Marian Hosking – Fragments of the Landscape

Worn Gum Brooch, 2017. Blackened Silver
“I am not so interested in a pictorial space, but rather in capturing a slice or
fragment of a larger whole to trigger a memory in the viewer of a larger
vista or place.”
Marian Hosking via Docplayer
 

I think of Marian Hosking as both a jeweller and master recorder of the native plant and landscape material of Australia. Rather than pressing flowers and leaves into dusty books or copying them as sketches into some leather-bound journal she’s spent 40 years recreating their unique beauty in silver, wood and other materials.

Growing up in the bush and near the beach with her conservationist mother and metallurgist father you might say that Hosking was destined for the life she’s led. She knew in high school that she wanted to study gold and silversmithing and in 1969 graduated from RMIT (Master of Arts) before travelling to Europe where she continued her studies in the jewellers’ mecca of Pforzheim, Germany. Four years later she would return to the town of Wagga Wagga in Australia to teach at the university there. And in 1975, on returning to Melbourne she opened her own studio.  Some 5 years after that she would became a director and founding member of Workshop 3000 located in the heart of the city, a place where jewellers could rent studio space and collaborate. 4 years later and with the birth of her 2nd child she would return to her solo studio.

Her contributions to craft in Australia were recognized in 2007 when the Australian Design Centre named her a ‘Living Treasure of Australia, Master of Australian Craft’.  And as if that wasn’t good enough she obtained a PhD at Monash University in 2009 where she was a Senior Lecturer in the Art, Design and Architecture department there until 2014.

Soooo, if you ever find yourself in Melbourne (and I hope you do one day) you’ll find this maker’s work represented at Gallery Funaki. Failing that there’s always her profile on Instagram here…when she decides to post something 😉

Gum Caps Brooch
Wrap Rings (Ongoing Edition). Sterling Silver and Blackened Sterling Silver
Detail: Gum Twig Chain
Wattle Bud Necklace, 2009. Blackened Silver
Weathered Wood, 2017. Wood, Paint, Silver
Coralline, 2015. Blackened Silver

Mysterious Taiji Tsuna

There’s something fearless about a goldsmith who doesn’t feature gemstones in their pieces, who focuses instead on the quiet raw nature of the metal itself, with minimalist forms and rough textures dressed simply in fusions of silver and gold. Those blackened encrusted surfaces speak of being lost in time, of being unearthed, of being precious. This is the work of Taiji Tsuna (aka Yasushi Jona & Taiji Tomona)

Jona is Tsuna’s jewellery label and there’s not much more information about this maker except that he or she was born in Hiroshima, Japan in 1964. Educated at the Tokyo University of Fine Arts and Music with a BA in Craft (Metal Hammering -1989) and later a masters degree (Metal Hammering – 1991), Tsuna held a number of positions as a professional jeweller between 1991 and 2005 when he or she became a freelance designer.

A mysterious maker who doesn’t seem to name their creations, you can check out more about Jona Jewellery on instagram here.

Things I’ve Learned About Sand Casting

As the cost (and hassle) of commercial lost wax casting climbs I’m using my sand casting setup at home more these days. It can take as little as 2 minutes to ready the mold and a further 5 to 10 minutes to melt a quantity of scrap silver ready for pouring. It’s a fun way to make jewellery but it takes time to perfect. I’m not there yet but I thought I’d pass along some things I’ve learned along the way so far…

First off though if you aren’t familiar with sand casting here’s a start to finish video from Melissa Muir who’s better at showing the process than I would be…

So now that you understand the basics I’ll move along…

Sand Casting Is Like Christmas

No matter how many times I do a casting it always feels a bit like christmas when I pry the flask halves apart to see what the molten metal has done. If the sand casting gods have smiled on me then I’ll find the mold has completely filled on the first go. If they aren’t smiling then I’ll have either a partially filled mold or the more annoying situation where all the molten silver will be caught in the funnel of the flask. Really annoying! The great thing about sand casting though is that you can always scrape out your burnt sand, reset your model into fresh sand and start again.

Mustard Seeds & Peppercorns

I’m in a perpetual search for texture in my jewellery and recently started adding mustard seeds and peppercorns in and around whatever object I’m casting. I doubt that I’m the first person to try these things but I wanted to show you that they do leave a texture behind. And being organic and available from my kitchen pantry they don’t give off harmful fumes when heated to 1400 degrees. Instead the studio is filled with a peppery aroma which is nicer than the smell of burnt sand alone.

Casting with mustard seeds
Casting with Peppercorns

Gemstones

It’s not a great idea to cast expensive gemstones with this process unless you’re ok with the possibility of having them crack and or discolour with the intense heat involved. An inexpensive option to use are cubic zircons, which I’m trying (and not having too much success with anyway)

Casting with Czs

Cheap Sand

Sometimes it just doesn’t pay to be economical with your materials. You can buy authentic delft sand for example which is uber fine and has just the right amount of binding oil in it to hold the finest details of your model. Or you can buy a cheaper version of delft sand and regret every single grain of it. The rings below are an example of pretty rough detail captured in cheap sand.

An incomplete fill of the mold
Casted disk soldered to a shank
Casted disk, sawn and drilled

And that’s where I have to leave it for now. I’ll continue my exploration into sand casting and encourage you to give it a try. And if you do let me know how it goes. I’d love to hear from you 🙂

David Huycke

Process (photo via http://www.davidhuycke.com/)

I recently began to experiment with granulation; an ancient technique used by goldsmiths some 5000 years ago in Etruria (now part of Italy) and Greece. You’ve probably seen examples of granulation – tiny gold or silver beads adhered to a gold or silver surface in a myriad of patterns and shapes…

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I have to admit I started my attempt believing it would be an easy technique to master; melt a few silver balls, slap them onto a piece of sheet silver and add heat. It didn’t go quite to plan though; tiny balls flew from the torch flame while others refused to set down. And as with all things slightly difficult I decided this ancient technique takes patience and skill. And when I came across the work of David Huycke I decided to put my exploration into granules on hold. Let’s face it, maybe I should just put all my smithing on hold and go curl up in a corner 😱.

Huycke’s CV is long and filled with amazing achievements. He obtained his MFA in Antwerpen (1989) and a PhD in Arts at Leuven (2010). From his website

He first made a name for himself with his sets of dishes, simple design and subtle use of materials and is now best known for his innovative approach to the traditional technique of granulation. David Huycke sets to work like a scientist or an alchemist, casting in moulds non-existent and seemingly impossible concepts, incurring along the way risks such as breakage or collapse. Eventually those ideas and experiments are selected and elaborated into an object where they exude a degree of stillness and have a natural obviousness, as if the work could not have been made any other way’. Check out his woooork…

       

Cirkelrond 7, 1996. Silver, 8cm x ⍉30.5cm

Fractal Chaos, 2013, Stainless Steel, 22cm x 22cm x 22cm

Fractal Piece, 2007. Silver, 15cm x ⍉16cm

Ovalinder 2, 2011. silver, 17cm x ⍉10/13cm

Marble Bowl, 2006. Silver, 16cm x ⍉16.5cm

Struggle

A blog about art is hardly the place to pull back the curtain on an ugly subject like an eating disorder. But then again, struggle and pain are real in most peoples’ lives and sometimes in the life of an artist those experiences form the basis of beautiful art. I suppose I felt the need to provide a counterbalance to all that eye-catching art here on Maker; to maybe be more open about why I generally want to share what I find amazing about us humans by shedding a wee bit of light on an eating disorder in my family. And I have to say in my experience not a lot of people know that eating disorders affect boys and men and that they are especially ashamed and terrified of seeking help.

My family experienced this mental health disorder about 15 years ago. In fact I’ve known my son more years with the eating disorder than the years before it took over his mind and body. Black, hollow and cold (because that’s how I think of it), it attached itself to him (and the rest of us) kind of like a parasite attaches itself to a healthy host and we’ve been in a life or death battle with it ever since.

It came about innocently, in the form of a matter-of-fact question one day when my son was about 11…how to lose weight as he entered high school and my equally matter-of-fact if not clinical response…calories in, calories out, if you take in more calories than you expend in energy, you’ll gain weight. If you take in less you’ll lose weight. That was that. Of course starting high school is stressful for most adolescents and he was no different. He had been called names like ‘fatty’ throughout elementary school and as the prospect of high school loomed he decided to choose healthier foods. I was on board with healthier foods! But when he later joined the cross-country running club at school and started paying attention to his appearance I started to worry. Insidiously and over months when family and friends started to compliment his changing physique that attention ever-so-quietly evolved into obsession. And he wasn’t at all interested in going back to what he considered his ‘fat’ self.

I remember feeling helpless as the realization dawned one day that he had an eating disorder. It felt like the whole family was slipping over the edge of a cliff and that nothing we said or did was reaching him. It’s hard to describe that sense of loss, the strangeness that overtakes someone so familiar, my not recognizing him physically or emotionally anymore. Over a matter of months he was a different person; anxious, distrustful and depressed. That was one of the hardest things to take – knowing too well that adage ‘you are what you eat’ and watching him sink further into despair and then thoughts of suicide. How had it come to this? How many times did my husband and I try to convince our son that life was worth living. And how many times did I go back to memories of feeding him as a baby, of being so in love with his beautiful little face and his curious disposition. And then my own guilt and shame and anger at having allowed this thing to enter our lives.

Feelings of guilt, shame and anger happen but they aren’t helpful in the long run. You can beat yourself up til the cows come home over what could’ve or should’ve been or…you can ask for help, for a family member who has an eating disorder and/or for yourself and everyone else around you. Let me tell you it took me a long time to comprehend the fact that we couldn’t reason with our son and that highly emotional arguments with him were useless. With counselling help though we started to learn (and are still learning) that approaching a loved one with an eating disorder takes a different strategy altogether.

15 years on treatment continues to be life altering. For us it was the first and hardest step in what therapists call ‘recovery’ from an eating disorder. I say hardest step because our son refused treatment for years before finally agreeing to see a counsellor when his blood potassium level was in his boots and he was more than tired of the endless hopelessness. We didn’t get help from our family doctor though. Unfortunately many of them aren’t familiar with eating disorders and if they are they have preconceived notions about them; that they only happen to females and that they can be treated with antidepressants or ‘just eat’ pep talks. Bull Shit. Desperate times call for helping yourself so I researched services online and came across a few clinics and programs in and around our community. If you live in BC an awesome resource for the province is… https://keltyeatingdisorders.ca/. But be aware, as with all publicly funded programs in the province, waiting lists can be long and counselling services scarce. Aligning a son or daughter’s mood at any given time with a counselling appointment can be nearly impossible. Been there, done that many times.

Now as much as I’d like to say we’re all living happily ever after I have to be honest. Real life doesn’t generally have fairy tale endings. Instead, harsh understanding brings newfound determination to make the best of what life has to offer. I was naive when I assumed that his month stay in a children’s hospital ward at 16 would magically return our son to a normal weight and that he’d be over the eating disorder. I was naive when I assumed a 3 month stay on an adult eating disorder ward many years later would rid him of it. But I wasn’t so naive when he entered a 3 month residential program for eating disorders in Vancouver last year. It’s taken me a long time to understand what ‘recovery’ means and that one step forward and two steps back is often normal. It’s taken me years to appreciate the fact that an eating disorder reaches it’s bony fingers into every member of the family, that it sucks the energy out of much more important things that happen in all families. And I can’t stress enough how important it is to listen to your son (or daughter) when it comes to understanding their emotional lives whether or not they have an eating disorder. And that as a society we harm boys and men so much by demanding that they ‘be a man’ which leaves them no choice but to continue to suffer.

If you have any thoughts or questions about this post please feel free to comment below. I’m certainly no expert in much of anything but I do know something about eating disorders and maybe something about being a wiser parent when something black, hollow and cold visits your family.

Returning next post…some more beautiful art. Yay!

Caroline Blackburn

There’s something inviting about the bubbled crusty surfaces of Caroline Blackburn’s pottery. Rustic and minimal, it could very easily have been unearthed on a dig, an archeologist’s brush revealing its’ beautiful glazed secrets. A native of Los Angeles Blackburn studied Art History and Studio Arts at Boston College, earning a MFA at the Art Centre College of Design, Pasadena. It’s interesting to note that she initially trained as a painter; that skill translated from canvas to clay surface…

#446 11.5″H x 7.5″W. Clay, Stoneware -High Fire
#466 19.5″H x 11″W, #465 20.5″H x 12″W
#454 16″H x 7″W
#467 16″H x 11″W

I love her work! Find out more about this maker on her website here and on instagram here.

The Poet Patrick Lane

I grew up in an era when kids played outside, when you left the house in the morning and didn’t return until you heard your mother calling from the porch for you to come inside. I grew up in a small town not far from where Patrick Lane was born and am familiar with the towns where he spent his young life. It not surprising that his poignant words struck a cord with me the other day when I heard a recording of him speaking at the 2013 convocation at the University of Victoria where he had been granted an Honorary Doctorate of Letters.

Lane died a few weeks ago at the age of 79 and I’m sorry I hadn’t known of him sooner. He’d had no formal education beyond high school and despite childhood dreams of becoming a painter the realities of marriage and children in his early 20’s pushed his life in another direction. Work took him around the province; as a truck driver, a sawmill worker, an industrial first aid person and a salesman. Somewhere in all that though he found time to write. He describes those early years…

‘I always wanted to be an artist, even from the time I was a child. In my early twenties, when I was married and had three kids, I started to write because I couldn’t afford to paint… We were poor. But I did have this little tiny, portable typewriter made out of tin cans and that terrible yellow paper you could buy. And I tapped and tapped away. And I remember writing some poems and I sent them away to Canadian Forum magazine and they wrote back a great letter and they published all of them and I thought, ‘Wow, this is what I want to do with my life.’ (via: The Next Chapter)

At 26 he was devastated by the loss of his brother to a brain hemorrhage and a year later moved his family to Vancouver. Trauma followed with the shooting murder of his father 4 years later sending his life in yet another direction; divorce and a move to South America to write full time. As he would later write: ‘I think it was poetry that saved me from killing myself or killing others’.

In 1972 he returned to BC and married a for 2nd time but a combination of alcoholism, cocaine abuse and a chance meeting with fellow poet Lorna Crozier at a literary conference ended that marriage 6 years later. Eventually overcoming his addictions Lane would go on marry Crozier, writing several fiction and non-fiction books and a whopping 25 volumes of poetry over the 50 year span of his career. He would become Writer-in-Residence at the University of Manitoba (1978) and teach creative writing and Canadian literature at the University of Saskatchewan (1986-90) and at the University of Victoria (1991-2004). He won the Governor General’s Award for Poetry (1978) and the Governor General’s Award for Literary Excellence (2007), the Canadian Authors Association Award, and The Order of Canada (2014) along with three National Magazine Awards. All this from a kid who grew up in a small town and who never forgot it.

Anyway, here’s that convocation address he gave in 2013…

You can find out more about Patrick Lane on his website here.

Patrick Lane with Lorna Crozier. Image courtesy of Chilliwack Progress

Take Note…

Starting after this post I’ll be slowing the barrage of entries on this blog from a weekly one to one that’s monthly instead. It’s not because there’s a shortage of makers out there though. It’s more because I know how much I dislike getting notifications in my own inbox that I likely don’t have time to read and I figure you probably feel the same. Aaaand as they say…absence makes the heart grow fonder. Or is it that good things come to those who wait? Either way expect fewer posts after today.

Thanks for taking time out of your busy day to look at this blog. Thanks for following 🙂

Gilda Midani

I’d be lying if I told you I didn’t have a soft spot for clothing, especially when it’s hand made from natural fibres…linen, cotton and wool. It has a lovely rawness to it compared to all those fast fashion ‘made-in-china’ clothes stuffed onto racks at any big box retailer. And yes, I know natural textiles are hard on the ol’ wallet but a $10 t-shirt also comes at a cost that’s often less visible; in human and environmental terms.

Now, as someone who spends 98% of the week in jeans, t-shirts and sweaters I can only dream of owning pieces by Gilda Midani. From her website…

‘I strongly believe that comfort makes the body peaceful. And that elegance and beauty are the natural outgrowth of that feeling. Our pieces are made entirely by hand, many loving hands, for a single purpose: to make you feel as free as possible’

‘I’ve always sought inspiration in folk and primitive cultures, in utilitarian garments of modern times. Much more than in the world of fashion, which I respect and admire, but it’s not where I belong. Materials are cottons, linens, silks, woven, in all their different forms, textures and threads; sometimes even synthetics, just for fun. I focus on varying the scale, the proportions, and the finishing of those basic forms which I consider insuperable, and above all working the textile with the most exquisite manual techniques, from the primitive beeswax batik to the ancient shibori of Japan, with pigments ranging from the traditional plant-based to silicone, plaster and even iron oxide. The only rules are to maintain quality, guarantee comfort and create beauty. To achieve this, anything goes!’


Midani’s path to making clothes is a meandering one that spans decades beginning in the 90’s when when she designed costumes for theatre and opera. Photography and set design also shaped that path and in 2014 she launched her first clothing collection.

This ain’t rocket science I know but I’d rather support a maker like Midani if it means limiting the thousands of pounds of t-shirts and jeans churned out every year by invisible owners of poorly ventilated factories and the hundreds of kilometres of shipping required to fill those overstuffed racks at Joe Fresh (see the silent costs of the shipping industry here). As challenging as it is I’d rather support hand-made when possible. And oh my, those hands are what make her clothing worth it…

You can find out more about this talented maker on her website here or follow her on Instagram here.

Gilda Midani. Photo courtesy of Murilo Meirelles / JP Magazine




Pippin Drysdale

Landscape as Muse

We’re well into the first week of March and it’s snowing outside. Such a pain, but that may explain why I’m drawn to the work of Pippin Drysdale today. It seems to be reaching through my computer screen here; I can almost feel the warmth of those rounded forms on my fingers.

Installation: Flowering Time. Porcelain, closed forms

Australian-born Drysdale has been making her beautiful ceramic pieces for decades but if it weren’t for several events early on in her life she might not have stumbled across clay at all. Born into a wealthy family in the oh-so-leafy suburb of Toorak in Melbourne she’s said to have developed a rebellious streak in childhood due to an undiagnosed vision problem that was later corrected at age 12. Later, moving with her family to Western Australia and following high school she would go on to being expelled from business college and failing all subjects at technical college. The business world’s loss and humanity’s gain I’d say. A series of short term jobs in Australia and the UK and a year of travel in Europe ended with her returning to Australia in the early 1960s and a 5 year marriage that ended in 1972. So, where do the ceramics come in I hear you ask. I’m getting to that.

In the early 1970s Drysdale started ‘Pip’s Flowers’ in Melbourne selling her own handmade paper flowers. I suppose it didn’t last because she soon returned to Western Australia, starting a business selling fresh herbs that would eventually be sold across Western Australia (take that business college) and where she commissioned a potter to produce clay vessels to hold the herbs. And that ladies and gentlemen is where she was introduced to the intriguing world of clay. The potter became a friend and built a kiln for her in her back yard where she started making her very own small pots and goblets (I wonder if she still has any of those first pieces). Talk about a circuitous path to finding one’s raison d’etre, and proving that you don’t necessarily need to succeed in grade school or business college to succeed in life.

Driven by her growing passion she obtained an Advanced Diploma in Ceramics from Perth Technical College in Western Australia in 1981 and later completed a study/work tour of Italy and the US in 1982. Three years later she obtained her Bachelor of Arts (Fine Art) from Curtin University in Western Australia and in 1997 was selected to be a Research Fellow at the School of Art, Curtin University of Technology. I’m thinking her grade school teachers would’ve been surprised that she would go on to be awarded with both a Master of Australian Craft in 2007 and a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2011 from Artsource.

Drysdale is inspired by the astounding hues, forms and vastness of her homeland and other remote places across the globe…

Kata Tjuta (The Olgas), Northern Territory, Australia. Photo courtesy of https://ulurutoursaustralia.com.au/blog/exploring-the-olgas/

‘She draws inspiration from the colours and textures of landscape, and her emotional interpretations of place and space are injected into each of her pieces. Pippin focuses in particular on the vast, diverse Australian landscape and has created series based around the patterns and colours of the Pilbara region, the eastern Goldfields, the Kimberley, and the Tanami Desert. She has also travelled overseas to draw inspiration from the dips and peaks of Pakistan, India, Russia and Italy’ (via: The Government of Western Australia).

Check out her website where she’s happy to share her wealth of experience about techniques and look for her on Instagram here. Lovely.

Devils Marbles I-III. Porcelain, closed forms. W110cm x D40cm
Shepherd’s Delight, 2015













Seedpod Burst, 2018