Saturday 10 March 2007

My jewellery & metalwork

I hope this reads ok, I've been adding to it in spurts for 2 weeks but I can't read it or I'll not post it, it's too scary putting this stuff out there! Advance apologies for pic quality, they digital pics taken of old photo's with reflections etc spoiling the colour and focus, but I know some of you wanted to see them anyway. Most of the images are of test pieces, so they are very rough in nature, the germs of ideas that later evolved into pieces which I sold or swapped. But I've tended to hold on to test pieces.

pod brooch test piece 1991
paper, silver, burnt to create contrast
the 2 pronged full length pin is made from a single piece
of wire which, when unclipped, opens out to act as a
stand when the piece is not being worn.
inspired by- seeds, whale sharks, cocoons,insects
size- approx 3 inches long

Many of you have asked about my own creative work so I'm delving into my past a little. My jewellery past. I'm a printed textiles girl at heart but left when they TOLD me what colours I would be using for my final work and said I had to do fashion textiles as there was no interest in interior textiles!

Like my home (when it's not a construction/demolition zone), my work is ever changing, which presents problems at college where they are trying to shape you into someone with a specific style.

pod sculpture 1993
reclaimed copper
coloured with heat and salt water and burnt soil
displayed in beachcombed netting with lighting woven in
inspired by- seeds, wombs, shells, sea creatures
size- approx 11 inches long

My early jewellery tutor just couldn't understand where I was coming from. For my one assessment, I displayed my copper pods half buried in a crate of soil into which I'd sewn grass seed and she I make plant pots when I left college! She didn't get it at all and wanted me to just do as I was told and make shiny silver earrings!

Well, that sort of talk does not sit well with me. I firmly believed that I had not gone to Art College to do what someone else wanted me to do and I must confess we had a few battles over my work at each assessment. I did not get brilliant marks from her. And I never made a pair of shiny silver earrings.

my desk 1992
studying various pod forms from seeds, sea creatures,
shells, neolithic tools/forms, whale shapes, squids,
bird bills...the list is long
below the sketches are half and whole test pods in silk,
wool, wood, paper, plaster and clay.

One tutor in the last my final years grapsed the evolving nature of my work and really stuck up for me during my degree assessment, she explained to the outside assessors that by it's very nature my pieces are never finished, as long as they are in my possesion they will continue to change and take on new layers of meaning. It was nice that someone 'got it'.

My Department head was great about letting me do stuff (and very supportive when I had M.E. and by rights should have given up college). He didn't understand why I wanted to make sculptural jewellery out of burnt paper, driftwood, ceramics etc. and correctly guessed that some of it was just me rebelling against what the other tutor wanted me to do. But that was only a very small part of it.

It's not in my nature to follow the well trodden path, I thrive on trying things that are new, on mixing disciplines, materials, techniques and scales, sometimes making small or tiny things...

3D collage 1993 (detail from corner)
• background made using various printing techniques and handwriting
small book made from waxed tisue and handmade paper
the ammonite, wood and test tube were found objects
the small fish, 2cm long, the test tube is carved from
tagua nut, which is like ivory but eco friendly
fish box (you saw the test piece in a recent post) is porcelain
with silver detail, shown unfinished. a silver hinge pin had to
be added so the lid would swivel from the tail plus braided
cord & toggle that would wrap around the groove in the belly of the
fish & through the silver pod loop on top to hold in place.

Sometimes making large things...

copper pods 1992-'93
• made from reclaimed copper (old hot water tank)
a few have fused silver details made using filings from
other makers (hate to see any waste from mined metals)
• the largest is about 3 feet long
• they have fused edges and are coloured with salt,
oxidisation or burnishing
• each has raised fish details inside the pod.
the largest has a small fish with an arrow down the
length pointing to the moon
• some have etched writing in hidden places

I got really into the fused copper while studying in Canada (NSCAD). That college was brilliant, they really liked that I my growing environmental concerns were shaping the direction and techniques in my work and they were more than happy for me to display my work in a way that reflected what it was about. Here's a very unclear photo of an exhibition I had there in the Anna Leonowens Gallery...

Exchange Student Exhibition 1992
Anna Leonowens Gallery, Halifax, Nova Scotia

On the wall I were seed pod photo's (from my summer studying at the herbarium at Edinburgh Botanic Gardens) with writing underneath. Ha, at home they'd never have let me write on a gallery wall. Then the bowls (I'll show them in another post), pods and artefacts were placed on or inside maple leaf covered clear acrylic boxes.

At home I would have lit them from inside but my lighting things were at home in Scotland. Still, I was pretty happy with the results. My first exhibition in a 'real' gallery. And I LOVED the process of putting it together, though I've never been allowed to work that way in a UK gallery, which is such a shame.

It was also a way of showing the tutors back home that my work needed to be seen as an installation to make sense, not as a few bits squeezed onto
a desk for an assessment. To be fair, that format had always worked fine as nearly everyone who ever took that course made jewellery or smallish items, but for sculptural narrative work it was really inappropriate and made it all look, well-crap

My life would be a lot simpler if I just had a single interest and perfected the techniques involved in it. But I feel (creatively) claustrophic if can't bounce around in a huge mix of things, going with what inspires me in the moment, yet not losing the seed of the original influences.

Ok, I've just chopped out 80% of this post, it was HUGE. I'll show other bits in separate posts. And just to clarify, the big copper pods are not the sort of thing I'll be making in the future, though paper and clay ones may still happen, who can tell.


Anonymous said...

I love your work! Thanks so much for sharing it with us. I am interested in your comments about the differences between your UK college experiences and your gallery show in Canada. Do you think the relative freedom given you in Canada was indicative of North America in general, or was your college particularly restrictive? I am a big admirer of the textile design I've seen from the UK. I wouldn't have thought it would be a very restrictive atmosphere, design-wise. Please comment, and please show more of your stuff.

Cally said...

Hi Dana,
Thanks for your comment. In reply I should say that I imagine things are a lot different now than they were in the '90's in the UK.

Colleges (not all) seemed to want things to be more clear cut, designers designed, fine artists did fine art and craft, well, that was for people who needed a hobby!

These days I'm so envious when I see peoples degree shows and they are clearly being allowed to mix diciplines.

It's quite common now to go to a a painting degree show full of sculptures, or a tapestry show with installations in paper and rubber with not a tapestry in sight.

It's all much more exciting though it does mean you have to hunt around more to find the things you might like in unexpected places.

I certainly think that my Canadian experience was typical of North America at that time since other exchange students from Canadian colleges who didn't mention it was being different to what they were used to.

And craft based art was taken seriously there, which was really good.

In the last few years craft has become much more mainstream here and that is definitely being reflected in current college shows, or perhaps because of them.

The college I went to was considered a 3rd choice for most people except in the area of printed textiles where it was 1st choice.

I soon realised that was because the course, then, was designed around getting people good jobs in the fashion industry.

They would get you to gear your degree show (planned 2yrs in advance) to fit with trend predictions. So, at the time we were told to focus on daisy prints (to be fair, that did become the big thing) and to use the colours of the moment - purple and jade.

At the time I was doing either aquatic colours or going all neutral and translucent because of my love of scandinavian and arctic snowscapes and the crafts of those regions.

Also I wanted to make one-off pieces for, and I wanted to make lighting and print on...paper(!) for lamps and wallpaper and stationer- Such crimes!

There were some fights as they had told me I would get a 1st if I did as I was told and a 3rd if I didn't. So I left.

The plan was to make the framework for sculptural lighting within the metalwork Dept. and then use the textiles area to print what I needed to go with them.

To my horror textiles banned me -deserters not tolerated, esp. as many other top students followed me, though to the different departments.

I ended up doing metalwork after all, but with the freedom to work in other depts. such as ceramics, graphics, photography and printmaking.

I get the impression that it's quite acceptable to work in that way these days, judging by people's shows. And I certainly think there have been some really great things happening in textile design in the UK.

Given the chance I'd go straight back to college and do textiles now as what I was trying to do then would be seen as perfectly normal now.

I hope that answers your question Dana, feel free to ask more :0)

Anonymous said...

oh my gosh cally, im coming right over...we should definitely open a pod making factory together!!
Your work is stunning and i really 'know' your ideas and this thing of always changing and using different mediums...and of the pieces never being many similarities...more work please.. xx

Susan Schwake said...

i adore your work cally. thank you for sharing this! i will try and point people in your direction as these works are so lobely in every way.
long story short, some professors are just afraid. people in art who are afraid are so tiresome.
i really love what you have shown here and can't wait to see more!

Anonymous said...

"I've never been allowed to work that way in a UK gallery, which is such a shame."

Really? That surprises me. The gallery where I volunteer (the Here Gallery in Bristol), has no problem with people writing or painting on the walls. At the moment we've got a show on where the artist has wallpapered the entire space with hand drawn wallpaper. All we ask is that people repair the walls at the end of the show.

I think my college must have been a bit more up for it than yours, we used to do all sorts of crazy things. I remember one friend making paintings with lard and oil straight onto the gallery walls. They used to object slightly if we did outrageously dangerous things but generally our tutors were very supportive.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your thoughtful reply! Now that I think of my school days, I also recall a distinct line between fine art and design, although I attended a college that was founded on the theory that all art forms spring from the same creative impulse. In practice however, there wasn't much cross-ver, and the fine art department cherished a glowing sense of superiority. Within the design department though, experimentation was highly encouraged. I applaud the breakdown of those old labels and look forward to a time when the further distinction between "personal" and "saleable" also disappears. Keep on, keep on.

Anonymous said...

Well i agree with your article" My jewellery & metalwork"in this article most of the images are of test pieces,rough in nature,that owuld be a pair of shiny silver earrings Please if this comment is ok give me a reply i'll be waiting for your reply
My jewellery & metalwork

Cally said...

Oh yes yes, and it would be a very beautiful factory with wonderful inspiration all over the walls. I must sho you some of my light pods (as in electrical light).

Oh thank you, I was so nervous posting this, I'v been very private about my work. Still to scared to post my 'good' stuff, the kind I still, or will, do as it's so personal and I've had ideas stolen and commercialised in the past. Maybe I can let you see it privately some time.

I think things are hugely better now (that was 15yrs ago) as I mentioned in what I know see was an ENORMOUS reply to Dana's 1st comment.

How exciting that you are a gallery volunteer, I'd love to do that, maybe it would be a good way to get a taste of what Galleries are like nowadays.

I totally agree with you, things will be so good if more of those rigid boundaries evaporate and people can really let their creativity move in whatever way seems right for them, making statements, making money, making prettiness etc.

Yes of course your comment is ok. I visited you at jewels2love but it wouldn't let me leave a comment, so I hope it's ok I have said 'hi' here.

Feltbug said...

This is very interesting ! It is great that you stuck to your vision and did not let anyone put you off what you wanted to do. I think that 'jewellery' artists are producing some of the most exciting work at the moment. One of the elements that I love about Outsider art is that anything goes in terms of materials used. I am having so much fun exploring your blog - and yes there are many points of reference for me !!

Ursula Achten said...

Here I am, pod-lover number three!!
Cally those pods are stunning, I like them a lot! And all your thoughts on art: again this "judgement-thing". Who has to decide on what we do!!
I would like so much seeing more of your artwork, I believe there is a great power in it, and slowing down yourself leeds to the most strong phenomenas (like getting sick)
( but this is written with only knowing you a little, so I can be totally wrong!)

Wanderer, there are no ways, there's only wandering!

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