Interdisciplinary. Community. Advocacy. Humor.
That was a week so jammed with things to do that I'm still reeling. It all started on Tuesday evening when I had three different, sequential events to go to, first of these being one of the School of Jewellery's intermittent lecture series, "Talking Practice" which was given by Bharti Parmar.
Birmingham based Parmar is a force to be reckoned with, slyly humorous and fiercely intelligent, she works in a variety of media, most notably human hair. Her work touches on jewellery and the value of jewellery materials but she is not a jeweller.
Although she talked about her other work, bridging fine-art and craft - including marquetry - the main focus of her discussion and the main point of interest for me was her work on a carpet made from human hair, entitled "Shag". Shag took 9 months to make and is really rather beautiful: there is a definite sense of repulsion to the piece but at the same time, it has a ravishing luxuriance.
The use of colour across the piece is subtle and beautiful and it was a real pleasure to hear her speaking about it.
You can see Bharti Parmar's work on "Shag" here:
As she said herself, "You can find it on YouTube by searching for 'Shag Bharti Parmar'"!
I didn't get to the reception for Bharti as it was off to the Assay Office to meet with colleagues old and new for the opening of the British Society of Enamellers exhibition "Enamoured" at the Birmingham Assay Office.
The new Assay Office in Birmingham has a beautiful reception area which has been designed specifically for exhibitions and I think that this might be the first major show that they have hosted there.
In addition to the work by the contemporary enamellers, there are also displays of work by traditional enamellers old and current; some historic pieces along with pieces made more recently in Birmingham where there is still an industry doing very high-quality fine enamelling, such as this chain by Thomas Fattorini:
It was interesting to see some of the pieces where the enamel has been used in a fine-art context:
I always really like enamel and get excited by exhibitions like this, think that I must learn to enamel properly and then dismiss the idea rapidly when I remember what a hassle it all is! Hats off to enamellers!
Next up on my very own "Super-Tuesday" was the BA Jewellery and Related Products annual Christmas selling show where they make and sell work - selling rather a lot this year - in order to raise money for, I think, a trip to Munich Jewellery Week. I rushed across the city to Centrala in the somewhat derelict end of Digbeth.
Centrala is a cafe and arts venue which has a large upstairs exhibition and performance space in which the show was hosted. Unfortunately, some of the lighting had failed but the students used their 'phones as torches for a more intimate experience!
The quality of the work was, as usual, excellent and highly inventive. There wasn't anything this year that really spoke to me as a "must buy" but I was tempted by these remarkable fish pendants by Yuwei Yu:
And these recycled wood pieces by Kwami Durojaiye:
One of my own ex-students, Tilly Wright was exhibiting her work, which I forgot to photograph:
She is working with silver and blackened wood, using rather beautiful abstracted human forms.
Wednesday was full of work meetings and then it was off to London to speak at the GIA about my practice. I walked past one of my favourite shop-fronts anywhere:
An umbrella shop!
The talk went down well and I had taken a handling collection, which always goes down well if there is time after the talk.
Thursday brought a visit to Coventry, where I met up with Steve Snell - you may recall that his Dual Works company made a lot of furniture for my house when I moved to Birmingham. Steve works with the Automotive Design department at Coventry University and the workshops are incredible!
This was one of those moments where I realised that this is a real job that someone has to do and that people have to learn to do it. It was also great to hear that the employment prospects for these students are good. Something tells me that this prototype from the woodwork shop might not make it:
I was reminded of this...
Coventry is a remarkable city in many ways. Unlike the Brutalist autotopia of Birmingham, the post-war bombed-out centre of the city was reconstructed with a very British modernism, a quietly confident, modest modernism on a human scale and the optimism of that architecture can still be felt. After the university visit, we went for dinner to a remarkably well-preserved vestige of that style, Drapers' Bar. I can find absolutely no information about this place but I am guessing that it is a late 1950s or early 1960s interior - or maybe a superb pastiche, but I doubt it - and is actually worth seeking out to experience.
The food is good too.
I was in Coventry to go to The Herbert for the Craftspace-curated "Made in the Middle" exhibition, for which I have spent the last 8 or so months making new work and for which Craftspace - Emma Daker and Deirdre Figueiredo in particular - deserve all the praise that can be heaped upon them.
Made in the Middle is an exhibition of around 30 makers who are based in the Midlands. I applied at the very last minute on a suggestion from my colleague Anna Lorenz and was amazed to be accepted, having only moved to the Midlands 3 months previously! The show is beautifully-balanced, exceptionally well-curated and has a really wide and varied range of work in a variety of media.
John's satirical political automaton demands a video:
My own work was displayed like industrial archaeology, which was really pleasing:
A visit to one of the real old-school jewellers in the Jewellery Quarter, Tom Alcott.
Tom is 83 and works in his tiny workshop in the quarter every day. He is hidden away from the throngs down a mysterious alley:
Tom is one of the people who makes the Jewellery Quarter so unique and thrilling.
I'm going to invite him into the School to comment on the HND Level 5 fine jewellery project in the early spring of next year.
As we were leaving, he suggested we have a look next door at the diamond mounter, Mr Gadd. He is older than Tom and cycles to work every day. These people are utterly inspirational (ignore the calendars!).
|Pave-setting tiny diamonds without a lens or microscope. Impressive.|
Today was much calmer. Went to the "Bearwood Handmade" craft fair about which I had initially been a bit dubious but this was not at all the sort of thing I had expected.
The quality of work was really high and it was much more than just the usual beaded crap calling itself 'jewellery'. In fact, there was NO beaded crap calling itself jewellery but a couple of good jewellers working in precious materials, a blacksmith, ceramics, food products of various types, paintings, prints and textiles.
I was really taken with Derek Lilley's altered book art.
I bought one which could have been cut specifically for me: jewellery tools, a camera, barbering, clothes, food, a bloke with a big beard and policemen on stilts...