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 shouldā€™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!

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 šŸ™‚

Jorge Manilla

3 Oscure Sacrifices, 2015. Necklace, Leather, Tumbag

I wonder how many parents (with the best intentions) redirect their children from a career in art. And how many children grow up and eventually find their way back to it anyway. As a teenager Jorge Manilla wanted to be an artist like his father and grandfather (both were traditionally trained goldsmiths and engravers). But when the 15 year old told his mother he wanted to become a sculptor she threatened to kick him out of the house if he didn’t focus on a real career…like boxing (a prestigious national sport in his native Mexico).

ā€œThat was the moment of one of the biggest decisions in my life, and with it I decided to go completely into boxing and work for a sculptor. And this saved my life in every way. Boxing gave me discipline and structure and a clear mind to decide the next step in my life.ā€Ā (via: Oslo National Academy of Arts)

Several years later and in need of extra cash Manilla was thinking of leaving boxing and began doing modelling for drawing classes at the San Carlos Art Academy in Mexico City. It was there that he decided to study drawing and sculpture (1994-1997) and later jewellery and silversmithing at the National Institute of Fine Arts (INBA), Mexico City, Mexico (1998-2002). He would go on to obtain a Bachelors degree in Sculpture (2002-2003) at the Royal Academy of Arts in Ghent, Belgium and a Masters in Jewellery and Silversmithing (2003-2006) from St Lucas University College of Art and Design in Antwerp. He moved to Belgium in 2003 lives and is currently working on his PhD at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp.

As a non-expert in the field of jewellery I experience an underlying uneasiness when I look at Manilla’s work, something that both disturbs and invites at the same time. Blackened, bulging and mammalian in a weird way, but oh sooo tactile. But he explains what that’s about…

ā€œMy central themes are human feelings, death and life. Each piece is like a small altar ā€“ physiological, emotional and religious. I like to translate this into materials. Mexicans are very bodily ā€“ we say hello, kiss, hug and touch hands. To me, touching is very important, and I am really into natural material, like leather, wood, stones and human bones, because they are related to my cultural past, and the materials have tactility, temperature and heaviness.ā€ Ā (via: Oslo National Academy of Arts)

I highly recommend checking out Manilla’s website here where you’ll see the full breadth of his work and get a peak into why he does what he does. Pretty amazing.

Without Title, 2008. Necklace. Cardboard, Silver, Cotton Thread
Polvo de Amor Quebrado, 2011. ‘Please Do Not Take My Heart’.Ā Necklace. Leather, Wood, Cotton Thread, Copper

4 Oscure Sacrifices. Necklace. Leather, Wood, Acryl Hars, Steel
Impossible to Imagine II, 2015. Leather, Steel, Wood, Silver
Bled, Jorge Manilla Navarrete, Schmuck, 2017


Detail: Bled, Jorge Manilla Navarrete, Schmuck, 2017
There Is Nothing To Be Afraid Of, 2016. ‘Some Moments To Remember’ Brooch. Wood, Casted Acrylic Gypsum, Brass

Winter Vacation

It’s always a weird experience trundling down the jet bridge toward a plane, trying to catch a last glimpse before you leave a place, even if it’s just the trees in the distance that line the massive expanse of airport tarmac. It’s even more weird to sit in the dimmed lighting of that plane for 15 hours knowing that you’re hurtling across the planet over deep black oceans and that when it finally touches down you’ll arrive on the same day you left. Such was my experience of a recent trip to Australia.

So as I dust off my tools, refill my dusty quench bowl and consider my next projects in the workroom, let me share some of my many memories of that beautiful country…

p.s. coming soon, some amazing Australian makers

Ā 

Ā 



A family of kangaroos in the early morning, Yarra Glen
Garden plant at M & R’s, Yarra Glen
Sorrento back beach
Koala resting on the road between Corowa and Beechworth
Redwood plantation near Warburton in Victoria

Olivier Van Herpt – 3D Printing Ceramics

Have you ever wandered the aisles of a big box store searching for a particular something, a simple utilitarian household object that shouldn’t be hard to find (soap dispensers come to my mind for some reason)? And have you ever been amazed at the lack of variety on those shelves and secretly wished you could design and produce your own household object? Well then, meet Olivier Van Herpt (Design Academy Eindhoven, 2015), the Dutch industrial designer whose work examines the typical top down relationship between manufacturer and consumer using 3D printing.

3D printing has been used to produce widgets and gadgets for all sorts of applicationsĀ for a number of years, everything from plastic auto parts to surgically implanted replacement parts in the human body. The evolution of this ‘additive manufacturing’ technology can be traced to the early 1980’s and even further (the 1900’s!) and involves a material, guided by a computer added onto itself to create a component. Van Herpt wanted to test the limits of a typical desktop 3D printer to produce his own functional, large scale piece of ceramics and began to experiment.olivier-vanherpt-3d-printing-ceramics-1-800x533

Initially he wasn’t content with the results. The printer could only produce small objects and these weren’t heat resistant or food safe. So he adapted the machine by designing and making his own clay extruder and experimented with different types of clay mixed with water. Adding water would’ve made sense to me because the process itself is about the extrusion of a material from a nozzle onto a horizontal plane. I’d have assumed that a diluted material would flow better than a dense one. But it didn’t work (I’d have given up right there). Continuing to work on the problem his eureka moment occurred 2 years later when he redesigned the extruder and used hard clay that dripped from the nozzle instead of being expelled in the conventional cord-like fashion and this allowed him to make larger pieces with more surface definition as well as random human-like imperfections. So amazing!

If that’s not enough amazingness for you, then consider that his adaptations to 3D printer technology are open source on the ol’ internet which means we can all print ourselves some gorgeous ceramics and I may one day make my own soap dispenser.

Now feast your eyes on these and tell me whether or not Van Herpt has redesigned mass production for the better. You can also find more about him and his ongoing collaborative explorations into the manufacturing processĀ here. Or check out his Instagram pageĀ here.

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Ailsa Morrant – A Handshake

I sometimes wonder about the usefulness or relevance of the bits and pieces of jewellery that I make. I enjoy the making and sometimes enjoy the end result but I don’t delve much deeper than my own ego. Clearly I’ve never contemplated what Ailsa Morrant has contemplated.Ā Graduating this year with 1st class BA (Honours) in silversmithing and jewellery design from the Glasgow School of Art, I think I understand what drives her to create, to express what words can’t. And a simple handshake has led her in her explorations. As she explains…

“I like catching everyday moments: the fleeting, instinctive, subconscious ones that are connections with ourselves and with others.

They are the gap between us being and becoming.

The bit that is so difficult to grasp because we often rush past it.

Over before we are even aware it was happening.

Vital moments.

Both good and bad moments.
The ones that make us think, muse and connect”.

In ‘Handshake (Dexiosis): organs of society’ Morrant captures the space between 2 people in a handshake and freezes that fleeting connection between them (btw dexiosis means to give (someone) the (right) hand). Like fingerprints then, each cast becomes a unique record of the hands that made it. She says these pieces have the appearance of small internal organs about them and that they invite the wearer to touch their surfaces. I can understand why; there’s something uniquely human she’s making here, something we all share and on a gut level understand. What do you think?

You can find out more about this maker here and on instagram here.

Casting process of the handshake
Casting process of the handshake

 

 

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From Handshake (dexiosis): organs of society

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From Handshake (dexiosis): organs of society

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Ring- Maritial Material, 2018 Brass porcelain, silver, glass, gold leaf
Ring: Marital Material, 2018. Brass, porcelain, silver, glass, gold leaf

Matt Lambert

What is jewellery and who’s allowed to wear it? I could’ve sworn I knew the answers to those questions until I checked out Matt Lambert. Gender, masculinity, queerness, viewer reaction to artistic expression, the meaning of masks, armour, sport and a whole lot of other stuff are all explored in his work. Unlike some of us who’re content to hammer away in our studios making subjectively pretty things, Lambert’s pieces articulate the experiences of men and those who identify as queer, topics that tend to gets drowned out in my humble opinion (as a mother to 3 young men) by everyone else screaming to be heard. But please, don’t take my word for it. Check out his websiteĀ or his Instagram feed.

A bit about him; he was born and grew up in Detroit but spent half of each year in a ‘protected forest’ somewhere in Ontario. He has a Masters degree in Metalsmithing (2014), has apprenticed as a leathersmith and ‘semi-antique rug restorer. If that’s not enough he also has a BA in psychology and has studied art history and American studies.

An excerpt from his bio which honestly doesn’t make a lot of sense to me but you can see if it does for you…

‘Lambertā€™s work often looks at the blurring of systems and hegemonic scales/binaries, often combining technological and hand process to create hybrid/chimerical forms that directly engage or address the body. In 2016 Lambert became the first international artist trained in contemporary jewelry to be invited as an international resident for 2016-2017 with Iaspis the Swedish Arts Grants Committee’s international programme for visual artists and designers’.

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Leather necklace

Iris Bodemer

If I ever won some massive amount of money (which would be difficult because I don’t buy lottery tickets) one of the things I’d indulge in would be to travel to Florence to enrol in any course taught by Iris Bodemer. She lives and works in Germany but sometimes lectures at AlchimiaĀ and I’d love to attend one of her weekend workshops there. I’d love to hear about how she approaches a project as well as what and where she draws on for herĀ inspiration. I see both ancient and contemporary influences in her pieces and they come together with such considered precision, as though she’d planned it from the beginning (unlike me who plans as I go and am therefore not Iris Bodemer).

I won’t attempt to list all of her exhibitions and shows on this blog so please check out her website here, and if you find yourself in Florence in July this year she’ll be a guest lecturer at Alchimia for ‘Entropy + Entities’. Me? I guess I’ll have to start buying lottery tickets.

Notes Necklace 2016 bronze
Notes Necklace, 2016, bronze

Notes ring 2016, bronze..bronze aquamarine..silver..silver, aquamarine
Notes Rings, 2016. clockwise from top left – bronze, bronze + aquamarine, silver, silver + aquamarine

Notes, necklace 2016, silver
Notes Necklace , 2016, silver

Relief II 34 Brooches, 2013 silver
Relief II, 2013, 34 brooches, silver

notes ring 2016, bronze, silver, silver
Notes Rings, 2016, bronze, silver

Notes Brooch 2016 Bronze Andean opal
Notes Brooch, 2016, bronze, andean opal

neckpiece, 2012 silver, citrine
Neckpiece, 2012, silver, citrine

Izabella Petrut

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Izabella Petrut is the Romanian-born maker behind these pieces. She has both a Bachelors (2007) and a Masters (2009) in Design from the University of Arts and Design at Cluj-Napoca in Romania. And… she’s a graduate of GJ3 Specialization program atĀ Alchimia, School of contemporary Jewelry, Florence, Italy (2012). And… she’s currently studying for her doctorate at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna.

Raw stones, paper and even little plastic toys feature in her beautifully non-traditional work. You can check out her website here or follow her on Instagram here.

 

Brooch, 'we become one' paper, resin, alpaca, silver. colour redBlue print , red
Brooch, ‘We Become One‘ series : paper, resin, alpaca, silver, colour red

izabella-petrut-07 Silver, amethyst beads, uncut amethyst, resin, pigment
Necklace, silver, amethyst beads, uncut amethyst, resin, pigment

'The Fire Inside' 2015 paper, Silver, oxidized
Ring ‘The Fire Inside‘ 2015, paper, silver oxidized

Excess of time 2015 silver oxidized, quartz, pigemtn, resin
Earrings ‘Excess of Time‘ 2015, silver oxidized, quartz, resin, pigment

Necklace, Dark Night, 2015 plastic animal toys, iron, pigment, silk thread
Necklace ‘Dark Night‘ 2015, plastic animal toys, iron, pigment, silk thread

What the heart is made of oxidized silver, epoxy resin, pigment from here and now series
Ring ‘What The Heart Is Made Of‘, Here and Now series,Ā  oxidized silver, epoxy resin, pigment

Katherine Wheeler

Castlemaine is a rural town in central Victoria, Australia and it’s home to today’s maker, Katherine Wheeler. With a Diploma of Fine Arts from RMIT (2003) and a bachelor of Fine Arts, Gold and silversmithing at RMIT (2007) works in precious metal, thread and porcelain. I love the otherworldliness of her pieces with their sea creature-like legs and tentacles (I’m pretty sure they must come alive at night in gallery display cases). And her porcelain pieces are nice as well. You can find out more about this maker hereĀ or check out her Instagram profile here.

Urchin Ring
Urchin Ring

Urchin Bangle (2007)
Urchin Bangle, 2007

Vessel (part teaset, 2012)
Vessel (part teaset, 2012)

Bowl (part of teaset 2012)
Bowl (part of teaset, 2012)

Container Rings, 2011
Container Rings

Rock Coral Bangle Stack, 2011
Rock Coral Bangle Stack, 2011

Pierced tea lites, 2011
Pierced Tea Lites, 2011

Porcelain and Thread Vessels, 2012
Porcelain and Thread Vessels, 2012