A son turning 50 is a celebration and worthy of a special gift. By getting older, I experience my memories are primarily of value. Moments shared with those I love. Eating and drinking are often part of being together. I designed these spoons for a birthday boy who loves espresso and has a gorgeous coffee machine. The photos show the sample spoons made of brass sheets and the processing the Argentium sheet undergoes. The sheet is partly forged and polished. Then the sheet is pleated and partially matted. The pleating of the sheet is particularly tricky. If the fold is not centred correctly, it creates a crazy curve beyond correction. The box to store the spoons is made of rough cherry wood that I have sawed. It has two compartments, allowing it to be sawn in half. Due time, a box of their own with five spoons is created for the two sons as a reminder of their father and his 50th birthday celebration. Thus the title 50/50.
When I told someone I was thrilled that I had sold one of my rings in a chunky men's size, I was asked the above question. In designing a piece of jewellery, I am concerned with finding shapes that capture the imagination. For me, whether the wearer of a piece of jewellery is a woman, a man, or someone who feels neither is irrelevant while designing. Out of practicality, I make the rings to my size. This way, I can simultaneously try out whether a ring is wearable and use myself as a photo model. So it came as a surprise when I received a request to make a ring in a genuine men's size. The bonus was that this man, like myself, is fond of the works of Spanish artist Eduardo Chillida. With him living in Paris while I live in Maastricht, we were in contact by e-mail. As a result, deciding on the ring size took more effort, but we worked it out. Printed and cast in Germany and finished in the Netherlands, it found a home in France.
In the studio, I collect my findings. There are various types of finds. One kind is the rough material category. Pieces of wood from a container. Neutral in shape and suitable to use for a mould, for example. Then there are also finds that immediately evoke an image for me. They get sorted into trays or containers. Bricks by bricks, iron by iron and so on. There are boxes with finds that belong together. Not found together, but the stuff I feel belongs together. The left picture shows the content of such a box. The middle photos are examples of so-called raw materials. Remnants of electrical wire leftover from lighting jobs. Useful material was found in a container a few streets away. That container also included a piece of brick with contamination. A case of doubt. Not a brick that evoked an image. It might be suitable for making pigment because it had a particular discolouration. In the end, the brick is the base for my wallflower. From doubt to a base place. Just like in ordinary life.
I regularly reply to so-called open calls to submit work for an exhibition, and I like to challenge myself in this way. Of course, the ultimate goal is to get selected. So far, I did not get beyond selection round 2, so it was extra lovely to be chosen for Devotional Jewellery. Unfortunately, I was unable to attend the opening in Padua. Art comes to its best if you see it in real life, but thankfully, via Instagram and other channels, I was still able to get a good idea of how beautiful the other pieces are and the love and care the persons involved staged the exhibition.
I love the challenges of processing multiple types of materials. Each material has its character with advantages and limitations. Sterling silver is rigid but can be melted down if the result is not as desired. Woods are softer, yet a piece cut too short cannot be extended invisibly. Such a block does not end up in the dustbin. Instead, it ends up in a box with all other pieces waiting for a new chance. Similarly, I store the cut shafts of my boots. It is fine leather. I often only need small bites. To safeguard the Argentium candle holders from scratches, I re-used strips of such leather in the recess of the pieces of wood. To cut them nicely at 45 degrees a mitre jig comes handy. My jewellers' tools double as leatherworking tools.
From 21-11-2021 until 20-02-2022 Maike Denker, Studio SUFI, Dorieke Schreurs, Bronwen Jones and I will be showing our work at Studio D'O. The gallery is open by appointment and on Saturdays from 13.00-16.00 and every first Sunday of the month from 13.00-16.00. You may need to make an online reservation for a visit, depending on the current corona measures. As the title of the exhibition suggests, the artists give their vision of what they believe defines luxury. In any case, luxury does not have to come at the expense of nature.
Therefore I took a workshop with Dorieke Schreurs of Studio D'O. She knows a lot about creating inorganic pigments. These pigments she uses in her paintings, but she also passes on her knowledge by giving workshops and as a freelance teacher. You can also buy ready pigments from her if you prefer. In her research, Dorieke looks for materials and possibilities to realise sustainable development in art-making. In my search for sustainable materials, I came across her work.
After completing a piece, the next job comes along. It's time for photo shooting and writing texts for the website. The work determines the location of the photoshoot. The studio, the garden, the living room and even the toilet can suit for this. Furniture moved, boards and fabrics are selected to function as background. After shooting my Taurus, all went back to their proper place. While I sit on the sofa a little later, the autumn sun shines through the stained-glass window. Mother Nature is in for a treat!
Our cat is a cutie but also enjoys racing about the house. So a clash between him and one of my sculptures was to be expected. I resignedly picked up the parts and took them to the workshop. Again a lesson learned because the pewter is brittle and the figurines were too thin. Henceforth I will make my pewter figures with an internal iron frame. Thankfully I could cast again because I keep my moulds. The only thing I have to decide now is whether to melt the leftover pieces down or make brooches out of them.
TV often fails to captivate me. I prefer to read a book or sketch when I'm not working in my studio. But I do like animated images. The sculptures of Jean Tinguely, for example. A visit to his museum, in Basel Switzerland, is on the wish list. Much to my delight, the Tinguely museum came to Maastricht in August. With the motto Museum Tinguely Ahoy, it made a travelling exhibition on a boat. It celebrated its 25th anniversary. Jean Tinguely (1925-1991) was an innovative Swiss artist of the 20th century who used waste materials. In a converted barge, the exhibition went past places relevant to Tinguely's artistic career. Paris, Antwerp, Maastricht and Amsterdam. The photo shows part of the exposition in the hull of the floating museum. The video shows the spectacular fountain on the deck. The beauty of art to me is not just the enjoyment during the viewing itself. I have often found that by looking at art, I experience the world around me differently. Sitting in our garden after my visit, I looked differently at the buzzing bees. Kinetic art by Tinguely and kinetic art by Mother Nature.
Unfortunately, you have to see art in real life. I find that a pity, because not all people have the opportunity to visit a museum. But luckily there are also other places outside of museums. There are many sculptures in squares and parks. You can go and see and even touch them! You can also visit galleries. If you are a bit uncomfortable going into a gallery, you can also go to an art market. It is not a question of admiring art by a famous artist. It is about being touched by a piece of art, not about whether you can understand it or pay for it. You can enjoy looking at something because you like the colour.
I developed my love of nature at a young age. We often went for walks and my father would tell us all sorts of interesting facts about the buildings. My mother knew almost every plant we came across along the way and my brother knew the bird guide completely by heart. A visit to this exhibition is almost a matter of course if you love nature and gardening, like me.
At the time of my studies, I was introduced to this English sculptor in MUHKA in Antwerp. That was where I first saw his work. He made tours through the countryside at that time and collected natural materials and household waste, which he used to create his work. From the mid-1980s, he no longer worked with individual plastic parts but began to make large bronze sculptures. Since the end of the 1980s, he has also made many drawings. At this exhibition, several of his drawings were on display and it was the first time that I had come across Cragg's drawings. The dynamism of his sculptures was enhanced by the grey, windy weather. I had a great time and got a new idea for a future trip. Tony Cragg's Skulpturenpark Waldfrieden, where his sculptures are displayed. In the exhibition hall works by fellow sculptors can be seen. Fortunately, Wuppertal is not far away from Maastricht.
< the Mirror ring and the resulting Circle of life ring >
What you should and should not share is totally up to you. I looked at the content of people I consider to be interesting. I love looking at pictures of studios, for example. I think it is not only a form of voyeurism but also informative. They often show handy solutions. For example, how you can store something or make a tool out of something you already have. For this reason, I have put a picture of mine on the homepage.
I have no desire to blog at all. I most like working in my studio. For me, the work I do there has real meaning. Blogging, Instagram and a website cost time and distraction. Nevertheless, I have made my own website, set up an Instagram account and have even blogged a few times. Well, there's nothing as inconsistent as man, is there?
If you know me at all, you must have noticed that I can't walk past a container without checking it out. Yes, I am most curious in this respect. But it also relates to sustainability. I use materials to produce objects. Stone, timber, gold and silver are all mined from nature. Every form of exploitation has an impact on the area surrounding it. Even if the wood originates from sustainable forests, all kinds of creatures and insects lose their habitat. I do therefore try to use as much material as possible that I find in the local area. So I regularly walk to a dumpster in our neighbourhood with a sturdy trolley. I discovered marble used as a windowsill and pieces of Namur stone. At the moment, I have no particular thought about what it is going to be. Until such time, I have it stacked beside a chair in the garden. So I can use it already as a table for my cup while enjoying reading a good book. (Book about Jannis Kounellis by Gloria Moure) When the marble is processed, I will find a new home again for the insects that will be making it a shelter in the interim.
At times you have the desire to make something. For instance, I desired to make something after seeing heartbreaking images of refugees in the news. There are many different reasons why people leave their homes for good. I am not able to send away dictators, stop natural disasters or turn other injustices into justice. Still, I had to do something with the desire to give those large anonymous numbers a face. As I walked, the shards on my path caught my eye. Broken, battered and devalued. I felt I could do more with them, so I carried them back to my studio. The third photo was taken in September 2018. Up until the end of 2019, I tried several times to make something from my shards. But couldn't find anything that worked. That is until I came up with the idea of grinding the stones into oval cabochons. All of a sudden, old tiles turned into portraits. Neglected turned into regarded and respected.
Often, our dog has to wait for me because I have to dig up a piece of iron, tile or stone during our walks. I use my finds in different ways. In this case, I instantly saw a curious creature in the shape of an iron wire. I more or less used it as I found it and cast the pewter head and legs on it. The tail of barbed wire which came from my collection of old iron I had found another time.
Since I was a little girl, I used to go to galleries, museums, old buildings and churches with my parents and little brother. Due to my training at the art academy, I enjoy looking at art even more. By now, I have a collection of catalogues and various art books. Rather than watching TV, I like to leaf through my art books.
Make the world a better place, starts with yourself. Based on that idea, I try to do what I can to help the environment. The shards of a lamp, that unfortunately fell into pieces, didn't become waste but turned into material. Out of a large shard, I ground ovals, which I processed into a necklace. The square brass wire used has been drawn from brass rods I found at a construction site.
Being able to use different kinds of techniques is very important to me. Transforming ideas into forms must not be withheld by technical limitations. I came across an announcement by Peter Vermandere about a casting workshop in his studio in Antwerp and immediately decided to take part. In Idar Oberstein some other participants of the International Summer Academia told me that they learned a lot at Peters workshop there. So a booked a room for a week in a hotel and took the train to Antwerp very early in the morning on a Monday. The workshop was beyond my expectations and a real eye opener. Peter demonstrated a lot of techniques and gave lot of room to experiment. The classic lost-wax-technique needs a kiln and a melting furnace and they are not cheap . The other techniques can easily be done at a studio at home which is a big bonus, because you can work with them almost right away at home. For me the sand casting and heat resistant silicone moulds gave lot's of room to experiment and brought back the zoomorphic figures. The first sculptures I made were animal inspired figures, but in time I made more and more abstract pieces. Maybe the fact that my daughter studies biology and started an internship at the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences in Brussels is part of the zoomorphic figures too. I found out that I am a story teller and that I can not translate al my idea's in jewellery and that I am more of a sculptor than I thought. After five days and with a lot of food for thoughts, inspiration and happy memories I went home to Maastricht accompanied by a delicious cake by Delrey to please my loved ones who stayed at home.
At Tuesday the second week, I rushed to DIVA. That’s the Antwerp Home of Diamonds and the new international diamond museum with a heart beating for silversmithing. I had only half an hour before closing time to see the exhibition of the Jewelry Award 2019, because the lessons at HRD last till 5 PM. While catching my breath I enjoyed the lovely works and the way they were shown. There was a folder with information about the Jewelry Award and its history. To my pleasant surprise a came across a picture of my ‘Beloved Memories’ broches.
Grading diamonds is all about valuation Carat, Clarity, Colour and Cut by a standard method. By weighing the diamond on a calibrated scale it’s easy to establish the carats. To get an insight on the clarity you have to draw all physical characteristics of the diamond using symbols in green (external) and red (internal) in a diagram. The physical characteristics must be determined with a 10x magnifying glass, but we used the microscope at first. When using a loupe you have to hold the diamond with a stone tweezer in one hand and the loupe in the other hand. It takes a lot of practise to be able to draw the correct symbol on the right spot in the diagram. Using a microscope with a higher magnification makes it easier to determine what you see and to draw the symbols because you can keep the same steady view. Colour is the most difficult part. You have to compare the diamond you are grading with a set of nine reference stones. The differences are so small that it takes an awful lot of practise. The cut was more easily for me because designing sculptures and jewellery is all about proportions. But expressing proportions in % is not as straight forward as might seem. All the values of the determination are put in a final report. When doing it correctly you can recognise the graded diamond by the diagram of physical characteristics.
A bit more than a year after awarded a Diamond Grading Course, at the Jewelry Award, I went to HRD Antwerp. The three week course started on the first of October and I stayed in Antwerp during the week and went home for the weekends. Traveling by train was great because of the scenery and it’s just a short walk to HRD from the train station. At HRD I met my three fellow students and our fine teacher. We all had a microscope, a set of tools, a course book and lots of diamonds to work with. Placing a diamond under the microscope wasn’t as easy as I thought, but was learned quickly. Interpretation of what I saw under the microscope was something that took all three weeks. On my walks to HRD and my hotel I came along the building of the train station. And after a day looking through the microscope I enjoyed the sunshine in the late afternoon even more than I usually do.
The Cut, Grinding and Polishing workshop instructed by Alexander Friedrich was held at the stone grounding workshop of the Trier University of Applied Sciences on the Campus in Idar-Oberstein, Germany. The pictures show a selection of the machines we learned to use. On the far left are the grinders with wheels in different coarsenesses, with which cabochons formed from a rough stone. Water to cool the stone and grinding wheels is dripping onto the wheel. The pink rags make sure the water lands on the grinding wheel without splashing too much. The middle image shows the machines to be used to polish the stones. Their wheels are out of bakelite. The disc for high-gloss polishing is out of felt. The machines for faceting are in the right photo. A facet is a small straight plane on a stone for this, the flat side of a metal disc is used together with a polishing paste in different coarseness.
The appearance of many rocks does not immediately show how the stone will look when you work and polish it. Sawing stones into slices allow you to view the treasures hidden on the interior and provides you with more manageable parts to work on as a result. The picture on the left features the big stone saw from the workshop. There is oil to cool the stone and diamond saw. The wheel to the right of the blue block is to move the rock very slowly towards the saw blade. Therefore the rock and blade providing to break. The plexiglass cover shields you from splashing oil with stone chips. The smell of the oil made me feel like I was at a gas station. The picture in the middle shows slabs of stones and also two cabochons. On the far right is a small water-cooled saw machine, where one can saw basic shapes from the slices in the middle picture. They then can be further handled by the grinding and faceting machines.
Being trained as a sculptor, I enjoy grinding my stones. So far, I have been working with stones that are used mainly in sculpting. Such stones are usually not suitable for jewellery. I have long dreamt of mastering the art of stone cutting. The International Summer Academy in Idar-Oberstein allowed me to make my dream come true. The workshop Cut, Grinding and Polishing taught by Alexander Friedrich has exceeded my wildest dreams. Alexander's expertise and behind the scenes cooking team, who treated all participants with their delicious meals, the organisation and of course the fellow participants made it an unforgettable week. The pictures show the processing of a rough piece of Girasol, an nearly transparent, colourless gemstone with a bluish shine, into a polished piece engraved on the bottom.
It feels great to see my work amongst the works of other prize winners of the Jewelry Award in Jewels & Watches. This year’s theme is Barok. Wander what this year's participants will make.
One of my beloved ones passed away yesterday. In a few months’ time she would have turned 98. She had a big heart full with love for nature and mankind. Was a master in telling stories and above all she was extremely wise. When my collection of brooches Beloved memories was finished, she was the first to see. The day after receiving the Jewelry Award I rushed to her and told her "we won". I often brought garden picked flowers for her. She preferred them because it reminded her of her own garden. Normally I don't photograph the flowers I pick, but the time I went to share my first price with her I did. It turned out to be the last visit. I can't imagen how hard it must be for her dear family to miss her.
Diamondland, Antwerp, Belgium from left to right: Lydia Segers, Jewelry Award / Katrien De Corte, chief officer education HRD / Saskia Tossaint / Nico Delaide, Jewelry Award