Maker of the Month, featuring An Alleweireldt

Returning to our series of ‘Maker of the Month’ posts, here we feature An Alleweireldt. The post is written by fellow DJG member Shelby Fitzpatrick. Shelby visited An in her studio and conducted the interview below.

An in her studio
An in her studio

Shelby An, you have some international exhibitions on the horizon, beginning with COLLECT at the Saatchi Gallery in May. The stories behind these are interesting – stories of the work you have made for each of them and stories of the genesis of the events and your participation.

An For the second time I have been chosen by Design Flanders to represent Belgian Design at Collect in the Saatchi Gallery, 8-11th May 2015.  Design Flanders is not a gallery as such, but is government-funded and promotes Belgian Design through exhibitions, events and their website.

Last year was such a great experience, as Collect is an event with galleries from all over the world, representing their best makers. You get to see the most amazing applied arts, so come and visit while you get the chance!

In June I have been invited together with three other jewellers to exhibit in Gallery Si in Kobe, Japan. Two of the jewellers, Yoko Izawa and Sarah Lindsay, were fellow students at the RCA.

My partner Nicholas, has lived in Japan for three years – a long time ago – so we decided to make a trip out of it and see the exhibition for ourselves. It’s a great excuse to travel that far!  I am learning a few words in Japanese, as I know hardly anyone speaks English.  I love being able to communicate, even if it is very minimal….

Shelby How did your new work for these exhibitions develop?

An Design Flanders wanted a point of recognition from last years’ Collect on their stand, as I’m one of the only ‘repeat’ exhibitors. Therefore, I have chosen to elaborate on a theme I started last year, which was finding a balance between square and round. I tend to work a lot with shapes and how I can make them interesting, yet ergonomic. On top of that I like using unusual materials in combination with gold and silver.

I first met Gallery Si at Goldsmiths’ Fair and they were very much interested in my work containing colorful rubber. So there will be a lot of multi-colored work using rubber flooring, again exploring shapes.

Shelby  The first I saw of your work was at Craft Central.  I vividly remember your jewellery using wooden popsicle sticks and fragments of vinyl records.  How did you decide to work with these materials, and how to combine them with precious metals?

An I love working with different materials, to push their boundaries but also to work with their
limitations and different colours. I often find that it makes the work a lot more interesting and varied, but also there is also the added aspect or the story of the piece, which I love.
So the lollipop stick came along when I realised that most of my family cannot finish an ice cream because they get goose bumps licking the last bit of ice off the wooden stick. Together with that story I found the original long and rounded shape of the popsicle stick very pleasing, and also loved the fact of making something precious out of a disposable material. Some of these lollipop pieces were set with diamonds.

Shelby Now those wooden popsicle sticks have metamorphosed into gold and are used in new designs, but still with the repetitive simplicity of the original ideas.  Elaborate, please.

An When I made the lollipop pieces, people often thought that the brooches were made in a yellow metal. I guess they were not what people expected, but from a distance they have a similar colour tone as metal. Because gold is the exact opposite of the lollipops, I was curious to see what it would feel and look like in gold. The result was probably my first very expensive piece, which is quite a nice story having the cheapest material as an inspiration.

Shelby Back to the vinyl records – how did you choose which fragments of vinyl records would be
combined with the other materials?  Your concepts for the choices tell more stories – and give an extra dimension to the work.  Please tell us about these.

An The vinyl record was used because as I grew up records, and their contents were precious. Suddenly everyone started throwing away these invisible memories and replacing them with CDs and later digital music. I loved the idea that something could be made precious again and contain a little bit of data, where only the wearer knew what it was. I usually pick something close to the middle of the record, as the material has an interesting contrast where the grooves start on the PVC.

Shelby  Your training in Belgium in Product Design has given you a certain perspective.  How do you see this has evolved and influenced your jewellery?

An Very much so:- I love working with new techniques- I get inspired by materials – My jewellery always has to be comfortable to wear- The way jewellery is made is very important to me- I always look at cost and how I can make things more effective/economic etc. All these elements are incredibly important in the development of an industrial product. The difference to me is that my job is very varied and I do every aspect of the designing, making, photography, promoting and selling myself – which is never the case when you work as a product designer. I like this very much as every stage of this gives me new inspiration.

Shelby  With your simple shapes you incorporate brilliant colours – each with a clarity and purpose. How have you chosen such additions as coloured rubber, and what effect does this have on the work?

An To me it gives another dimension to the piece, as people are used to seeing jewellery made out of precious metals with precious stones. I like surprises and being surprised, it’s the same feeling I like to create when people see my work. Nothing is obvious.

Radishes
Radish Necklace 2006

Shelby Is it too early to look into the future and reveal the next materials to be explored?

An I think so, as at the moment I very much feel the need to expand further with the materials I have. They haven’t revealed all their secrets to me yet…. I don’t feel finished with them. Usually materials come on my path, I’ve never looked for them. Who knows, maybe my trip to Japan will bring something to me!

Shelby  You have particular skills in the technology of cad/cam design.  How important a part does this play in your current collection, and how do you see its use in your future?

An It’s very important for me, as it gives me the tools to quickly explore ideas without having to make pieces. I love 3d printing and the exactness/quickness of it all. To me it is more than the future, as it makes pieces much more economic, but it’s not the end all. There are a lot of designers who only use 3d modelling and churn out plastic shapes, which to me always feel a bit soulless. There has to be something else –  a surprise perhaps?

Shelby  Can you recall elements of your childhood experiences which have led to a career in creating jewellery?

An As long as I can remember I have used my hands and made things. My grandfather repaired
absolutely everything. I’m not sure if being frugal was the reason, though it might have been living and surviving during the war.  I remember a broken handle on a pair of scissors. He took the time to make the most beautiful wooden handle to make the scissors complete again. This to me was a great example of handicraft skills combined with an industrial product.
My brother is an engineer and as children we used to make a lot of camps. One was a tree hut complete with roof, windows, ladder, cupboard, table and chairs and containers to hold the candies we might get. I think we were 8 and 10. I did a lot of drawing as most girls do, but also made handbags, clothes, jewellery etc., anything that I could make.
So there is no real surprise I am still enjoying that!

You can see An’s work at Collect from the 8th till the 11th May 2015, and at the Barbican Centre from the 17th May to the 13th June 2015.

Maker of the month: Ulli Kaiser

Here DJG member Sarah Macrae writes about Ulli Kaiser, one of our associate members.

Ulli has always had a strong interest in the physical activity of making, of learning new processes and skills. She loves the research into and around an idea and developing it through into three dimensions.

Ulli’s exquisite drawings of ideas continue to evolve through the making process, it is important for her that the creative process doesn’t stop with the drawing.

Ulli originally studied fine art, painting and textile art at the Mozarteum in Salzburg and then as now she enjoyed combining different materials. Life, marriage and children saw her living in Hong Kong teaching art at secondary level for a while and then moving to England. On a trip home to Austria to attend The Vienna Philharmonic Ball, Ulli’s husband bought her a beautiful delicate traditional bead crochet pearl necklace.

Inspirational beaded pearl necklace from Austria

The necklace fascinated Ulli and she researched the technique and taught herself to bead crochet. Developing the traditional form into Ulli’s exciting contemporary pieces involved many hours of practice, learning to crochet over three dimensional forms, as well as researching and sourcing antique and precious beads. Her ideas led her to further study at West Dean College to learn silversmithing skills enabling her to design and make pieces incorporating silver elements and fastenings with the bead crochet.

A course in narrative Jewellery with Barbara Christie at West Dean inspired Ulli to want to bring more symbolism and meaning into her pieces, and a second course with Zoe Arnold led to this necklace based on a story about a French explorer visiting Guyana in the 19th century (the image shows both the back and the front of the piece).

Ulli Kaiser journey to french guyana5

The recent ACJ (Association for Contemporary Jewellery) exhibition ‘Icons’ provided a perfect project for Ulli to work to, giving her an opportunity to immerse herself in researching her chosen ikon, Mary Shelley. The resulting beautiful and extraordinary piece is a wonderful combination of materials including silver, a victorian doll, paper, Perspex and, of course, beads.

Ulli Kaiser icon neckpiece

Ullis future plans are developing some new beautiful pieces to exhibit at the Goldsmiths’ Fair in October, which she is very excited to have been selected to take part in for the first time.

Elizabeth Jane Campbell

Here, DJG member and renowned enameller Jane Moore interviews Elizabeth Jane Campbell, who has already won awards for her innovative approach to enamelling and who exhibited with us in the Barbican this winter.

ElizabethJaneCampbell 2

JM: We came across you and your work at New Designers. Did you enjoy your training?

EJC: I trained at Edinburgh College of Art, and feel very privileged to have gained my BA Hons in Jewellery and Silversmithing from such an iconic institute, and I am very proud to have studied in my hometown of Edinburgh.

While at Edinburgh College of Art I was able to take advantage of some wonderful opportunities, including studying at West Dean College and going on exchange to Nova Scotia, Canada, where I spent a semester studying jewellery and enamelling. My four years studying were always challenging, but always enjoyable, and I loved every minute of being a student at Edinburgh College of Art.

JM: Your enamelling is very interesting. When and how did you choose to enamel onto a ceramic block?

EJC: I discovered enamelling while on my 3rd year exchange to Nova Scotia and the possibilities of the technique fascinated me. When I returned to Edinburgh College of Art I went into my 4th and final year when we developed our personal interests in jewellery and developed our degree show collection – it was during this year I began considering other options for enamel rather than metal. I was keen to create larger and more sculptural pieces of enamelling, and so I began my experiments with ceramic block as the materials could allow me to create large-scale enamel jewellery that remained relatively light and thus wearable.

JM: Is this an easy material to work with and will you continue to use it?

EJC: The ceramic block can be a temperamental material to work with, as it is brittle and can be prone to cracking during the carving process. All of the ceramic elements in my work are hand carved as I feel the traditional technique of hand carving adds a unique quality to the pieces – however the carving of ceramics create a high volume of fine dust and so health and safety precautions have to be followed when working with it (i.e. good quality respirator mask, workshop ventilation etc.)

Furthermore, as the enamel is not designed for use with ceramic, applying enamelling to the carved pieces requires a lot of practice, experimentation and patience. 
However despite the challenges of the material, I find it very rewarding and enjoyable to work with, and I will continue to work with it while I develop new techniques and designs for enamelling using different unconventional materials.

JM: Do you prefer to enamel onto metal or ceramic and will you experiment in enamelling onto other surfaces?

EJC: I am verypassionate about enamelling and I enjoy the challenges of experimenting with different enamels, materials and methods of application. I have various plans for future experiments with different materials, as well continuing with the use of enamelled ceramic block. However, enamelling onto metal is particularity special to me – I adore the traditional enamel techniques such as cloisonné, champlevé and plique a jour, and I believe a full and experienced understanding of enamel is crucial to allow designers the freedom and knowledge to experiment. Because of this I am constantly striving to learn more about enamelling onto metal so I can understand the traits and constraints of the technique before considering how I can exploit the materials in a new and interesting way.

 

JM: Are you material led in your work or is your source of inspiration quite specific?

EJC: I find my work is inspired by both an interest in material exploration and the possibilities of enamelling techniques, as well as by my source inspiration. I am inspired by the academic theories of visual literacy – a topic which may sound rather dry, but in which I find huge inspiration for the use of colour, pattern and shape to create designs that hint at a ‘visual stress’ which attracts the viewer. I was first introduced to the concepts of visual literacy and visual stress by a tutor I had while studying in Canada, and alongside my interest in enamelling I began to develop a very personal design style.

ElizabethJaneCampbell 5

JM: Did you have many exhibition opportunities offered to you at New Designers?

EJC: I have been overwhelmed by the amazing response to my work and I have been extremely fortunate by receiving some incredible opportunities and exhibitions from New Designers – including being awarded the Mark Fenn Award from the Association for Contemporary Jewellery (ACJ), and more recently winning the Guild of Enamellers 2014 Bursary. A highlight from New Designers was the chance to exhibit with the Designer Jewellers Group at the Barbican this winter, which allowed me the chance not only to show my work alongside some wonderful established jewellers, but also to meet and work with jewellers at the DJG exhibition. 
From New Designers I have also had the opportunity to exhibit across the country in renowned galleries such as the ‘Kath Libbert Gallery’ in Saltaire and ‘Dazzle’ at the Oxo Towers in London.
 I am thrilled to say that I am still receiving exhibition opportunities from showing at New Designers and I am now back in the studio at Glasgow School of Art, where I am Artist in Resident, working towards my upcoming exhibitions in both the UK and abroad.