28 February 2009

Wooden but convincing

Wooden food from german toy makers Erzi.
I think these are brilliant because of the strange tension between realism and abstraction.
Each item is very obviously mass-produced; lathe-turned; with total radial symmetry- which is unlike most natural objects, and seems clunky. And yet, there is a simple attention to detail that suggests the real thing; the colouring of the courgettes, with even the slight pale marks  (from the wood grain creating inconsitancies in the uptake of the dye) are exactly like a courgette! The onions have a dead-straightness, with just an insensitive slot-cut to represent the leaves, yet the fuzzy string for the roots and the general effect is very lively!
Each one is like a little wooden poem; they've worked out how to say quite a lot about a vegetable with very little, and have not hidden the evidence of manufacture.

26 February 2009

23 February 2009

Black Circle

The graphic gravity of the black disc... it keeps turning up in things I like...
Its the opposite to the sun I guess- the black hole maybe? But here Im not reading it as a hole, more like a strong mark or emblem? The off-white background is of utmost importance too.
Am I just seeing a deep dark eye on some primal level? I dont know... maybe... Ive been observing my wife Alice and new-born Joseph staring into each others eyes...very lovely.

1. Fitting! Bruno Munari's book 
( via amazon)

2.Swallow-tail pennant ( couldn't find a real one) from the old Black Ball shipping line 
( see Racers of the Deep by my grandpa)

3.Dieter Rams' L2 speakers. Very tidy. A great designer, funny how he plays Design Moses with his design commandments though! More on Rams later...

4. from the line and shape king;
  Geoff McFetridge, from the exhibition Two Lines Align 
He's the best!

5. and most beautifully; from the Tokyo Museum collection, an extraordinary vessel . Not sure if its a deliberate decoration or a random kiln- blackening serendipity... the sfumato edge is really pleasant. (jomon period??)

19 February 2009

Rom Rye


The Romany Rye , by George Borrow, 1857.
 A kind of 'embellished' autobiography, we could say- which apparently confused readers of the day as to the verity of the content... but never mind that. 
 Partly a road-story, George wanders the highways and back roads of England meeting with high adventure. He befriends various Gypsies, associating with them and learning their ways. They dub him the 'Romany Rye', which means 'the gypsy gentleman'. They found him to be a curious character, being more accustomed to presecution and ostracism from the more 'civilised' elements of society, than to this well-educated and gentlemanly gorgio, who actually enjoyed their company and mucked in with them. George was particularly engrossed in learning their singular language.
Here is the 'Idea'; there are contrasts or dualisms in this story that I admire, that are summed up in the shortened title :
"Rom Rye"
Its a good way for a person (or an object...) to be; Borrow could speak many languages, translated classic literature, and worked for a law firm, but could also make a horse shoe from scratch and enjoyed roving about in the country. (see pic: "I am a person of primitive habits")
Something or someone could be called 'Rom Rye', if has a good balance of duality; the rustic and the refined. 'Two kinds of happiness', as DeBotton would put it.

Still it must be said that Borrow was somewhat of a misfit- he didnt really fit in to society, nor was he truly a Gypsy- although by his account they would have accepted him.
Therein lies the problem of being neither one thing nor the other. 

18 February 2009

Azechi Woodblock

¡Favorite Artist!
 Umetaro Azechi. I love hanga style woodblock print-making, especially Onchi, Munakata and of course Azechi. He really stuck to a theme; that of mountaineering, and all that exists in that realm ( ...mostly barren scapes, birds and bearded climbers...). Its like he used that narrow subject to say all kinds of things. 
 Something in the process of printmaking gives an intangible mystery to the image; its to do with the indirectness of the mark-making, it is somehow really appealing. It is indirect, yet raw at the same time: the simple expressive hand-carving is often still evident in the print. I think the print would always be better than the original drawing. Even the actual wood blocks are beautiful objects in themselves,  if one comes your way, keep it!

(All this is a bit contrary to what I have said about loss of directness (and therefore quality) through over-process in metalwork. Somehow woodblock printing reconciles this dilemma to brilliant effect... its the balance that's important) 

17 February 2009


Trianglism in the workshop...these are some of my earrings on the triangle theme- flat and very flat colour- very direct. Thinking about triangles... well they can be pointy! And certainly a very strong graphic. I dont attach any symbology though. The shape simply is a great counterpoint to the ear; a plane focussing up to the lobe ( or is that away from the lobe?)

About Paint

Brooch; Silver and Paint, 2005 David Neale

"Paint records the most delicate gesture and the most tense. Paint is a cast made of the painter's movements, a portrait of the painter's body and thoughts.
To a non-painter, paint is uninteresting and faintly unpleasant. To a painter, it is the life's blood: a substance so utterly entrancing, infuriating, and ravishingly beautiful that it makes it worthwhile to go back into the studio every morning, year after year, for an entire lifetime."

16 February 2009

Ten Years of Shim

¡Ten Years Ago!
Brooch, Silver and enamel paint, circa 1999-2000.

Around '98-'99, I started to make things from thin silver sheet, handling the material energetically and as expressively as I could (albeit a fairly subdued sort of expression- not angsty at all!).
I had started painting on metal a little before this, but it was mainly in a quite neat, consistent style- just like industrial coating really. This was different; scumbley, painterly, a bit more sensitive. The form, an imaginary large-leafed plant, was, to my thinking totally divergent from the sculptural/industrial/Minimalist/design-oriented silversmithing of the 80's-90's. (I'm certain that there is/was a bit of prejudice against the figurative/ representative. It has always felt like a 'risky' path). The German art-jewellers were becoming more sensitive at this time, and this was a distant yet persuasive influence for me.
This piece is quite large, as far as brooches go, about as big as a hand; I enjoy suggesting volumes with the thin material. Possibly the size might seem challenging for the wearer, but I believe it works!  There are those opposite qualities (that I always go on about) reacting in this piece, which make it work, I think; un-specific yet familiar form; precious material, but handled with asperity, large volumes, but delicately defined, and painted an un-earthly colour, in an inconsistent manner (unlike the spray-paint paradigm of industry).
I've realised over the years of making many similar brooches that what I'm really driving at, is not to do with botany (there's a lot of that kind of jewellery out there now), but expression in the surfaces, and a kind of graphic communication- an arrangement of planes and modulated colours.

14 February 2009

THE Metalsmith's Question

"What makes one piece [of jewellery] live and another die?"
(attributed to Hermann J√ľnger- more on him to come...)

Somehow something dies when one 'works' a piece too much. Sometimes lively ideas get rolled, sanded and polished away by too much process. I fear that in metalwork, this happens more than with other media. There are so many techniques to master, to learn, to use. You know what I mean, dont you?- we've all lost that intangible 'something' at some time, by trying too hard. I try to let go- to just 'do stuff' with the material, without freezing my ability with anxiety (expensive material can really make you afraid of failure!). The above brooch was made as immediately as I could; roughly ingotted gold, rolled thick, design snipped out just quickly with scissors and blobbily soldered together. Details stamped. Done. It felt really good.
The motif is a bolting horse- and a hand on the reins; the balance between letting it go / pulling it in; its what you have to do in the creative process, I reckon.

11 February 2009


Drawn from a russian folk ceramic figurine. 

On the importance of folk art:

"I believe we should preserve this evidence of the past,
not as a pattern for sentimental imitation,
but as nourishment for the creative spirit of the present"
-Alexander Girard


¡Favorite Maker! 
Harry Bertoia.
Not so much for his famous chairs, but for this very immediate gold neck-piece. Just very direct forging to make the decorative elements, and, I think, a sensistive consideration of proportion. Good long links. It has a lot of flavor- yes very 50's-60's, but ancient-universal as well. Very human...

8 February 2009

The Kiss- Brancusi

¡Favorite Object! Brancusi's Kiss. There are many versions... the top one is very rugged, and recently sold for $8million. I dont know about you- but I always close my eyes!

Folding Bike

BSA Paratrooper folding bike. Best folder Ive ever seen, and an extraordinary design-brief to boot; imagine bailing out with this on your back... I tend to think though, that the wing-nut on the top tube could have been underneath... Ouch! The brakes could have been just a rear coaster, really, to save weight/bits busting on landing. Also note axle-only type pedals; this seems to be a common riding style in 3rd world countries too- do they know something we dont? Could be a gram-saver!

Morandi Colours

¡Favorite artist!
The quiet enjoyment of a Morandi... its a mysterious thing. 
His colours are truly beautiful! The main discussions on his work seem to be only about his epic dedication to composition, however. Of all the oft-used elements in his pictures, so carefully balanced according to the intricate compositional systems he invented, it is his signature which startles me most! Often it is large - I wonder if he factored it in to the 'balance'? Surely he did?
Maybe what Morandi was really arranging was a relationship between two types of happiness- the rustic and the refined, the humble and the transcendent. 
I find this kind of balancing very pleasing- and it is a thread that runs through many of the objects and ideas I present here.  

6 February 2009

Huge Gold Earrings

¡Huge! gold earrings from vintage National Geo. Interesting that these two women are from distant cultures, but are wearing the nose ring as well.
National Geo magazines are fascinating, its all about the photos of course- in two ways; the subject of jewellery being worn in a cultural, real life context, and also the photos/prints themselves;(particularly '70s-'80's era) with their rich rich colours and vibrant haziness. 

4 February 2009

Fruit Stickers

Fruit Stickers are great. The small scale means pithy graphics. They remind me of hallmarks-
perhaps afterall they are like jewellery for fruit? 
You guessed it- there are fervent collectors out there who 'have multiples and will swap'...

3 February 2009

Hair Comb

Hair Comb, one I made in 06. I admire ethnic woven combs from the Pacific region, with geometric designs- I drew from that tradition for this design- but also just directly solving the tooth 'problem' (regularity and strength) by building the comb from little batons.

1 February 2009

UnJoined Ring

An un-joined ring is a curious thing. I'd never made one, because, up until now, I've had a vague feeling they were too improvised, unresolved, incomplete... An un-specific, un-tailored 'one size fits all'; a last minute wrap-around! But then, I realised those qualities could be positives...
So, I thought up 'Longfellow' , an un-joined gold snake ring. He has a super simple geometry, just guillotined with a few angles and piercings and bent around. The snake motif obviously lends itself to the un-joined band form. I will make several versions...playing with the immediacy of it. It should have the quality of being strikingly crude.
Sort-of a pleasing tension between thoughtful and thoughtless...

Lucie Rie

The work of Lucie Rie; sensitive and subtle, delicate and exact.
Poetic line-work, masterful use of white.
Definately one of my design heroes...
(hmm... now I'm thinking of Agnes Martin too...)
pics: artnet.com, ebay, liveauctioneers.com