“Icons of Formula 1″ and “Over Easy Rider”: First Custom Painted Jewellery

New skills are always inspiring, particularly when you know where you want to go with them and just require a bit of practice and experimentation to get there. My last post covered the course with Simon Murray and learning airbrushing and custom painting. Since then I’ve been busy applying my new found knowledge to a few projects.

 The first is the Association for Contemporary Jewellery’s exhibition “ICONS: Jewellery for the the Famous and Infamous” up at the National Centre for Craft and Design, Sleaford. The second I’ll cover in another post.

 I had two ideas for this exhibition one was successful the other was not but I completed both pieces. The successful idea was “Icons of Formula 1” a necklace of miniature custom painted helmets signifying the greatest drivers in F1. Racing drivers often adopt a distinctive helmet design so they can be recognised on track, these designs become iconic in their own right and in many cases stand for the driver with no further explanation needed. My favourites are the graphic bi-coloured helmets from the 70s and 80s like those of Prost and Villeneuve.

 The challenges for this piece were ones of scale and simplification and I had to adapt the designs to fit a spherical fake pearl bead rather than an asymmetrical helmet.

 The design was finished off with what will become my signature “R” clip clasp. In titanium and silver. Heat treated to give the impression it has been used near a hot engine. I like this utilitarian looking clasp, it echoes clasps used in motor-racing and has been a while in development. This is the first iteration of it’s design. No doubt it will change and improve in the future.

Icons of Formula 1 Necklace

Icons of Formula 1 Necklace, Poppy Porter 2014 – clockwise from top: Graham and Damon Hill, Moss, Lauda, Mansell, Senna, Vettel, Schumacher, Prost, Alonso, Fangio, Hamilton, Gilles Vilneuve.
Photo:Ray Spence

 The second piece is the one that did not make it into the exhibition (feedback indicated I had not presented the idea clearly enough – there’s a lesson there).  “Over Easy Rider” references the iconic 60′s film “Easy Rider” and imperial Faberge eggs. An odd combination but one that is inspired by a custom paining technique that resembles the guilloche enamel that was used extensively on Faberge eggs. Plus it makes a good pun, I love a good pun in a title!

 I’ve painted the egg on one side with stars and stripes like Henry Fonda’s “Captain America” Chopper, the other is painted with hot rod flames like that of Dennis Hopper in the film except these are done in the guillochet enamel style. The neck piece then references Dennis Hopper’s tasselled suede jacket with wooden beads to add colour and complete the 60′s counter-culture feel of the piece. I’m going to be wearing this piece when I go up to visit the exhibition and symposium in June.

A Trip to Belfast to Learn Airbrushing and Custom Painting

I’ve been wanting to learn how to airbrush for a very long time, I seem to remember both at school and art college being told not to try it, I don’t remember the reasons given but my recent experience would suggest that it was too technical to teach in general art lessons.  Now seemed like the ideal time to learn.  I want to introduce automotive manufacturing techniques into my work such as carbon or glass fibre lay up and learning how cars and bikes are custom painted is a logical step for the surface decoration.

I was hunting around for an airbrushing course that was comprehensive and had good teaching facilities, I came across Simon Murray of SM Designs in Ballymena. It looked good, I gave them a call with a few questions and booked on the three day beginners airbrushing and custom painting course at the end of November 2013.

I arrived in Belfast, it was raining (the weather would continue through winds and snow before I left) but the cabbie was chatty and the Broughshane B&B was comfortable, very reasonable and as I would discover in the morning very, very good at the breakfast bit!

Firstly, despite the title of the course I had no idea that airbrushing and custom painting were two separate things.  They are and are and have a very different approach.  During the three days (three very long days, we were there 10am to 8pm one evening!) I had more knowledge stuffed into my head than I have in a very long time.  There was also plenty of hands on practical and technical experience.  Simon has plenty of stories and tips on how to work efficiently, cleverly and with flair.

The amount of planning required before you start is an eye opener, as a jewellery designer I’m used to having to plan how a three dimensional object will fit together and it is much the same with the airbrush artist and custom painter.  Like an analogue Photoshop you work in  layers but unlike Photoshop there is no undo or rearranging of those layers if you get it wrong.  There are many different kinds of paint, each of which will demand their rightful place in the order.  Unlike painting with acrylics which are all opaque or watercolours which are all essentially transparent, the airbrush or custom painter is working with both transparent, opaque, semi-opaque or the fun ones exotics (mostly they have sparkly bits in them).

Unlike using a paint brush or pencil, the airbrush paints in three dimensions.  How far the airbrush is from what you are painting is critical to the effect you want, then there is the complication of how much paint you want and what air pressure you need, oh and the consistency of the paint to gain proper atomization, and finally what type of paint.

If you are a jeweller and can remember learning how to silver solder, it is a skill comparable to that. Fiendishly difficult to learn, then natural as anything once you’ve got a bead on it!  From that point of view, I had a brilliant time, learning a new skill has got to be one of the best feelings when you feel yourself begin to “get it”.

Then there was the next part – the mini-spray gun an airbrush on steroids, this was the main tool for custom painting and essentially the same as an airbrush but scaled up.  Many of the masking and stencilling and even freehand techniques used in airbrushing are just as applicable to a mini-gun.

The projects we undertook on the course were very satisfying and on coming back and setting up all my brand new kit I was glad to discover I still remembered what I’d been taught.  Although I was really glad I’d taken copious notes and lots of photos.  I’ll post again on this topic when I’ve started painting my new work.  In the meantime here’s some images of what I’ve achieved so far.

 

 

 

 

The Strange Attractors Project Starts To Take Shape…

I’ve finally started work on my Strange Attractors Project, its been on my mind for a while now (you will notice it is also the title of this blog and is a phrase I use to describe my creative process, it is actually something complicated to do with maths but that’s not necessarily relevant) and will be recording progress and posting updates here on my blog.  I will be revealing the ideas and creative processes behind the development of this project.

It’s time for a different direction with my work and while the general inspiration is familiar the source of my inspiration is totally different and has started to branch out beyond my initial starting point.  Yes you guessed it F1 cars again!  This time rather than the physical appearance of the cars it is the sound of their engines.

Sound is all around us and mostly we pay little attention to it but there is so much to be gained from just closing your eyes and listening.  It’s quite revealing and there is so much to discover.  However the sound of an F1 car engine is a sound that cannot be ignored and I find it symphonic in its complexity.  Now there’s a problem with trying to listen closely to an F1 engine the sound is so loud you have to wear ear plugs or it is truly uncomfortable!  So I kitted myself out with one of these and set out to record some sound and video.

Living in the South of England means I am lucky enough to have access to F1 cars once a year in July at the Festival of Speed.   Last year’s visit inspired my Racing Wings collection launched at the beginning of the Summer. This year I left my sketchbook aside and recorded some sounds.  I’ve put a few of the best videos and sound recordings up on my YouTube Channel, go over and have a listen, an F1 engine is a curious beast.

However, engine noise is not the only sound my ears love!  I have always enjoyed listening to music and have a large collection of albums, I also love to listen to birdsong in the woods while I’m walking the dog.  There is so much to hear once you open your ears.

So, now where am I going with all this?  Sound waves are not exactly wearable.  Back to the sketch book but this time with my headphones on and what happened was that some rather curious landscapes and abstracts started to emerge.  Some of the below are based on songs, some on engine noise and one is a lark rising….but which is which?

Sketchbook pages, abstracts based on sounds. Some are songs some are engine noise one is a Lark rising.

Sketchbook pages, abstracts based on sounds. Some are songs some are engine noise one is a Lark rising.

Sketchbook pages, abstracts based on sounds. Some are songs some are engine noise one is a Lark rising.

Sketchbook pages, abstracts based on sounds. Some are songs some are engine noise one is a Lark rising.

Sketchbook pages, abstracts based on sounds. Some are songs some are engine noise one is a Lark rising.

Sketchbook pages, abstracts based on sounds. Some are songs some are engine noise one is a Lark rising.

Sketchbook pages, abstracts based on sounds. Some are songs some are engine noise one is a Lark rising.

Sketchbook pages, abstracts based on sounds. Some are songs some are engine noise one is a Lark rising.

Sketchbook pages, abstracts based on sounds. Some are songs some are engine noise one is a Lark rising.

Sketchbook pages, abstracts based on sounds. Some are songs some are engine noise one is a Lark rising.

 

Sketchbook pages, abstracts based on sounds. Some are songs some are engine noise one is a Lark rising.

Sketchbook pages, abstracts based on sounds. Some are songs some are engine noise one is a Lark rising.

Ear Splitting F1 Sketching Session Sparks a New Collection

It was during a visit to the Formula 1 paddock with a sketchbook and some ear defenders at the Goodwood Festival of Speed that I found the inspiration for my new Racing Wings jewellery collection.  This new collection will be on show and available to buy during London Jewellery Week at Treasure, Somerset House 13-16th June.

I am a big F1 fan and love to draw my inspiration from the flow of the bodywork and immaculate mechanical shapes in the engine.  Being around those incredible machines when the mechanics are warming up the engines brings them alive, the astoundingly complex and exciting sound of the engine puts enormous energy into my sketching.

I then take all that energy and transform it into elegant and feminine jewellery.  All my jewellery captures the sleek, vivacity of the Formula 1 car and I love the paradox of creating powerful but feminine jewelery from a purely mechanical inspiration.

It is not only my sketchbook that got plenty of use in the F1 paddock, my camera was filling up with striking, colourful images of the cars to use in the photo-inlay technique I developed for my jewellery.  This photo-inlay is unique to my jewellery and is a technique honed over half a decade to create an iridescent effect a little like a butterfly’s wing.

The new Racing Wings Collection will be available to see and buy at Treasure, the showpiece exhibition of London Jewellery Week running 13th – 16th June at Somerset House.  It will also be available on my website very soon!

Racing Wings Cuff

Racing Wings Cuff

Racing Wings Earrings

Racing Wings Earrings

Working on the new collection

Working on the new collection

Down to the Waterline – “Stain-Less” in Sheffield

They like their fountains in Sheffield.  The first thing that greets you on leaving the railway station is a wonderful cascade of water.  I walked across the city centre to my hotel and the peace gardens had fabulous fountains and children leaping around them, it seemed every courtyard was running water for the newly warming Springtime.

Fountains outside Sheffield Station

Fountains outside Sheffield Station

This watery theme was appropriate as the reason I was in Sheffield was to attend the opening of The Association for Contemporary Jewellery’s 2013 members exhibition “Stain-Less” at the Sheffield Institute for Arts Gallery as part of Sheffield’s annual Galvanise Festival of Contemporary Metalwork.  2013 is the centenary of the invention of stainless steel and you will have read about my designs for the show in my previous post.  My two pieces were now complete and installed in the gallery, and I was excited to see the company my work was in.

The other exhibiting members of the ACJ had produced some fabulous work using just about every interpretation of “Stain-Less” from the deadly serious work of Maria Hanson “How Many Years Without Bloodstain?” reflecting on the few years between 1913 and 2013 that the UK has not had armed forces engaged in conflict to the light hearted “Ultimate Stainless Tie” by Jodie Hook.    There was work by Dauvit Alexander “Empire State Human” highlighting the moment when Sheffield lost it’s steel industry, pieces by Chris Boland, Gill Forsbrook, Nicola Turnbull and Zoe Robertson focusing on the internal chemical make up of stainless steel or its production and work by Rachel Colley and Grace Page extolling the stain removal properties of soap.

My two pieces were based on the Songs of Innocence and Experience by William Blake.  Experience – The Lily is the sharper looking of the two and incorporates some stainless steel dinner knives, a familiar domestic form of the metal.  Innocence – Bubbling Brook mimics the innocent action of swishing your hand in a stream.  The ink inlays refer to Blake’s pen dipped in the water staining it to write “…songs that every child may joy to hear.”

Song of Experience - The Lily

Song of Experience – The Lily

Song of Experience - The Lily

Song of Experience – The Lily

Song Of Innocence - Bubbling Brook

Song Of Innocence – Bubbling Brook

Song Of Innocence - Bubbling Brook

Song Of Innocence – Bubbling Brook

Of course half the fun of going to an event like this is not just the pieces on display but the people you meet and the jewellery they wear.  There were several ACJ members there; our chairman Terry Hunt who was wearing an interesting brooch depicting an x-ray of the stainless steel pins and plates mending the show photographer’s broken ankle, Annette Petch, Tam Saville, Chris Boland (whose “Flux Rings” were amongst my favourites at the show), new board member Jo Garner and outgoing editior of Findings Muriel Wilson who was wearing Maria Hanson’s “Order and Chaos” 1997 armpiece and a lovely little Ute Decker Brooch.  The Lord Mayor of Sheffield and the Master Cutler where also resplendent in their gold chains of office.

Visitors enjoying the exhibition

Visitors enjoying the exhibition

The exhibition runs until 31st May, details here but if you can’t make it the catalogue is available from the ACJ by contacting enquiries@acj.org.uk

Stepping Up as the New Editor of Findings

I am looking forward with equal measures of trepidation and enthusiasm to becoming the next editor of Findings Magazine.  Findings is the bi-annual journal of the Association for Contemporary Jewellery and I will be responsible for ensuring that the quality of content overseen by the outgoing editor Muriel Wilson is maintained.  Findings is the ACJ magazine for members. It reviews shows, technical innovations, materials and subjects of interest to makers, collectors, galleries and museums.

Last Friday Goldsmiths Hall saw a celebration of Muriel’s contribution to Findings since it’s inception fifteen years ago. I am learning fast from her during the change over not only the amount of work needed to put the magazine together but the subtle skills required to persuade people to write features, articles and reviews.  I would like to take this opportunity to thank her for all her hard work as editor and assistance during the handover.

This new challenge is a wonderful opportunity to widen my knowledge of the world of contemporary jewellery and get to know so many creative people.  I will be looking for ideas for content so if you have an idea for an article or feature do get in touch! info@poppyporter.co.uk

 

Selected for the Association for Contemporary Jewellery’s 2013 Stain-less exhibition

The Association for Contemporary Jewellery’s 2013 exhibition will be on the theme of Stain-less.  It will be held in Sheffield later in the year as part of the City’s Galvanize festival and  part of the centenary of the invention of stainless steel.   The email came through this week that I’ve made it through the rigorous selection panel and have been selected as an exhibitor.

I submitted two proposals interpreting the theme of Stain-less, sister pieces based on two passages from William Blake’s “Songs of Innocence and Experience”.  I’m hoping this is not foolhardy given the time I now have to make them before the deadline!  The two passages I have chosen both refer to staining, I am intending the pieces to be somewhat ambiguous and explore questions as to what should be considered “a stain”.

From “Songs of Innocence”

“And I made a rural pen, And I stain’d the water clear, And I wrote my happy songs, Every child may joy to hear.”

From “Songs of Experience”

While the Lilly white shall in Love delight, nor a thorn nor a threat stain her beauty bright.”

Stain-less Proposal 1

Stain-less Proposal 1 – “Songs of Innocence – The Water Clear”

Stainless Proposal 2

Stainless Proposal 2 -”Songs of Experience – The Lilly”

Unexpected Pleasures – The Design Museum 05 December 2012– 03 March 2013

Is this the right room? Oh yes, I think so – a bit hard to tell.  On entering Unexpected Pleasures the visitor is confronted with an array of beautifully designed and clearly very expensive but otherwise blank table cabinets.  They are black and round with three massive domed bolts holding the glass down (they are real I couldn’t resist a tiny unscrew of one!).  Inside sorted into collections of about six pieces per cabinet is the jewellery displayed on black foam.  I found myself peering down these wells trying to decipher what I was looking at and when looking at any piece that was also coloured black (there are several) I was reminded of Douglas Adam’s spaceship with “weird black controls, which are labeled in black on a black background, a small black light lights up in black to let you know you’ve done it…”.  The lighting was not helping matters either.  I felt the display did not show the jewellery off to is best which is a shame. For example Steinhaufen by Karl Fritsch, 2004 so prominently displayed in a glorious colour image on the Design Museum website was tucked away in a cabinet so it was hard to tell what colour it was or even that it was a ring.   I suspect the design of the cabinets was intended to make the visitor feel as if they were discovering those promised “Unexpected Pleasures”.

The exhibition was in four sections, smaller works in table cabinets at the front, a room-like historical section in the middle, behind that large neckpieces, then the “Worn Out” photography section at the back, a slide show of images people wearing jewellery and a video wall which seemed to be people wearing contemporary jewellery at a party (the wine was flowing at least!) which attempted to address the conundrum of displaying jewellery without being worn.

The range of contemporary jewellery was excellent in an important exhibition that is the first of its kind at the Design Museum.  As an introduction to artist made jewellery it really tried hard. The pieces were collected together in loose themes and came from artists all over the world, were there enough from the UK? Does that matter in an international art form?  There was also a section on the earliest emergence of contemporary art jewellery in the 1940s – 1960s.

The lack of human context so apparent in the front of the gallery suddenly changed once you had circumnavigated the “historical room”.  Here at eye level was an array of big necklaces from famous names such as Marjorie Schick, David Watkins, Caroline Broadhead and Lucy Sarneel.  Behind them was a wall of images showing pieces being worn or photography by jewellery artists that were purely two-dimensional works.  Maisie Broadhead’s “Keep Them Sweet” is a gorgeous image but a problematic one in the context of this exhibition, its claim on being jewellery was a sweetie necklace used as a prop.

A personal tradition before leaving an exhibition I like to select the piece I would most like to take home with me.  This time it is Sari Liimatta’s “Phoenix” 2010.  A piece that, for me, embodies what artist made jewellery should; interesting technique, arresting beauty, expressing an intense emotion, with an undeniable ambiguity, exquisite craftsmanship and most importantly wearable.

I bought the exhibition catalogue which you can buy online here it is a little pricey at £35  but is a lovely hardback book with essays and lush images.  As usual I found some other great books in the shop On Jewellery – a compendium of international art jewellery by Liesbth den Besten and Collect Contemporary Jewellery by Joanna Hardy a guide intended for the novice collector but useful for a maker from the other side of the fence too.

“Unexpected Pleasures” was an excellent start if somewhat disappointing in its display, I hope the Design Museum will continue to champion contemporary jewellery and help raise its profile with the general public.

I took a few shots at the exhibition as visual notes for writing this review included below to give a flavour of the display, however, if you want fabulous images of what was at the exhibition I’d get the catalogue if I were you these were just shot on my iPhone!

The full review will appear in ACJ Findings Magazine spring 2013 edition.

 

Camilla Prasch Mega 1/7 2009

Camilla Prasch Mega 1/7 2009

Cabinet at Unexpected Pleasures 2013

Cabinet at Unexpected Pleasures 2013

Peter Chang Bracelet 2007/08

Peter Chang Bracelet 2007/08

A Lovely Photo of a Happy Customer – Tuan Lee Prolific Contemporary Jewellery Collector

It gave me a lovely warm glow when I came across this picture of Tuan Lee wearing my graduation piece Podium Neckwreath Gold.  I had completely forgotten I’d taken the shot of her trying it on for the first time, the delight at wearing a new piece shining through.  She purchased it from me at New Designers in and she was effectively my very first customer.  I even take the date she called me to purchase the piece as the date my contemporary jewellery design business began.

I delivered it to her personally and the visit to her home was memorable not just for delivering my own work but for the many pieces of fabulous contemporary jewellery she showed me from her collection, even allowing me to try some on!  She has since commissioned a big ring and an even bigger bracelet from me.  Every time I meet her at contemporary jewellery events it is a pleasure to chat to such a jewellery enthusiast and expert.  It is so gratifying to know that I have sold one of my first big works to someone who knows, appreciates and most importantly wears the jewellery she collects.

Tuan Lee wearing Podium Neckwreath Gold by Poppy Porter

Tuan Lee wearing Podium Neckwreath Gold by Poppy Porter

 

I Loved The East London Design Show

I was lucky enough to win some tickets to The East London Design Show  (ELDS) courtesy of The Design Trust so I trundled along to Shoreditch Town Hall in Old Street to take a look.  It was partly to see if it would be a suitable show for my own work but also to do a little Christmas shopping.

ELDS is different from other shows I have exhibited at where the focus is designer maker made craft,  it is focused on the design of work as a product and there was a wonderful variety of designs and objects to choose from.  Of course I always look for jewellery and I was not disappointed but there were also, leather goods makers, shoe designers, printmakers, T-shirt designers, vintage style dress pattern makers, fashion designers and designers of home and interior wares.

The variety of exhibitors made it an excellent place to browse and chat to people truly passionate about what they do.  The venue was spacious, pleasant and had that eons of polished brass feel about it that Victorian built public buildings often have, nice cafe provision too, although they didn’t take cards and I never remember to get cash out!

I had a good long look round and had a lovely time choosing Christmas presents for my family (which I won’t reveal here just in case they read this post!) and of course couldn’t resist a couple of treats to self.

First there was a ring by Anna Byers, whose geometric inspired jewellery really caught my eye as I do love repeated patterns and geometric forms.  It was her subtle use of colour and movement that really made her work stand out.  As I was trying on the ring she mentioned it was part of her MA project of course I couldn’t leave it behind then!  I had to give it a loving home and we had a long chat about selling special pieces of work.  It was a real honour to become it’s owner, thanks for selling it to me Anna.

Geometric Motion Ring by Anna Byers

Geometric Motion Ring by Anna Byers

 

The second piece I couldn’t leave with out was a chunky rabbit head ring by Me & Zena gold plated with green crystal eyes I have come to call him “Blingy Bunny” with plump little cheeks and perky ears he sits really happily on my finger.

Blingy Bunny Ring by Me & Zena

Blingy Bunny Ring by Me & Zena

Do you know what? I really liked the fresh attitude of the East London Design Show and I think I may well make it one of my pre-Christmas shows next year.