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After having a, quite frankly, wonderful year away from the jewellery bench doing this
it is time to get back to reality and back to work. I have done a few practice craft fairs and some new collections and designs are starting to develop. It is lovely to be back in my sunny little studio and to be making again. I am shocked to see this is my first blog post in over a year – the time has just flown by but I am ready to start making again.
The website has been completely revamped and is now well worth a visit, and I’m planning a workshop day in September . The bigger and more terrifying news is that in the Autumn I will be starting on a two year Masters in Contemporary Craft at Nottingham Trent. I am so excited to step back a little and explore my work and my creativity and so although I will be doing fewer fairs and exhibitions over the next couple of years there will be lots of gorgeous new work being made. I will still be accepting commissions and orders through the website – so please do get in touch if you don’t see me out and about in my usual haunts. But for now it is time to get organised – mother, maker and now student, I think I am going to be pretty busy from now on.
This calls for new stationary.
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.
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.
We 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.
One 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
Ruth 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…
The 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.
A 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I am so excited about this. Really. So excited. And I have been dying to tell you about it and when this lovely package dropped through the letterbox this morning it just seemed like the perfect time to do it.
Selected pieces from my collections will now be available to buy from madebyhandonline.com!! This wonderful website is a maker focused on-line gallery where you can view and buy everything from ceramics, glass and textiles to sculpture, prints and of course wonderful jewellery.
This is what they say about it…
“Madebyhandonline.com aims to make it easy to buy what you really want. Our collection represents a highly selective mix of the finest makers from UK and Ireland, with an enviable group of jewellers, ceramic artists, furniture makers, textile designers and fashion accessory makers as well as beautiful pieces made from glass, willow, metal and leather. We’re so pleased to be working with so many fabulous makers of contemporary craft and hope you will join us in supporting and promoting their incredible skills.”
For me it is a huge compliment to be selected to sell alongside makers I have known of and respected for many years and I am really proud to be part of it and looking forward to finding lots of new customers through them. And if I happen to buy one or two gorgeous little things while browsing their site then I will call it research – and surely that’s tax deductible right?
It’s nearly a month since the jewellery making day at The Debbie Bryan Studio & Shop. Looking back at the images now I’m reminded of what a really lovely day it was. Despite the hot weather (remember that weekend of sun?) and the noise (10 ladies with hammers are quite deafening) it was a really creative and inspiring experience. As a maker it was really interesting to introduce people to the techniques and methods behind my work and see how they responded. I am very used to talking about themes and materials in the final pieces but this was the first time I really explained the processes and steps I go through to get to the finished piece. All the participants were really open to new techniques and eager to get their hands dirty and once the safety glasses were on and the ear plug in they made some fantastic pieces. It was fascinating to see how using my familiar tools and methods every one managed to create something unique and personal and completely different to my own work. In both classes – stamped bracelets in the morning and recycled necklaces in the afternoon- every person made a beautiful and wearable piece and it was enormously satisfying to see them all going home wearing their creations.
So, thank you ladies for an wonderfully inspiring, inventive and enjoyable day. I am really looking forward to the next one.
Some of the lovely comments left on the day…
‘Fantastic workshop. Very easy to learn and great fun’
‘Thanks for a fun and informative workshop. I’m looking forward to showing off my bracelet to friends and whoever else will look’
‘Really enjoyable – loved learning all the new techniques’
‘Really great fun to go home with a unique piece of jewellery – what’s not to like? Thanks Alys’