Edinburgh Retrospective and a look at the West End Craft Fair

As the Edinburgh Festival draws to a close, the performers pack up and the theatres go back to running one show a day (not ten) it almost feels like I wasn’t there at all. The whole world of theatre is such an illusion that you do sometimes wonder if the festival is some kind of mirage or mass hallucination. No doubt the organisers are already starting to think about 2011 and how to make it better and brighter than 2010.

Entrance to the West End Fair and St Johns Church

Another highlight of the Fringe is something else that isn’t technically theatre – but that I love nonetheless. It’s the West End Craft Fair that hugs the side of St Johns church on the western end of Princes Street and sprawls through the old Victorian graveyard. It seems to go from strength to strength each year with new sections being added forming a tempting maze of tents to venture through. Hung with colourful bunting it’s the perfect place to stroll on a sunny day:

Shopping at the West End Craft Fair

And (of course) it’s a brilliant spot to find some new makers:

Dazed by Dorothy

It’s always dangerous to take me near a  bag stall and these beauties were simply stunning. All individually handmade with gorgeous combinations of leather, suede, buttons and embroidery Dazed by Dorothy had a beautiful stand and, fortunately, has an equally lovely website.

Ring and Necklace from Genna Design

Also on show was Genna Delaney with her Geometric Colllections which are totally stunning and exhibit a lovely balance between metal and stone. The range gives you a tangible sense of that kind of harsh, organic landscape you find in Northern Scotland and Wales and makes me long for misty mornings in Cardigan Bay.

Copper and Silver Leaf Earrings from Ali Bali

After having a good look ’round I brought home a pair of these lovelies, made by Ali Bali Jewellery – just to prove that the whole thing did happen after all.

Parcelling up work for Galanthus

Phew, it’s been a busy few days in the studio … it’s strange to think that I’ve been back from Scotland for a week and I’m already back into working like I hadn’t been away …

I’ve made up a parcel of work for Galanthus Gallery, they’re putting Flotsam into their Autumn stock alongside some of their other really wonderful designers:

Annie Cracknell has a lovely, almost mathematical approach to the structures that she makes out of hand cut stones and precious metals. Some of her pieces are downright architectural while other have a lovely simple structure.

Then there’s Suzanne Smith who’s beautifully detailed designs are inspired by vintage materials and the natural world. There’s a great feel of romance to them, like they’re Victorian relics to be treasured.

Snowflakes! Snowflakes in August!

Snowflake master patterns

The saga of the snowflake continues. I designed these lying in the garden last July with the intention of having them ready for Christmas 2009. That never came to pass …

So I finally got my act together and protoyped them back in January. I  got my master pattern and first mini batch of castings back from my caster just before I headed up to Scotland. I cleaned them up yesterday and they look lovely! I’m going to write a proper post about how they were made soon (to go with a talk I’ll be doing for the Shropshire Guild’sGorgeous‘ fair in October) but for now here’s a sneaky peak:

Sanded Snowflake

Festival of Crafts at Farnham

I got a very exciting pile of post when I came back from Edinburgh on Thursday. It’s kind of like Christmas when you let your mail build up. There were letters from friends, tedious (but nessecary) bank statements and a whole pack of flyers for the Festival of Crafts that Farnham Maltings are having in October.

This is not just exciting because I’ll be there, selling work. Or because it’s the home of a beautiful silversmithing group. Oh no, it’s super exciting because I’m on the flyer! Twice. Whoop! do check it out, it’s going to be a lovely fair:

Farnham Maltings Craft Festival Flyer 2010
Farnham Maltings Craft Festival Flyer 2010

Beside the Scottish seaside …

It’s odd to think that a week ago I was in Scotland … now I’m back in England and it’s muggy, rainy and generally not looking like summer at all. Still, I went to a beautiful wedding yesterday which has made up for the weather (a little) – though I won’t feel like I’m home until I’ve been through the stack of emails that piled up while I was away.

I got to go to the beach while I was up north, Mr Williams and I took a day trip to St Andrews – which turns out to be a town with more than just golf going for it. There’s the gorgeous Alchemia Gallery on one of the main streets and some most delicious ice cream sellers too – I recommend the chocolate at the place on Market Street!

From a distance the town is dominated by the ruins of a castle and a cathedral. The graveyards around the cathedral are a fascinating mix of old and new tombstones from the 1500’s to the modern day.

As you can see it was a gorgeous day – I had a few preconceptions about Scottish weather overridden last week and I actually managed to get sunburnt too!  The beach there is gorgeous, I live in the Midlands so I seize upon any chance to get out to the sea that I can. I wasn’t disappointed:

There’s a huge stretch of sand peppered with these tiny little pebbles:

I always end up bringing handfulls of pebbles back form the seaside – they’re just so darn pretty and, unlike traditional facetted stones, they have such wonderfully organic shapes that I could just gaze at forever. This time I looked for truly tiny pebbles to put into my Flotsam range … so keep an eye out for these turning up in a piece some time soon.

Dazzling Jewellery in and around the Edinburgh Festival

One of the less theatrical treats of the Edinburgh Fesitval is a trip to Dazzle. The Dazzle selling exhibitions are a bit of an institution in the world of designer – maker jewellery and take place in Manchester, London, Edinburgh and Glasgow annually.

The Edinburgh exhibition was one of the first contemporary jewellery shows that I ever attended, having stumbled upon it by accident while visiting the Traverse Theatre. I hadn’t really made up my mind about studying Jewellery back then, I was still awaiting my A Level results, and it really helped me to see art as a valuable career. So it’s got a bit of a special place in my heart and I always look forward to it and end up regretting that I don’t have more spending money!

Some of my favourites from the Dazzle shows are:

Hannah Louise Lamb

and the wonderful Becky Crow:

But there was nothing that I really, really wanted to take home this time. Hm. That’s good for my bank balance but not so great for the show. I think the problem was that the exhibitors hadn’t changed much from those I saw in Dazzle London over Christmas and, while I bemoan the industries demand for constant innovation, I found myself wanting it here.

I felt like I’d seen most of the work before and some of the exhibitors were indistinguishable from each other, which I guess shows that even designer jewellers bend to the trends of what’s fashionable. Don’t get me wrong, the work was beautiful, and as immaculately presented as usual but it just lacked a spark for me …

That’s why I was so pleased to find such a wonderful little gallery not to far away in the form of Hannah Zakari.

It’s just off the Grassmarket (for those of you who know Edinburgh) on Candlemaker Row and it’s so new the paint was still fresh. It stocks jewellery, textiles and paper work mostly but you get the feeling that it could lend it’s hand to anything. There’s work there from:

Mary Mary Handmade

and the lovely Joanna Rutter

and I got quite excited because it was so thoughtfully put together. Work was sourced from all over the place-  Mary Mary Handmade is from New York while Joanna Rutter works in Devon and you really get the impression that Hannah Zakari has hunted far and wide for beautiful things that tickled her fancy. Edinburgh has a lot of galleries that seem to exclusively support local talent, which is a great way to work, but, put too many galleries in any one area and the work is going to overlap – this gallery has avoided that brilliantly and the result is a charming shop full of things I would have cheerfully taken home – though my favourite was this Fortune Cookie Necklace from Mary Mary:

So, if you find yourself with a spare half an hour in Edinburgh I recommend that  pop in to see Hannah Zakari and marvel.

Edinburgh, Adam Paxon and the Trenches of World War One

posted in: Events, Jewellery 1

Edinburgh in August is probably one of my favourite places to be. The Festival Fringe that envelopes the place for most of the month is incomparable in its scope and energy.

I first came here when I was 18, all starry eyed and inspired by a report on the festival that I’d seen years before. The city made an indelible impression and before long I was totally smitten. That early infatuation has mellowed a little over the years and I’m now deeply fond of it and make a bi-annual pilgrimage up here every other summer for the festival.

Of course, The Fringe is mostly about the theatre and comedy but there’s art, craft, books, films and dance all hidden away here too. Every room is a venue and the best parts of any trip are always the things that you find by accident, the show that you overhear a recommendation for while you’re queuing for tea or the thing that you see on impulse.

One of the first great discoveries of this trip for me was the Dovecot Studios. I was actually there for a show – the brilliant ‘Elsie and Mairi go to War’, a dramatisation of the lives of two women who drove ambulances and nursed on the frontlines of the First World War. It was deeply evocative and very well put together by historian Diane Atkinson, the women’s personalities really shone through though I felt like the hour long show only scratched the surface of their circumstances – I may have to read the book to get to know them a little better.

Star of the Show: Gorgeous Neckpiece from Adam Paxon

Elsewhere in this beautiful, creative space was an exhibition of Adam Paxon’s work (Matter 5). Upon seeing it through the gallery door the set up put me immediately in mind of Andy Goldsworthy. Pieces of work were suspended in the air on nylon cords and surrounded by cages of nylon thread, weighted with pebbles. It formed an impressive sight from afar (though strangely raw and unprocessed against Adam’s work) and also gave a handy protective barrier to the work, without the sterile presence of glass.

The pebble barrier hanging around Adam Paxons work at Dovecot Studios

The work itself was typically colourful, a test of the properties of acrylic and looking at it made you wonder how such vivid little sea beasties can survive for so long out of the water. The whole show had a beautifully playful feel to it, willing the pieces to be alive and daring you to wear them. I wanted them to move, hung suspended in their little bubbles in the cool gallery space.

Adam Paxon's work suspended in the air at Dovecot Studios

Quick bit of luck …

Good Luck Four Leaf Clover Studs

The studio is packed up, the gas taps are off and I’m almost ready to pack my bags and head up to the Edinburgh Festival! There was just time to make some emergency good luck earrings for Mr Williams friend – who just happenes to be flying on Friday the 13th. I’m not sure how ominous the day is but I guess every little helps – plus they’re pretty cute!  

Right, I’m off to drag my holdall out of the attic.