Dear followers, thank you for your support over the past few years, for reading my blog, for your likes and comments. It’s been a joy for me to share the work of amazing artists across the world and in some small way to highlight that, despite our differences we humans have so many things in common.
There’s something humble and unrefined about Sarah Jerath’s pottery, something rudimentary.
I first came across this makers’ work while scrolling through someone’s instagram feed, someone who was holding an auction to raise funds for the Australian Red Cross this past January as fires burned across New South Wales and Victoria. People from all over the world were donating items for the event but an image of a small black pot caught my eye; the way the light fell across its’ rough blackened surface. And damn it, if I’d had enough cash I’d have put a bid in on it. But others had beaten me to it. So I did the next best thing by finding her instagram account.
Sarah is from Lancashire in the UK and although she has oodles of followers on instagram she has yet to develop a website; probably because she’s too busy making gorgeous ceramics. But she was very kind to take time out of her busy schedule to answer a couple of my questions via instragram about her education and process…
She studied ceramics at UCLAN, Lancashire specializing in silicate research. Silicate research? I hear you ask. Yes, it’s an area of study that according to the UCLAN’s website is ‘firmly rooted in Ceramics. However, its research extends beyond materials that purely fit within the ‘standard’ classification of ceramic materials. Research interests involve related materials such as Glass, Refractory Concretes and Concrete itself. The common or unifying ‘sub-material’ found within all these materials is Silica – hence the term ‘Silicate Research’. Kind of technical but I’m guessing the research is about finding ways to use waste materials like broken glass and smashed concrete and reconstituting them into functional products like these tiles.
And nooooww I can see where Sarah’s pieces express that mixing of materials in a ceramic base and their gorgeous bumpy textures.
When I asked her about what drives her conceptually she said that some of her work is functional while other pieces ‘are pure materiality’. Others she says are art pieces which usually combine the two, and she added that ‘research and expression can lead to new outcomes’. Ummm, yes I’d have to agree.
Now, feast your eyes on her work and tell me how beautiful it is…
Please note: some of the gorgeous images in this post are courtesy of Shackpalace
When you’re someone who putters away making jewellery in relative isolation, with bits and pieces in varying stages of completion gathering dust around you, makers like Tomoyo Hiraiwa are part of a different realm of skill and possibility.
Graduating from the Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music with a degree in Art Education Hiraiwa studied Tankin there, an ancient hammering technique originally developed in Japan somewhere between 300 BC and 300 AD. Divided into 4 techniques, it’s traditionally used to produce various metal finishes on swords, helmets, lanterns, plates and of course Hiraiwa’s stunning jewellery.
I don’t know about you, but I can’t imagine having the patience to anneal and hammer a piece of metal for longer than 2 or 3 minutes, and I certainly don’t possess that crucial connection between brain, hand and tool that results in the fluidity of Hiraiwa’s pieces.
You can find out more about Tomoyo Hiraiwa on her website or on instagram here. (Psst. she hasn’t posted anything there yet though).
“Living peacefully is proof of the existence and my theme. While feeling the scent of breezes the time……”
“I prefer the beauty of simplicity and the dynamic potential of my chosen material. I hope the softness and strength and my design speak an international language of beauty and Organic / Hybrid”.
I love what I love and I love the jewellery of Ria Lins
Belgian born (1952) Lins opened her studio in Mechelen in 2009 after completing studies at the School of Art & Design in Sint-Lucas, Antwerp (1969-1972) and the Institute for Arts and Crafts (IKA) in Mechelen, Belgium (1995-2009)
‘The wonder of interpersonal relationships and the adaptability to the diversity of our society has always been the guiding through my work.
Unexpected colours appear, changing over time as metals oxidise, be it through impureness, mixing, contamination or pollution. As these changes emerge so does each items individuality … ‘ (via Klimt02.)…
Perhaps a metaphor for what drives her work, Lins’s pieces feature fine metal links or thread woven together, which, like human relationships require maintenance and sometimes repair. There’s something resilient about that approach, something enduring. And let’s not forget just plain beautiful.
I was chatting with my daughter the other day about pottery as we trudged around some shopping mall on the hunt for something cool, anything cool really. Granted, malls are the last place you’d find anything interesting or new when it comes to design or art. Instead they carry the same old same old; typical ceramics in traditional glazes; mugs and platters and giant spoons and those bowls you use to rinse your summer strawberries in, all in varying shades of speckled blue or brown. I was whining about the fact that it’s difficult to find different pottery in our part of the world. We don’t live near Judit Varga
You won’t find strawberry bowls in Hungarian-born Varga’s studio because her work isn’t about function. It’s about more etherial concepts like growth and decay, time and it’s inevitable passage around us. I’d describe her pieces as explorations of objects found in nature and their remnants. They are organic and delicate. And that’s just about a million miles from typical.
At college Varga studied art and mathematics before attending Moholy Nagy University of Arts and Design in Budapest where she majored in ceramics.
“Finding the perfect balance between shape, color, surface and structure is always a challenge, an emotional struggle. The mere existence of this powerful energy makes it so appealing to me to work with clay. My work has a strong connection with nature and the organic structures it is built upon. My inspiration comes from small artifacts I collect on walks or trips with my family. These fragile imprints of nature provide me with a rich visual vocabulary, endless shapes and colors. I work in the solitude in my studio and this peaceful loneliness gives me the perfect stage to work with clay. Sometimes in the silence there is moment of harmony when clay and I understand each other perfectly, both of us know exactly what the other wants to do. These are the moments I long for and this longing draws me back in the studio to open up a new bag of clay and start again”.
I think of Marian Hosking as both a jeweller and master recorder of the native plant and landscape material of Australia. Rather than pressing flowers and leaves into dusty books or copying them as sketches into some leather-bound journal she’s spent 40 years recreating their unique beauty in silver, wood and other materials.
Growing up in the bush and near the beach with her conservationist mother and metallurgist father you might say that Hosking was destined for the life she’s led. She knew in high school that she wanted to study gold and silversmithing and in 1969 graduated from RMIT (Master of Arts) before travelling to Europe where she continued her studies in the jewellers’ mecca of Pforzheim, Germany. Four years later she would return to the town of Wagga Wagga in Australia to teach at the university there. And in 1975, on returning to Melbourne she opened her own studio. Some 5 years after that she would became a director and founding member of Workshop 3000 located in the heart of the city, a place where jewellers could rent studio space and collaborate. 4 years later and with the birth of her 2nd child she would return to her solo studio.
Her contributions to craft in Australia were recognized in 2007 when the Australian Design Centre named her a ‘Living Treasure of Australia, Master of Australian Craft’. And as if that wasn’t good enough she obtained a PhD at Monash University in 2009 where she was a Senior Lecturer in the Art, Design and Architecture department there until 2014.
Soooo, if you ever find yourself in Melbourne (and I hope you do one day) you’ll find this maker’s work represented at Gallery Funaki. Failing that there’s always her profile on Instagram here…when she decides to post something 😉
There’s something fearless about a goldsmith who doesn’t feature gemstones in their pieces, who focuses instead on the quiet raw nature of the metal itself, with minimalist forms and rough textures dressed simply in fusions of silver and gold. Those blackened encrusted surfaces speak of being lost in time, of being unearthed, of being precious. This is the work of Taiji Tsuna (aka Yasushi Jona & Taiji Tomona)
Jona is Tsuna’s jewellery label and there’s not much more information about this maker except that he or she was born in Hiroshima, Japan in 1964. Educated at the Tokyo University of Fine Arts and Music with a BA in Craft (Metal Hammering -1989) and later a masters degree (Metal Hammering – 1991), Tsuna held a number of positions as a professional jeweller between 1991 and 2005 when he or she became a freelance designer.
A mysterious maker who doesn’t seem to name their creations, you can check out more about Jona Jewellery on instagram here.
As the cost (and hassle) of commercial lost wax casting climbs I’m using my sand casting setup at home more these days. It can take as little as 2 minutes to ready the mold and a further 5 to 10 minutes to melt a quantity of scrap silver ready for pouring. It’s a fun way to make jewellery but it takes time to perfect. I’m not there yet but I thought I’d pass along some things I’ve learned along the way so far…
First off though if you aren’t familiar with sand casting here’s a start to finish video from Melissa Muir who’s better at showing the process than I would be…
So now that you understand the basics I’ll move along…
Sand Casting Is Like Christmas
No matter how many times I do a casting it always feels a bit like christmas when I pry the flask halves apart to see what the molten metal has done. If the sand casting gods have smiled on me then I’ll find the mold has completely filled on the first go. If they aren’t smiling then I’ll have either a partially filled mold or the more annoying situation where all the molten silver will be caught in the funnel of the flask. Really annoying! The great thing about sand casting though is that you can always scrape out your burnt sand, reset your model into fresh sand and start again.
Mustard Seeds & Peppercorns
I’m in a perpetual search for texture in my jewellery and recently started adding mustard seeds and peppercorns in and around whatever object I’m casting. I doubt that I’m the first person to try these things but I wanted to show you that they do leave a texture behind. And being organic and available from my kitchen pantry they don’t give off harmful fumes when heated to 1400 degrees. Instead the studio is filled with a peppery aroma which is nicer than the smell of burnt sand alone.
It’s not a great idea to cast expensive gemstones with this process unless you’re ok with the possibility of having them crack and or discolour with the intense heat involved. An inexpensive option to use are cubic zircons, which I’m trying (and not having too much success with anyway)
Sometimes it just doesn’t pay to be economical with your materials. You can buy authentic delft sand for example which is uber fine and has just the right amount of binding oil in it to hold the finest details of your model. Or you can buy a cheaper version of delft sand and regret every single grain of it. The rings below are an example of pretty rough detail captured in cheap sand.
And that’s where I have to leave it for now. I’ll continue my exploration into sand casting and encourage you to give it a try. And if you do let me know how it goes. I’d love to hear from you 🙂
I recently began to experiment with granulation; an ancient technique used by goldsmiths some 5000 years ago in Etruria (now part of Italy) and Greece. You’ve probably seen examples of granulation – tiny gold or silver beads adhered to a gold or silver surface in a myriad of patterns and shapes…
I have to admit I started my attempt believing it would be an easy technique to master; melt a few silver balls, slap them onto a piece of sheet silver and add heat. It didn’t go quite to plan though; tiny balls flew from the torch flame while others refused to set down. And as with all things slightly difficult I decided this ancient technique takes patience and skill. And when I came across the work of David Huycke I decided to put my exploration into granules on hold. Let’s face it, maybe I should just put all my smithing on hold and go curl up in a corner 😱.
Huycke’s CV is long and filled with amazing achievements. He obtained his MFA in Antwerpen (1989) and a PhD in Arts at Leuven (2010). From his website…
‘He first made a name for himself with his sets of dishes, simple design and subtle use of materials and is now best known for his innovative approach to the traditional technique of granulation. David Huycke sets to work like a scientist or an alchemist, casting in moulds non-existent and seemingly impossible concepts, incurring along the way risks such as breakage or collapse. Eventually those ideas and experiments are selected and elaborated into an object where they exude a degree of stillness and have a natural obviousness, as if the work could not have been made any other way’. Check out his woooork…
A blog about art is hardly the place to pull back the curtain on an ugly subject like an eating disorder. But then again, struggle and pain are real in most peoples’ lives and sometimes in the life of an artist those experiences form the basis of beautiful art. I suppose I felt the need to provide a counterbalance to all that eye-catching art here on Maker; to maybe be more open about why I generally want to share what I find amazing about us humans by shedding a wee bit of light on an eating disorder in my family. And I have to say in my experience not a lot of people know that eating disorders affect boys and men and that they are especially ashamed and terrified of seeking help.
My family experienced this mental health disorder about 15 years ago. In fact I’ve known my son more years with the eating disorder than the years before it took over his mind and body. Black, hollow and cold (because that’s how I think of it), it attached itself to him (and the rest of us) kind of like a parasite attaches itself to a healthy host and we’ve been in a life or death battle with it ever since.
It came about innocently, in the form of a matter-of-fact question one day when my son was about 11…how to lose weight as he entered high school and my equally matter-of-fact if not clinical response…calories in, calories out, if you take in more calories than you expend in energy, you’ll gain weight. If you take in less you’ll lose weight. That was that. Of course starting high school is stressful for most adolescents and he was no different. He had been called names like ‘fatty’ throughout elementary school and as the prospect of high school loomed he decided to choose healthier foods. I was on board with healthier foods! But when he later joined the cross-country running club at school and started paying attention to his appearance I started to worry. Insidiously and over months when family and friends started to compliment his changing physique that attention ever-so-quietly evolved into obsession. And he wasn’t at all interested in going back to what he considered his ‘fat’ self.
I remember feeling helpless as the realization dawned one day that he had an eating disorder. It felt like the whole family was slipping over the edge of a cliff and that nothing we said or did was reaching him. It’s hard to describe that sense of loss, the strangeness that overtakes someone so familiar, my not recognizing him physically or emotionally anymore. Over a matter of months he was a different person; anxious, distrustful and depressed. That was one of the hardest things to take – knowing too well that adage ‘you are what you eat’ and watching him sink further into despair and then thoughts of suicide. How had it come to this? How many times did my husband and I try to convince our son that life was worth living. And how many times did I go back to memories of feeding him as a baby, of being so in love with his beautiful little face and his curious disposition. And then my own guilt and shame and anger at having allowed this thing to enter our lives.
Feelings of guilt, shame and anger happen but they aren’t helpful in the long run. You can beat yourself up til the cows come home over what could’ve or should’ve been or…you can ask for help, for a family member who has an eating disorder and/or for yourself and everyone else around you. Let me tell you it took me a long time to comprehend the fact that we couldn’t reason with our son and that highly emotional arguments with him were useless. With counselling help though we started to learn (and are still learning) that approaching a loved one with an eating disorder takes a different strategy altogether.
15 years on treatment continues to be life altering. For us it was the first and hardest step in what therapists call ‘recovery’ from an eating disorder. I say hardest step because our son refused treatment for years before finally agreeing to see a counsellor when his blood potassium level was in his boots and he was more than tired of the endless hopelessness. We didn’t get help from our family doctor though. Unfortunately many of them aren’t familiar with eating disorders and if they are they have preconceived notions about them; that they only happen to females and that they can be treated with antidepressants or ‘just eat’ pep talks. Bull Shit. Desperate times call for helping yourself so I researched services online and came across a few clinics and programs in and around our community. If you live in BC an awesome resource for the province is… https://keltyeatingdisorders.ca/. But be aware, as with all publicly funded programs in the province, waiting lists can be long and counselling services scarce. Aligning a son or daughter’s mood at any given time with a counselling appointment can be nearly impossible. Been there, done that many times.
Now as much as I’d like to say we’re all living happily ever after I have to be honest. Real life doesn’t generally have fairy tale endings. Instead, harsh understanding brings newfound determination to make the best of what life has to offer. I was naive when I assumed that his month stay in a children’s hospital ward at 16 would magically return our son to a normal weight and that he’d be over the eating disorder. I was naive when I assumed a 3 month stay on an adult eating disorder ward many years later would rid him of it. But I wasn’t so naive when he entered a 3 month residential program for eating disorders in Vancouver last year. It’s taken me a long time to understand what ‘recovery’ means and that one step forward and two steps back is often normal. It’s taken me years to appreciate the fact that an eating disorder reaches it’s bony fingers into every member of the family, that it sucks the energy out of much more important things that happen in all families. And I can’t stress enough how important it is to listen to your son (or daughter) when it comes to understanding their emotional lives whether or not they have an eating disorder. And that as a society we harm boys and men so much by demanding that they ‘be a man’ which leaves them no choice but to continue to suffer.
If you have any thoughts or questions about this post please feel free to comment below. I’m certainly no expert in much of anything but I do know something about eating disorders and maybe something about being a wiser parent when something black, hollow and cold visits your family.