I've been on holiday and on either side of that holiday, I was exceptionally busy, so it is only tonight that I have managed to get some time to put together a blog post about what has been going on. I can barely believe that it is nearly the end of October and it seems like only yesterday that it was the start of the month and the Craft Scotland conference.
As usual, I was in Brighton for the week and despite this photograph, the weather was broadly awful; cold, wet, windy. On the days when the weather seemed OK, I managed to get up to London to the "Pearls" exhibition
at the V&A.
Unfortunately, I was not able to take any photographs in the exhibition space, which is a great pity as I would really like to have shown the amazing display materials. Yes, I am starting a review of a show with an outline of the display materials! Many of the incredible objects on display were shown in ornate Victorian display-safes, safes which were obviously designed to be used in retail jewellery shops and then, at the end of the day, the display can be pushed backwards and the door bolted. What was so amazing about these safes was that they were highly decorated, gilded, engraved and often with the mechanisms on display. This is making it sound as if the safes detracted from the exhibition, but they didn't. I was just really taken with them.
The show itself is fantastic, starting with a small section on how pearls are formed and harvested and then going through the ages with examples of jewellery and other objects using pearls in a decorative manner. The last section of the show is all about Mikimoto cultured pearls and the final object is a collection of galvanised buckets - slop-pail style - full of low-grade cultured pearls from China. Probably my favourite piece in the show is in the Mikimoto collection and is a very simple scarf made from 5000 perfectly-matched pearls which has been many years in the making.
The main thrust of the exhibition is really about the manner in which pearls have been used throughout history, from Pliny through Charles I (the pearl earring which was on his ear as he was beheaded is on display!), Marilyn Monroe and right up to today with contemporary designs by "Yoko" which are just incredible works, blending the variations in pearl colour to make utterly unique pieces.
There is a rather good book to accompany the exhibition, featuring essays on pearls - history, jewellery, trading, etc. - as well as photographs of works not in the exhibition.
I bought a new camera before heading off to London which boasts a lot of features I've been wanting for a while, especially the ability to stabilise the vintage and manual lenses that I like to use. I'm looking forward to seeing what I can do with it.
On the Thursday, I headed off to Folkestone in Kent with Dingo to visit a small jewellery gallery - Cursley & Bond - where I have some work on display just now as part of their "Darkness Descends" exhibition.
I last visited Folkestone in 2009 when I went to see the Hythe Ossuary and found it to be a bit of a dump. Potentially a very attractive town but very run down and underinvested: how things have changed.
Nicola and Chris opened their shop in the newly-developed "Creative Quarter" of the old high street which runs down to the harbour, an area which has been extensively refurbished and which is attracting a lot of interesting creative businesses, especially people from London who are finding that city just too expensive to work or live in.
The shop is absolutely lovely and is stocked carefully and thoughtfully.
Nicola and Chris are wonderful, warm, welcoming people and it was a pleasure to speak to them about future collaborations, as well as to see the way in which they are acting as catalysts for the newly-developing creative community around them.
I was introduced to potential clients, to a painter, to two pâtissiers - and the best meringues ever
- to a mosaic artist... It was exciting to be in the middle of an environment where everyone was actually doing things, making, creating and doing it successfully.
Folkestone is normally only an hour on the train from London (though it took us four hours to make the return journey to Brighton because of "signalling problems") and there is a real burst of energy about a lot of these semi-forgotten seaside towns because of that. Margate, Hastings and Folkestone are all going through a kind of renaissance which appears to be built around craftspeople making things and providing niche products and services. Long may it continue.
On the subject of "niche", I've been following a new blog, the Grey Fox Blog
, a guide for older men who want to look good without the horrors of attempting to be fashionable. When I was eight or so, I wanted to be about fifty. I have no idea why I fixed on that age, but I thought that it would be great to be able to smoke cigars and wear suits and I probably imagined that everyone at fifty did that. I probably imagined that my father's friends were fifty and they wore suits and could do whatever they wanted to do - even if their tiny imaginations only pushed them in the direction of golf. Now, as I actually approach fifty, I realise that I wasn't wrong. So I don't smoke cigars or wear the sort of off-the-peg suits from chainstores that my father and his friends wore but I do have the odd ability to be able to do more-or-less whatever I want and that includes buying decent clothes.
One of the amazing things about this blog is that the writer manages to find and support craftspeople who are working in the UK and often making from British materials. Since discovering it, I've commissioned a hand-knitted pullover and have bought a new waistcoat from Sir Plus
who make clothes out of scrap fabrics and cravats from Cravat Club
who even weave their own silks!
I'm even more delighted to be able to say that my cufflinks featured on the blog
Of course, I had to make a cravat pin for that cravat...
Other than that, I've been in the workshop, working on a commission piece, "Futurism", based on a song of the same name by Muse. My original plans came to a sticky end when I couldn't bend 8mm tubing into a tight circle, so have had to model it in Rhino and cast the tube in sections!
More on this piece later.