Jan Donaldson

At last I can reveal the "secret project" I have been working on for the last month for "The Contemporary Jewellery Exchange 2015" in which various contemporary jewellers around the world create pieces which they send to each other. I didn't want to reveal what I was making until the recipient, Jan Donaldson in Australia, has received it.

Jan has written and researched extensively on the subject of dolls and puppets - she is a master puppet-maker - and her work very much relates to dolls as carriers of meaning, emotion and memory and I wanted my own piece for her to reflect those interests. For some time, I've had this damaged 'porcelain' doll lying on the bench:

My Iron Lung - TCJE 2015 - WIP - 1


(I thought it was porcelain, but when I came to drill it, it proved to be very hard cast glass!) I can't quite remember where this came from but I've been thinking about giving it some sort of prosthetic limbs to replace the broken ones and this project became the ideal vehicle for it.

The starting-point was the idea of creating a sort of puppet-theatre, rather in the form of my "Cold Genius" and "A Forest" pieces, a box in which a little drama can be played out and again the source material was music, this time Radiohead's "My Iron Lung".

My Iron Lung - TCJE 2015 - Workbook - 2


I can't quite remember why I settled on this song, but the lyrics - especially the lines,

"My brain says I'm receiving pain, 
"A lack of oxygen, 
"From my life support, 
"My iron lung"

modified the idea during the drawing stage into being something more related to the idea of an operating-theatre and the cruciform support for the strings of the puppet morphed into a red-cross on top

My Iron Lung - TCJE 2015 - Workbook - 4


This text also appears on the hinged door on the back of the piece (which allows access to the rear of the doll, access to the brain):

My Iron Lung - TCJE 2015 - 43


The main body of the pendant is made from a piece of corroded steel box-girder and I'm very pleased with the completed piece, which has loads of little details to the chain and the box itself. My favourite element is probably the movable 9ct gold gas-mask on the doll:

My Iron Lung - TCJE 2015 - 32


If you would like to see more photographs of how this came together as well as the details, these can be found here.

I am delighted to be able to report that Jan loves this piece.



BUT, it was an exchange: what did Jan send me?

I received "St. Dauvit: Fragments from the Alter", a startling and impressive piece which I absolutely love, including brass, a found bell, handmade silver dolls, bass guitar strings, handwritten vintage letters and huge brass pins from a defunct textile mill in Sydney:





I am absolutely amazed by this piece, which can be partially dismantled and worn as either a brooch or a pendant and which so perfectly reflects aspects of my own interests and practices and it is fantastic to be able to say that our experiences of this project are such that I am really hoping to meet with Jan in the autumn of this year, either here in Glasgow or in Paris, where she is attending a puppet-making conference.



In terms of other work on the bench, I've been working a lot on my entry for the ACJ exhibition, "Sleight of Hand" for which I have now been selected, completing the watch chain, internal watch chain and the fob:

Pulling Rabbits Out Of A Hat - WIP - 47

Pulling Rabbits Out Of A Hat - WIP - 48

Pulling Rabbits Out Of A Hat - WIP - 67

Pulling Rabbits Out Of A Hat - WIP - 57


The case is currently away having a new glass made and fitted but the whole should be completed very soon.



Last time I was in Brighton, I picked up a pair of horse bits in a junk shop, quite simply on the grounds that they are the perfect size for bangles!

Horse Things


The bit on the right has already been made into a pair of bangles, "Nag Nag Nag" and "Horse Rotovator" - managing to neatly reference 1980s industrial music as well as horses (!) - using the idea of the mediaeval scold's bridle for the forms:

Horse Rotovator - Nag Nag Nag



It is that time of year when the students impress me by showing that they have become real jewellers! Here is a little piece by my student Paula Sloan, a hand-formed anti-clastic raised silver bangle, set with multicoloured sapphires:

Wavy Lines - 2

Wavy Lines - 1


What, Indeed?


I also managed to find time to pop into London to the V&A to take in two phenomenal shows, "Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty" and "What Is Luxury".

The McQueen show is more than just a re-showing of the Metropolitan Museum show of 2011 and is larger, better laid-out and somehow just altogether less cluttered and claustrophobic while offering much more. For me, this is a show of overwhelming sadness about what the world has lost in his passing. I'll be writing up a full review for publication in the ACJ's "Findings" magazine in September. All I have to say is that this is not to be missed.

"What Is Luxury"  is not such a blockbuster but it rather neatly addresses some of the issues which preoccupied McQueen (especially in his last "Horn of Plenty" show), issues about waste, branding, inequality, as well as how talent, skill and concept feed into the idea and does this by creating a fascinating dialogue between different ideas of luxury in the past and projecting those ideas into what could become luxury in the future.

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