30 August 2013

Skinny Dipping

The deed is done ... studio walls have been filled, sanded and painted; floors cleaned; work hung; symposium presentation delivered ... and breathe!

Thick Skinned (detail) - found crucifix, plastic, felt, aluminium, thread
© Vanda Campbell 2013
Thick Skinned (detail) 
© Vanda Campbell 2013
Left Behind (detail) - found earring (broken), plastic, felt, thread
© Vanda Campbell 2013

23 August 2013

On the Cuff

With a week to go, I am taking the "brave / foolish / right / wrong" (delete as appropriate) decision not to show "Off the Cuff" as part of my final MA project. Samples have been made, patterns cut and recut, stitches sewn and unpicked, but nothing is close to being presentable.

The potential for reworking clothing elements to take on the role of more traditional jewellery mounts, is something that realistically needs more time than is available before an arbitrary submission deadline.  “On the Cuff” is an expression, not so familiar as “Off the Cuff”, but at this point in time is a more appropriate description of what this work has become ... a promise of delivery in the future.

Samples so far have used pattern-cutting techniques to manipulate the fabric into forms that hint at traditional jewellery mounts.  Decreasing circles of cloth are carefully measured and stitched.  Laid flat, the form acts as a frame for the hole, the negative space, in the cloth.  Lifted, the form becomes a telescopic structure that if worn, alters the familiar shape of the body, or can be used to hide a secret, in a way not dissimilar to concealing a photograph or keepsake in a locket.

When positioned over the body (for example on the chest, or on an arm), this allows me to effectively re-present the exposed flesh.  Unadorned skin could take on the role of a gemstone, and assume the values and significance of what, in monetary terms, is often the most valuable element in traditional jewellery.  By using the textile piece to frame the body in this way, the negative space would become the positive object.  The body would be reassigned as a gemstone; the fabric would be reassigned as a frame, or mount.

I know that potentially this research could produce some really exciting work, with fabric structures being displayed in a way that are almost familiar - folded on a shelf or hung on a clothes hanger - giving an indication that they might be clothing.  But there the familiarity would stop.  The forms might not be instantly obvious.  How they are to be worn is not evident.

Exciting, isn't it?!

PS  Don't worry, Thick Skinned, Left Behind and Not so Thick Skinned are all ready and presentable, so there won't be an void where Vanda should be!

2 August 2013

Off The Cuff

I have made a number of pieces (Jilted, Thick Skinnedexploring the relationship between skin and wearable object.  To balance this, it's time to investigate the fabric layer, the clothing, which usually lies between the object, specifically jewellery, and the skin (body) on which it's worn.

As an integral part of who we are and what we do clothing has assumed many roles, including the ability to contain and carry through the addition of pockets, openings and fixings. The interplay of function and form, and the constant movement of, and interaction with, the fabric is at the centre of all of this is. Often unknowingly, people 'play' with their clothing, and in the process, momentarily redefine its form: shirtsleeves are rolled up; warm knitted sleeves are pulled down to cover fingers on a cold day' scarves are twisted and knotted; hemlines are hitched.

At this point of play, I suspect that clothing takes on a new role.  If a jumper is worn casually slung across our shoulders, perhaps with the cuffs carefully knotted on our chests, is it, at this point, a jumper, or has it become a necklace?
Found photograph
"Actress Deborah Kerr Wearing A Straw Hat, 
a Sweater Tied Around Her Shoulders"
Off The Cuff Studio work - found vintage dress, stitch, paper
© Vanda Campbell 2013
Off The Cuff Studio - found objects, paper, stitch
© Vanda Campbell 2013

30 July 2013


What happens to earrings when one of the pair is broken?  Is one, or both, left behind, assigned to a dusty corner of a jewellery box or drawer?  If the broken earring no longer functions as  jewellery, can it become something else?

Left Behind is a collection of earrings, one of which has been damaged or broken.  The imperfect one  is dipped and coated in tinted plastic, and hung in a grid opposite it's perfect other half.  The dipped earring no longer functions as jewellery but becomes something more - a body, a form.  The 'perfect' earring loses it's partner, and so is, in turn, left behind.

Studio Work in Progress Jilted © Vanda Campbell 2013 
Studio Work in Progress Jilted © Vanda Campbell 2013

26 July 2013

Thick Skinned

In situations where a relationship, sequence, or pattern is taken for granted it is only when change occurs that we are reminded that a pattern exists and what it is supposed to be.  The relationships between the objects we carry or wear, and our body, are examples of just such a relationship.  By breaking the received pattern, I draw attention to it.  I present objects that are almost familiar – familiar materials in unfamiliar forms - and by reordering the received pattern, I aim to question and re-present these relationships.  
Traditional jewellery is often made of metals and gemstones; hard, cold materials that need violent intervention in the form of heating, hammering, and drilling to construct the desirable shapes and forms.  Our bodies, and the skin and clothing that cover them, have very different qualities: flexible, not static; elastic rather than rigid.  To place an item of jewellery, that is a hard, inflexible form on a body or clothing that is in a constant state of movement is surely a mismatch?  
Thick Skinned is an investigation of this mismatch, and comprises a collection of once-wearable found objects.  Broken necklaces, half paired earrings and abandoned trinkets have been dipped and coated in a tinted, liquid plastic.  Although the plastic dries with some flexibility, the articulated jewellery forms are trapped in a new format and become fixed.  A dangly earring no longer dangles, as it is swaddled in its new plastic skin, reminiscent of a pupa.  The colour of this new coating directly acknowledges the relationship between the object and the skin, and begins to visually blur the distinction between them.   Cold, hard materials such as metal and acrylic feel warm to the touch with this new coating, while forms such as necklaces or chains, are reformed into pendants or drops.  
The works in Thick Skinned are presented in a way that hints at wearability, but closer inspection reveals that there is no obvious way of wearing these reworked forms.  There are no evident fixings, or specific ways to hang or connect these works to the body.  They can however be held, stroked, pocketed.  They no longer function as jewellery in the traditional sense, but instead have become forms, or bodies.

Thick Skinned Found object  © Vanda Campbell 2013
Thick Skinned, Found object, plastic, thread  © Vanda Campbell 2013

23 July 2013

Mirror Mirror

Pockets stuffed with useful bits of this and that ... reading glasses, earphones, mirrors ... They all have specific uses, but for only fleeting moments in the day.  What do they become when they are at rest, I wonder?  If they are worn, rather than carried, can they function as jewellery during their 'down' times?  Stretching this thought further, what about when they are broken and no longer fit for their original, intended purpose? 

Mirror Mirror Studio work - found mirror, foam, acrylic
© Vanda Campbell 2013

Mirror Mirror Studio work - acrylic, aluminium, wood, plastidip
© Vanda Campbell 2013

Mirror Mirror Studio work - found mirror, acrylic, wood, aluminium
© Vanda Campbell 2013

16 July 2013

Material Memories

There has been much discussion in the Campbell / Walsh household (artist / scientist ... say no more) on material memories.  Or more specifically, how the narrative of memory can be made evident in objects.  A major stumbling block has been the artist's (my) assertion that there is such a thing as a material memory, which has been opposed at every opportunity by the scientist's assertion that memories may be triggered by an object, but cannot actually reside in the object.  
Like many others, I have long been attracted to antique embroidery samplers.  Technically challenging, exquisitely executed ... evidence of hours and hours of work.  What would the impact be if I were to reduce this work to a memory.  A lucky find of a beautifully stitched tray cloth in a charity shop offered an opportunity to investigate, but my usual ruthless approach to destruction was unexpectedly halted.  Not dissimilar to taking the first cut when cutting out a dressmaking pattern from cloth, I found it incredibly difficult to make the first incision.  However, cut I did, and painstakingly removed the stitches, colour by colour.

Was I being disrespectful to the original stitcher?  Would it be possible to reduce this work to a memory  and if so, what would its impact be? To be honest, I'm still not sure.  Once the first stitch had been removed, the original beauty was slowly replaced by a new, quieter, aesthetic.  The process was slow and considered, and allowed plenty of opportunity for reflection ... and I suspect that it is in the reflection that the real memory work was happening.

Studio Work in Progress Material Memory © Vanda Campbell 2013 
Studio Work in Progress Material Memory  © Vanda Campbell 2013
Studio Work in Progress Material Memory  © Vanda Campbell 2013
Studio Work in Progress Material Memory  © Vanda Campbell 2013
Material Memory  © Vanda Campbell 2013

12 July 2013

Badges of Dishonour

Another chance find ... a bag of military badges ... and the opportunity to explore ways of reworking the relationship between textiles and objects.  Rather than approaching the badges as the textile in the equation, is it possible to make the 'textile' element function as the 'object'?

A series of quick stitched drawings, and a rummage around the studio for other similar remnants (wallpaper fragments, broken paper backed mirrors) and the beginnings of an idea began to emerge.

Work on Paper: found textile, paper, stitch  © Vanda Campbell 2013
Work on Paper: found mirror, broken scissors, paper,
crochet, stitch
  © Vanda Campbell 2013
Work on Paper: found wallpaper/plaster fragment, stitch, paper  © Vanda Campbell 2013

9 July 2013

Starting the statement

MA update:  I'm fast approaching the deadline for our latest written assignment.  The brief is described as a 'practitioner's statement', yet the required word count is 3000 words.  Whenever did an artist's statement need to be so bloody long?  So, here goes ...

The complex and subtle relationships between our bodies, our clothes, and the jewellery and objects we carry or wear are often assumed and taken for granted.  My current practice is an exploration of the relationships between skin, clothing and wearable objects. What happens when the aesthetics of one are echoed by the other two?  Is there a point at which one can function as another, visually or otherwise?  What is the impact of removing one of the three from the equation?  

There, done.  Now what to do with the other 2,919 words.

5 July 2013

A not so thick skin

There are a number of contemporary jewellers who are particularly interested in the relationship between the body and jewellery. Arguably, jewellery needs to be worn in order to fulfil its function, so to ignore this relationship would be foolish.  In addition to being worn on the body, jewellery is also often first attached to an item of clothing (eg. a brooch pinned to a lapel).  

For my final major project on the MA, I am exploring the relationship between these three elements - body, clothing and jewellery.  Is there a point at which one can function as another, or the qualities or aesthetics of one be echoed by the other two?

I have started looking at a few of the places in garments that are used to wear or carry objects, such as pockets but have yet to look closely at the body.  Until today.

At the start of the MA I experimented with applying a plastic coating to various found objects, with the initial intent to 'neutralise' their colour and form in some way.  What I discovered however, was that the plastic significantly altered the feel of the objects.  Cold, hard, metal objects became tactile once coated in this new skin, and almost warm or soft to touch.  Perhaps applying a 'skin' to found jewellery forms might be a way of acknowledging the body in this relationship?  Coating a chunky beaded necklace (found in a local charity shop) in an appropriately coloured skin, allows the form to be reinterpreted, and the beaded structure starts to take on the form of something much more skeletal.  I think I like!

Studio work - Skinned Alive  © Vanda Campbell 2013
Studio work - Thick Skinned  © Vanda Campbell 2013

3 July 2013

Finding the findings

I have been struggling to get to grips with traditional metalworking skills, particularly those needed to craft the mechanics of jewellery pieces.  Failures, in varying degrees, so far include soldering, brooch pins, metal piercing. and anything that requires precision measurements and accuracy.  To be fair, I love my piercing saw (handed down from my father - a truly masterful goldsmith) and although I love the meditative process of piercing, I lack the patience to have any satisfactory control over the finished dimensions and form.   

Metal is such a cold, rigid material, it feels alien to work with compared to the flexibility of fabrics.  The act of working in metal is inevitably violent - heating the material to the point of surrender, before plunging it into a cold bath and then hammering it, bullying it, into taking on new forms and shapes.  Fabric on the other hand, would protest to the point of disintegration at such treatment.  If you have ever tried to fit a sleeve in a garment, you will know that fabric needs to be gently coerced or stretched into place.

It's taken me a while to accept the inevitable, but I am unlikely to be a maker who can draw on a wealth of traditional jewellery skills to solve the mechanics of my work.  But that doesn't mean I have to let go of producing the forms I need.  

I have written previously of my use of found objects, my findings ... and it's perhaps opportune that this same word is used to describe the small bits that go into the making of jewellery and garments.  I wonder what will happen if I replace jump rings and brooch pins with findings from the wonderful world of haberdashery?  Rather than using the obvious (buttons, zips, buckles etc.) the world of tailoring is full of hidden mechanics that support the structure and function of a garment ... methinks a trip to MacCulloch and Wallis is called for!

Flesh colour underwire casing, Macculloch & Wallis