Developing a Theme

I think I have done it! I have finally found a theme for my silversmithing.

I am conscious that I am not a formally trained silversmith and that people who have studied design at a college or university are encouraged to take an idea and stick with it, developing it as an idea and generating a brand identity.

In searching for a theme I have found myself envying Icelandic silversmiths (I would love to do a range with oxidised trees over hand picked labradorite stones to sell to tourists hoping to capture forever the bucket-list moment when they saw the Northern Lights) or those living near the sea (pebbles and sea glass go so beautifully in silver).

I live in Sheffield, about as far inland as you can get, with a comparatively recent industrial heritage, ugly modern buildings (I love some modern buildings but most of the ones we have are just dull) and no interesting local rocks (from a gemological point of view).

This year however I have taken themes from last year’s steampunk jewellery and developed them.

The result is pleasingly chunky, androgynous jewellery featuring generous stones sometimes set over reclaimed watch movements.

The silver is oxidised, giving it an industrial quality and, as I develop the theme, I intend to bring in other found objects and different metals.

As to stones, I have already used labradorite with its oil-slick colours and will also introduce acid green peridot and, if i can get hold of them, Mexican Fire Opal.

On  a recent walk I also found some nice pieces of slag and iron waste so if I can find a way of cutting them down I think I may start incorporating them into jewellery too.

And there we have it – Sheffield specific, modern industrial jewellery that I enjoy making.

 

 

 

Another Outing for Fishboy

Just when I thought it time to give Fishboy a happy ending, we went to The Deep, the spectacular aquarium in Hull and this scenario occurred.
There are so many signs announcing feeding times, it would be only logical that Fishboy might get the wrong end of the stick about who gets fed.

Having got to May without a single painting, I have been making up for lost time and have in the last month done six. Unfortunately the first was for friends and I forgot to take a picture and three are for an exhibition at the Lincoln Steampunk festival – so I cannot publish them anywhere before then. I’ll probably put them in the charity auction so I must remember to scan them for my records and to show you.

Sunday Rings

It’s Sunday, possibly it is raining or perhaps it is just dreary and cold enough that the thought of going out just does not appeal.
On days like these I often sit down and make myself a ring, something simple but pretty that can be done in a day and which, in the working week to come, I can look at and know my weekend was not wasted.
That is why I call these my Sunday rings.


Each one uses a stone I was particularly drawn to because of its character, colour or flaws. There are messy star sapphires and a particularly pretty dusty blue sapphire bought from India in an auction with no rivals as the seller had used the wrong picture as their primary image.
My favourite though is this playful and slightly ridiculous turquoise ring. It is a really unusual, almost onion domed cabochon and, as it was reclaimed from jewellery by a lovely dealer I know, I have really no idea how old it is. All I know is that if I could get more, I could sell this ring 10 times over.


Unfortunately Turquoise, being opaque, is nearly always cut into flatter cabochons as to do otherwise is a waste of an expensive material.
So the only way I am going to be able to replicate this ring is to cut my own stones. ..which brings us onto the problem of sourcing genuine turquoise on line in a market saturated with fakes and imitations.
But that’s for another time.
Just to conclude, because the stone is so chunky with a hint of Arabian Nights style Orientalism, I wanted to give it a mount that echoed that.
I simply took d shaped wire for the ring and added a ring of round wire to provide more adhesion points for the domed disk in which the stone sits. I then used a file to make the claws and finally folded them carefully round the stone.
I then wore it very carefully for a day, praying the stone was indeed secured by its little claws.

Fishboy’s Story

Fishboy was born several years ago when my partner obligingly pulled a silly face that inspired me to create a whole scenario around its combination of wide eyed innocence, hope and fear.

In his first outing Fishboy was being chatted up by a bunch of mermaids who were clearly up to no good.

In 2016 year six paintings followed.

In January, inspired by Angler Fish, Fishboy tried a spot of deep sea fishing, only to find that a monster fish was less than impressed by his attempt at poaching.

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Poaching partrol, Fishboy comes acropper by Erica Madelin

Deciding that life on land might be easier afterall, Fishboy visited a small harbour town only to find the local cat population was rather too interested in his lunch.

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Shore Leave by Erica Madelin

Around the summer time he thought his luck was in when a foundered ship deposited a large box of tuna tins on his home beech. Free food! Alas, it was not to be because where was he to find a can opener?

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The Lord Giveth and the Lord Taketh Away by Erica Madelin

Food is of course not everything in life, love is food for the soul afterall. In the autumn, possibly following an inapproprate conversation about Hentai, Fishboy found himself in the arms of an amorous octopus.

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Cuddles by Erica Madelin

In December I took pity on Fishboy and sent him a bicycle. I heard that Archbishop Desmond Tutu once said: “Give a man a fish and feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and feed him for a lifetime. Teach a man to cycle and he will realize fishing is stupid and boring.” I think Fishboy knows that, deep in his fishy little heart but I somehow doubt he will ever get this bicycle on the road.

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Bicycles for Fishboys by Erica Madelin

Finally, as the New Year loomed I thought it would be nice if Fishboy got a present….possibly from his friend the octopus. Soggy, many armed Christmas jumper anyone? Still, it’s better than socks!

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Fits where it Touches by Erica Madelin

I don’t yet know what the new year will bring for Fishboy but I have so enjoyed doing these. I think I paint them like a child does, telling myself the story as I go and giggling slightly.

 

 

 

 

 

Do Fishboys Need Bicycles?

Almost from the moment I first noticed the man who was to become my boyfriend I wanted to paint him. I  remember him looking over his shoulder at me as we sat in a friend’s car and being struck by his eyes; greyish, blueish with a golden centre and set off by an intriguing scar under the left lid. He had long, thick black hair and lips like a pre-Raphaelite angel.

Unfortunately I had only just got back into painting then and attempts to paint him never worked. I think this is partly because we take our idea of a person not from a static image but an ever-changing memory reel of moments. No portrait can ever capture all those movements, micro-expressions and emotions. I would try to draw him from pictures and from life and we both decided my attempts weren’t up to much.

The years passed and then, how many years ago I don’t really remember, he pulled a particularly silly face, puffing out his cheeks and sticking his lower lip out in a pout. I think it was probably meant to look puppyish but somehow “fish” was what sprung to mind. With Arthur Rackham’s style in mind, I did a quick ink and watercolour of a pouting merman being teased by a group of mermaids.img_9688

Last year I did a further six fishboy paintings charting hapless fishboy’s search for the good things in life – mostly fish to be honest but he is also looking for love I suppose. I will put the full set on here shortly.

This year I also, finally, got as close as I have come so far to capturing his likeness in a proper portrait. It’s not quite right (get an angle wrong by a fraction of a degree and a likeness is lost) but it is a fair attempt.

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My question though is this: Which works best as a portrait? An oil in fairly traditional style, or a series of jokes poking gentle fun at my partner’s sometimes simple needs (tuna, love and bicycles)?

Bent Copper

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Steampunk button-hole for a friend

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Copper orchid button-hole

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Holly sprig with coral berries

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Copper Chrysanthemum tiara modelled by Emily and reproduced with kind permission from the photographer.

Copper is a wonderful metal to work with and its cheapness relative to silver means allows me to experiment more and try bigger projects with it.
Last year I started making fold-formed orchids. these were followed by some little Chrysanthemums whose layers of petals I hammered out on my doming block.
The Chrysanthemums I made into a headband, kindly modelled by a friend here.
This Christmas I have followed those up with a holly button-hole complete with coral berries.
The colour of the metal is the result of the folding and annealing process and won’t last unless I seal it under a coat of laquer.
I have a steampunk friend who insists that everything he makes is polished to a mirror shine. I admire the dedication but personally I like the way metals oxidise and age.
I have plans to choose a flower or plant for every season. For spring I am planning a hair ornament with hawthorn. I think I would try to oxidise the copper leaves to green and then combine them with little silver flowers and “buds” of white button pearls.
I would love one day to do a complete bridal set, copper flowers, a tiara and button holes for the bridegroom’s party.
In a world where florists charge up to £50 for a button-hole that won’t last the day, this must be possible! Continue reading