Talking Practice was set up four years ago because staff at SoJ felt that, while we were doing some great things individually, there was little attempt to join the dots and make connections between the projects in order to make something better and more exciting. We were interested in sharing our practice, making suggestions and critiquing approaches, finding partners to collaborate with and broadening the audience for our work. What started out as staff talking to each other about their work has expanded and – as well as home-grown speakers – we’ve featured talks from artists, academics, curators and researchers from further afield. Claudia Betancourt and Nano Pulgar from WALKA Studios, Chile, hold the record for the furthest travelled, so far, delivering their talk – ‘Islands or Archipelagos?’ – to a packed SoJ lecture theatre last February.
As times, it can feel as if the worlds of jewellery and its allied trades are pretty small ones: outside the four walls of the SoJ, everybody in Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter seems to know everybody else and – beyond that – networks of jewellers are well-connected and tight-knit. The SoJ building is beautiful and the small size of the campus means there is a great sense of community here, but it becomes a bit of a trap if we’re not able to branch out and explore the disciplines around us. Talking Practice is an attempt to open up the conversation, to explore the wealth of creative practice and technical innovation that’s going on elsewhere to see how we can enrich our individual practice and our collective worlds.
So, this year, we’ve got a smorgasbord of fascinating speakers for you. Next term we have Joanne Horton (De Montford University) talking about her innovative use of electroforming with fabric to make bespoke garments, and Jon Privett (West Dean College) speaking about patinas and the use of colour in conservation. Not to mention Dr Sabina Stent (alumnus of Birmingham University) on women surrealist artists, and our very own John Grayson (a PhD candidate here at SoJ) speaking about the Parallel Practices project he’s been working on in collaboration with Kings College, London.
Talking Practice is delighted to have teamed up with the newly-inaugurated Vittoria Street Gallery. In the Loupe – its opening show – kicked off last week with a fast and furious evening of ChitChat (based on the Japanese Pecha Kucha format), in which many of the exhibiting artists provided intriguing insights into their working methods and approaches in 3 minute talks. In the Spring, the Gallery will feature the work of Jessa Fairbrother – an artist who uses self-portraiture and pin-pricking to create beautiful images – and we’re delighted to welcome her to Talking Practice to give a talk on her practice, alongside this show.
Our next event takes place on Tuesday 29 Nov 2016, and is a talk from Birmingham-based artist, Bharti Parmar. I first met Bharti earlier in the year when she gave us feedback on the skills our graduates need when they enter the workplace, as part of the Transforming the Curriculum process that saw all of our programmes redesigned – and her work has intrigued and perplexed me ever since. She isn’t a jeweller specifically, and yet her PhD (from Wolverhampton University, in 2009) is about sentimental/mourning jewellery, and she’s very interested in materials that carry a particularly emotional load, or which confuse and confound. When I visited her studio in the summer, she showed me a series of images that are underpinned by ideas around race and identity that are produced with wood ‘veneers’ that are actually sticky-backed plastic and told me about her five foot square rug made of human hair, I just knew that we’d have get her in for a talk. She’s kindly shared some of her hair-work and wig-making samples with us, and these can be seen in the pop-up cabinet in the Vitt Street Gallery until Tuesday: bunches of red hair lie next to grey asian hair, and samples of tatting demonstrate the Victorian methods of creating hair jewellery. Bharti’s talk promises to be compelling stuff – do join us if you possibly can (booking, via eventbrite, here).
Talking Practice lectures are free, and open to students and staff from SoJ and the wider faculty and beyond, as well as alumni, members of the local trade and researchers and practitioners outwith BCU. The talks usually take place on Tuesday or Thursday evenings, beginning at 5pm and concluding with a glass of wine and a chance to chat and network, in the Vittoria Street Gallery. If you would like any further information about the series, please do get in touch – my email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Look forward to seeing you there – Sian Hindle, Lecturer in Contextual Studies, SoJ, and Convenor of Talking Practice.