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I spent my Saturday doing the most amazing, intense, enjoyable, inspiring and exhausting day of work I think I have ever done. Speedcraft.

Organised by Debbie Bryan Studio & Shop, sixty excited crafters arrived at midday for 3 hours of crafting delights. Split into 6 half hour sessions, they did everything from jewellery making to paper craft to gelatine printing and by all accounts had a fabulous day. From a tutors point of view it was fast, furious and I think it was fun – it went by so quickly it’s hard to be sure. 60 wonderful necklaces were made in my sessions and in total a fantastic 360 creative projects were completed in the day with 5 other amazing tutors – Judith Brown, Stevie Davies, Nikki Dennet, Katie Almond and Phiona Richards. There will be another speedcraft event sometime later in the year – join the mailing list for Debbie Bryan Studio & Shop to keep updated and if I have recovered by then I might just see you there. xx

20130427_102453The tools of the trade.

20130427_115313The first group of ten getting stuck in

20130427_115307The lovely craft room was at The Galleries Of Justice in the Lace Market, Nottingham. With 6 different craft session going on at once it was a noisy day (particularly with all the hammering)

speedcraft1The recycled charm necklace we made

So,the opening night was on Friday and the exhibition will run until June. Here is a small selection of images of some of our final collaborative works. Of course it would be much nicer to see them in person here and you will also see collaborative works from a host of other exceptional artists and makers. The exhibition is fascinating and well worth a visit.

IMG_2473A little set of beads and brooches

IMG_2605small pin cushion

IMG_2692fabric brooch with enamelled button

IMG_2756copper box pendant with needle lace

IMG_2618large pin cushion

IMG_2742long dyed silk necklace with stitching and copper beads

IMG_2669non-functional piece – printed and stamped copper with enamelled button and needle lace

IMG_2520tiny pincushion

Green necklacelong mixed media neck piece

IMG_2777the collection

All photos courtesy of Ruth Singer.

 I have to confess to feeling slightly lost once we had finished off the last pieces for Synchronise. I had a final morning creating with Ruth and we stitched on the last of the brooch pins and pinned on the last few enamelled buttons.

It has been so refreshing to work outside of my normal boundaries, although I do love my day to day making this project has really reminded me that there is more to my creativity and I aim to carry on delving into that.

And it’s not over – we are planning to continue working together and building on this project, including some more site specific work from other locations and some scavenging for fund objects to include. We will also be running a workshop in July at Ruth’s Leicester studio and I am really looking forward to seeing what other people do with the techniques and combinations we have only just begun exploring.

The third stage of my collaborative work with Ruth was to get into the studio and start making some samples and trying things out. As we are both short on time and live some distance apart (she is based here in Leicester) we decided we would each keep to our own discipline and work within that to try out new techniques and more experimental work. Although we both had a little play in each others studios our limited time together meant that we wanted to focus on the ideas of the collection and not so much on the skill sharing – maybe we’ll do that more next time.

sample004We experimented a little bit with using found objects in the pieces but both felt as we were drawing on inspiration from  Calke Abbey it felt inauthentic to incorporate pieces which them selves had no link to Calke.

sample003One the things I loved at Calke was how all the marks of the life and decay of the object had been meticulously preserved. In my metal work I decided to retain all the firestain and solder marks to give  a this beautiful patinated finish. In the same way we decided that leaving thread ends show and leave things unfinished really connected to what had both drawn us to that place.

I also developed this type of simpler and more delicate brooch clasp to make some of the piece wearable – something I have since brought into my other work

sample006Alongside using some imagery from photos we took on our visit Ruth used  natural dying methods like rust, coffee and even beetroot to replicate some of the lovely colours and texture we found there.

stich2Ruth worked on some stunning stitched samples like this one – trapping images, buttons and different printed and dyed fabric to create these rich and layered pieces. By sharing our images of what we were working on individually we found inspiration and new ideas came really easily and working together fed our own creative processes.

From creating these and other samples and experiments we both had a very clear idea of what we wanted the collection to be but no real fixed plan for any of the final pieces. This leads up to what was the most exciting part of the project – distilling all our inspiration, ideas and experiments into a collection of work to really describe the creative  process we had started.

The Synchronise exhibition opens this weekend (Saturday 9th March) and runs until 2nd June at the National Craft and Design Centre in Lincolnshire. It features not only mine and Ruth’s work but eighteen other makers as well, collaborating on a varied selection of projects and products. I’m off to the opening tomorrow night so will finish up this series with images from the exhibition and of course of the finished pieces.

The Synchronise exhibition for which I am working on this new collaborative collection opens in a few weeks (9th March)  so as work on the project begins its last stage I wanted to continue explaining how it all has come together. I’m working with textile talent Ruth Singer to combine our fabric and metal work expertise.

Once the initial site visit was made we both went back to our respective studios for a good think. I don’t always do a huge amount of sketchbook work for every collection but for more conceptual work like this or when I have a hundred ideas swelling around my head I find it really useful to get my thoughts down in the real world. Here are a few of my scribbles to show you how the project evolved…

colours1The colours of calke. With so much of my work being found objects I don’t always get a lot of choice on colour. One of things which struck me most on our visit was the beautiful faded colours; dust, dirt, rust and decay in lovely muted tones.

collage1A little collage of some of the photos I took during the visit. The abbey has a wonderful sense of layered history stretching right up to the present day when the conservations teams aim to preserve the remains of Calke without restoring them.

book3

Calke has a really interesting family history and I was really taken with the stories of the eccentricities threaded through the hereditary lines. There is sense of solitude, isolation and shyness that I wouldn’t normally associate with such wealth and privilage. One of the things I love about Calk  is the sense of loss and displacement. Of things which were once there and are now missing. Unfulfilled potential and a family home with out a family.

book2Looking into combing metal and fabric textural pieces

book1Using sections of images as texture and pattern to make linear pieces.

book4Creating metal frames and boxes to hold tiny fragments of Ruth’s embellished fabric.

The joy of this project is that although I have my own take on what Calke inspired,  working with another artist means our project will be so much more than just my ideas. I’ll start to look at some experimental pieces in the next post and also introduce some of the pieces and ideas Ruth has been working on. You can keep up with our progress by following our Pinterest board too, you can also go back and look at my introduction to the project here.

After a long (and much needed) Christmas break I am finally easing back into life in the workshop. This week I am picking up a project that I started in December and has been bubbling through my brain ever since.

I’m taking part in an exhibition called Synchronise at The National Centre For Craft and Design. The exhibition pairs up members of The Design Factory from different craft disciplines to work on collaborative craft projects. I’m thrilled to be working with a terrific textile artist – Ruth Singer.

Ruth Singer creates one-off textile artworks and products using sustainable and recycled materials inspired by historical textiles, museum objects, personal heritage, memories and stories. Ruth uses hand-stitched construction techniques such as pleating, gathering, appliqué and structured stuffing to create complex surface texture.”

Have a look at her website to find out more about Ruth and what she does.

Although our working materials and styles are quite different our mutual interest in historical objects, vintage ephemera, collections and all things discarded and decayed gave us a solid grounding to start the project. To help us reach inspiration and spark off our project we took a trip to the amazing Calke Abbey in Derbyshire. A stately home gifted to the National Trust in state of disrepair and decay it has been maintained in it’s ramshackle state and in places is one of the loveliest places I’ve ever been.

To start this little series of post on the project here are some of the images I took on our initial visit and which have provided the inspiration for our collaboration.

 

drainage grate

faded distemper wall

servants door with vent holes

kitchen staircase

no public access

hallway

worn carpet

rusted bedstead

taxidermy birds

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

If you want to follow more on the development of this project I will continue posting as we work through it – you can also see our joint pinterest board on the collaboration – a place where we share images and ideas together. Enjoy.

 

There is nothing that makes me happier on a drizzly Sunday morning than a potter around a car-boot sale. I still occasionally pick up little bits and bobs for jewellery but as my business grows I am increasing having to find new ways to acquire enough materials (and that’s a whole other blog post) and so my attention turns to all the other hidden gems lurking on the pasting tables and picnic rugs.

Last Sunday I came across this and knew it was just waiting for me.

This little red diary from 1956 encapsulates everything I find so seductive about the vintage curios and forgotten objects I build my work from. For me this truly is treasure.

It’s nothing special. In 1956 it would have been so ordinary to have been almost un-noticeable. This tiny little book holds fragments of a life lived 56 years ago. Day to day comings and goings of Mrs V. Murphy and to me it’s simply fascinating. There is no note in it of major, dramatic or life changing moments. The entries are so much more than that.

They are a little glimpse into someone’s life, personal, intimate but very domestic and every day. That is the essence of what inspires me and my work. Reflecting that intimate – and often unnoticed – connection people make with objects; watches, jewellery, coins, and keys. These items represent lives lived, memories and a nostalgia and feeling of familiarity and comfort for times I don’t remember.

After following the Lace collection through the design development and the making  processes here are a few of my favourite outcomes from the project. It’s been a wonderful collection to work on and really started me thinking in new directions.

Sterling silver brooch roller printed with fine lace and oxidised. This little brooch is just over an inch wide but gives a lovely image of the lace printing effect. This is using the finer, delicate lace and you can clearly see the pattern in the silver.

This pendant is printed with the same delicate lace and I used a piercing saw to cut around the printed shape including the distortions of the pattern made by the pressure from the rollers.  It hangs on an oxidised silver chain.

Sterling silver roller printed with lace and oxidised. Red cotton thread connects the lace with its mirror image printed into the silver. The red is echoed in the carnelian beads

Two lace printed silver rings. The top one uses the fine lace, the bottom one the thicker design. I kept the rings with a simple wrapped form to  focus on the patterning.

These two pieces are made with lace printed silver beads. I roller printed a thin strip of silver then cut and rolled sections of it to create printed beads in the same style as the rings. Again, they are with gemstone beads and a tied section of lace.

This was one of my favourite prints. The pattern got quite distorted but gave a lovely, abstract quality. It’s simply matched with black onyx beads.

The pieces are on exhibition in the Yard Gallery at Wollaton Hall for every weekend in September. The Draft Room Exhibition features original lace draft drawings and lace inspired work from many talented makers. You can also now see the full collection on my website.

So, here is the second of this three-parter on my lace jewellery collection for the Lace. Here. Now. season. You can go back to my previous post on my design development to see how I started working on the collection and if you have already done that then read on and have a look at what happens next.

I took a few lace samples from the gorgeous selection available at the Debbie Bryan Studio & Shop and settled on experimenting with two distinct types. One is thicker and has a pure white colour and a simple but well defined scalloped pattern. The second is finer, more delicate with a more natural off-white colour and more detailed design. 

To keep with the black, red and white colour palette I sourced some black onyx, carnelian and howlite beads. 

The first step in printing into the silver is to anneal the metal. I use a large flame torch and heat the silver until it is a dull red colour, leave it to cool for 30 seconds and then quench it in cold water. The relaxes the metal and makes it softer and easier to print into. 

The silver is the layered with a section of lace and passed through a rolling mill. The two steel rollers are adjusted to allow the silver and lace to only just fit through. The pressure between them means as the two pieces are rolled through the lace is forced down into the silver and leaves an impression. 

The rolled lace and silver with it’s new impression. You can see that the lace is completely crushed by the process.

Annealed silver with the impression from the finer lace.

One the silver is printed it is pickled in a weak acid  to remove the grey oxidisation caused by the annealing process. The printed side is then coated in a liver of sulphur solution to oxidise the silver to a  strong black colour. Then the silver is rubbed back with a fine wet and dry paper to remove the oxidisation for the surface and reveal the pattern below. It’s then lightly polished to bring up the shine.

In some pieces I drilled holes through the edges of the silver and used red cotton thread to stitch through the holes and connect the silver and lace – the red lines  inspired from the original draughtsman designs.  

I’ll go on to show my favourite pieces from the collection in the third and final post on the collection. If you’d like to leave any comments below I would be really interested to read them.

A few months ago I was asked the marvellous Debbie Bryan to think about creating a possible collection inspired by Nottingham lace for the Lace. Here. Now. season beginning September 2012 which celebrates local lace traditions and their relevance to contemporary craft and design. Of course I jumped at the chance.

I had a good look around her lovely lace market shop and was immediately taken by these large scale draughtsman’s lace designs. The hard black lines with red highlights are not how I typically thought of lace – a lovely contrast to the frilly white cotton I imagined.  Instantly for me they suggested using a roller printing technique – passing the lace and a piece of annealed silver through a pair of high pressure rolls to physically print the pattern of the lace into the metal. The impression is then coated with a sulphur solution which blackens the silver and when sanded back reveals the impression in strong black lines.

I wanted to incorporate fragments of the lace into the designs and keep to the simple colour palette of white/silver, black and red that I had seen in the industry drawings. I combined  the original lace with sterling silver and used a red stitched lines to connect the two. I also wanted to bring in another contrast by using semi-precious beads in carnelian, onyx and white howlite. The smooth shiny stones look wonderful with the soft, clean lace and dark textured silver.

 I’ve found it very satisfying to go back to the beginning with his collection – often my work is very led by the materials and so I don’t do al lot of sketchbook design – I work straight in the materials and experiment with them rather than sketch or plan initial pieces.

I’ll be following this post with a couple more – one on the making process behind the collection and then one on the finished pieces.  If you’d like to see the collection it will be on display at The Draft Room exhibition at The Yard Gallery at Wollaton Hall every weekend during September 2012 and following that will be exclusively available through the Debbie Bryan Studio & Shop in the Lace Market.

 

To avoid personal injury I have finally tidied the studio. It had moved from creative chaos to health hazard so something had to be done. It looked so lovely when I finished that I thought I would take the opportunity to take a few quick photos and talk a little bit about my space and what I do there.

I moved this shelf to make use of the wasted space behind the door. It houses my  jewellery making books, my collection of vintage scissors and my radio – on constantly unless they play Morrissey in which case it is switched off. Immediately. I added some  more hooks along the edge of the shelf to hang finished pieces to keep them safe while they wait for labels. To the left is where I do all my hammering, forming and stamping on my lovely big anvil and a vintage cobblers anvil which I use sometimes to texture the silver. You can see all the little blue boxes of letter stamps on the bottom shelf. There are also two strong desk lamps which are essential when I am using the teeny tiny 1mm high alphabet.

Finished pieces waiting to be labelled.

My inner obsessive likes to keep all my various treasures and trinkets stowed away in these beautiful vintage tins.  I can’t bring myself to add ugly labels so sometimes it’s a bit of hunt to find the tin I’m after.

My soldering bench has had a good scrub down and re-organise. From left to right there is a potters banding wheel on which I have heat proof mats and wire meshes to solder on. Then my red flame torch. I use a plumbers bullfinch torch which has a really big powerful flame. Then an enamelled tin bowl that holds water for quenching hot metal, it’s sitting on top of a vintage glass plate stand. Then there is the sonic cleaner – this cleans the muck and grime of vintage things without using chemicals and most importantly without removing the ‘age’ from the piece. Next to that is my pickling pot – it sits on an old coffee machine to keep it warm when I’m working. Heating the pickle helps it work faster. At the front on the right hand side you can just see the cone of borax sitting in it’s dish. This is ground with water to make flux for soldering.  Yesterday I added the bar on the wall above to hold all my tweezers and various soldering tools.

This mirror stays in the studio to keep it safe. I bought it at a car boot sale for 20p and I absolutely love it. It’s old and battered  and every time I touch it a bit falls off but I think it is beautiful and it’s one of my favourite ever vintage finds.

The window sill next to where I sit quickly fills up with all sorts of odds and ends, unfinished projects, experiments and such. Here are a few half finished entomolgy pendants, a sticks and stones ring waiting to be burnished, a couple of half finished pieces from the collection I made for Debbie Bryan Heritage, a glass dome from a old style car headlamp, two tiny Victorian porcelain doll heads and  a vintage wooden needle case that belonged to my great granny.

Vintage beads and necklace waiting to be used.

Every day tools – vintage hammers, metal ruler, tin snips, ring stick and large file stored in vintage ceramic jars.

 

 

Hello and welcome to the design blog for Alys Power Design. I am a jewellery designer/maker specialising in original and unique pieces hand crafted from vintage and precious materials. My work explores the challenges of forgotten and discarded articles into objects of beauty and value. I work from my home studio in Nottingham, England and sell work through local and national shops and galleries and at regional craft fairs and arts market. More info and online shop can be found on my website www.alyspower.co.uk. xx

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