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Teaching non-jewellers


#1

Further to Bryan Adams’ and Michael Matthew’s posts, I thought
that you might be interested in a project that I was involved in
about four years ago.

The scene: An encampment of anti-roads protesters trying to
prevent the building of a piece of motorway through a public park
on the outskirts of Glasgow. No electricity, no running water and
only tents for protection against the elements. Campfires and
woodsmoke. Howling gales, snow and rain. Beautiful clear winter
days. Mud.

The time: Evenings and weekends, October-January, 1994/5.

I had turned up to lend my support to the campaign (being a
Radical Cyclist) and was met by an assortment of new-age
travellers, local people from a deprived housing estate next to the
site and some very earnest environmental activists. The protest
was being run by the utterly charismatic Colin MacDonald, who also
happens to be a superb (self-taught) sculptor and who had the idea
of making the site a working arts community, mostly to win over the
press, a policy which actually worked. After a bit of discussion,
he asked me if I could run some jewellery workshops to add to the
workshops already being offered - sculpture, painting, weaving etc

  • and I, of course agreed.

No tools - excepting the usual rusty old electrical pliers,
wrenches, hammers and the like, no soldering equipment, no metal.

We salvaged copper wire from old electrical installations and
someone ‘supplied’ some brass sheet (I never asked where this came
from) and, as they were very enthusiastic, I bought sawblades and
let them borrow a couple of sawframes from my workshop, as well as
some files. I tackled the workshops on a “what can we do with this
material?” basis and we started off by making simple twisted wire
bracelets and pierced pendants but eventually my ‘students’ started
getting more and more adventurous: they found some lovely
water-worn quartz pebbles… “can we use these?”. Of course they
could. So we pierced out spidery shapes and twisted the 'legs’
over the stones. Eventually I bought a plumber’s portable torch (I
had to be able to carry my whole toolkit in my rucksack AND be
able to ride my bike eleven miles) and we started to make soldered
pieces. “Can I melt this down?”. Of course not… but I took the
metal to my workshop and processed it, so we then had silver. It
was great. Thor’s hammers galore! We even managed to make some
pieces with bezels on them, which we then filled with broken bottle
glass and fused to make a type of primitive enamel. Most of the
pieces were finished by me in my workshop, or by my 'legitimate’
students, some of whom were delighted to help their eccentic tutor
in their lunch breaks.

But the ‘piece de resistance’ was the casting! Oh yes! Casting
in the middle of a public park in the middle of winter in the
middle of an anti-roads protest. It all came about because Colin
asked me to make some wee pendants or brooches to commemorate the
protest (by the January, it was clear that the protest was soon to
be over) and I could have cast them in my own workshop, but by this
stage I was quite thrilled by the way things had been going and I
decided to do it ‘in situ’. One of my students had been a
steelworker and he built us a wood-fired hearth on which we could
melt metal (I supplied an old scorifier). Colin provided a drawing
of what he wanted and I made this in my workshop as a master
pattern. Obviously centrifugal and vacuum casting were not options
and I briefly toyed with the idea of sling casting but decided that
I wasn’t going to risk my own skin, let alone anyone else’s on
that, so we made open moulds in dried powdered clay - yup, dug from
the ground - mixed with old car oil (don’t ask me to remember how
we came up with this idea… someone suggested it and it worked!),
poured the metal in and pressed a steel block down onto it. This
gave us castings which while not of the best surface quality, were
very clearly copies of the master.

The down side of this was that it took us ages to make a few
pieces as we could only melt enough brass, which was hardly
casting-grade brass, to do a few pieces at one time and Colin kept
remembering “someone else that he wanted to give one to”.

I have such fond memories of these workshops and I still have
Colin’s master pattern: probably my favourite piece of my own work,
although to most people, nothing special. It was such a good,
positive experience for me and, I hope, my students (a few of whom
had come from Germany, Finland and Australia and took the pieces
that they had made away with them) and I learned a lot from it
myself… It gave me even greater respect for the ancient
jewellers who did such amazing things from the sort of resources
that I had to hand.

(Interestingly enough, writing all this down has made ME wonder
how the hell I did half of the stuff!)

Hope that this is of interest to you.
Yours aye,
Dauvit Alexander,
Glasgow, Scotland.


#2

Ahhhh! Jewelers are such inventive folk. Your story reminds me
of my camping (pre jeweler) days when I pretended to be a pioneer
woman and created gourmet dishes over a wood fire and in a stone
oven and, in fact, did make some twig, grass and pebble jewelry
with the kids. What fun that was.

Nancy
Bacliff, Texas Gulf Coast USA


#3
   T he scene: An encampment of anti-roads protesters trying to
prevent the building of a piece of motorway through a public
park on the outskirts of Glasgow.  No electricity, no running
water and only tents for protection against the elements. 
Campfires and woodsmoke.  Howling gales, snow and rain. 
Beautiful clear winter days.  Mud

Sounds like a great experiance, I think I could get into doing
stuff that way. There would be alot of satisfaction in making
things completely from “scratch”. I’ve heard of a local guy who
blows glass out in the woods. Good stuff. Congrats on having
such an creative open mind.
Keep on rock’n out

Jeff Cleveland
aka JevFro 1609 N. water Ellensburg, Washington JevFro@hotmail.com
http://www.cwu.edu./~clevelaj

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#4
Further to Bryan Adams' and Michael Matthew's posts, I thought
that you might be interested in a project that I was involved in
about four years ago.
The scene: An encampment of anti-roads protesters trying to
prevent the building of a piece of motorway through a public park
on the outskirts of Glasgow.  No electricity, no running water and
only tents for protection against the elements.  Campfires and
woodsmoke.  Howling gales, snow and rain.  Beautiful clear winter
days.  Mud.

Wonderful, Dauvit. Super story.

I have been booked to do a short series of nightclasses down the
road here at the local ‘Arts Community Studios’ and secretly I’ve
been a little worried about the scarcity of normal jewellery
facilities there. I know I’m quite good at this sort of thing, vis
my Street Jewellery at Queenstown a few weeks ago, but really in my
heart of hearts …

So Dauvit I wonder if you’d mind if I relate your road-protest
story to my nightclass sudents? I’ll try to read it in a Scots
accent :wink:

Regards to you in sunny Scotland.

Brian
B r i a n ? A d a m J e w e l l e r y E y e w e a r ?
@Brian_Adam1 ph/fx +64 9 817 6816 NEW ZEALAND
http://www.adam.co.nz/workshop/ NEW - report from Queenstown Jan’98