions as well as a thoughtful speaker/sharer on the topic.

1/ The Great British Bake Off/ The Great British Baking Show

I have watched all 7 series, multiple times, in the last 12 months. And in that time I have come to realise that the nurturing implied in just watching someone make a cake is strangely healing. (And this from someone who is allergic to 90% of the contents of what they’re usually baking.)

I believe that this is available on PBS and other streaming services (Netflix is where I saw it) and some can be found on YouTube. Start with Season Six (renamed Season Three in the States I think?) if you want a quick reminder of what’s right in the world.

2/ RuPauls Drag Race

You will be surprised at the nurturing vibe this has for a reality show, though it’s never beyond RuPaul and team (Ms Visage, I’m giving you the side-eye here…) to tell their charges when they gotta cut with the tears and WERK! Let Mama Ru challenge, shelter and shower you with praise, via your beautiful and enormously talented queer proxy.

Find this on Logo TV or where I’ve seen all my eps, Amazon Prime.

I also follow local (to Seattle) grief writer Elizabeth Copelan on Twitter, she posts great links and says some beautiful things. And yes, even I can’t believe that I’m recommending reality TV to mend broken hearts, but, like I said, a hell of a year.

It’s ok, together we will get through this. And once you’re ready again, there’s going to be lots of work for everyone!

Now, not to get too far ahead of myself, but my sleepless portion of the night was quite productive. Stay tuned for the profits…

Nadia Myre and Sheryl Oring

Nadia Myre: Indian Act, 1999-2002. Detail.

A couple of great projects I’ve seen online that I thought I’d share.

Thanks to the perfectly titled Fuck Yeah, Book Arts! site, I’ve been meditating on the beautiful beaded works orchestrated by Nadia Myre:

Nadia Myre, Indian Act

Indian Act speaks of the realities of colonization – the effects of contact, and its often-broken and untranslated contracts. The piece consists of all 56 pages of the Federal Government’s Indian Act mounted on stroud cloth and sewn over with red and white glass beads. Each word is replaced with white beads sewn into the document; the red beads replace the negative space.

Between 1999 and 2002, Nadia Myre enlisted over 230 friends, colleagues and strangers to help her bead over the Indian Act. With the help of Rhonda Meier, they organized workshops and presentations at Concordia University, and hosted weekly beading bees at Oboro Gallery, where it was presented as part of the exhibition, Cont[r]act, in 2002.

Nadia Myre: Indian Act, 1999-2002. Detail.

The piece itself is strikingly beautiful, a perfect realisation of her concept.

A fuller description of the project and her method are available at The Medicine Project website, with more (exquisitely beaded!) work and great photos of this project at her website.

Secondly, with thanks to the Creative Capital blog, I bring you the I Wish to Say project by Sheryl Oring!

byuongupelforu
In summer 2015, a team of five typists took dictation at the Out of Site Festival in Chicago. Photo: Dhanraj Emanuel

Oring has been banding groups of volunteer typists to write postcards to politicians. She started the project with postcards to the President (of the USA, that is) and has recently moved on to the current presidential candidates, using volunteers to take dictation the same manner that she did with her first outing, dressed as a 1960’s stenographer:

In 2006, Sheryl dressed as a 1960s secretary, set up a portable public office complete with a manual typewriter in public areas across the country, and typed birthday cards to then President Bush as dictated by passers-by.

She has gone on to take in commentary of the Obama administration, and is about to start taking down community thoughts on the current lunacy presidential nomination battle.

and the effect?

I’ll never forget this guy in Chicago, at one of the last shows. He came down to where I was taking photographs and said, “I just want you to know that I am a better American because I participated in your project.”

The empowerment experienced by participants has of course been likened to therapy, which I think is a really interesting outcome of the process. Why does the act of airing your thoughts to someone who is an impartial observer give one a feeling of closure, more than, say, talking it out to a like-minded friend or relative? I also think of this project in relation to the public displays of jewellery creation and/or gifting that I have seen. I think the strength of this piece is its sustained and clearly impactful interaction, which is fostered using a rather generic and easily replicable format.

Sheryl Oring presents I Wish to Say April 26 as part of the PEN World Voices Festival at Bryant Park. You can dictate a letter to presidential candidates, or volunteer to act as a typist.

For your eyes and ears

Rivet-ing..!

1/ There’s a lot of jewellery shenanigans afoot if you’re in the UK right now, but if you’re not, don’t despair – Junk: Rubbish to Gold are a multi-platform experience! The best place to find out what’s happening with these artists, who if you remember from an earlier posting are transforming tonnes (note UK spelling, y’all) of junk jewellery into fancy new art-jewel adornments, is to check the FB page or to see the feed (including mentions) on twitter. And of course there will be more YouTube videos like the above!

2/ An article that grabbed my attention today came from the mothership (ok, so home-land is so boring a te..z zz zzzzzzzzz) from Hazel Dooney. You can read up on her in your own time, but her post, a Declaration Of DIY Independence was a good kick-up-the-arse on a Monday afternoon for this slow-moving target.

3/ Finally – because 3 topics in a single post is such good number, (and hey, is even good in earrings – I have a couple of pairs who are missing mates at the moment and I can tell you now that I will never re-make their buddies…) I want to thank everyone who sent me warm emails and Instagram and Twitter posts after the last couple of blog posts I put up here. I did not expect, and really do appreciate, the kindness shown to me and the warmth of your consoling words. If I’m honest, it’s been a bit of a struggle to have the energy to do everything that I have wanted to, or would normally do without thinking, over the last few weeks, so now more than ever I appreciate the fact that people have taken the time to send an encouraging missive, in whatever form.

And on that note, I hope you’re all keeping well and enjoying the fruits of whatever season you’re currently in.

xx

m

The coda to Pheeew-weee!

White linen thread. Comes in Ecru and Black too ;)
White linen thread. Comes in Ecru and Black too 😉

Then there’s this little coda: that week of horror was also how I came to receive the monthly prize at Nancy’s Sewing Basket, my local fabric store (and yes, it is about as quaint as it sounds). Their system is this: when you shop there you enter a draw to receive a gift voucher, the sum of which equals the amount you have just spent at the store. I don’t go in there unless I need something to make jewellery out of, so I rarely go in at all, and when I do my purchase is usually a couple of meters (or yards) of ribbon.

The ‘tricky’ work from the last blog post? I had bought several versions of what I thought would be the perfect ingredients for the neckpiece, making two or three options in metal and plastic to no avail, so in a last ditch effort I decided to try fabric. Thanks to my insecurity about which ribbon to use after my other unsuccessful attempts, I saw no alternative but to buy my way out of the problem – which in the short term actually worked. I took home something that I ended up using. Not what I was intending to use when I left the store, but hell, it worked. The week after I remade the ‘mishap’ work I found out that I won Nancy’s monthly shopping spree, having just spent the most on ribbon I have ever done in my life! It has already come in handy, as the very next pieces I made – for the Comments exhibition – feature silk and linen threads from Germany and Mexico, which I now own in about 15 different colours 😉

Pheeew-weee!

Wow. Well team, the reason it’s been a little quiet around this blog is because I haven’t been able to move of late without bumping into a deadline. This is made all the more incredible by the fact that the only thought I had towards making a resolution this year was to cut down on the amount of shows that I apply for. If I’m honest, though, two of the three major deadlines this month were destined to collide from the outset (and yes, I signed up to both last year), and only really met so sharply owing to a bit of misfortune. Read on!

I had spent a couple of weeks working diligently in my studio on a new piece, getting it ready for a photography deadline. Having squared it away finally – after going to Nancy’s Sewing Basket and buying only about 1/3 of the cotton and linen ribbons in the store – I was taking photographs of it and some other pieces that I had finished a while back for the same application, which were due via email the following day.

In order to take photos of these bigger works I had, for the second time, transplanted my photography setup to a corner of the basement, taking advantage of the fact that we had brought inside our outdoor table for the winter. Down there I can sprawl out across the walls and of course the table, and position the lights more easily. Incidentally the setup remains downstairs; I’ve now built an overhead light-bouncer that doubles as a slightly more efficient way of hanging works than sticking pins into the sandalwood-paneled ceiling in the wardrobe that I was using as my photography booth before. (The wardrobe also acts as my storage/packing room, so it’s still getting plenty of action.)

I had promised myself that after photographing the recently completed and particularly tricky to arrange piece, I would be able pack it in for the night. It was about 8pm on Friday and Turbo was kindly preparing dinner for probably the 5th time that week. I was jubilant! I was literally clapping and jumping around the basement as I tidied and turned off lights. I had finally finished the work and captured it, marking the end of what had been a grueling couple of weeks of making, and the agonising decision making that sometimes attaches itself to a work when one is inventing a new thing and then figuring out how that thing is going to operate as a jewel in the world.

I had been checking in my images on the computer as I went, so I knew that I had some suitable sample images to go through that night, to figure out if there was anything that needed to be re-shot in the morning. The tricky piece I decided to leave on the table but I wanted to cover it (our basement ceiling is not the finest example of the art; dust and cobwebs occasionally drift down), so I grabbed the big shoebox that was slightly over-full of work and stopped past the table with the one piece left out in the open to cover it with tissue. Having done that I picked up the box, making a sharp right turn to head towards the staircase, and simultaneously sent the work on top of the overstuffed box to the ground, upon which it landed with a sharp “Crack!”

The work in question was wrapped in tissue and then put into a plastic self-locking bag, on top of a bunch of other similarly wrapped works. Plastic on plastic is slippery and when a person makes a sharp turn with a bunch of horizontally stacked bags, they’d wanna have a good hold on all of them…

At first I thought that the smacking sound was probably right for the wood-meeting-concrete scenario that had played out so effortlessly, that I didn’t think to worry. I put the box down on the floor, carefully, and then turned back to the dropped work. The noise was replaying in my head as I reached for it, and despite the packaging surrounding it so I couldn’t see in, I knew that what I had made was gone. My hand told me the truth, which echoed my thought. The tension had dropped, the work felt mushy. Before this, the wood had been hard and the tension of threads weaving inside and around the piece felt rigid.

This was not good. It’s one of those moments that had happened so innocuously that I almost felt that I should simply be able to access some sort of ‘undo’ button, where I could rewind the time and get my work back, whole. I think I was in that state of shock for a couple of minutes, long enough to make some regretful ‘arrgh’ noises and to wonder why I wasn’t yet crying. Then Turbo came down the stairs to see me huddled on the floor as I slowly re-wrapped the work and put it back into its plastic shroud. He dutifully claimed that I could fix it, of course I could, and that’s when the tears came. I had seen it. The tension that made the piece from ‘object’ into ‘wearable’ had also accelerated its demise. It was made from a turned wood bowl, which had itself been made from laminated timber, which I had gutted by sawing a pattern into its body and drilling holes and stringing waxed linen around and through it, rejoining some of the released sections to the bowl’s interior.

The wood, vintage if not antique, had been in use for a long time and joined for a longer one. Despite its considerable thickness – I gauged it at around 1cm thick all over, thinner with some shallow carving and thicker in the corners – it cracked at the lamination faces and at any point that I had created extra stress, and there were lots of those. Plenty of 90° angles next to thinner sections of material that I had left behind and holes in line with even sharper points, laying along the same line of grain. There were largish pieces, yes, but bits and pieces of splinter-size too.

Now, thanks to my style of resourcefully making several jewels out of a single found object, I had not one broken work, but three. The other jewels made from the same bowl, two neckpieces, were now context-less. And that’s not to mention another two works that are locked into a narrative with this piece. I was doomed.

The only thing that I could think to do that night was submit the work as it had been photographed and then apologise if it was chosen, presenting in its stead a replacement that had followed much the same plan. (That was if I didn’t quit the industry all together, or just give up on making this application that I had toiled so hard toward, as I didn’t think I could, in good conscience, throw my unfettered support behind a lost work.) The revision/remake is eventually what happened; I found a replacement object within my collection (incidentally, bought at the same time, from the same now-closed antique importers down in South Lake Union, and more importantly made of m e t a l ), altering the plan to fit its slightly different dimensions.

To be honest, I think it’s the better version. Some parts were improved upon in the design and others in the making, but of course the metal made a big difference to the aesthetic. After the experiments that went to making its older sibling, the manufacturing was more linear and went quicker. The final result, for better or worse, is less chunky, more refined.

The morning after my mishap, I was slowly coming to terms with the idea that I would have to finish fine-tuning an application to include what I knew was a destroyed work, whilst lying in bed checking my twitter feed. And of all the things… Out of nowhere came my reprieve! On twitter I read, right from the source, that the deadline for that night had been extended. By a week. I had a whole seven days to get the new work together. What was there left to decide? That day I took a well-earned rest day, and got back work the following morning.

And re-making that piece instead of moving on to new works as planned is how I sent my next two deadlines crashing into one another. Thankfully I’ve now dug myself out, and my reward is to catch up on paperwork…

Thanks to The Carrotbox!

The Carrotbox blog has featured a couple of my jewels today. Some rings, of course 😉

Big thanks to Alice Matsumoto, for my second appearance on her glorious blog, and for her endurance in the blogging world. My first appearance was down to some of my very early jewels, made in 2006 and appearing on The Carrotbox in 2007. The pieces referred to by her in that link were created as a part of my studies at Postgraduate Diploma in Jewellery Production, and have long been superseded by more up-to-date works on website. In fact, the site it was on has itself been superseded, multiple times.

But here’s what she was probably talking about when she referred to ‘mini people’, way back in 2007: *sounds of Melissa rummaging through the archive*

The Tourist
The Tourist. 2006

Still mathematical.

AutoCad designed and milled in sterling silver, by one of two companies, either Poolegrave or Close Tolerance Engineering.