Peter Skubic

During Schmuck this year, on Friday the 18th of March to be specific, a retrospective show of Peter Skibuc’s work opening at the Pinakothek Der Moderne in Munich. I went along, dragged by Jessica and Elizabeth as they found me skulking around the Italian’s show (about to head to the hotel to drop my shopping – Helen Britton catalogue etc – and have dinner accompanied by a stiff drink…) while they were en route to the Museum.

Turned out it was just about the best show all day. (I did see eleven shows that day, so I’m restraining a little cos I can’t remember all of them…)

It really was/is a great show. After standing amongst his sculptures that were all mounted on head-high plinths as if they were jewellery, then bending down to see his smaller recent works, I had an epiphany. I finally ‘got’ his work. I’d studied his stuff before (planes of precision cut stainless steel strung on stainless cable… How could I not?) but pictures on the internet and seeing the many pieces being worn by collectors that night, and of course the many more on display, are two completely different things.

And then Bettina Dittlmann enlightened us on the colours he uses. He thinks like an engineer, so the colours have to have a system. You can’t  just choose them on a whim, I hear you ask? Of course not! So, you come up with an alphabet of colours and probably shapes too, I’m guessing. So the use of a colour is dictated by the spelling of different words. What words? Well, Bettina informed us that somewhere in the collection is a brooch that spells her name. Awww. Wonder if he’s ever done a Melissa?

The video in this post was found on the Panie Przodem blog. Very cool.

Day 15

Still hanging in Enamelleing area of the Centre for Fine Print Research at the University of the West of England in Bristol. Still enamelling washers, but also having a go at an enamel transfer. This is where a screen print is made of your design in a special enamel + paint medium onto a thin layer of paper-backed plastic. You take the print, on its paper substrate, and submerge it in water briefly. This loosens the gum that sandwiches the two layers together, so that you can slide the plastic layer off the paper, and with some of the gum still on the plastic, you can move it about a little until it settles neatly in place on your object. That’s the theory…

It’s handy to keep the paper layer nearby, in case your piece of plastic loses its tack. You can then gently slide the paper under the plastic layer again to deposit a little more damp goo. Essentially you’re back where you started, but since you’ve just practiced the whole process, with luck you’ll make a better fist if it the second time around. Sound like I’m talking from experience? Yeah…

First transfer on mug - straigtening continues...
Positioning transfer with paper backing still in place. This will be repeated...
After initial firing - plastic gone, but text still vulnerable until 'proper' firing (over 750°C)

And well may you ask “Melissa, why mugs?”

Buh-cause Studio Fusion is having a show in honour of this year’s royal nuptials entitled “Two Mugs”. The British have a long tradition of commemorating such occasions with the release of thousands of “collectors edition” crockery and homewares.  And in homage to that tradition, everyone in the enamel studio, and a few outsiders besides, were making decals to put onto a mug for the show. Some were political – £5,000,000,000 being the amount of money lost in productivity for the bank holiday that the nation will be enjoying/enduring on the wedding day, others funny – a royal garter versus a brides lacy one or ‘Zara & Mike’ – the ‘other’ royal wedding of this year (Zara Philips – another grandchild of Her Maj will also marry this year, but whose ‘big day’ is getting lost in the princely hubub), while some mugs were just plain nice. Mine was attempting to be political/funny, but as it’s the only with a clear Australian perspective in the bunch I’m thinking the point might get lost…

I wish I could name all the artists. I know that Matthew Partington did the Zara&Mike and the £5,000,000,000, and that Anamika and Cathy’s were in that bunch, but that’s about it. Sorry to all the artists for not taking names. (Please feel free to email me with work credit details.)

Speaking of Cathy, she brought in her work to show today:

Cathy's enamelled brooches - silver, copper, enamel, thread.

And Anamika set out more of hers;

Anamika shows off her latest - enamelling on her metalworking, and to the right, copper pieces using copper firescale as the green colouring agent

And me? I spent another day wrestling with the massive sandblaster and my comparatively tiny washers.

Yet another hoard of washers
Yet another hoard of washers: sandblasted


Waaay back on March 25th I flew from Bristol to Edinburgh, and arrived just in time for a Friday night on the town. Alice, an MFA student from Edinburgh College of Art, organised drinks in the Grassmarket with a bunch of other jewellery students and the odd architect, writer and architect/writer. We had great chats and I was treated to some palm reading and local dance moves before they kindly deposited me back at the hotel when the pub closed.

I wandered around and through the Castle the next day, and on Sunday I caught up with The Justified Sinner (aka Dauvit Alexander, maker of jewellery and lecturer in same) for a trip around the city itself, which meandered, amongst other places, into a car-park flea market and the National Museum of Scotland. The market was brilliant, I scored a few great pieces (of the usual tin-and-coaster variety), and the displays in the museum were pretty amazing too.

Like in Milan I was really impressed with this exhibition design, and the willingness to alter the mood of the place with the architecture in favour of, or even deference to, the works on show. It wasn’t always the case throughout the museum, but I thought it was really noticeable, and of considerable benefit, in the few key areas that it was done.

Also at Dauvit’s suggestion I popped into Greyfriars Kirkyard on my way past. I’ve since learned it’s supposed to be the most haunted place in Edinburgh. Luckily I didn’t come out with any new bruises…

The next day I headed into the Edinburgh College of Art to meet some of the students and give a lunchtime talk on my practice. I really enjoyed having the opportunity to chat with the really talented and dedicated students – and staff – all of whom gave me a warm welcome.

Day 14

Anamika spreads out her works to date. Well, most of them, I think… She still has a few tucked away. It’s a curated spread, shall we say?

Most of these are mixtures of enamel – white mostly, with graphite. Yup, the humble  stuff of pencils. It does great things to enamel.

like moon craters, for instance…

It creates bubbbles during firing, after which Anamika has stoned many of these pieces back (rubbed them with an abrasive stone, designed for this purpose, thought more often than not, actually a diamond-coated abrasive pad) to create the crater-like surface.

the first section of her works on square material
the second half - all these works vary between copper and steel substrates
Copper circles; many utilising transparent enamel with just the natural changes that copper undergoes during firing.

Meanwhile, the washers continue. Managed to fire 100 of them today with the grip coat (an undercoat that allows enamel to stick to mild steel better than a coat of regular enamel) and 10 with a coat of a lovely emerald green over that. The green coat is very thin so the green coated washers come across as a hint of green over the dark grip coat. The green comes through more if a coat of white is applied first. I did that with one, but decided I preferred the darker version.

All of this was done by 3pm, when I rushed home in preparation for my trip to Edinburgh.

this hoard the result of yesterday's collecting
Prepare to be blasted!
colour! washers from throughout the week
a curated pile photographed at a jaunty angle

Day 12

Anamika has been in Bristol with Elizabeth since January. She has been working on sample-sized pieces the whole time, testing different techniques and variations, mostly on copper pieces of consistent sizes and shapes.

Her practice prior to this has encompassed many areas, including printmaking and composing large works from confetti-sized slivers of paper (all which she stamped out herself). While in the studio she has used roundels of copper (in a slightly larger format than her paper works of course) on which to experiment. It is easy to see how these parts will be used in the creation of a final work. She plans to take these back to India with her to compose several final pieces with the parts.

While here she has also worked on squares of copper (dimensions approx 100 x 100mm) creating literally stacks of pieces, one by one. It’s a trial and error process, without the error. Each work seems to lead to the next, but also allows her to trial each of the many processes that Elizabeth is familiar with. She is concerned with the weight of works she is making, so has worked on copper shim a lot, and has now begun working on ‘tin’ cans that she has cut apart and sandblasted. This gives her more rectangles of surface to use that are strong but light, as well as the round tin ends.

sandblasted steel 'tin' lid with beads, pre firing. Anamika
Anamika firing the 'lid'
Waiting patiently...

Until coming to enamelling, her works hadn’t really involved metalworking, so seeing how she engages with this material has been really interesting and instructive. I keep telling her she’d make a great jeweller as so many of her pieces remind me of jewellery. Lucky there are some magnets around the place to prove it!

Contrasting works - the piece on the left has has red beads fired into the holes while white and red with a backing coat of white enamel is the treatment of the piece on the right.
Light through the work - she refired the piece to fully cover all the holes
Anamika models her latest work. It's totally jewellery!
Or stained glass... Anamika 2011

I actually get up to some work myself. I have ground down the soil/rust that I shook of the washers yesterday and ‘glued’ it with white enamel onto some grip-coated washers. This is a first coat, later I add another to cover the dark patches. Even then, I’m unconvinced…

ground sand on washers - first layer
the sand + the washers

This is my attempt at drawing on a mug with an ink pen. After drawing the image I had planned to stick sifted enamel onto the ‘wet’ (or at least still tacky) ink. My new calligraphy pen is a bust however, so I’ll probably use a transfer instead.

Ugly Mug - an inappropriate choice of process leaves me with another flop...

And in a photographic mood, I document a couple of studio happenings; first, the liquid enamels setup. There is a permanent container of opaque black, transparent and opaque white enamels in the studio. They are constantly in use.

Studio setup - three liquid enamels, sunning themselves!

And here’s a tip for enamellers: pop a couple of 20p coins (we were short on 20’s, so there ended up being a 2 and a 10) into your sifting enamel if it has a lot of lumps in it. It breaks them down as you sift, meaning no grinding first!

Tips for enamellers: part 1 - currency helps...

Day 11

Big day for observation. First, crossing from Spike Island back to the mainland, an old railway bridge.

View Map

Next, my hunting ground for fallen washers:

On first viewing it may not look like an area rich in creative resources. It took me a week of walking to pick up on it…

Can you see them?

In the wild…

still clinging on…

Then, once I finally got into the studio, the lovely Em was having some panels fired by Elizabeth.

Elizabeth is the only person ‘licensed to drive’ the kiln. In the background there are many examples of enamelled signs.

Em controls the opening of the kiln behind Elizabeth. Firing this beast is a two person job.

Elizabeth gets the lift out of the way pretty quick smart, and the door is closed, for around four minutes, depending on the enamel type, the substrate and the coverage/thickness of the layer.

The mother of all extraction units covers most of the ceiling of this small room.

Then to impress the tourist, they turned out the lights for the removal of the panels:

The panels are out, the lights are on, the room is warming in their heat. The steel trivet still glows a plum colour.

Finally, in amongst all the watching and documenting, I managed to colour up some washers.

Well, I de-coloured first. You have to start somewhere.

Individually painted on different faces. A little time consuming, and on reflection I’m not sure it’s worth the effort…

Small washer, grip coated and porcelain slip dipped. A nice finish, I think.

Day 10

On my walk into the studio today I noticed these;

along the fence that lines part of the path I walk. They are all the way along it.

The grip coat sticks great! Usable as a base material. Ready to add colour tomorrow…

More München

One on of the best shows I saw in Munich was also the last one I went to, which I managed to squeeze in after David Watkins and Wendy Ramshaw’s presentation All About Me at the Pinakothek der Moderne.

Entitled Treasure Hunt, it showcased a range of jewellery, sculpture and furniture works from the KOV studio in the Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design in Prague. As you might expect, I really liked the idea of combining these works into a single exhibition. It’s an idea not without considerable risk, but it was clear that a confident curatorial influence was at work, ensuring that the pieces were of a consistent standard. The furniture works were all executed in a similar, if not the same, unfinished timber material, as were many of the sculptural pieces.

The jewellery works spanned precious and non precious metals, glass, cardboard, coloured pencils, plastic and thread, and exhibited (if I may be permitted to generalise a little) a strong spatial element, as well as an awareness of the body. I’ve managed to find some images here of works from the show. (Of course there is a Klimt02 page also.)

To quote the International Design Museum website, “Although the initials K.O.V. make up the Czech word “metal”, the Studio is the only department of the Academy’s Department of Applied Arts that has no assigned media. In fact, the letters stand for Concept — Objekt — Meaning.” The professor is Eva Eisler, and to give the show it’s full title, is called: Treasure Hunt. Class of Eva Eisler, Prague.

I thought the whole show, small that it was, was really impressive and exciting.  The jewellery works, including two cast glass objects displayed in the charred timber in which they were cast, as well as the ‘tools‘ and much of the metalworking (via here) were really unique and wonderful.

Munich Schmuck 2011

One side of this years list of openings. Iphone photo.

I saw 11 shows yesterday. Started at Helen Britton’s catalogue launch and finished at Peter Skubic at the Pinakothek der Moderne. I even managed to fit in a spot of shopping (and not just catalogues either!)

I’m told there is double the amount of shows this year on last year. I’m not going to make it to them all. Today is dedicated to seeing the Talente and Herbet Hoffman shows at the Messe. Better get to it!