Monthly Archives: January 2010

Back from Belgium

Whew! Crazy week on The Continent. It’s so nice to be back in my English home. I have a 15 page research paper due this Tuesday (which I just finished up today) and then next Tuesday I have a 3 month long jewellery project due, so it’s necessary to hit the ground running. Before I jump back into the jewellery making, I thought I’d do a brief update on my week in Antwerp.

Why we went:
8 MA Jewellery students from Birmingham City University in England and 6 MA Jewellery students from the Academie in Antwerp came together for a week-long project called “Table Manners”. The goal was to make a collaborative gallery show centered around food and cultures. Between the 14 of us, we represented 6 nationalities: British, American, Belgian, Taiwanese, Chinese, and French.

What we did:
The first day we met, we had some Belgian cultural experiences: eating frite (Belgian fries, baked a special way and slathered in mayonnaise) and also visiting the still-intact house of an Antwerpian merchant from the 1500’s.

Belgian Frite (pronounced "freet") with copious amounts of mayo

After these “field trips”, we drank Belgian beer and talked about how we wanted to do the project. After much discussion, we divided into three groups: one group wanted to experiment with making crazy food concoctions, another group was interested in making edible tables, and another group (the one I was in) decided to make frite cones and forks out of things Belgium and Antwerp are famous for: diamonds, chocolate, lace, and mussels.

We spent the next few days working with our groups to accomplish our very different goals. I didn’t really see how all these separate pieces would come together to make a complete exhibition, but all I could do was work with my group and make sure that the things we made were good. Our group consisted of Karen (from a town near Brussels), Melinda (born in Antwerp), Rebecca (from Stratford-upon-Avon in England) and me (from several places in the United States and currently residing in England). We worked really well together and ended up making some pretty great things!

Friday we set up our show at Silke & The Gallery in downtown Antwerp. Even though our groups sounded like we were making really different things, the stuff we made ended up coming together really well! We all made things out of food, and I think that’s the key element that held everything together. Here are a few photos of work from the gallery show: you can see a lot more photos of what we worked on by clicking this link:

Table Manners Exhibition at Silke & The Gallery. Yes, it's written in chocolate.

“Food Worlds” by Natalie
“Waffle Table” by Group 3

Frite cones and forks made by our group- made out of materials Belgium is famous for- chocolate, lace, diamonds, and mussels

Diamond Frite Fork

Gold & Diamond Frite Fork, made by Rebecca

Solid Belgian Chocolate frite cone, made by me. I poured layers of dark and white chocolate, then carved into the cone to reveal the coloured layers

Dark: chocolate-dipped lace cone, by Karen. White: lace frite cone, made by me

I took 800 photos during the week, and about 300 of them are up on facebook, so feel free to peruse them at your leisure. I’ve made the albums public, so even if you’re not on facebook or we’re not facebook friends, you’ll be able to see them.

Antwerp 1: The Sights

Antwerp 2: The Art

Enjoy the photos, comment on this post if you have anything you’d like to say, and I’ll update again after I’ve got some new jewellery made. Back to work now… while I work I’ll be dreaming of delicious Belgian food, chocolate, and beer.

Enjoying Kwak, which comes in it's own special container that ensures the beer doesn't get warm from your hand holding the glass



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Final “Ribbon” Necklace and New Experiments

Here, as promised, is a photo of my new version of the plaster “Ribbon” necklace:

"Ribbons", Version 2

I constructed this version in a different way than I did the prototype, so this piece has a lighter but much sturdier form. I also chose to use white ribbon on this piece- I like the look of the white, but I’m not sure I like that kind of ribbon. I’ve found a store in London that sells amazing ribbons and fabrics imported from France, so when I get back from Belgium I’m planning to make a trip down there to look at what they’ve got and hopefully find the perfect kind of ribbon to use on this necklace- right now I’m thinking a really lovely, high-end silk. So while this version of the necklace is certainly a lot better than the previous version, I’ve already got plans for how I can improve it the next time I make it. Eventually I’ll end up with exactly what I want, and in the meantime, I’m getting really good at constructing!

I think once I get all the versions made, I’ll probably do another poll to see which version people like the best- I’m really interested in knowing these things! Thanks to all who took part in the poll I posted yesterday- if you didn’t get a chance to vote or comment, please do!

Here are a few photos of the next piece I’m working on- these aren’t great photos, but hopefully they’ll get the general idea across- I’m working with lace patterns and using these patterns as surface decoration on pieces of plaster, which I’ll be turning into another necklace. This necklace fits really well with my current interest taking visual elements from historical fashion and decoration.

**The surface lace details may be difficult to see in the small version, but clicking on the image will show a larger version**

Lace Test 1

Lace Test Pieces

I leave for Belgium tomorrow and probably won’t have internet for the next week while I’m there. Look for a post around the 1st or 2nd of February, where I’ll post photos from the trip and explain more about the week-long jewellery project that we’re working on with MA students from the jewellery school in Antwerp. Bye for now!

p.s. Any comments on the pieces in this post would be very welcome- likes/dislikes/things they remind you of… it’s all really helpful to me, so please leave a comment!

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Where This is Going

Obviously the whole life update thing isn’t working so well for me, so I’ve decided to change around what I’m doing with this blog, and turn it into a sort of electronic sketchbook, documenting what I’m working on right now and the artists I’m looking at. The plan is to post a lot of photos of what I’m working on at the moment- it would be fantastic to get comments on the pieces I’m making; feedback is a really important part of the design process, so any comments you leave will be really helpful!

In the spirit of catching up on what I’ve been making, here’s a brief synopsis of my project:

I’ve been experimenting with casting plaster as a main material for this jewellery collection. While a lot of plaster is crumbly, powdery, and starts dissolving after it has gotten wet, I’ve been working with a plaster/polymer combination that has given me a very hard, waterproof material to work with. It’s really an amazing material- I have been experimenting with loads of different ways of manipulating it and finding different forms to cast it in. In this current series I am exploring imagery from fashion and the decorative arts, reinterpreting it in a new way and a contemporary material.

This series of 3 necklaces was my starting point: While there is no direct quotation of imagery from fashion and the decorative arts, the aesthetic decisions I made were informed by my research in these fields.

**Click on image to open a larger version of the image**

Chocolates 1

Chocolates 2

“Chocolates 3” combines the look of the first two pieces, using the look of both. There isn’t necessarily a front or a back to this piece- it can be worn smooth side front, rough edges front, or a mixture of both.

Chocolates 3, Front

Chocolates 3, reverse

The necklace below, titled “Ribbons”, is a prototype- I’m in the process of making a more finished version of it, and when that’s finished I’ll be uploading that to the site, but I thought I’d post this piece for now, just to give you a preview of some of the jewellery pieces still to come. I love how the hard, rigid plaster can be made to look like it’s folded cloth- this piece is my favourite so far.

Ribbon Necklace

I have 3  jewellery pieces in production right now- look for photos of them quite soon. If you want to be able to see when I post a blog entry, click the orange “RSS” button. This will subscribe you to my blog by putting a bookmark in your “Favourites” folder on your browser, and then you should be able to set up a way for it to notify you when I’ve posted a new entry.

That’s all for now- it’s time to get back to the studio to work on those other jewellery pieces.  I’m leaving for Belgium on Sunday, so I should probably do some laundry and pack at some point, too! I’ll post a photo of the new version of the Ribbon necklace tomorrow and will post photos of the two other necklaces I’m working on at the beginning of February when I get back from Belgium.

Thanks for reading- if you have time to leave feedback, I would love to have comments on these pieces and/or answers to the poll questions below. Thanks in advance for your help- check back tomorrow for a photo of the finished Ribbon necklace.



Filed under grad school, jewellery, Uncategorized