Even although we’ve finished all our assessed coursework for second year, we still have another project to work on until term ends. It’s self-directed and outwith the studio, so it’s been fairly free working the last week or two.
Our brief started at the Anne Grundy Jewellery Collection.
Anne Grundy was a huge collector of jewellery and owned more than a thousand pieces of work from the 1700s – 1900s in her lifetime. Much of the work included non-precious materials, such as plastics and bone. Within the collection there was also a lot of hair jewellery – bracelets, necklaces and chains.
For the project we have to design a piece of jewellery or an object using recycled or scavenged materials. I began looking at the hair jewellery, but wanted to explore something other than human hair, as I have previously done a project involving this. I started looking at the idea of animal hair and wool – specifically at the animal furs and hair that we do not associate with preciousness, such as farm yard animals.
Seeing as this project is based outwith the studio, I decided to take a little field trip to Oban, in order to try and gather some source materials first hand.
I managed to accumulate a variety of different materials, thanks in huge part to Jenny MacDonald for various types of wool; and the Isaac’s, for access to their field and horse stables. In the end I had a lot of different types of wool, highland cow hair, and horse hair to work from.
I started looking at each of these materials, photographing, sketching and painting the textures, colours and forms. I looked at how normally we take a lock of someone’s hair as a memento, so perhaps we could take the animals hair as a reminder of where we are all from. The smell and texture of animal hairs really reminds me of Oban and Benderloch especially, so whatever I created would be a reminder, or memento, of my home when I am away from it.
I created a lot of visuals which explored the elements of each material that I found appealing, before starting on samples involving different combinations of the materials.
I find this the easiest way for me to progress from drawing to 3-dimensional work, as it allows me to physically engage with materials, to explore what appeals to me.
After sampling, I then sketched out the samples free hand. I photocopied the sketches and reduced them down to 50% in order to begin collaging these sketches into shapes. I began creating circular shapes, like neckpieces, as I wanted to make something which touched the skin and the hair, almost as though they were an extension of me, as my home area is an extension of myself.
Traditionally, we have always worn furs, skins and wools as a means of protection and warmth, so something with draped around the body across the stomach, chest and shoulders seemed like a fitting development physically.
I reflected on which of the collaged pieces I found most effective then set about recreating the paper collage in animal hairs. I used my animal hair samples and layered them up together to form the basic shape. I then began to build on-top of them with more of my other samples, in order to give the full layering, protective covering that I desired. Once the shape was created, each of the samples were sewn together with horsehair, in order to solidify the samples as one structured shape.
I’ve really loved this project, as by working with non-precious, scavenged material, as opposed to silver, copper and brass, I’ve been able to scale up my design work, and experiment with materials which normally I might not choose.
Working from home has also helped me to stabilise my work ethic, and discover how much I can really focus and create outwith the studio environment.
It’s been a really interesting project, and the perfect end to Second Year at the Glasgow School of Art, Silversmithing and Jewellery.
Ellis Cameron, Young in Argyll correspondent