Gold: A Material Possession

The recent eye-catching display of my favourite art shop, Cornellison & Son ( a trove of amazing traditional materials, professional pigments and art supplies, estd 1855!) to accompany their array of gilding materials.

The recent eye-catching display of my favourite art shop, Cornellison & Son ( a trove of amazing traditional materials, professional pigments and art supplies, estd 1855!) to accompany their array of gilding materials.

Ancient gold jewellery from Manchester Museum's Ancient World's exhibition.

Ancient gold jewellery from Manchester Museum's Ancient World's exhibition.

"Gold-the most universal of archetypes. It's allure gleams in liturgical traditions and Pagan rituals, royal celebrations & alchemical transformations. The splendour of this precious metal has limitless visual potential. While it's use can veer dangerously close to signalling excess & kitsch, gold is nevertheless flamboyant & resplendent - a spectacle to behold. Somewhere between elegant & overpowering, it became a catalyst for creativity suggesting the transformation of a raw material into a work of art to be admired." Dries Van Noten exhibition, the Decorative Art Museum, Paris

Golden garments, at Dries Van Noten's current Paris exhibition including a beautifully embroidered antique piece.

Golden garments, at Dries Van Noten's current Paris exhibition including a beautifully embroidered antique piece.

 

What I like about gold is the fact that it's NATURALLY OCCURRING, which I think can be forgotten because of it's expense. Valued since it's discovery for it's beauty and rarity, it is also a material with unique properties made up from a combination of ingredients found in the universe. The desire it has created and it's limited availability means it's used as a means of expressing wealth, giving it the reputation for being showy and gaudy. But unlike a wad of paper bank notes for a man made currency, if you found a nugget of gold gleaming amidst the gravel of a muddy stream, or peeking out of a rocky wall it immediately catches the eye as something special irrespective of knowledge of it's outside "worth". Real gold is a wonderful material to work with but causes creative limitations by it's expense. I love pyrite (fool's gold) which as well as having it's own unique qualities also shares some of the appeal of the treasured material. It's natural, it sparkles, it's warm and shiny, I WANT IT on a deep level. And I can work with it creatively on my artist budget and use larger pieces to make a big impact with objects in this lovely, sunny metallic hue. Yuuuuum.

 

 
An pyrite specimen I used recently for a bespoke ring.

An pyrite specimen I used recently for a bespoke ring.

 
Hubert Duprat's beautiful jewelled insect homes I saw in the Dries Van Noten exhibition in Paris last month.

Hubert Duprat's beautiful jewelled insect homes I saw in the Dries Van Noten exhibition in Paris last month.

A wonderful surprise at the Dries Van Noten exhibition was the inclusion of Hubert Duprat's amazing caddis flies which I had never seen in real life before! I love the way he has used jewels and precious materials in this way, showing them as natural things. To us, we know how "expensive" they are in our society, but to the caddis lavae they are just a handy building material to make their little home.  In a similar way, the pearl is known to us as a rare find in the watery depths, romantic, elegant and precious. However, to the oyster it is a way of dealing with an annoying speck of grit so it doesn't damage it's delicate insides, a biological process.

 

Pearls at The Museum of London

Pearls at The Museum of London

These are animals protecting themselves in beautiful ways.

A new exhibition has also just started at The Manchester Museum, From the War of Nature. Coinciding with the commemoration of the start of World War One, the exhibition looks at " the story of predation, competition, co-operation and collaboration... (revealing) that living things resolve conflict in many, often unexpected, ways and aims to challenge the perception that war is an inevitable outcome of conflict." I say hopefully we can form a pearl of wisdom out the irritating grit that gets in our shells. :)

Brittany Nelson: Science


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These ambiguous shapes and fragmented textures are from Brittany Nelson and her use of the technique "Mordançage". It bleaches and lifts the emulsion from silver gelatin prints allowing it to be manipulated through the artist's hand. Based on bleaching and etching techniques first documented in 1897 by Paul Liesegang as a reversal process for film negatives, modern Mordançage was created by Jean-Pierre Sudre during the 1960s. There is a definite 60s feel to these graphic shapes and the psychedelic way they melt with merging colours belonging in another world of semi-consciousness.

 

Brittany's work is currently exhibiting at David Klein Gallery, Detroit Michigan.

Photos are from the artist's website: www.brittanynelson.com

Push The Button!

The Button Project is coming to the Heritage Centre, Macclesfield. Launched as part of the Barnaby Festival Visual Arts Trail the exhibition will feature hand made buttons from hundreds of different artists and designers. It will begin on the 14th June and run until August 8th 2013. The project is being organised by Victoria Scholes a glass artist, curator, writer and organiser of lots of other brilliant events such as the "Glass Games" inspired by the Olympics.

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The museum curator, Annabel Wills, says “The great thing about The Button Project is the way that it brings together the historical collections with contemporary artists. The town has its beginnings in the button trade, and Macclesfield silk buttons were all handmade. Today’s makers help to keep that heritage very much alive.”

"When love and skill work together, expect a masterpiece" John Ruskin. Expect some mini masterpieces from the skills and patience of the contributors... details and gallery of some of the buttons can be seen here.

Schiaparelli's "Trapeze" Buttons

Schiaparelli's "Trapeze" Buttons

During my degree I worked a lot with buttons and the details of clothing and amassed a collection of buttons in every material, from every era. I was inspired by the details of these historical garments and ways they could become contemporary pieces. The button, such a tiny addition to a piece of clothing could easily be overlooked as just a fastening device but is a vital finishing touch, a sign of quality utilised to add interesting detail.  Couture designers such as Schiaparelli commissioned amazing sculptural buttons that were more like pieces of art made by skilled artisans, and Coco Chanel's "double C" button is as iconic today as ever.

In modern times they are often used to customise clothing by those who want to make their off-the-peg purchase more individual.  The fact that all of these different artists were coming together to be linked by this format is really interesting, each producing their own take and showcasing their creativity.

Tessa Wolfe Murray's Ceramic Button reminds me of an arrowhead

Tessa Wolfe Murray's Ceramic Button reminds me of an arrowhead

Hazel Terry's button uses found thread

Hazel Terry's button uses found thread

For this new project I again started thinking about what a button represents. Communicating who we are through what we wear is as important today as it has ever been. From the choices we make between ethically made pieces or cheap sweat shop bargains, second hand, vintage or the finest bespoke tailoring... colour, style, how much flesh we reveal, it is our first impression we make on the world.

Wearing buttons as your identity; Carole and Pat Jolly, Pearly King and Queen of Crystal Palace - members of The London Pearly Kings and Queens Society  image courtesy of  www.pearlysociety.co.uk

Wearing buttons as your identity; Carole and Pat Jolly, Pearly King and Queen of Crystal Palace - members of The London Pearly Kings and Queens Society  image courtesy of www.pearlysociety.co.uk

Rampant Lion Button, inspiration for my own creation for the project

Rampant Lion Button, inspiration for my own creation for the project

Through researching buttons I always loved the brass ones from military clothing. The symbols and animals would often represent a regiment giving the wearer a sense of belonging to a group; to be worn with polished pride. These are like signet rings but for clothing.

The reverse side of my button, the maker is Gaunt London, est. 1884  known for their military buttons. This one is probably mid 20th Century

The reverse side of my button, the maker is Gaunt London, est. 1884  known for their military buttons. This one is probably mid 20th Century

As far as traditional jewellery is concerned, the seal/signet ring is a very old form of identity. The wearer would use it to protect their privacy when sending letters and documents, to make sure they were sending their own unadulterated words,  tamper proof by the wax seal being intact when it reached its destination.

Gold seal ring, England 1580-1600  From the V&A collection

Gold seal ring, England 1580-1600

From the V&A collection

Gloopy drip of hot sealing wax

Gloopy drip of hot sealing wax

"A seal is a device for making an impression in wax, clay, paper, or some other medium, including an embossment on paper, and is also the impression thus made. The original purpose was to authenticate a document, a wrapper for one such as a modern envelope, or the cover of a container or package holding valuables or other objects. The sealing process is essentially that of a mould, with the final image represented on the device for making the impression by a mirror-image design, incised in sunken- (or counter-) relief or intaglio" (Wiki)

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Combining these ideas I wanted to create a Trompe L'oeil button appearing to be a wax seal. The imprint was made using a brass button, being the individuals insignia.

Trompe L'oeil sealing wax button. Polished red resin with a silver shank 

Trompe L'oeil sealing wax button. Polished red resin with a silver shank 

Talking of communication, it is also Stationery Week! As we feel taken over by technology overtaking us, the lost art of letter writing and the paraphernalia involved can become decorative objects.

"The pen is mightier than the sword"

"The pen is mightier than the sword"

National Stationery Week is a celebration of the written word and all things stationery.

"We want to get more people putting pen to paper and writing by hand more often...Some would have us believe that letter writing and writing by hand in a digital age is dead in the water and no longer matters but as all stationery devotees know, nothing could be further from the truth!

The truth is, technology has merely distracted us from the joy and importance of writing, it hasn’t replaced it. Today, stationery and pens are also the new must-have fashion accessory – it’s where fashion meets function! There is something special about stationery, and receiving a handwritten letter or card."