Deep in the bowels of this establishment I’m working on the last pieces of my Sieve series. My pattern, The Sieve, created in 2010 and cut five times, twice in titanium and three times in stainless steel, has been turned into pendants, earrings, neckpieces, brooches and a few vessels. Pieces have been enamelled, sandblasted with coarse aluminum oxide and fine glass beads, and garnet (in Bristol.) They have been heat treated, had extra holes drilled and had plenty of 925 silver soldered onto them. And they have been joined to one another with meters and meters of stainless steel cable. On the odd occasion, they have been copper plated or glued together with enamel, but that was generally unintentional.
I’ve been working on this pattern, its design and the works derived from it, for much of the time that I have had an independent artistic practice, so it feels weird that it will all be over, very soon. I have a brooch and a pendant in progress on the bench, and after them I have but a few pairs of earrings worth of material left. These could be finished by the end of this week.
It’s worth saying that the more pieces I make from this single pattern, the harder it is to not simply re-make something. I’ve deliberately backed myself, creatively speaking, into a corner, and not for the first time in this series. The reason I design in pattern at all is itself a challenge to fill the available cutting plane, to create a surface rather than a part and the commensurate section of waste, as I believe that with planning, each section of the plane is an equally suitable component/object to be turned into jewellery. But at this stage, each time I sit down with these elements to make something, I have to try harder, think longer, be less obvious – and possibly even – be more creative – to make something slightly different.
I work in series to do just that, to make many iterations, to test and try an idea until I have completely exhausted it. Having designed the piece once already, before it took form, I’m forced to redesign it with the objects in front of me. This second stage contemplation of the pattern as an object is less cerebral, more tactile, and allows my mind to play with the objects more, turning them over in my head and my hands, again and again.
I have found previously, and I seem to be finding once again, that it is this end part that is the most informative for the next series. By designing a second pattern, the Untitled: Pattern in Metal 4 piece before I had got to this stage, I may have jumped the gun a little. And maybe that’s why that pattern looks so different to this work. Who knows. I do know that the lessons that this work is teaching me now are influential, though of course many of the lessons (such as a 5mm diameter quatrefoil shape with two 0.5mm holes in is really hard to enamel successfully) were learned in time to influence the Untitled pattern when it was manifested late last year. Especially given that the latter pattern was created with the potential for enamel embellishments in mind.
I’ll be moving onto a bunch of hand-cut works for the next while, as I prepare for an exhibition in the US that is going to showcase these works. Looking at the last of the Sieve works, I feel like I’m happy to move on from the radial pattern arrangement for a while. But then again, having made some interesting discoveries using these pieces, some similarities might work their way into the new works. They might turn out to be a more subtle influence…