thanks to the intertubes

…I’m kept informed on how ‘the design process before computers’ went about. Turns out this vid is also demonstrating the laborious hand crafting process that existed for prototyping objects before computers. The designers got to do the easy bit! (I feel for you designers too, don’t worry; hand drawing involved french curves back then, and they are definitely no fun.)

Design story: The Decanter from Landor Associates on Vimeo.

It’s hardly ancient history though; I have seen many of these processes in action by current makers. Between the ‘hero designer’ coming up with the ideas and the consumer-tested, final-approved product, the middle part of the process still comes down to some nerds in dust coats in a shed, making objects with stuff.

And a related discussion – what actually constitutes hand-made – has been kicked off in the Etsy forums apparently (I read about it via the Ponoko blog wrapup.) It’s an interesting question, and pertinent to my work. I use laser fabrication some of the time, and even when I’m not using it, my works are still misrepresented as being laser-cut. That makes me think that people don’t really know the capability of the human hand, nor the full capabilities of computer driven manufacture.

Being accused of laser cutting, by even fellow professionals, has happened in such a manner as to make me think that laser cutting a Bad Thing. Is it? I have never really thought so. And given I piece together all the laser-cut bits by hand, can I still call the result hand-made?

I take the position that my responsibility is to my ideas, and not to a particular manufacturing process. So is it not in my interest to get as many of them out there as I would like to, in whatever way I choose? Do I then have to throw away the hand-made tag? Do I educate people on what is and is not hand-cut? Does that make me look like a fence-sitter, someone who just can’t decide if she’s a purist or a futurist?

Hmm, as usual, more discussion required.

spot the talent

So, about last night. How did you go? At the auction, I mean. Get anything marvelous? I did! Colly Lu’s untitled brooch in nylon, 925 silver and stainless. The one that looked like the frame of a Rubiks Cube, with a few struts missing. Very me. I also saw a pair of Anita Van Doorn’s anodised aluminium and titanium earrings going for a steal right at the end of the night, and had to give them a good home. Lovely sinuous forms, and my favourite shade of red. Both pieces quite different but beautiful, and  well realised. Very chuffed!

With so much beautiful work on offer I was surprised how empty the room was by the end of the night. Then again, it was late, and a school night.

RMIT Seminar thoughts, or “notes without scandal”

Jewellery Practice as a Site for Enquiry – 06.08.2010

This is, I realise on re-reading, a rather idiosyncratic trail of thoughts that I have had regarding Friday’s seminar. I can’t call it review, and only partly call it criticism (sorry Damian, I have failed you. By the end of the session he was imploring the audience to drop making in order to become critics.) Since I have not described the events particularly well, I recommend that if you didn’t attend, you might read the posts at Melbourne Jeweller on the topic. She gives more detail on speakers and a more rounded view of what happened.

Susie Ganch + Christina Miller
I found it interesting when they made mention of the fact that they were shocked when started researching the processes that go into mining gold, and they began this research only eight years ago. I then realised that having known that cyanide goes into mining since I was aged 12, it only makes me more culpable in ignoring my own supply chain.  (On one school-based trip to a gold-mining area we all, fully clothed, took a swim in a large, salty, plastic lined dam. Turns out that this was likely next to the similarly constructed but fenced off cyanide-affected processing dam…)

I generally don’t use gold, and have recycled some before in commissions, but knowing that I can’t recycle my own stainless steel and titanium (which I do use) in the manner that I could gold,  I’m almost reticent to find out in more detail how they are processed. But the strength of their presentation is that I feel guilty for working without knowing.

I remember the tours of working gold mines that I did as a child (from the last large remaining tunnels to the Kalgoorlie Boulder Superpit that eventually swallowed them up, to two-person backyard operations not far from Paynes Find in the Murchison Goldfields) where we were always presented with the history of mining. Historically mining was hard, not profitable for the majority of miners, and many people were cheated or killed in the process of mining it. To a twelve-year-old, the fact that people no longer died to mine gold (at least in Western Australia where I grew up), seemed a vast improvement.

Yet I have been very conscious of the many social issues that exist as a result of the mining industry in WA, due to both personal and professional experience. In recent times bodies such as Form have been instrumental in presenting more arts and culture to the towns that the mining industry has created and populated throughout WA. The outcomes of their work so far I don’t know. But more discussion on this another time.

I feel now, after some time to think and discussion at Part B on Saturday, that the Ethical Metalsmiths program strengths lie in the area of education, since in talking to research/studio/artist/contemporary jewellers I get the feeling that they are preaching to the converted. For students (and especially in a university context), the skills imparted with the salvage of metal and other materials, and the social aspect of dealing with clients professionally are really useful.

But the mountains of costume jewellery that they collect as part of their process is another  disheartening part of this story, as how much can you really reuse of this stuff?  I’ve worked with store seconds before too (old stock and broken pieces that have come from friends in retail), and there’s more than enough of that to go around. As Karen over at Melbourne Jeweller put it “I’d love to see the costume jewellery industry radically reigned in and eventually ceased … but how, it’s not a realistic hope is it?”

Roseanne Bartley
Roseanne presented images that showed skeletons of birds, which clearly indicate that plastic had been fed to them. This is the part of her presentation that will stay with me.

Having seen her work in other presentations, the new project that she has embarked upon sparked the most interest. By doing something as simple as taking a walk around her local area and constructing a chain along the journey, made of found detritus woven onto silk, one is made aware of the sheer amount of it that we all must ignore in every journey.

I see the strength to this idea in the performance of this act, and in seeing its repetition. Owing to that, is the jewellery outcome the most important part of this project? Like in other pieces of Roseanne’s work, possibly not.

Ilse-Marie Erl
At the time of her presentation I found her works touching and engaging. In the time since I find myself thinking ‘but who will know?’ She presented an image of one of the trees she had ‘jewelled’ (by taking a core sample of concrete and feeding it into a hole in a similarly sampled tree) which had swallowed up its incursion within the space of a year.

I guess that is the point. So much sentimentally is bound up in jewellery pieces. Many inheritances are kept, not because the stories are faithfully remembered, but the habit of, and the desire to, be connected to past generations (who perhaps did know the story and  value the object for it) remains.

The story of this work is a small yet profound commemoration, like the jewel that is kept as a reminder, but never worn. This did not result in jewellery per se, but a jewellery outcome, the notion of which which most obviously fed into Renée’s talk later.

Kevin Murray
Kevin presented a lot of information, and images, from recently curated projects. And like most presenters, very rapidly. Given I had attended the JMGA conference where a section of this had been presented by his co-curator Elisha Buttler of Form, I had already seen some of this presentation.

He raised the topic of social equality and its relationship with jewellery – like people donning the white band as a sign of support for the ‘developing’ world – while pointing out its weaknesses also. He mentioned the Design for the 90% project, which made me recall the recent call out for the Design for the First World competition, where this philosophy has been reversed.

While I understand the reasons for a broad overview presentation of his many involvements, (with some of the artists whose works were presented, being in attendance on Friday) I feel that the broad scope of it didn’t do justice to any of the problems outlined. I was left feeling a little at sea. Maybe that was the intention.

The seemingly facetiousness “Do you really believe that craft save the world?” was (if I recall correctly) the first question to greet him. A moot point after this presentation, I thought (despite my reaction); that much I could gather.

Simon Cottrell
Simon saw a break from the presentations of practices aimed at social, ethical and environmental discovery and change, with a presentation of his Masters-in-progress. He mentioned that as a point of difference his presentation was to be unashamedly introspective.

I like and understand Simon’s philosophy of his practice, and find it in sympathy with sections of my own. Therefore I enjoyed all of his references, and I found he managed to cultivate a willingness to follow him on his discussion even when I didn’t completely agree with him. In short, his presentation seemed perfectly reasonable. Yet I felt that he was defensive in parts, quite unnecessarily.

Maybe this is his usual style. Maybe I am naive, and he is a lot more contentious than I believed him to be…

And so, part one of my seminar thoughts concludes. Stay tuned for the next installment…

a day in the life

I’m going to add a review of yesterdays seminar in due course (in truth, when I don’t have a Part B meet to run to) since Damian encouraged us all at the end of his session to become critics, but in the meantime, a couple of snaps and one observation.

Damian loomed like a (good-natured) bouncer over his session, ensuring that the speakers spoke when spoken to. I would not have been game to shy away from appearing when summonsed by him either. Mostly for the tongue lashing that would inevitably ensue. (Though hearing what he got in between seat and stage for some speakers, I’d be tempted to linger just to hear what he could come up with.)

Mark Edgoose and team did a great job, a really significant day and hopefully a sign of  similar events to come.

the webbiverse has my number

I woke to the regular Saturday Klimt02 email newsletter in my inbox, like most good jewellists. This edition is a doozy though, and made me think for a second that I’m being watched…

Lets go down in order then:
I purchased a catalogue from a jewellery book fair (from Charon Kransen Arts at the 2008 JMGA conference) specifically for Gésine Hackenberg‘s work, which I then even attempted to copy as I loved it so (with little success mind you).

I spoke on the connections of architecture and jewellery at this year’s JMGA conference, during which I used an image of Fritz Maierhofer‘s work to illustrate jewellers who work with architectural materials, and who also make sculpture. (And for which I wrote to him for permission to have it published, which he kindly gave me – he takes his own photos!)

OK, this one is more than tenuous – but I love Marc Monzo‘s ring. If I was ever going to wear a solitaire…

Finally (apologies to Tore Svensson, who’d I have probably had to include with the last two, except I’ve only just heard of him) I wrote about Manon van Kouswijk and Benjamin Lignel in my MFA thesis (and in Lignel’s case, on the work featured for the newsletter) as the contemporary context for my work. They are possibly the two jewellery artists in the world who I know most about, or at least, the two who I have most  studied and analysed in an in-depth fashion.

Waddya know, in my world, it’s all about me…