New Beginning

Well, 2015 was a great year. It started with a week at the Goldsmiths’ Centre learning all things business, and meeting makers from across the country who I will continue to keep tabs on for the rest of my life. And continued the year by developing new work for New Designers: One Year On and Goldsmiths’ Fair. I walked away from the Goldsmiths’ Craft and Design Council Awards with two accolades in my hands, in particular a joint award with Nan Nan Liu and Hazel Thorn presented by the Worshipful Company of Gold and Silver Wyre Drawers. I was able to use an Entreprise Initiative Grant from the University of Edinburgh to travel to the 2015 Society of North American Goldsmiths Conference in Boston where I exhibited my work and met so many amazing people. And I was also able to use a grant from Creative Scotland to travel to Italy to study alloying gold with Giovanni Corvaja in a blazingly hot July, as well as travelling to the Isle of Iona to do some visual research in a stark and windy November. I took part in the first annual Elements Fair, here in Edinburgh, organised by the Incorporation of Goldsmiths and Lyon and Turnbull Auctionhouse, which was an amazing affair which can only become more amazing as it grows. I made my first appearance at Goldsmiths’ Fair, which was an amazing experience that was more than I could have hoped for. I met so many amazing makers and supporters of our field. While I have been here I have also had the pleasure of helping to set up exhibitions for both Craft Scotland and Visual Arts Scotland, and have loved meeting and working with the wonderful people who keep these organisations running. I finished up a yearlong residency at Edinburgh College of Art that I was sad to say goodbye to but have really enjoyed getting to know all the lovely people at Process Studios.

2016 is a new adventure. So far this year I have enjoyed invigilating the Exhibiting Societies of Scottish Artists three annual exhibitions in the Royal Scottish Academy building, as well as helping to hang the jewellery for the Visual Arts Scotland exhibition, which is always so much fun! I have held on to old friends and made so many new ones while preparing to leave the country. I got in contact with Karen Wallace, a wonderful engraver, who is exhibiting at Goldsmiths’ Fair for the first time this year! She taught me to engrave and I enjoyed spending my Saturdays with her for three months. I am continuing to engrave, because I love it! It’s a skill I should have learned eons ago. I took a ten week physics for dummies class at the University’s Lifelong Learning programme, which was great and a little silly all at the same time! And I finally figured out how to go to the gym regularly, although I’m struggling with that at the moment. Most importantly I purchased tickets and attended the Harry Potter and the Cursed Child play in London’s West End in previews which was amazing. I have now moved back to the states which is involving a lot of stress and craziness, but the end of the tunnel is near and I am looking forward to the future. I have witnessed a good friend’s wedding and my little cousin’s first birthday and my Grandmother’s 80th birthday and life is good.

I have loved all the people I have met in the UK and have had so much fun at all the events, fairs, exhibition openings and projects I have been a part of while I was there. Hopefully I will be back in the next few years to visit and say hello. So I just want to say THANK YOU! For making the time I spent in Great Britain amazing.

Iona

Silence and solitude.

Was what I planned for the week. I wasn’t necessarily thinking wind and rain. Fortunately I don’t mind a bit of rain. The wind, however, was a bit out of hand. It was so strong that half the days I was on Iona the ferry to Mull was cancelled. I was forced to stay an extra day because of the wind, but did not mind so much.

Even when the weather was crazy there was a picture window I could sit in and experience the rain and wind without getting wet or windblown (although I got plenty of that as well, when I was outside). I had an excellent view out west to the dramatic atlantic weather and breathtaking sunsets:

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Even though I was there for a full week I only really had five days outside, and most of that was still in the wind and rain. But I made it to the South, West, East and North coasts as well as the Abbey. I even visited the wee jewellery gallery, Aosdana, and met the owner and jeweller who was amazing, and I hope I will have some work to show her soon from my experience on Iona.

SOUTH

I went south first because I wasn’t keen to go into town straight away. I had just come from a very busy period in Edinburgh and was ready for some quiet. It threatened hard rain in the afternoon, so I tried very hard to make it back before being soaked, which didn’t work too well. It was a good walk to the South Coast, and there weren’t any houses after a fashion so it felt very isolated. On the coast you could see other islands farther south, mostly just Soa, but I’d like to think on a clearer day you could even see Colonsay or Islay.

I wanted to get new research from this trip, but that first day, and well, I guess the whole time, I struggled not to take photos of heather. I love heather in the autumn when all the purple has bleached out of the flowers and they start turning a light brown, and you can see the red of the branches coming through. As I’ve been leaning on the research I did during my degree for the past couple years I haven’t looked closely at heather in awhile and it was refreshing!

WEST

NORTH

ABBEY (EAST)

And of course, I had one last beautiful sunrise before I left.

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This trip to Iona was supported generously by Creative Scotland, as part of a larger project of Research and Development.

End of an Era and a trip to Beautiful Italia

NB: A version of this post was published by Findings Magazine in Autumn 2015.

ABSTRACT: I have come to appreciate the importance of Scottish heather as a significant fixture in the landscape of Scotland. Heather is, like titanium, lightweight, strong, durable, and springy. Colour and pattern are integral to my work and are developed through close study of plants and created by the attributes of titanium. As my work continues to develop, I have incorporated more gold, which historically held its own role in the ever-changing Scottish landscape. I find the disparity between gold and titanium to be fascinating and continue to work on this relationship.

I have spent the last year doing a residency at Edinburgh College of Art. I did my MFA at ECA and it was good to stick around for another year developing new work and a distilled version of my degree work. Over the year I have been creating for exhibitions, developing new collections and most importantly working with students.

I decided to do the residency because I was not ready to lose the equipment and environment that were so important to me as a student there. I also wanted to get into teaching and the residency was a great way to do that. I spent my one day a week with the first or second year students sometimes teaching them hand-skills and sometimes discussing their design ideas with them. In January I started to focus on creating the outline for a workshop particularly dealing with how to colour titanium which has been my research focus since my final year in my undergraduate degree at Skidmore College. I was able to deliver this workshop in May and was happy to see how many students really were interested in working with titanium.

In order to fully prepare for teaching about it, although I know in practice quite a bit about titanium I thought I should put together something a bit more thorough. I made a trip to the Goldsmiths’ Hall library in London to see what resources they had about the history of titanium jewellery. It was a wonderful trip the librarians at Goldsmiths’ Hall are really helpful and knowledgeable. I spent the day going through old photographs and articles, some from Findings itself on the history of titanium in art-jewellery and enjoyed reading about the scandal of introducing mixed metal hallmarking.

While at ECA I applied for and was awarded a grant from Creative Scotland for research and professional development. This grant allowed me to travel to Italy back in July to study alloying with Giovanni Corvaja. My period of research is not quite over though; I am looking forward in the next couple of months to a trip up to Iona in Scotland to spend some time researching and experiencing the Scottish landscape in order to build up my sketchbook resources and spending some time with Karen Wallace in her studio in Edinburgh to learn hand engraving techniques. My current work is mostly made of titanium which is a relatively modern material, I wanted to bring more traditional techniques into it to more fully connect to the historical jewellery forms I am so fascinated by.

 

So I travelled to Italy this summer during the hottest week of the year in Todi, Italy. Todi is between Florence and Rome, its’ nearest big city is Perugia. The towns in the Umbrian region are all on the top of hills, so when you get to the city limits there are always stunning views across valleys. The weekend I spent in Perugia was the big jazz festival’s final weekend and the city was crowded with jazz musicians, dancers and enthusiasts. It was very alive.

Todi is quiet in comparison to Perugia. A town full of beautiful old churches and history. Everyone in Todi seemed to know Giovanni.

There were four of us studying with Giovanni that week. We all had very different ideas of what we wanted to learn from him which made it an excellent environment. A girl from Brazilia, A german living in America, an italian girl living in London and me. Five days goes by very quickly.

Our first day we really just talked. It was very fluid though, not like Giovanni was lecturing, but he was definitely imparting knowledge. Our second day we did a lot of maths and a lot of melting of our properly measured alloys. The third day was all about drawing down wire. It was really the fourth day that we split into our four directions. I definitely felt over the five days that I had learned secrets that will change the way I work with metal forever.

The reason I went to work with Giovanni was to learn how to alloy. When working with titanium I have a nearly endless choice of colours to use and can create a range or a change in colour through the piece. I wanted to use more gold in my work, but keep the colour changes. With Giovanni I was able to create a range of colours in gold with different ratios of metals. Each of these alloys have very different properties and uses. I am still working through this research, but I was able to create this chain pictured, which is based on previous designs in titanium but made entirely in 18 ct gold. I am hoping in time that my designs will develop relating the two colour ranges, using gold and titanium together. While the colours in gold are subtler than those in titanium they do seem to work well together.

While I am no longer at ECA I am hoping that the year I spent there has taught be how to balance creating for selling and personal research. I am looking forward to continuing my research into historical techniques and balancing them with the much more modern use of the material titanium. And in the meantime encouraging students to explore how they can use titanium in their work.

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The trip to Todi and the skills learned there are part of a larger project which was generously supported by Creative Scotland.

What are Men to Rocks and Mountains?

What are men compared to rocks and mountains? (Or carriages that work?) Even, or should I say especially, in the rain.

One forgets, when living in a magical place–read: Edinburgh–that the place is magical. It makes me wonder whether the idea of practical magic is more powerful than it would be if it existed. But more to the point, I am at Betty’s Tea Rooms in Ilkley and I am remembering part of the reason I moved to this country: ADVENTURE! Well, along with tea and pikelets. I wanted to continue to experience the magic of proper tea and exquisite views that I had the chance to experience previously. Epic contemplation. When left only your own thoughts in a landscape that suggests the unimportance of man it is difficult not to be amazed.

What are men and what difference can one man make when the movements and sheer size of rocks and mountains are so incredibly larger than one man?

Well it puts life in perspective in any case. I love history. I always answer when asked, “What made you move to Edinburgh?” that it is the incredible amount of history here that brought me here. But what people don’t hear in my answer is by “HISTORY” I mean the incredible movement of rocks, mountains, glaciers, water. I mean volcanoes and continents. Britain has so much history. I also mean queens and kings, wars and jewels, myths and legends, but these could not have come along if not for the movement and epic-ness of the landscape.

I once went to Glastonbury too see the fabled “Avalon” which is a great example of how the land created legend. Iron and Calcite in the soil of the Tor as well as the holy thorn tree in the cloisters of the cathedral created the basis for myths to thrive in the area.

I walked up to Ilkley’s Cow and Calf rocks this afternoon and although I know of no superstitions associated with them, there is no denying that awesome power they have over humans. The simple fact that they have anthropomorphic nicknames includes them in society’s history. And it cannot be denied that their existence reminds of a time when glaciers tore up the land creating hills and valleys.

On the cow I found a ‘tag’ carved into the stone dated back to the late 19th century. Which is not all that peculiar given that the Victorians were obsessed with epic landscapes. But over the years more and more travellers have carved their names into this timeless, awesome landscape.

What are men compared to rocks and mountains? Why is this sentiment so striking and memorable when read in Pride and Prejudice? I feel as if it is a sentiment that is remarkably British. The American west and even bits of the east are equally  awe-worthy, never mind the heights of the Alps or the fjords of Finland. I think it has to do with the rain.

Rain allows the Brits to be melodramatic and gothic about their landscape. It tends to add drama to an otherwise sleepy village. But I think it also adds awe. Mountains and Valleys are  instrumental in the movement of weather. They affect air pressure, wind direction and speed. They can stop clouds in their tracks or redirect them. The are formed and changed by water, but also hold water that then becomes clouds.

So, in short, this is why I moved to Britain: So I could sit in Betty’s and write about why I love Britain. Or because the landscape and the people form a coexistence that encourages epic contemplation.

16: An Exhibition of Scottish Artists in Residence

Last Thursday the Lighthouse in Glasgow entertained a host of Jewellers and friends who came together to celebrate the work created in the last year of 16 Artists in Residence at Scottish Schools. I was ecstatic to see so many of my close friends exhibiting new and exciting work!

The show was organised and coordinated by Sally Morrison, who put her heart into making the show the best it could be. I was happy to see new work from her, featuring large aluminium cast shapes combined with cut leather.

Check out the show until 1 June 2014 at the Lighthouse in Glasgow! These are the jewellers of now and they’re doing some cool stuff!