GRIMA - 1

My first real awareness of "contemporary jewellery" came when I worked for John Gilchrist in his small workshop in Bothwell, the Lanarkshire village where I spent most of my formative years. You wouldn't really be able to describe John's work as "contemporary" in the sense we understand it today: it was modern, artisanal, interesting but not challenging in any way. No boundaries were pushed.

I worked for John intermittently for a number of years from when I was about 14, doing what I thought was a summer-holiday job and never suspecting that it would become a career. One day when I was at a loss for things to do, I was given a most unusual piece: a pendant made of thin sheets of heavily textured gold which were formed into waves and hung longitudinally in roughly graduated lengths. The waves were soldered together where they touched and the whole was set with deep green tourmaline crystals. My job was to effect a repair where two of the sheets had split - it looked like some careless person had stood on it - and the pendant had come in two.

This was an interesting job as it was far from straight-forward: the tourmalines had to be unset and the surfaces cleaned and this was the first time I had ever tried investment soldering - where investment plaster is used to hold the pieces together while soldering (today I would use my PUK welder!).

It turned out that I was working on a piece by Andrew Grima the legendary British/Italian jeweller who wowed "swinging London" with his revolutionary sculptural jewellery, using massive textured metal and fine gemstones alongside raw minerals and rocks. I never forgot that piece and looked out for more. Though I never got to handle another, I became fascinated by his work, seeking it out in exhibitions and galleries and even occasionally in auction catalogues.

Cut to the beginning of the week, 17th of March, 2014... A comment on Twitter mentioned that Francesca Grima - Andrew Grima's daughter - had been featured in GQ magazine for this month and that she has opened up a new "Grima" shop in London once more. Unable to contain my excitement, I looked up the Grima website for more details and was blown away by her own interpretations of her father's style. I also noticed that there was a privately-printed, limited-edition monograph of Andrew Grima's work and sent off an email asking if it was still available. To my enormous joy, back came an email from Francesca herself, offering me a copy which duly arrived on Thursday. (It would have been Wednesday but someone in the mailroom couldn't be bothered dragging the huge parcel up to my workshop, I think!)

GRIMA - 4


What I was not prepared for was the incredible treat in store for me just inside the front pages:


GRIMA - 2


An original Andrew Grima paint-up for a tourmaline earring, included by his wife, Francesca's mother, as a beautiful surprise:


GRIMA - 3


This is, without a doubt, the most wonderful and unexpected gift I have ever received.

Andrew Grima - without knowing it - was a major influence on my own work, his monumental cocktail rings; his jewellery for men; his use of crusted textures and the abandon with which surfaces are scattered with gems; his joyful use of colour. More importantly, perhaps, is the fact that he made me realise that "contemporary jewellery" and "fine jewellery" are not necessarily in opposition. When I was learning to be a bench jeweller, the European minimalists - Kunzli, Meierhoffer et. al. - were on the rise, often wilfully rejecting traditional jewellery techniques in favour of concept. Grima's work was modern (modernist, even) but firmly rooted in the traditions of "fine jewellery" and the joy he plainly found in using precious metals, sensuous textures, beautiful gemstones and riotous colours was very much part of that tradition, building on it, blowing it open, pushing it forward with the confidence of an artist who knows that he has nothing to prove, no agenda to further.

As I said in an email to Francesca, "I will stop now before I become a gushy fan-boy"... but I think it might be too late!



Back to my own workshop now and I have leapt ahead in the production of the final part of my Alexander McQueen tribute, "Fashion:Victim", the second ball/handbag, "Before The Fall". This has been a somewhat stressful undertaking as there are some 350 separate elements making it up, all having to be assembled in the correct order, starting with the setting of the carved prasiolites on the stars, affixing the stars and then starting on the snake element. I missed out photographing a number of those stages so here they are, condensed into one:


Fashion:Victim - In Memoriam ALMcQ - WIP - 138


I then started attaching the other supports and leaves for the floral elements, which included about a dozen flowers which had to be attached directly:


Fashion:Victim - In Memoriam ALMcQ - WIP - 139


I also took delivery of the pomegranate element which will hang from the mouth of the snake, stone-set by one of my students, Inness Thomson:


Fashion:Victim - In Memoriam ALMcQ - WIP - 146


Fashion:Victim - In Memoriam ALMcQ - WIP - 148


Inness is an exceptional stone-setter. This wouldn't look anything near as good if I had attempted it myself! It is set with rhodolite garnet "seeds" and the top is set with Mali and Tsavorite garnets, orange and yellow sapphires, zircons and spinels.

At the end of the day today, the whole piece looked like this:


Fashion:Victim - In Memoriam ALMcQ - WIP - 142


Fashion:Victim - In Memoriam ALMcQ - WIP - 145

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A modern metalsmith/metal artist can be found working in traditional metals as well as in nontraditional materials. The designs can range from the classic to the extravagant, and the techniques can either be centuries old or decidedly current.

The wide range of expression preferences, design options, materials, and processes has lead within our field to unfavorable misconceptions, misunderstandings and in some cases even outright disdain between artists. Can the metal and jewelry field overcome its division and send out a much-needed signal?

We appreciate and respect our historical past and acknowledge that current materials have a rightful place in jewelry/object making!

Arriving at this message is the goal of this traveling exhibition opening at the SNAG conference in Boston 2015, Velvet da Vinci, San Francisco, CA - Aug 19 - Sept 20, 2015, Equinox Gallery, San Antonio, TX - Oct 16 - Nov 15, 2015, Baltimore Jewelry Center, Baltimore, MD - Dec 11, 2015 - Jan 08, 2016, Brooklyn Metal Works, Brooklyn, NY - Feb 5 - Mar 4, 2016, Thomas Mann's Gallery I/O April 1 - June 25, 2016.

DETAILS on exhibition premise, call for artists, submission guidelines.....

OFF TO THE RACES:

Rachel and Brigitte got started on their own cooperation. Follow along and comment.

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Instill - Material Matters 2014 - The School of Jewellery at Birmingham City University, UK

INSTILL- material matters offers an opportunity to experience the recent works by MA postgraduates from The School of Jewellery at Birmingham City University, one of the most important and internationally renowned contemporary jewelry programs in Europe.

Crafthaus has been privileged to show work from the graduating jewelry classes of the Birmingham City University for the past 5 years in a row. Thank you Professor Astfalck for this wonderful opportunity!

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