Tuesday, 15 July 2008

Maker of the week - Islay Spalding

Islay Spalding Contemporary Jewellery Design

I create distinctive one-off pieces of jewellery I call Biomorphs and Small Worlds from silver and resin. They are colourful, fun and highly wearable. I am inspired by surrealist art and nonsense stories,especially the work of Desmond Morris, Yves Tanguy, Wassaily Kandinsky, Salvidor Dali and Lewis Carroll to name a few. I also make jewellery from silver, gold, semi precious stones and other materials, some is narrative like the Jabberwocky Collection while some are based on stories in my head like Treasure Rings. I like my jewellery to be different but still easily worn and practicle. I like contrast whether it be colour, texture or form. And I like each piece to mean something, whether it be real meaning as in a date or name worked into the design or a fictional story behind it. I also make bespoke Kilt Pins, these are made to order and often feature hills, landscapes and music. They are fabricated from sterling silver and I use techniques such as photoetching, saw piercing and oxidising to add contrast, detail and texture.

Just now I'm working on a few kilt pin commissions. Two I've started making and a couple are still in the designing stage. I'm also making some rings and bangles from silver and black resin which are a bit different to any of my previous designs.

Favourite living artist
Desmond Morris, I found out in 4th year at art school that this well known zoooligist and author is also a surrealist artist. It was from him I got the word biomorphs which is what I call a collection of my jewellery made with silver and colourful resin. He paints pictures of biomorphs which he describes as neither creature or plant but something in between. In 1948 he created his black dream-room, a room painted with vivid images on a black background, his biomorphic vision. He slept in this room hoping it would bring him closer to the biomorphs, like sleeping inside his paintings. It was "a room for intensifying dreams".

Favourite living craft maker
Peter Chang, his jewellery just blows me away, I think his shapes, colours and textures are all incredible. The combination of these create objects that are organic, robotic and playful, some look like plants from a distant planet and some look like parts of a space ship or motorbike. His bracelet and rings look solid and heavy but apparently they are really light!

When and where did you first want to do what you do?
I wanted to become an artist from quite a young age, after wanting to be a teacher (like my mum) or a nurse. I was good at drawing at school and I remember quite clearly showing other girls how to draw a t-shirt shape at nursery when everyone was still drawing people with round bodies! So I knew I wanted to go to art school but had no idea what I would do there. I remember thinking that I liked drawing but what I really wanted to do was make things and it wasn't until my higher art that I decided design was what I really wanted to do. I hadn't seriously thought about jewellery until first year at art school. After spending the year doing a general course I choose to specialise in jewellery and metalwork and now I couldn't imagine doing anything else. I like the fact that designing jewellery has it's constraints, like it must be able to be worn and therefore be durable and cleverly designed, though some people would argue against this! Jewellery has meanings and conotations that are easily understandable by everyone and is therefore accessible to all, most people have an opinion about jewellery. It's mini sculpture and can be full of hidden meaning or simply just pleasing to the eye.

What place in the world has inspired you?
My parents have a caravan on the west coast of Scotland in a campsite on Loch Sween. This is my favorite place in the world and it inspires me in many ways. The scenery in this part of Scotland is wonderful and feels so untouched, I love the way the weather can dramatically change the landscape. It's these combinations of sea and hills that have inspired a lot of the shapes I use in my Kilt Pin designs. When I am there I feel I can escape and it doesn't matter about anything else, it's the best place to just sit on a rock and empty your head. The campsite is built round a ruined castle dating back to the 12th century called Castle Sween. I love castles and the feeling you get being inside somewhere with so much history, especially ruins, I love imagining what it must have looked and felt like when the castle was occupied and used.
(Islay's blog about Sween HERE)

I'm going to Barcelona this year which I'm really excited about, it's a place I've always wanted to visit. Gaudi's work has always been a big inspiration to me so maybe this will become the place that has most inspired me, I shall be armed with camera and comfy shoes!

Last best read?
Today I finished a book called Popco by Scarlett Thomas. I really enjoyed it and learnt a bit about cryptanalysis and maths which I found really interesting. It's follows the story of Alice who works for a toy company and what happens when she gets sent to a secret 'thought camp' with her team to work on a new brand of girls toys. It wasn't at all what I expected and I would recommend it as an enjoyable read that gives you a satisfying feeling of having found out about something.

What do you have on your pinboard?
On one I have business cards, random ideas written on post-its, an arrangment of invoices and receipts that really should be filed more often, postcards, a colour chart and it's also where I hang my necklaces (the ones I wear, not make!) Beside it I have a whiteboard with a list of commissions I am working on and what to do next. In my workshop I also have a whiteboard with a list of materials that I need to buy and a load of ideas and things to do. Since I have no pinboard in my garage I have hung a piece of string and attached drawings, pictures and photos with bull dog clips. In my ideal studio I would have a whole wall dedicated to whiteboards and pinboards!

Where and what is your studio?
My studio is in my parents garage, it's more of a workshop really with all my tools, bench and sink. It's usually quite messy, I find I work better with everything around me. I call it organised chaos, I know where everything is and being able to leave things out to come back and work on is one of the big advantages to working alone. The desk in my bedroom is where I do any paperwork, it's also where I keep all my books and research. Any drawing, designing and e-mailing I do in various locations thanks to my macbook. Recently thanks to the sunshine I have been working in my garden a lot but it could be the kitchen table or even the bus! I usually listen to Radio 2 when I'm working. I like how listening to the radio breaks up the day and keeps you informed on what's going on in the world while you work. If it's not the radio (it can do my head in sometimes!) then I'll listen to music or podcasts on my ipod. My favourite podcasts are the Russell Brand Show and Adam and Joe, the music I listen probably includes a little bit of everything so long as it's upbeat.

Surprising activity/hobby?
I play the side drum in a pipe band. I have done this since I was 7 and since my mum is a piper this way of life seems entirely natural for me but I suppose it's less usual in England. I also play in a TA pipe band which is quite unusual as you don't get many creatives in the army! The pipe band I compete with is called MacKenzie Caledonian and we are in grade 3A. So far his year we have done well in the competitions, finger's crossed for the World Championships! I have managed to tie in my hobby with my work by designing and making bespoke Kilt Pins which I'm having great fun with and getting lot's of interesting commissions.

Would you rather be doing something else?
At some points yes, but that would depend on what that something else was. If something else was lazing about in my bed or reading a good book, in the sunshine, by the pool with a beer and a packet of salt and vinegar crisps then of course. If something else was working a 9-5 job then definitely not!

Guilty secret?
I like drowning the spiders in my workshop in the sink.

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