While dismantling one of my Re:Degree pieces I came across four components that were press-formed, etched and enamelled. I had turned them into rudimentary beads to include in a neckpiece and I think from the very beginning I had had some reservations about whether they belonged there. Their inclusion was borne more out of my having invested time (and money) into their creation and I felt the need to justify this by shoe-horning them into one of my degree show pieces.
Initially I just cut them off and dropped them in my scrap jar to be converted into cash, which would most likely be used to buy more materials. However, the more I’ve worked on this project the more I’ve been making myself think about the design process and what I want to do with the materials that I’m reclaiming from these Re:Degree pieces. I’ve been enjoying keeping up with jeweller Amy Tavern’s blog and she wrote about a workshop in which she was encouraging students to really engage with all aspects of design, including considering the back of the piece, and I wanted to include some of this more considered thinking into the work. Sometimes, when working on your own you miss the opportunities to actually reflect on what you are doing and stop and question yourself and your process.
These ideas made me wonder if it was possible to reclaim the silver from the components more directly and use it in the new work. Turns out it is possible to saw open a press formed shape and flatten it back out into sheet. It might make things more time consuming, but this mini-project was always meant to be abut more than just re-using the material or firing out new pieces of stock. I like to think that the metal will be carrying the memory of its past form and the past work.
Or rather, my art. Or specifically, a collection of work that I made in the final year of my degree and in the subsequent years as an Artist in Residence. My final year of art college was a unique experience, as it is for most people. It’s a Big Deal at the time. This is It. The Big One. Your Future. It’s Make or Break time. Every cliché demands capitalisation.
It creates a very bizarre melting pot of deadlines and intensely scrutinising every design decision and making it fit with your ‘artistic vision’ for the year. Pair this with being a student in one of the over-achieving of the college jewellery departments, one that churns out Future Jeweller Champions with First after First after First. I realise in hindsight that this was not an atmosphere in which I thrived. I struggled to settle on an idea, on an identity, on a body of work to explore in depth. I skimmed across every idea I had, making it hurriedly and not all that well.
At a bit of a loss of what to do after graduating (unsurprisingly not with a First, turns out it really didn’t matter) I stayed on as an Artist in Residence and carried on making my work in the department. But without the solid base of a good degree show year’s body of work to build upon, none of this was very good either. So I find myself, today, with a box full of work that I, for the most part, deeply dislike. But habit makes me carry it around with me and honour it. It is sacred. It is my Degree Show.
After a year out from making, working in arts admin positions across two jobs, I decided that I needed something to get myself back into the swing of making and of being at the bench. And so it has come to pass that my art of the past must be destroyed. I have set myself the project Re:Degree, taking apart my least favourite Degree Show and Artist in Residence pieces, mining them for the silver and the stones.
But rather than straight up plunder, I have challenged myself to re-make them. To take the ideas, colours, materials from the original pieces and use what I have learned or gained in experience or identity in the past 8 years and see what I can make of them now. Because some people need a bit more time to find their way and to work out what they want to make. I wish someone had told me that back then.
"Every man is the sum total of his reactions to experience. As your experiences differ and multiply, you become a different man, and hence your perspective changes. This goes on and on. Every reaction is a learning process; every significant experience alters your perspective…
In every man, heredity and environment have combined to produce a creature of certain abilities and desires - including a deeply ingrained need to function in such as a way that his life will be MEANINGFUL. A man has to BE something; he has to matter.
As I see it then, the formula runs something like this: a man must choose a path which will let his ABILITIES function at maximum efficiency toward the gratification of his DESIRES…
In short, he has not dedicated his life to reaching a pre-defined goal, but he has rather chosen a way of life he KNOWS he will enjoy. The goal is absolutely secondary: it is the functioning toward the goal which is important.”
From a letter from Hunter S. Thompson to Hume Logan; April 22nd 1958.
This is a lovely video of Giovanni Corvaja explaining how he works and reflecting on gold as a material. I love his comment about the density of gold and how, when you are holding an object in gold you are ‘holding a lot of matter in a very small space’.