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.

Save

Enamel workshop and talk – next week

HEAT II in stainless steel, vitreous enamel and titanium, 2016. Image of the wall work and brooch, as installed at Arrowmont.

There’s a day or so left to register for my upcoming workshop in Oakland next week:

Enameling Recycled Steel for Jewelry and Objects – a workshop with Melissa Cameron

I will be sticking around in Oakland to attend day one of a weekend of large scale enameling at KVO Industries on the 9th, which is super-exciting. Knowing that I have plans to make some more panel-based works in the next year or so for a show in the UK, I’m looking to up my large-format game, and since Judy Stone at the Center for Enamel Art – all-round champion of enamel and artists – suggested I do it, how could I refuse? Not that my moderate-panel game appears to be too shabby, as I recently won a prize for Wall Works (for the above) in the Enamelist Society Alchemy 4 Juried Exhibition!

I’ll also be giving a free public lecture next Wednesday night at California College of the Arts:

“From a tamper-proof fence to Body Politic – my enamel journey so far” 7:30pm, Nahl Hall, Oakland Campus, 5212 Broadway (map)

Looking forward to spending time in the heat after just finishing up my Aussie shenanigans of the past few weeks. Northern Summer, come at me!

Radical Jewelry Makeover

The work made for our friends over at RJM is on tour again, and right now it’s stopped in New Mexico:
Radical Jewelry Makeover Artist Project
Through February 19
form & concept
There’s a great write up at the Santa Fe Arts Journal, as well as a short and informative artist talk given by Jenn Carroll Wilson, one of the exhibition artists, over at form and concept’s website.

IMAGINE Peace Now

It feels as though it’s getting harder to imagine every day, but if you’re keen for a refresher on what’s at stake if we can’t find a way to work together, the IMAGINE show is a great start. And it’s not all doom and gloom, there’s a dark sense of humour driving several of these works. If you’re in the area please head to the newly relocated Society of Arts and Crafts at 100 Pier 4 Boulevarde, Suite 100, in Boston from 6-9pm on Thursday the 23rd of February for the opening.

This is the second stop for this exhibition, which is running for quite a time, so you have until June to see a sobering collection of metal art made from decommissioned weapons seized by the Pittsburgh Police Department. If you can’t get along, there is a pretty amazing catalogue in the works which I’m sure will be available in Boston, and I’ll post the details of where you can source it from elsewhere very soon.

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.

Tanya Lippe’s Lunch Box

Image of Tanya Lippe's Lunch Box - pre transformation
Image of Tanya Lippe’s Lunch Box – pre transformation

In answer to a reader question; yes, the material that makes the work My House – Tanya Lippe’s Lunch Box is all from Tanya’s old lunch box, barring the stainless steel rivets, c-shaped connections, chain (handmade and otherwise) and cable that joins the altered parts together.

In fact there’s actually a few parts missing. The plastic handle and chrome fittings are not part of the design, and there is a series of five small pins (about 27 x 4mm each) that are not part of the installation. One of these I have kept (not a habit of mine, but these were particularly meaningful to me, in a piece that became surprisingly personal over the course of the design and making), and four were given to Micki before the piece was installed.

What you can’t see in this image is the hinge pin that was removed, the handle tethers, and an internal feature meant to hold a thermos flask in place in the top section of the box (it was roughly the shape of the stylized ‘V’ on the front.) All this was wire, in approximately 1.5 – 2mm diameter steel, which was cut up, drilled into, enameled and re-joined to make the chain that holds the big ‘snowflake’ section in the centre.

Detail image of work My House - Tanya Lippe's Lunch Box, made out of lunch box steel, stainless steel, vitreous enamel.
Detail image of work My House – Tanya Lippe’s Lunch Box, made out of the lunch box, stainless steel, vitreous enamel.

And like Bilk just announced…

If you’ve already seen this on Instagram my apologies, but the lovely co-director of Bilk, Mio Kuhnen, let the world know over the weekend that two of my pieces from the recent Body Politic exhibition in Canberra were just acquired by the National Gallery of Australia. This takes their Melissa Cameron tally up to 3!

I was in a bit of shock to have such a long and considered gallery visit with Dr Robert Bell (curator of decorative arts at the NGA) while I was in Canberra, on the day before the official opening of the show. He was very inquisitive, and if you’re read any of the text surrounding these works, you’ll have seen that there are a lot of stories to tell, so I was honoured to impart my narrative of these and the other works. He even asked my opinion – what I thought of the pieces he was deliberating and why – and I had to tell him that it took me a long time to come to terms with the Tank piece especially, as I found it brutal and dark when I first finished it.

Finishing that work as one of the earliest in the series – the Cannon and Tank were conceived at the same time – made continuing and then creating even more complex pieces an easier pill to swallow. I look back now and see that they were really just a prelude to the Gun piece, which, while only completed in late 2013 early 2014, was really begun with the horrific events in Sandy Hook in December of 2012. I see now that I put those details away for a while, and decided to start in more neutral territory – a Civil War era cannon and an M1 Abrams tank as fitted out for use by the Australian Army, as a sort of way to first test and then brace myself before moving deeper into this series.

I had a terrible grief-ridden winter this year as I finished up this series, and while the Drone probably didn’t help, I can’t say it hurt either. I now conflate the two in my memory. The Drone and last winter were inevitable, and surviving each of them needed the other as a crutch, in a sort of incongruous symbiosis.

But before all that, when I just had a Tank and a Cannon in my arsenal, I wasn’t sure if I would continue. The duo could have easily remained an outlier, an experiment that was discontinued before it had really begun. So it’s also them I have to thank for begetting the rest of the Escalation series, including the Drone that got me through.

Goodbye good friends, I hope to see you again some time 😉

1100 Shot Round (breastplate) and M1 Abrams (neckpiece)
1100 Shot Round (breastplate) and M1 Abrams (neckpiece)
Jewellery from the Escalation series of altered new and vintage objects by Melissa Cameron
Seven Personnel (neckpiece) and 11 RPH Cannon (brooch)

A hint of enamel

Image of the work HEAT in stainless steel and vitreous enamel. Photograph by Melissa Cameron.
Image of the work HEAT in stainless steel and vitreous enamel. Photograph by Melissa Cameron.

Over at Pratt in Seattle I’m going to be involved with a group-led workshop: It’s All Material: 4 Artists Teach Their Specialties (scroll down for details) starting on the 8th of September. How unusual, I hear you muse, of what could I possibly be talking, you wonder aloud to your e-reading device, whose response is inaudible..?

Well friends, there are going to be 4 artists who take two weeks each to give an intro to their area of jewellery and metalsmithing specialty.  My two weeks will be working with enamel, and how you can add that to the arsenal of jewellery-making techniques. The other artists involved are Pratt regulars: Anne Randall, Julia Harrison and Sharrey Dore.

Should be a fun one!

New Class at Danaca Design

colour! washers from throughout the week
yes, I can do colour! Enamelled washers from 2011

Enameling Recycled Steel for Jewelry is a new class I’ll be teaching at Danaca Design on July the 16th and 17th. Registration instructions here.

The focus for this course is a slight shift from the other workshops I’ve taught to date, as I have finally figured out a way to teach what it is that I do without having to get AutoCad and a lasercutter involved for a 2 day class.

sandblasting...
sandblasting… (hand-cut fiddlies)

In my own studio I enamel fiddly little things, some of which I painstakingly draw, drill and cut out myself, and some of which I painstakingly draw and then find someone/thing else to do the drilling and cutting grunt work. In either case, it involves a lot of cutting before enamelling commences, after which I’m left with tiny fiddly parts to enamel, that I later piece together into jewellery.

painting on enamel and drying and drying...
painting on enamel and drying… (laser-cut fiddlies)
enameling...
after firing…
assembly...
assembly…

I could say that this is not really how I learned, rather that it was by trial and error I developed a method to suit my work, (which in some cases I did), but if you dig really deep on this blog, you’ll see that’s just not true. In fact my formative enamelling experience was working in Elizabeth Turrell’s studio at the University of the West of England (images below for a recap), where I spent a month dipping in enamel the things I found on the street on my walk to school in the morning. I then figured out a rather ad-hoc way to fire them, and to be un-flatteringly honest, I’ve not improved any part of my system much since then!

Day 11 CFPR Bristol washers found
they’re er’rywhere!

Since the U.S. has such an amazing array of steel bits and bobs lining practically any street edge, I decided it’s time to repeat the earlier England experiment in a workshop. The deluge of scrap metal that I find kinda shameful in a city full of metalsmiths like Seattle, will then go from environmental problem to beautiful, wearable jewels once we get our hands, and Danaca’s range of steel-ready enamels, onto them!

(And while we’re at it we will doubtless find a better solution to making them wearable than my own ‘hang it on a silk cord’ improvisation of 5 years ago, too.)

So if you want the tips and tricks on how I make my art, and more especially if you’d like to turn some trash into wearable treasure of your own, please come and join us. Oh, and on your way to the studio, you’ll inevitably find some steel washers and nails and other rusty odds and ends strewn across the tarmac. Why don’t you bring that along?