Handmade in Edinburgh report

Another one to watch.
Another one to watch.

I visited Handmade in Britain, at Chelsea Town Hall, in 2014 and remember writing a report on it then and I don’t know what I was expecting but I remember feeling a little underwhelmed. Perhaps it was my expectation, a little too high, what with it being in London. I went to Handmade in Edinburgh with no expectations, having not visited The Hub venue before, and was delighted with it, the opening really felt like something special, something worth celebrating.

None of my close friends had applied to exhibit, I guess it was a bit of a risk as this was the first Handmade in Edinburgh, and no one really knew how it would go. So I’ve yet to talk to any of the exhibitors to find out the general publics response, to gauge whether it worked financially. As this was a paid entry selling fair it may have put people off going, not necessarily because of the actual cost (though my grandmother did question the £4 entry and asked why I hadn’t got her a free ticket!), but because it is unusual to have a selling show like this that asks an entry fee. I’ve no idea about the economics of this model, in some ways it might put potential visitors off, then again it might mean you only get serious buyers coming to see the work. I teach and do volunteer work as well as my own jewellery and do have a problem with excluding people from things, if a family wanted to visit but the entry fee mounted up then that might be a day out spent elsewhere. I think art and craft should be open to all and be there to inspire future generations of artists and makers. Maybe I’m just saying this as I don’t feel there are enough contemporary craft fairs and other events of this calibre in Scotland. When in London there are loads of free contemporary art and craft things to see, so the entry fee seems less important there. Having said that the quality of work was mainly worth the small entry fee. Maybe if this year was seen as a success there will be more applicants to choose from next year.

I will be biased in mentioning Maike Browning and her beautifully saw pierced silver jewellery. A former resident of Mull, where she had a gallery that I stocked, Maike’s work is full of tiny details that have been patiently cut from sheet. Very detailed, delicate work that was cleanly exhibited.

Another highland maker is Helen Michie, whose distinctive style of ceramic tiles caught my eye with its bold colours and delicate natural forms contrasted with a smokey raku firing.

There were lots of lovely homewares, showing great craftsmanship and design consideration, such as the unusual and playful shapes of Penny Withers ceramics. Combined with her subtle colour pallet these pieces would look great in many settings.

I enjoyed Ben Esthop’s wooden pieces, combined with colourful resin, making a feature out of the cracks in the wood. His use of the materials looks very contemporary, making what usually might be seen as a problem a part of the work and exploiting the character of the material to great effect. It’s work like this that can inspire, it shows creative thinking in problem solving, it should be something that can be seen by all.

Christmas stock now on Etsy

Eeek! So I’ve been so overwhelmed with orders for my Christmas pieces that I’ve just hastily put together an Etsy shop. This is literally the last of the Christmas stock, including the last 3 pairs of robins, which were produced after they completely sold out. You can still order through Facebook by messaging my page, by email or by stopping me in the street! So, almost sold out and I won’t be doing any more making till next year, other that a couple of private commissions, so order now to avoid disappointment.

Shop now on Etsy

A visit to London Design Fair 2016

The guy on the table next to me cheekily looked towards the pastry and cappuccino that had just arrived in front of me “it’s rather late for breakfast!” He commented. I had to agree. My excuse being that I actually had no idea what time it was, only that I hadn’t eaten since leaving home in Ullapool at 4.15am. It was now 11.45, I had finally made it in to London, and was 5 minutes walk from the Old Truman Brewery and the London Design Fair.

I made a beeline for the Scotland: Craft and Design section, which was organised by Craft Scotland and Emergents. The distinctive design of the display was the first thing I noticed, a very contemporary polystyrene block system that had jagged mountains carved into the side, and a clean stepped surface to show the work on. After getting over what I thought was a very clever display, that made the most of the chosen materials properties, I did a quick run around the room.

As its a big show, and I wanted to see it all, it isn’t possible to spend too long in any one room. I had seen a lot of the Scottish makers work before but was struck by a couple of new collections from people who’s previous work I had seen. One was Melanie Muirs polymer clay vessels, a development from her usual jewellery pieces. Another favorite from the Scottish showcase was Jennifer Gray’s tiles and condiment sets made in jesmonite with brass details. Using digital technologies to design her pieces she is able to push her designs and combine them with traditional craft techniques to create new collections that are distinct from one another yet identifiably hers. She retains her style of cast pieces in this collection, with surprising details such as the hidden olive pick and a reassuring weight to the brass grinding spheres. The contemporary functional furniture of David Watson also caught my eye, in particular the coffee table made from laminated European oak, with the beautiful details that you only get in a handmade piece.

Having been out of the making loop for the best part of two years, with baby duties, I was reassured to see that nothing major had happened. No big changes in style or technological leaps that I had missed. There was lots of talk of “sustainable”, a lot of it with rather weak premise, one example being the use of hardwood from a small estate but no mention of a replanting plan and long term sustainable management of the woodland. On the other end of the scale one of India’s biggest industrial manufacturing companies had a showcase for their Punah Project, which is focused on recycling the tons of waste material produced in their manufacturing processes, to create new products. Rather than simply recycling metals, by melting them down, which uses a lot of energy and creates more waste, they look for new ways to up-cycle the waste in a more sustainable way and use it as the raw material for new designs. Such as using crimping waste to create designer shoes, which take the waste as it is and add value, working towards a more circular flow of materials. Being truly sustainable is not an easy thing to achieve, there is always energy used and materials wasted, but perhaps as I delve back into the studio I should be assessing my own practice more and designing Jewellery pieces informed by this.

A view on colour (or color)

Well, its been a while, hasn’t it…

Just read one of my last post, so much for full time jeweller! I once again stumbled on the bookshop job this summer, which I do enjoy, but it does take time away from what I love. The bookshop job is something I could easily do, even as a full time job, you get read about reading, what could be more fun than that?! That is said in all seriousness from a kid who spent her childhood escaping into books, and by escaping I mean literally throwing myself into them, ultimate escapism, everything imagined in bright bold 3D, just as if I was there. Makes for a slow reader of course, but worth rereading a line as many times as is needed to get the picture just right. I still refer to radio dramas as “watching a play” much to my husbands amusement, him reminding me that we were only listening to it really. It can be a dangerous job for someone who likes books, I get to personally click and pre order all the books I want. In hardback. Which can be costly considering its only a part time job of often only 7 hours a week. Luckily there were only a couple out this summer that I’d been waiting on, The Bone Clocks and Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage.  That last one got me thinking, actually I’d been thinking this for a while but sometimes you need a nudge just to let you know its ok to think it, do I need colour?

My idea of a varying coloursIMG_0017

The last time I worked in colour with jewellery it was slightly garish, as my sister delights in reminding me, there also exists a rather fantastically florescent life painting of mine in oils, yes “florescent” and “oils”. Not a wise experiment. So I tend to go a bit OTT, like someone applying their own makeup for the first time, maybe I just get a bit too excited by it all and let that imagination run away with itself. I don’t do feature walls.

I’ve tried designing in colour, choosing a palette, thats the biggest hurdle, maybe my struggle with colour is actually because I like it too much? Or maybe because I just can’t choose, I have no particular connection with any one colour, I don’t have a favourite, no theme in my wardrobe, scheme in my house, actually it all seems rather random. There is one colour that ties everything together though, not so much a colour as a material, wood, maybe thats more important, choosing the material over the colour. The wood for its properties and origin. I could give you a guided tour of our house and show you the pieces of Lawson’s Cyprus from our garden that make up the stairs, the Sycamore floor from the Scottish Borders,  the Douglas Fir beams from the forest surrounding us. Maybe I need to get over this material property over design and mess about with some colour, get practicing, immerse myself in it for a while and see what happens, at least I always have my sister to rely on for honest feedback. So maybe I don’t “need” colour I guess but it’d be fun to have a play, lets just hope I don’t have a repeat of the florescent oils episode and let my imagination run off again.

I’m really not sure how this one will go, it could be a mistake, it could be just that I’ve seen too many Christmas decorations already or been influenced by the recent excitement of Painting House Door and Painting Studio Desk DIY tasks. Who knows. It’ll probably pass as quickly as it came and I’ll be left in the peace and calm of silver and Stone-hammered silver, with hints of gold. For now its back to full time, as the summer job is well and truly over, with a long list of distractions including an exciting project to help coordinate in my role on the board of Applied Arts Scotland and charity work as chair of Isle Martin Trust.

Another example of my appreciation for subtle natural colours!

Wheaten Maran, Scots Grey, RIR and hybrid eggs

Collect and Handmade in Britain – A report for Emergents

Bishoplands

Another of my Go&See reports for Emergents Makers.

This time I responded to an advert offering bursaries of £150 for makers to go and visit these two shows and as I have considered applying to exhibit at Handmade in Britain I was keen to get the chance to see the show first hand and promptly submitted an application to Emergents for funding for the trip.

My full report including more images can be found here.

Focussing full time

So, I think its about time to write another post, if not for any readers then for myself so that I can look back in a years time and see how things have moved on and to see if I’ve kept my resolution of keeping on top of the books and doing my tax return early. With 4 days to go I have just filed my return for 2012/13, actually quite enjoyed it but I would have enjoyed it more and been able to relax and do some forecasting at the same time if I had not been under so much pressure to get it in quick!

Since dropping the part time jobs in October last year I have been focussing full, full time on the jewellery business, as apposed to the equivalent of full time hours on the jewellery but being knackered because of the part time waitressing, receptionist and bookshop jobs. Now its full time jewellery business with time to relax and sleep between stints in the studio, allowing me to start work everyday with a clear head and the energy to focus fully on the task at hand! It isn’t all plain sailing relying on the business for an income as sales fluctuate and you never really know how things are going to go from week to week, but so far I am happy to say that I can still do my weekly food shop, keep the car running and pay the vet bills (keeping chickens is turning out to be much more expensive than I ever thought possible, seriously, chicken autopsy! Think I might train as a vet next).

A big thanks goes to Emergents and the former HI-Arts, as without their support I most certainly would have had to move to the central belt, their support through mentoring, networking events and bursaries has been essential to my business so far. Knowing that there is someone there at the end of the phone whenever the doubt and “impostor syndrome” set in and having the reassurance that I’m on the right track as well as feeling part of a jewellery community and not in a little bubble of my own. It would be all too easy, working away on my own in the woods, to get stuck in a rut and feel isolated, but due to all the opportunities and trips away I treasure the place I live and work and never feel resentment towards being tied down and settled here on the wild west coast, instead every time I come home over the hills and see the view down the loch I’m itching to get the stove lit in the studio and relax back into work full of ideas and motivation from the trips away.

My plans for 2014 include getting to know the chickens better (the more you watch them the easier it is to spot early signs of illness or other problems, becoming a bit of a smallholder and wannabe chicken expert!) and when not hanging with the chicks I want to focus on finding some more stockists across the country for my new collection. The new work has yet to be professionally photographed, my skills are not up to it, but they are heading to Shannon Tofts studio next week for their shoot and I’ll be launching the collection some time next month. The new collection consists of 10 designs in sterling silver with playful lockets and hidden catches at more purse friendly prices! The first confirmed new stockists are the Diana Porter Gallery in Bristol and the Tayberry Gallery in Perth. It was a pleasure to meet Diana when I was exhibiting with Emergents at the recent CRAFT in London and she picked out the pieces she wanted for her gallery herself, a great compliment from a great jeweller. The collection will be having its Scottish premier at the Tayberry’s 5th anniversary on the 7th of March, Sarah awarded me the Tayberry Gallery prize for my degree show collection back in 2011 and has been stocking my work ever since!

So, no pictures for now, but there may be more instagram pics heading to FB and Twitter, I’m going to try a little experiment, not only for the jewellery side of things but mainly for Isle Martin Trust, to try a tweet a day for a month. They say it takes a couple of weeks for good habits to form so here goes!

You can also follow the twitter feed for Isle Martin Trust to check I’ve been keeping on top of things.

Reports: my report for Emergents on the Craft Scotland conference in Dundee

Full report available on the Emergents website

Merlin Planterose, Go and See Report
Craft Scotland Conference – October 2013

Merlin Planterose

Merlin Planterose

As I stepped from the train station I was greeted by a blast of icy cold night air and quickly pulled my collar up and shoved my hands deep into my pockets before trudging up Perth Road. The sights and sounds of a Friday night in Dundee were familiar as I had been to University there but this was the first time I’d been back since graduating, having been so desperate to get back to the Highlands that I didn’t even stick around for the graduation ceremony. Despite this I was full of excitement about the next two days.

full report available on the Emergents website

On the train to Goldsmiths Fair!

So… Its been a while…

Not through lack of things to blog about but because I’ve been prioritising, not just in work but in life too, spending an hour or two doing an update is time that could be spent in the studio or spent squeezing in some me time at the swimming pool.

 

Since finding out that I would be exhibiting at Goldsmiths Fair things have become increasingly busy to the point where friends have asked when I’m going to be human again and when they are going to see me next! The slightly worrying thing is that I don’t seem to notice that life is racing past and I forget even my closest friends Birthdays (sorry Anna!), so I think that the work/life balance is something that definitely needs more consideration when planning events for next year, I’m sure when I’m older I’ll appreciate having had those extra trips to the pool and staying in touch with people I care about. I have my husband to thank for dragging me out to socialise now and then, if it wasn’t for him I would probably end up being a hermit jeweller, getting my groceries delivered and adopting all the neighbourhood cats.

At the moment though I am still very much enjoying things and have the energy and enthusiasm to pull consecutive late nighters in the workshop, keep on top of the housework and do some volunteering. Its just as well as I have the Goldsmiths Fair in London next week from the 23rd-29th, Lustre in Nottingham from the 8th-10th of November, Selected at the Dovecot Studios in Edinburgh from the 29th of November till the 21st of December and then in early 2014 I’ll be participating in another exciting event that I can’t reveal yet! On the volunteering side of things I am the youngest (by a long shot) director of The Isle Martin Trust which manages our beautiful community asset Isle Martin.

little me on Isle Martin in the 1990’s. Wish I still had that dress, what an awesome print!

As well as all that I have had some commissions including a lovely set of wedding bands for some friends Nick and Annie. The clients wanted to use some sentimental old gold jewellery as well as some new Scottish gold that Nick had panned for, this resulted in two rings that had far more meaning than something off the shelf.

Congratulations!
Made using the clients old jewellery. Melted down and cast into wire to form the rings with granulation details in Scottish panned for gold. Romantic indeed!

Persistence paying off

Having become more comfortable with visiting London on my own after attending New Designers then New Designers “One Year On” I applied for a HI-Arts travel bursary to visit Goldsmiths Fair 2011 – “the most important, prestigious event of its kind in Europe”. It was a fantastic event with a great mix of jewellery styles and silversmithing, enough variation over the two weeks to draw me in to almost every one of the 180 displays. I was so overwhelmed by the place and the fantastic atmosphere that I decided then and there that this was going to be my next big goal in life – to get in to Goldsmiths Fair.

Goldsmiths Fair is one of the few shows to offer a realistic package for recent graduates, you can apply within 5 years of graduating, you get a free stand, a bursary and a zero interest bullion loan. So far I have only seen other shows offer a reduced rate for a stand. When your starting out the investment needed for just producing enough stock for a show is daunting! I applied for this package for the 2012 show with little hope of getting in but with the realisation that I had 4 more attempts to try and get in. I was inevitably un-successful.

I applied for their Who’s Who in Gold and Silver web directory early in 2013 and though they sent me a very encouraging and complementary letter I was un-successful in getting approved for the listing. Having just been rejected for this I knew there was no chance they would approve me for Goldsmiths Fair 2013 with the same images in the application, but I decided to put one in anyway so that they could see I was still interested and would be on record for the following year as having applied the previous two years.

Late last week I got the Goldsmiths marked envelope, it was a bit heavier than the year before but I just assumed they had changed the format of their response. I tore it open in my usual manner as I walked back up to the cabin, another package tucked under my arm, I skimmed down looking for “we regret…” or “sorry” or any other negative confirmation. Then I carefully read it again, not quite believing that they had missed out the rejection part, surely they wouldn’t disguise it in the letter somewhere, using big complicated words in an attempt to ease the blow. I double checked that it was indeed my name on the top of the letter. Re-read it again. I had got in. I picked up the phone to call my husband and then put the phone down just so I could check and be doubly sure that I wasn’t making some horrible delusional mistake. I hadn’t been mistaken, I had been accepted!

Just then the fish van arrived blaring its horn us it revved up the driveway, I ran down and couldn’t stop grinning as I ordered some hot smoked salmon, fresh crab and dabs, the fishmonger had the courtesy to ask me if I was celebrating as the total stacked up and I quickly told him, he was already running half an hour late so didn’t want to hold him up with the details but he got the gist.

My next goal is to start making a living from my business and be able to attend a couple of shows a year under my own steam.

Silver jewellery and silversmithing in the north west highlands of scotland