MADE IN LONDON at GALERIE BETTINA FLAMENT

 

A collection of my work is now on show in a fantastic gallery in France!

New exhibition "MADE IN LONDON" opens today at Galerie Bettina Flament. I am thrilled to be joining these talented jewellers; Alma Sophia, Ellis Mhairi Cameron, Emily Kidson, Kostadinos and Tania Clarke Hall showing our wide range of materials and styles, hand picked by Bettina Flament herself to share with jewellery lovers in Lille.

MADE IN LONDON

GALERIE BETTINA FLAMENT

7 Rue Bartholomé Masurel, 59000 Lille, France

27th Sept - 29th Oct 2016

 

My Concrete Objective ring is one of the pieces I am exhibiting in the London themed show. This ring is special to me as it connects me to a time in my life when I was visiting London regularly. My best friend had moved from our Northern hometown to the capital after university, and I came to visit her as often as I was able to share in her adventure and explore this rich resource of inspiration and opportunities with her.

 

 

One of the things that I noticed in London was the drive of people like my friend. As well as working a demanding full time job she spent every spare second on her own projects, working through the night to meet deadlines, often unpaid to establish herself and gain connections.

The Concrete Objective ring is a reminder of this focus, to put the time and energy into something which will lead you to your bigger goal. London is known for being a very challenging city to live in, the costs alone make it a daily struggle, but creative people continue to flock here for the possibility to make good things happen.

 

Piscator,    by Eduardo Paolozzi,  "Silvery & enigmatic" -The Telegraph 2005

Piscator, by Eduardo Paolozzi, "Silvery & enigmatic" -The Telegraph 2005

Every time I made my journey to my friends apartment I had to walk past this amazing sculpture by Eduardo Paolozzi. Seeing this beautiful beast outside Euston Station on each arrival reminded me of the creativity everywhere in London. There is so much art here to enjoy for free, London really is a home for culture. The way the angular shapes were formed in solid metal for this mountainous piece demonstrated how with determination and time you could create your own mark in even the most hardest materials to create something great and long lasting.

 

Eduardo Paolozzi 1924 - 2005

Paolozzi was described as an evangelist for increasing access to art and sculpture, wanting it to be a part of our environment and enjoyed in our everyday lives. I feel the same was about jewellery as a way of sharing ideas, to add something interesting to engage with on a daily basis. I often notice my big rings getting curious glances when I'm on the tube...

 

"If it [sculpture] is out in a railway siding or it's stuck under your nose for the ordinary commuter who might not otherwise go to a sculpture park they can't miss it,"

- Eduardo Paolozzi

 

London Couture at the V&A

 

I spent last Saturday at the Victoria & Albert Museum's "Study Day" of lectures in celebration of the new publication London Couture. See a glimpse of the beautiful new book here .

                London Couture 1923-1975 British Luxury

                London Couture 1923-1975 British Luxury

The lectures were given by contributors to the book tackling various subjects on London Couture's history:

 

 

 

Amy de la Haye, London's Court Dressmakers

Firstly Amy de la Haye set the scene to give us an idea of who these early couturiers were. Courturier was a legitimate career for a married Edwardian women, or a road to independence and success for a divorcee. Kate Reily was an example of a shrewd business woman using her creativity and cunning to keep up to date with the thirst for the latest fashions.

Even though Reily's original designs were highly praised, the British customer only had eyes for Parisienne models. In attending the show, Reilly would be obliged to purchase at least one model, but to get the most from it, she would send two buyers to view the new designs. With the idea that two heads were better than one. they would dash back to the hotel to sketch what they had seen to reproduce for their own customers on their return.

 

 

 

Born with Silver Scissors

We learn of prestigious dressmaker, Madam Clapham of Hull who made a point of not paying her apprentices as she wanted girls from "good families". She felt that those from a wealthy family who could support them, they would be a better class of trainee. Sadly this excluded many talented individuals born without a pair of silver scissors in their hands, unable to learn by working full time for free.

This is still affecting the fashion industry today. Many designer brands have been criticized that their unpaid intern-ships are elitist,  allowing only a lucky few from privileged backgrounds to gain valuable experience with them to get the best start with their careers. 

 

                                               c.1937 Hand embroidery class - 1  Collection  London College of Fashion - College Archive 

                                               c.1937 Hand embroidery class - 1 Collection London College of Fashion - College Archive 

 

Edwina Ehrman, A Brief History

Edwina tells us of the shift in dressmakers of the 20s and 30s. The new favourites were young men like Norman Hartnell with a creative approach and an understanding of the glamorous lifestyle of their clientèle.  

 

A Shift in Dressmakers

These men socialised with their patrons, a complete contrast to the couturiers that pre-dated them who were so intimidating to wealthy out-of-towners they would often turn to department stores rather than seek out an illustrious dressmaker and face their scrutiny.

Norman Hartnell with his models in 1930 courtesy of Getty Archive

Norman Hartnell with his models in 1930 courtesy of Getty Archive

Even the term "Designer" was now coined to appeal to a wider audience, thanks to the Incorporated Society of London Fashion Designers aiming to boost trade overseas during WW2. I learned more about IncSoc at The Imperial War Museums "Fashion on The Ration" exhibition, hopefully I'll share in another post soon, but here's some more info courtesy of wiki:

 

In March 1942 The Board of Trade invited the IncSoc members to design:

The iconic CC41 label, also known as "The Two Cheeses" there was also the double 11, much rarer and introduced to signify a finer quality item. Look out for these when out vintage shopping! 

The iconic CC41 label, also known as "The Two Cheeses" there was also the double 11, much rarer and introduced to signify a finer quality item. Look out for these when out vintage shopping! 

 

"34 utility garments suitable for mass manufacture in order to demonstrate how high-fashion elegance could be achieved within the strict rationing restrictions"
The designs were featured in Vogue magazine,
"Known as the Couturier Scheme, the project had a very high profile in the press at the time with a fashion show held to launch the clothes"-wikipedia

 

 

                                                                          Pages showing Edwina's chapters in the book  London Couture

                                                                          Pages showing Edwina's chapters in the book London Couture

 

Parallels can be drawn to modern high street giant H&M's collaborations with elite houses and designers like Margiela, Stella McCartney and Karl Lagerfield bringing their signature style to a mass market on a global scale. (You can view previous H&M collaborations here). The most recent collaboration with Balmain has even seen their sell out pieces fetch more in online auctions than original Balmain garments!

Balmain x H&M another hugely popular collaboration between couture and high street giants which hit stores in November

Balmain x H&M another hugely popular collaboration between couture and high street giants which hit stores in November

 

"Revealed this morning in all its embellished, whipstitched, skintight glory and, as expected, there's not one item that hasn't got wish list written all over it."

Vogue Magazine on the most recent, highly anticipated collaboration of Balmain for H&M

 

 

Joyce Fenton-Douglas, The Ancillary Trades

H&M fans have complained that the retail prices of the Balmain collaboration are too high, going into hundreds for some of the more embellished and leather pieces, which is a big step up for a high street chain with average prices usually at £14.99. However even a few hundred is still a fraction of the thousands that the official couture collections from Balmain can cost when bedecked in the finest materials. This is something Joyce Fenton-Douglas brought up when talking about the Ancillary Trades.

            Reville Rossiter trompe l'oeil tassel detail from a couture garment from 1919

"WOW" Factor

Couture dressmakers relied (and still do) on the Ancillary Trades for specialised skills, such as pleating, embroidery and embellishments. Rather than just the finishing touches, these can be the most desirable aspect of a whole design or be the structural basis for a garment.

These can provide the instant wow factor that gives you the fist sign that this is a special, more luxurious item.

 

 

 

Secret Skills

This charming video below was brought to our attention in the lectures. It shows the Australian maker Harry Nairn hand cutting, shaping, dying and assembling all the individual parts of a silk flower in his own workspace at home. 

Couture houses would historically send "matchers" to the addresses of specialised makers. These girls would seek out matching flowers, trimmings or other embellishments in the very particular shades or styles necessary to co-ordinate with the fabrics for the garments.

The names and addresses of the top artisans would be their best kept secrets to give them the winning edge against competitors.  Although flattering, this was unfortunate for these highly skilled individuals, trying to maintain a living by providing an already niche service.

Harry Nairn who makes intricate artificial flowers. We see him cutting out petals, colouring them, shaping them with a heated metal tool then crimping petals. We see a pink rose taking shape as Harry moulds the petals around wire.

A Sign of Superior Quality

Joyce did highlight the fact that today's top couture designers will still work with modern artisans for these embellishments, utilising very labour intensive techniques. This gives them the maximum impact for the catwalk as well as distinguishing them from the follow-on designer copies which although can often get a close general look, will never be able to feature these specialist skills which take such a long time to produce in the originals.

 

Beatrice Behlen, Clients

The women who can tell these extra special pieces from the inferiors are the subject of Beatrice Behlen's talk. We learn of the rarity of these couture clients which the industry relied on and the relationships they had, often choosing only one particular couturier. Being polite and prompt payment made a client very liked and appreciated.

The couturier would send sketches of the design to their clients for their approval receiving back comments such as "Like V.much" or  "Nice, but what's the Price???"

The couturier would send sketches of the design to their clients for their approval receiving back comments such as "Like V.much" or  "Nice, but what's the Price???"

 

Textile Timeline, The life of Lady Fox

Beatrice was even able to trace the life of one such client, Lady Fox, using society columns alongside the garments she had procured to see her defining style as a textile timeline to her life. As an early adopter she knew her stuff and designers would rely on patrons like Lady Fox to invest in their work.

The term "working wardrobe" came up quite often in these talks. For these women it was part of their lifestyle to have these clothes, fit for the purpose of each area of their lives, whether it was salmon fishing in the Highlands or cruising along the Dalmatian Coast. Although extravagant in our terms the cost of these pieces meant they would fit well and be made of the best natural materials or heritage fabrics, returned to year after year so they would  have to last well.

 

 

Timothy Long, Constructing Couture

Timothy told us how he originally delved into the world of couturier Charles James after discovering a collection of his garments wrapped up on mannequins in an archive he was working in.

Without formal dressmaking training Charles James had a unique approach heavily influenced by his millinery experience. We learn that to create his amazing garments, James would create hand sculpted abstract forms more like a block or last than a mannequin. By using these to create a garment it would have unexpected and new shapes, fitting the body in a different way than conventional dressmaking which relied on padding and corsets to fill and fit the body into a desired shape.

Charles James “Butterfly”, 1954  . © Getty Images

Charles James “Butterfly”, 1954. © Getty Images

Charles James also used hidden architecture but with alternative materials for a new spin. Structures were formed by heating plastic to mould and form the unusually shaped skirt  as seen in his famous "Clover Leaf" dress formed into the four portions of the leaves. 

Charles James "Clover Leaf" Dress from 1953.

Charles James "Clover Leaf" Dress from 1953.

To gain insight into the internal structures of these magnificent shapes they even used technology such as hospital scanners to discover the secrets used by the celebrated dressmaker. 

Fashion to Transform

Although he had  a temperament and hands-on approach of a passionate artist, James was also an incredibly technical designer. The women who bough his garments were in love with how they made them look and feel. Charles was a pioneer in understanding how fabrics worked, using them in new ways to accentuate a women's body with a fanatical amount of study going into investigating and harnessing the powerful effect of materials. James was famously quoted in saying;

"Make The Grain Do The Work"

 

These garments were thoughtfully engineered, and this combination of vision and technique along with the support socially from Cecil Beaton and the wealthy friends of James' Mother gave him both the exposure and clientèle for his unique designs.

                                                                 A Charles James design repeated in a later variation  . © Getty I  mages

                                                                 A Charles James design repeated in a later variation. © Getty Images

 

Exciting & Contemporary

Timothy showed us how Charles James used the same designs again and again, taking patterns from many years previous to make a new version. It is proof that if something works well for the body, it always will and the lasting beauty and desirability of great design. This is why gowns by designers like Charles James have held such appeal and can be worn today looking as exciting and contemporary to a modern audience. This was celebrated in the exhibition at The Metropolitan Museum of Art last year, of which you can take a video tour with the curators here:

 

 

Jonathan Faiers, The Timelessness That Ran Out of Time

For all the appeal of couture as a sight to behold, the "London Look" was never going to last and this was explained by Jonathan Fairs. The "uniform" which was relied upon to give strength and order to British society during the Second World War was no longer required. 

 

Using examples from the media coverage of couture in the mid 20th Century we can see how although beautiful, the elaborate gowns and traditions they represented were out of place in this post-war era.

Evening dress by Rahvis, for British Vogue, June 1947    Photo by Clifford Coffin

Evening dress by Rahvis, for British Vogue, June 1947

Photo by Clifford Coffin

Beautiful Ghosts

One iconic editorial photographed by Clifford Coffin shows elegant models poised amongst the bombed out structure of a London mansion, intended to be "still standing strong & untouched" by the war but instead they appear as if haunting the desolate space as  beautiful ghosts of the past.

 

 

 

A New Era of Cool 

Outside the Biba store in 60s London

Outside the Biba store in 60s London

 

New designers were setting up their own ready to wear boutiques. Rather than the high price demanded by fine, fashionable garments, the 60s sought a new cutting edge of style where being made quickly was a bonus rather than a sign of inferiority. The quick turnaround meant it could be seen on TV and bought the next day. Instead of being confined to the high spends of the rich these new fashions were available for anyone brave enough to wear them creating new fashion muses and customers in a world outside that of the débutantes at their elite functions. 

 

Rule Breaking Youth

It was a free for all with young girls earning their own wage to buy their new clothes or even steal them in the famous Biba store where it was almost too easy to shoplift these must have exciting pieces, made for the rule breaking youth culture.

                                     A mad dash by Biba staff taking the fashion directly through the city streets as Biba changed premises

                                     A mad dash by Biba staff taking the fashion directly through the city streets as Biba changed premises

"Girls For Girls"

These women wanted to make their own future and forget the past. Biba founder, Barbara Hulanicki was the eldest of three girls, raised by her mother and aunt following the assassination of her diplomat father by paramilitaries.

 

Biba Founder, Barbara Hulanicki made the highstreet luxurious and exciting with her original designs and enticing concept stores

Biba Founder, Barbara Hulanicki made the highstreet luxurious and exciting with her original designs and enticing concept stores

 

Hulaniki described Biba as run by "Girls for Girls".  She explains in an interview with the independent Nov 2014;

“That’s why in Biba we only had women,

  “It was meant to be for girls in the street. They were earning money and they had nowhere to go. "

Biba-sales-girls-.jpg

 

Future of Couture

As in the overview from the corresponding lectures The V&As new book London Couture shows us many of it's historical aspects. For an industry which catered to the very rich and relied on highly skilled specialists we see how Britain firstly followed, then lead triumphantly, and eventually faded as the times changed and people's needs also.

But London is a thriving city of Fashion, so what can we learn from London's Couture past to use today?

ORIGINAL & BEST QUALITY

  • Ancillary Trades and original, specialised artisans are still necessary to create the finest fashion. Our leading British designers like Mary Katranzou rely on quality embellishments to set their designs apart from the follow on copies

 

INSPIRATIONAL

 

INVEST IN THE BEST

  • Good quality lasts: vintage fashion has become a whole industry in itself, with concessions in high street giants like Topshop and even huge standalone stores, with branches in multiple cities like Cow. These pieces have lasted, can we say the same will be seen of some of the the cheaply made clothes we buy in bulk today?

 

YOUR COUTURE

  • Although few of us can afford the luxury of couture, we can take a lesson from the way these women built their "Working Wardrobe".

With constant "Sales" emails from online shopping deals and (alarmingly!) low prices from competing retailers it's easy to be tempted to purchase without any consideration or too much consequence but each "cheap bargain" eventually adds up...

In resisting a few more of these it may result in affording a smaller, yet much more usable & better quality wardrobe to look and feel our individual best, which to me is a bit of British Luxury we all deserve.

London Couture: British Luxury 1923 - 1975 is available in the V&A and online  bookshop here. See below for a sneak peek:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Living Wood, Not Wooden Living

When is a wooden table not a wooden table?

When it's a Marigold.

"Wooden Table", Peter Marigold, Libby Sellers Gallery

"Wooden Table", Peter Marigold, Libby Sellers Gallery

 

That's the designer Peter Marigold, and I was lucky enough to get an insight into his work as he spoke with us at Collect.

Marigold is a resourceful designer-maker, utilising the materials and ideas that come to him through his immediate environment. Often exploring wood in his designs he harvests the fallen branches from his neighbourhood of Hampstead Heath to use for timber. Having this local resource to hand has encouraged him to explore it's properties in many ways.

 

The textures of Peter Marigold's Wooden Tables, created using a repeated grain surface from a sample of wood.

The textures of Peter Marigold's Wooden Tables, created using a repeated grain surface from a sample of wood.

Not only does he use wood to make many of his designs, it is through experiments with this organic material  that he also brings the qualities he discovers into other very different substances.

"Characteristically, these are not straightforward forms, but instead have been created using wood rather than being made of wood. They therefore reference wood as an active verb rather than a monumental noun; the resulting forms highly animated and not ‘wooden’ at all." Libby Sellers Gallery

 

By translating what he sees in the formation and degrading of wood into something very hard and processed like metal he is breathing life into a manufactured material.

Through playing with our expectations of what materials look and feel like, it makes us want to engage with these objects, question them, pick them up, touch and interact. 

One of Marigold's "Wooden Forms" where he uses wax to capture the surface texture of wood. The fragmented, fragile looking shapes are then cast in materials like iron.

One of Marigold's "Wooden Forms" where he uses wax to capture the surface texture of wood. The fragmented, fragile looking shapes are then cast in materials like iron.

It is the natural wearing-out of the objects we use in our lives that gives him great pleasure. Every knock, scuff and dent that marks a surface is like a tree ring documenting their lifespan.

This also shows them to be of a greater quality, worth keeping even with their lived-in "damage" teaching us the patience to invest in an object and forming a bond with our environment.

"Bleed" series of locally ebonised cedar cabinets by Peter Marigold showing at Collect 2015 with Sarah Myerscough gallery.

"Bleed" series of locally ebonised cedar cabinets by Peter Marigold showing at Collect 2015 with Sarah Myerscough gallery.

 

At this year's Collect, Marigold was showing his cedar cabinets stained from the reaction with steel nails holding them together. Entitled "Bleed", the beautiful black streaks became the most prominent feature of these sturdy cabinets. 

"Man builds things up, and then nature begins a slow steady process of taking them down again. A normal response to this effect might be despair like King Canute trying to hold back the sea, but I see beauty," said Marigold.

 

A close up of the inky patterns made by the steel nails reacting with the wood in Peter Marigold's "Bleed" Cabinets

A close up of the inky patterns made by the steel nails reacting with the wood in Peter Marigold's "Bleed" Cabinets

Rather than fighting nature in preventing this unpredictable marking, these displayed the reaction of the untreated metal with the tannin in the wood showing a truth to the materials.

I loved seeing his way the designer was letting go of the piece they had made, allowing nature to take it's course to create a unique, naturally beautiful object. It reminded me of the way mascara can run down a perfectly made-up face showing an overwhelming emotion, too much sadness to mask and hide or a joy too powerful to hold inside.

For more information of Peter Marigold's projects visit his site here.

There are lots of great Artist's talks still going on at Collect on from 9th - 11th May 2015-check them out HERE

 

 

Ruin Lust: Tate Britain

Ruin Lust "An ideal of beauty that is alluring exactly because of it's flaws & failures."

One of my granite and resin Hewn rings, inspired by the crumbling textures of ageing and weathering in our surroundings.

One of my granite and resin Hewn rings, inspired by the crumbling textures of ageing and weathering in our surroundings.

Ruin Lust (from the German concept of appreciating ruins - Ruinelust) is the exhibition at Tate Britain which finished this time last week. Now that it is over (as anything must end to become a good ruin) I will collect the fragments which I left with and assemble them here on my blog.

 

I was very excited to visit this exhibition as this idea of discovering partial remains of a bigger thing and capturing the textures of erosion have long been a big part of my work. But knowing me, I am a curious beast and the look of something has never been enough. I always want to find out the why and how, and these not only form the concepts behind my work but also my experimental processes. I was not disappointed by Ruin Lust, there was a great variety and depth on this cultural phenomenon to explore.

The main idea I'd like to take away from the exhibition is that Ruins can be seen as a positive thing.

 

Ruins as a Memorial

"Sublime warnings of the past" Ruin Lust, 2014

"We were intrigued by the World War II bunkers that were being drawn back into the water," Jane says. "It was like something from an ancient civilization, but darker."

"We were intrigued by the World War II bunkers that were being drawn back into the water," Jane says. "It was like something from an ancient civilization, but darker."

 

Louise and Jane WIlson's work had a big impact on me. At first glance these angular forms could be contemporary sculptures, but they are the remains of Nazi bunkers in Normandy. These clean and crisp images with no discernible date let the stark forms stand out without complication. They could be from any time or place but in learning their origin presents them as symbol of the end of a devastating chapter in History with many things to learn from. "The ruin may remind us of a glorious past now lying in pieces or point to the future collapse of our present culture." Ruin Lust, 2014

 

 

 

Reinventing the Ruin

"Find new uses for ruins and new dreams among the rubble" from Ruin Lust, Tate Britain 2014

David B McFall, Bull Calf 1942

David B McFall, Bull Calf 1942

I was charmed by this sculpture by David B McFall. Following the Wilson's ruined bunkers this is a remnant from Great Britain's experience of the Second World War.The Portland stone used for this piece was once a part of a London Bank, one of the buildings destroyed in the bombing of Southwark. You can see the original carvings of the 19th Century swags and flowers from its architectural past. This wonderful re-use of debris and the subject of a young Bull Calf is a symbol of new hope and seeing the potential to grow strong and rebuild.

You can see why it was chosen for the Royal Academy Summer exhibition in 1942, even when McFall was still a student.

 

 

Engraved by J Greig, from a sketch by L Francia, for Excursions through Norfolk

Engraved by J Greig, from a sketch by L Francia, for Excursions through Norfolk

"The ruin traffics with more than one time frame: it arrives from the past, but incomplete; it may well survive us."  Ruin Lust 2014

Another example of a ruin reused which not part of the exhibition is this unusual sight of St. Benet's Abbey. The ruined abbey is situated on the River Bure within The Broads in Norfolk England. Demolished from the dissolution the gatehouse remained, which is now a grade I listed building. In the second half of the eighteenth century, a farmer built a windmill inside the abbey ruins, (adapted even further to make a wind pump later on),  The windmill is now itself a grade II listed building, creating a ruin within a ruin.


Ruins to Incite 

I enjoy the fact that a ruin leaves space for your imagination. The journey it has gone through to get to that point had affected it and it is up to us to use our minds to investigate, elaborate and furnish the remaining bones. This is what engages us with it and makes our experience a personal discovery rather than being presented with a perfect, pristine place or object, which could literally be a brick wall to creative ideas.

Paul Nash, Steps in a field  near Swanage 1935

Paul Nash, Steps in a field  near Swanage 1935

These concrete steps look out of place in this surreal image by Paul Nash. Without trying to envisage the lost structure of the demolished building they can be enjoyed as a curious sight in their own right. Like an Escher drawing these impossible stairs let us create an invisible doorway wondering where or when it might lead to, a portal to another time or dimension.

 

In my next blog post I will be presenting my response to this exhibition and some of my latest work, looking at these ideas and a few more...

Karl Fritsch at Manchester Gallery

It was Fritsch mania at Manchester Gallery the other Thursday night! The exhibition on his exciting jewellery work is running currently at the Gallery on Mosely Street, who's outer façade  inner hall and staircase are currently cascading with luscious leafy foliage and blooms to lift your heart in this Narnia March we're having.

Fritsch Mania!

Fritsch Mania!

The curator of this exhibition is Jo Bloxham the driving force for many amazing shows such as The Sting of Passion in 2009, uniting jewellery artists with Pre-Raphaelite  paintings to create some remarkable work. aiming to show jewellery as an artform, rather than purely a decorative commodity, something she believes that the U.K is a little behind in.  Manchester museum's site reads on The Sting of Passion: "The works portray women as a femme fatale, a seductress, and in some cases, purely as an object of beauty. You can see how this was a perfect union to push preconceptions of jewellery as an artform and show it is much more than something nice to look at, the same as the iconic women depicted in the famous paintings, with equality and the portrayal of women in the media today a continuing topic for debate.

Ophelia,  Arthur Hughes part of "The Sting of Passion" exhibition combining Pre-Raphaelite paintings and contemporary jewellery.

Ophelia, Arthur Hughes part of "The Sting of Passion" exhibition combining Pre-Raphaelite paintings and contemporary jewellery.

Necklace by Kepa Karmona to accompany the painting

Necklace by Kepa Karmona to accompany the painting

As Karl dashed across the globe from Germany's Schmuck fest over to New Zealand where he is based he stopped over to talk to us about his work (as part of Manchester gallery's Thursday lates). Often controversial, his approach caused many a "heated discussion" while he was studying under his mentor, and now friend non other than Hermann Junger. When asked about his unconventional ways and his opinion on learning the recognised ways of working in order to be an artist jeweller Fritsch said: "You must take ownership, do it the way you think right. If it is new it will always be a challenge."

Expressive, strong, unconventional looking, tactile and defiant      A Fritsch Ring poking it's tongue out at convention (or excerpts from my imaginary online dating profile?)

Expressive, strong, unconventional looking, tactile and defiant  

A Fritsch Ring poking it's tongue out at convention (or excerpts from my imaginary online dating profile?)

"Yes, of course the ring wants to be beautiful. The technique also wants to be beautiful, and most often it’s the idea that wants to be the most beautiful.
But sometimes a piece likes nothing better than to sit in the mud and not give a damn about how it looks. If it is exactly what it wants to be in a given moment, it is precise, perfect and the most beautiful."

(From Fritsch's new publication on his work)

A series of his earlier work he himself describes as intentionally ugly, at a time when he was looking at the concept of wearing jewellery to attract attention and thought that an "unattractive" piece would draw the eye as much as one with a conventionally "pretty" aesthetic. The selection of work on show in this exhibition showcased the diversity of his work, giant sculptural pieces, including dinosaurs and mountains of gems down to simple, pared back oxidised metal work of lines and forms.

IMG_8568.JPG

The museum is also part of the fantastic Own Art scheme allowing the purchase of these pieces with affordable payments trying to make artists work accessible to as many people as possible who may be put off by a one off splurge. There was a live discussion on this subject  via the Guardian website last week (read it here). Hopefully this will make art become more attainable and also help artists by selling their pieces without having to water down their ideas or compromise to make a more affordable piece. It is definitely something I am continuing to learn, buying one amazing well made perfect thing you really really want instead of compromising and ending up serial buying inferior things in a bid not to spend too much.

Karl Fritsch Screw ring from Unexpected Pleasures at The Design Museum earlier this year.

Karl Fritsch Screw ring from Unexpected Pleasures at The Design Museum earlier this year.

 With the hard work of curators, artists and organisations like Manchester Gallery for this show and The Design Museum's Unexpected Pleasures exhibition and Aram's Beautiful Objects already this year hopefully this is something that is transforming before us, so we must do everything we can to encourage it to become the Island for jewels of intellect, intrigue and substance.

“Over the last 30 years there has been a movement within the jewellery world which has pushed the boundaries of what is possible to achieve within this practice. This has led to work being produced that has a narrative – a conceptual element to it."

Jo Bloxham

Fritsch rings, available to purchase via the "Own Art" scheme

Fritsch rings, available to purchase via the "Own Art" scheme

"Different rings for different things. It doesn't have to be for every occasion. You might put it on to sit and watch T.V. They are a luxury to be enjoyed."  Karl Fritsch when asked about the practicality of some of his pieces. 

This was my favourite, I love the soft green gold tones and the old fashioned blue and coral coloured cabochons and the playful shape.

This was my favourite, I love the soft green gold tones and the old fashioned blue and coral coloured cabochons and the playful shape.

Not just  "glue". SUPERGLUE!   As an accomplished silversmith Fritsch combines his technical training and skill with an open mind to realise his ideas. Sometimes simple is best.

Not just "glue". SUPERGLUE!  As an accomplished silversmith Fritsch combines his technical training and skill with an open mind to realise his ideas. Sometimes simple is best.

"Jewellery should excite, surprise, intrigue and stand alone." Jo Bloxham

This ring with it's shiny towers of gold was another of my wish list choices. 

This ring with it's shiny towers of gold was another of my wish list choices. 

karl fritsch ring spiney jewels.JPG

Whether you know of Karl Fritsch's work or not this a great exhibition to look around as there is such a variety of materials and styles it will get you thinking and discussing your opinions. Guessing each other's favourite, or even psychoanalysing "which ring would represent so-and-so" is a good, fun game as well. I think with wearable objects there is always another level of engagement to enjoy as you automatically imagine wearing it, touching it and how it would interact with your life. Many people may feel more at home "browsing" objects than viewing and critiquing a piece of art, so I hope this kind of exhibition encourages more people into galleries and museums.

Exhibition runs from 15 February 2013–23 June 2013 and it's FREE