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.
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).
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.
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.
In February I received a Creative Scotland Artist’s bursary to develop my artwork, jewellery and creative workshops based on forestries across the Highlands. I am particularly interested in how to use wood within creative environments and I was drawn to the ‘Wood and Trees week’ at West Dean College. I had been introduced to the college when I was studying in Edinburgh College of Art but never got the chance to go. The week featured courses such as woodcutting, bowl turning and painting. I chose a course run by renowned jeweller Beth Legg where we could explore how to use wood creatively within jewellery.
I arrived at West Dean late so didn’t realise how beautiful the surrounding countryside is. Within the grounds there is an Arboretum and since I had time on the Sunday I explored the forest admiring the well kept grounds and the new born lambs!
I met the group and Beth that evening where we got introduced to the workshop, the itinerary for the week and health and safety considerations.
Beth also showed images that explored different areas which we could look at during the week – mark making, contrast, tone etc. The approach to the course was to be driven by creativity rather than technique.
Monday: We headed up to the Arboretum to explore the woodland, draw and gather fallen wood to use throughout the week.
Returning to the studio we started to test different tools and techniques available for us to use. I started by testing the Pyrograph which burnt into the wood beautifully and gave a lovely hand-drawn quality.
I used a series of doweling rods to experiment with burning and carving, rubbing back and staining. One of the points Beth made clear was process and it was wonderful to have time to go through different processes and see the effects.
We had the opportunity to hear Tutor talks in the evening. These were fascinating and highlighted the diversity of how artists use wood. I was particularly drawn to the wood cutting tutors, Merlyn Chesterman and Rod Kelly whose work was amazing! We also had the opportunity to do a ‘swap over’ where we would spend 1 hour and a half in another subject. I had made my mind up that evening!
Tuesday: I spent the day carving a piece of wood I had found with a beautiful natural curve – perfect for a large statement necklace. The wood was pine and carved like butter. One of the main aims that I wanted to get out of the course was to explore mark making and working on a more solid structure as I usually use wire within my work.
A shape I had been drawn to was a fallen conifer branch which had the most amazing fern like leaves. This was another shape I wanted to explore so I cut the shape slightly exaggerated onto a flat sheet of Hornbeam, plywood and a Lime. The Hornbeam was a beautifully bleached wood but was difficult to cut.
I tried more staining, burning and waxing into scraps of carved wood to develop what sort of finish I wanted on the larger piece. I had a wonderful bright orange with me so I wanted to incorporate that into the piece mimicking some of the colours found in the ferns.
Wednesday: The first part of the morning was spent in our ‘swap over’. I had chosen to do the woodcutting course which meant we had just over an hour to carve and the rest to ink up and get our first prints printed. We were encouraged to make as many marks as possible and create as much contrast as we could which was a great comparison to what I was doing in jewellery. I drew inspiration from a group of trees from the hillside at West Dean and began to carve.
Here is the print I made:
In the afternoon I continued carving my necklace, stopping to lay out the other components to go alongside it. I really enjoyed being able to apply colour and then rub back and then reapply another colour to create layers on the wood which could then be exposed. Burning was another lovely technique to use with colour.
Beth showed us how to inlay into metal which was a technique I had never done before so was really interesting to watch. We also had the chance to make a wooden ring – I ran out of time but this is something I will pursue at home.
Thursday & Friday: Now I had finished my main components I had to decide how I wanted to connect them and finish them off. The two days were spent using more technical skills and learning from Beth the best way of completing the pieces.
I also really wanted to use one of the pieces I had already carved and burnt so alongside the larger piece I created a hollow form out of silver, textured it to look like Silver Birch bark and set the wood and silver together.
I also got to use a blow torch where I had to physically blow to get a hotter flame. This was a new experience for me and maybe one I wouldn’t use again, there were lots of loud breaths being taken between soldering!
It was a fabulous week where I returned home feeling inspired. Beth was an excellent teacher and enabled us to create freely but with really helpful guidance and direction throughout the week. Regarding my own jewellery, I have taken away techniques that I will definitely use in the future, artwork inspiration and ideas of how I could translate the structure of the week into possible bite-size workshops.
Heather is currently exhibiting in Edinburgh and Bilston, and will be at Cluster in Craft Central, Clerkenwell, London from 3rd – 7th June. Further details of her stockists and shows can be found on her website.
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.
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.
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.