This year’s show breathes in a pleasingly airy, decluttered space. Immediately there’s a palpable feeling of confident professionalism, which is not at all the same thing as suggesting it is worrying commercial or safe. Far from it – student experimentation is alive and flourishing.
Arguably metalsmithing, as opposed to jewellery, has to fight its corner a little more bravely in contemporary times, so it’s refreshing to see three student specialists here. Interestingly, all of the smiths, in quite different ways, have explored their very ancient techniques and tools. A happy feature of this exhibition is the accompanying digital footage which, albeit in necessarily speeded-up form, gives the visitor some understanding of these processes.
Megan Falconer has gone right to source, constructing and using tools from found objects. Her textured vessels are lovely but perhaps these hammers, which rightly are assayed and displayed as beautiful artefacts, are the stars of her show. Gemma Brownlee’s exploration of the Danish word “hygge”, offers fittingly evocative vessels, finished unburnished – tactile comfort hollow-ware to handle and love – how hard it is not to touch them.Julia Cowie’s vessels speak directly of sea and landscapes – flatware arrested mid-forging, etched and oxidised, beside shallow raku and other ceramic work. Again, this is accompanied by gloriously informative back-up.
The sea also influences Becca Cox; her highly desirable jewellery wispy in nets and caught stones. A light whisper to the more rigid Arlene Fisch is perhaps heard. Also employing textile techniques, and with a scent of land and sea, Megan Gray’s delicate work considers geodes, and crystal structures.
There are contrasting textiles in Eilidh Walker’s predominantly joyful reminiscences, developed via highly colourful collages and fabric sampling. Less happy and perhaps more fragile memories emerge in Katie Wightman’s narrative jewellery, which traces her own emotional and physical response to serious illness. Using fine metals and human hair, the viewer cannot help but recall the tradition of Victorian mourning jewellery. Haunting indeed.
Sarah Marshall works in part-oxidised porcelain with silver and leather to create gathered and draped fabric forms, and her jewellery looks wearable indeed. Eleanor Dineley’s body-sculptured and much more macho, theatrical use of leather, teams up with chain mail and provides an apt contrast across the way.The unit construction aspect of the chain techniques is picked up in laser-cut pieces elsewhere. Louise MacDonald works in ply, ceramic and metal, and her bold neckpiece complements a show offering some tiny, textured porcelain samples.
Laser-cutting and assembling are very much a feature of Kaela Hogg’s work in precious metals and plastics, its interlocking imagery exploring her joint Thai and Scots heritage. Taylor Flynn makes quite different uses of photographic techniques on metal and laser-cutting, responding to urban architectural detail. Her work is eye-catchingly bright yet uncannily fragile. Lesley Conlan has also taken inspiration from the built environment, offering tightly constructed,c rane-like geometric openwork in response to her apt pride in her family’s working class traditions in the building industry.
Returning to the natural environment, Kendal Dewar works directly with that most local of materials, heather, twining it into organic jewellery in combination with cuttlefish casts in that same line. Dione Bowlt’s drawings, watercolours and many ceramic pieces are concerned with her response to climate change and other environmental worries and her very textured work evokes lichens and rockpools.
Last, and most certainly not least, Nicola Greig, winner of this year’s Lorraine Law award, exhibits accomplished, sensuous pieces, some of which recall Alison Watt’s paintings, and others which might have sprung from squashed soft drink cans. That these are beautiful indeed is testament to the designer-maker’s talent.
A beautiful show, and much the better for that respected space. This grateful reviewer speaks as one who has had to walk past too many past design shows, junked with balloons, cards, streamers and just too many lilies. Well done for letting your work do the talking. Trust it – it’s worth hearing.