Saturday, July 31, 2010

The eternal quest

There are three things I am on a life long quest for.  The first is the prefect pair of Mary Jane shoes.  Now, Chie Mihara generally come pretty close on occasions.  Often I will see 'The Shoe' of my dreams across a crowded room/shop.  I wander up, nonchalantly, thinking up an appropriate, witty, erudite way of introducing myself.  And then I see the heel, or a crassly designed buckle and I just have to turn and walk away. Pretending that actually, in fact, I was really on my way to the terrace to get some air.

The second quest involves sketchbooks.  The thing is, I have actually laid my eyes on THE PERFECT sketchbook.  But it wasn't mine.  It belonged to a good friend.  She had just come back from a term in an architectural school in Copenhagen.  And oh!  The proportions of this book were just lovely.  Not too big.  Not too small.  Black, hard cover.  But the clincher was the thickness, the number of pages, that all important third dimension.  Again, I will go into art supply shops. Scan the interior for the shelves where they keep the sketch books.  'Ahhh, I see it'  my heart leaps...I run over and pick up my quarry only to turn it over in my hands and find that there are just too few pages.  I apologise and retreat muttering 'Oh, I'm sorry, I thought you were someone else'.  This has happened more times than I care to remember.  But I have a solution - I will just have to go to Copenhagen.  Simple.

The final quest is for the perfect pebble.  Now, this one is a little more difficult because I don't actually know what the perfect pebble will look like.  I just know that when I find it, I'll know that indeed, in my hand is the perfect pebble. My quest will be over.  In the same way that when you find your 'one and only', you just know. You see them for the first time and say 'Oh, there you are!' as if perhaps you have known them all your life, even though you've only just met.  For the record, pebble, top left, is pretty perfect. 

What's your life long eternal quest?  And what will you do when you finally find it?

Running to stand still

"Well, in our country," said Alice, still panting a little, "you'd generally get to somewhere else — if you run very fast for a long time, as we've been doing."
"A slow sort of country!" said the Queen. "Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!" 
Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll

I stopped running today.  I've been running to stand still for some time now.  And today I gave myself permission to stop.  
I went 'fishing' and caught some fairly sizable specimens!
I watched men being birds.
And trapped sunlight in my lens.

And hung a string of seed pods in the window, layered against a field of sunflowers and the wind turbines beyond.
I'll be ready to start running again...tomorrow.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

When I grow up I want to be a letterpress printer

I can spot a letterpress card at fifty paces.  Packed in amongst inferior 'other' cards.  I can spot that subtle impression that this special printing process creates, even when it is semi-masked by a layer of cellophane.  In this shallowing of the thickness of the paper, the colour often sits.  And the paper, it has a heavy substantiality about it.  It has grit and tooth to it.  It has been through a lot.  But emerges, pristine and pressed like a freshly ironed shirt.  The colours are matte, often allowing a little of the texture of the paper to shine through and graduating in intensity towards the edges.  The shapes and the design used in this work are stylised and simplified.  Essential and elementary. 
Green Swirl single letterpress card by Pistachio Press

Even the machines these cards and limited edition prints are made on are beautiful.  Pistachio Press shows a few images of their workshop on their website.

Elephants Limited edition letterpress print by Tarahogan
see also their website here

Maple Pods Letterpress Art Print by 1canoe2

Well, until I figure out how to fit more hours into the day (and get my hands on one of those Vandercook letterpresses) I will just have to leave it to the experts.  But seriously, when I grow up, I want to be a letterpress printer.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

What is better than creating and making?

Wings Necklace by Cari-Jane Hakes 2009

What is better than creating, designing and making?  I'll tell you.  When a piece wings its way off to a new home.  When people are delighted and love to wear something I have made with my own two hands.  

The Wings Necklace is now part of a private collection.  I made it as part of my series exploring the idea of expressing a tattoo as a three dimensional object.  This is where the wings came from.  They become the closure for the necklace which is composed of an almost edible array of fluorite slices.  And let's face it, all women are really angels sent from above (well, on our good days at least).

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Spotted, on the walls of Central Saint Martins College

There are shallows parts,
Calm parts, easy parts, deep parts,
Places where the sharks swim, 
Where the jelly fish sting, 
Where we can't win, 
Yet still we try.
author: unknown

Monday, July 26, 2010

When is a brooch not just a brooch?

When it has a detachable 'moon' you can wear round your neck of course!  Obvious really when you think about it.
Love Letters Written by Moonlight brooch and necklace by Cari-Jane Hakes 2010

I took the plunge and listed these over on Etsy today.  They are complicated.  They were are challenge to make and even more of a challenge to explain.  This is not your average brooch.  There is really nothing like it as far as I know.  And so, for the potential customer, there is nothing for them to compare it to. 

Midnight Bird Singing by Moonlight brooch and necklace by Cari-Jane Hakes 2010

I've always loved objects with special secret hidden spaces that only the owner knows about.  Writing bureaus with concealed compartments.  Or any of James Bond's gadgets.  Well, this is my version.  And did you know, when the 'moon' is not round your can use it as a spoon!  Look, you don't have to, but if you ever found yourself short of something to stir your tea with...then this brooch would come in super handy.

Friday, July 23, 2010

I have a new favourite

I heard these pods BEFORE I saw them.

They were vibrating with a papery timbre for all their worth.  Hoping to dislodge themselves and set up home in fresh soil somewhere.

I confess, when it comes to plants, I'm still a bit of a city girl.  However, I am beginning to appreciate them more.  I have come to terms with having them around me.  In the main though, I like the ones with a bit of back bone.  A bit of fiber and strength.  I can't be doing with floppy petaled pansies.  Allium and cow parsley and sunflowers are the ones that impress me.  Their structures seems to defy gravity with a slenderness ratio that would keep an engineer awake at night!

But these may just be my new favourite.  Because they can 'sing' in the wind.

And when you hold them up the light it's like holding a three dimensional x-ray.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

a little slice of life

Shh.  It's early.  No one else is up.  It's time to make something.
This is my summer workshop.  By the time winter comes round I have to migrate into the house.  It is effectively a potting shed of sorts.  The previous owner constructed it from sawn off telegraph poles and reclaimed shutters.  It has a curious 'Heath Robinson' feel which I have grown to love.  Outside, is the 'all seeing eye' as we like to call it.  A quirky outside light that could have a staring role in any Jean-Pierre Jeunet film!
Ingredients: apron from muji, lots of tools and a couple of vices.
"Brown paper packages, tied up with string, these are a few of my favourite things"
This one is off on a LONG trip to Australia.
The first leg of its' journey has begun!  Across the fields between home and La Poste.  Look, I have 'helpers'!
 A quick look at 'Pierre qui Vire' a huge standing stone which marks the halfway point on our zero carbon emission trek.  The local legend has it that the stone spins round at midnight.
Looks pretty static to me.
Instructions: once inside, don't touch anything and stand still!
Au revoir Longeville, à bientôt!
Just time for a spot of 'swing surfing'
inspecting the maize crops
And then home.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

When I grow up I want to be a potter

It's true.  When I was around the age of 9 or 10, living in north Scotland, as a family we visited a National Trust property.  In the grounds I spied a potters workshop.  And the spell was cast.  

As I begun to build my little shop on Etsy that childhood ambition has been remembered.  I created a 'Treasuary' (a little corner of where you can unleash your inner curator and create collections of items that sit well together, by theme, by colour, by concept, by whim) of beautiful ceramic pieces.

(You can find the link to this list and my other Treasuries here)

And a bit later I found these BEAUTIFUL cups by Asya Palatova.
Her etsy shop can be found here and her website here.

You see, I love crafted items with text on.  It is probably a hang up from days of labelling architectural drawings.  For some reason, the drawing never looked finished till had that final layer of typography.  It's  a predilection that spills over into my jewellery design and it makes my heart leap when I see it in other people's work.  Another example is the work of Jo Heckett.

I have a number of her beautiful porcelain pieces hanging in my house.
And finally, I recently stumbled across the work of Mary Burrows over on Scoutie Girl.

She has a beautiful etsy shop here and I'm really enjoying her blog at the moment with all of the summer camp art projects that she gets involved with.

So until I 'grow up' I shall just have to content with 'Play Doh' and stamping and etching text into silver!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010


I am the only 'girl' in a house full of boys.  At times, in the past few days, I have been outnumbered 5 to 1.  The floors of my house are festooned with small cars, train track and transformers.  It is a state of affairs that I enjoy for I know that it will not be long till I will no longer be tripping over toys and that my home will fall silent, no longer full of battle cries and superhero announcements.  I am told all the time 'they grow up so fast'.  In the meantime though - here is my offering to redress the balance somewhat.  I went searching for pink - and found there was an abundance.  

Monday, July 19, 2010

Something different Sunday

COMBO a collaborative animation by Blu and David Ellis (2 times loop) from blu on Vimeo.
This piece of animation is amazing.  As it plays, you think they really can't top the last stunt, but they do.  I marvel at the dedication and the time it must have taken to create this stunning artwork.  For me, it is the first time I've seen street drawing literally leap off the canvas and into the third dimension.   

Saturday, July 17, 2010

six memos for the next millennium

Yesterday I listed a piece from a project I have been working on and off for some time.  I took it upon myself to create rings based on the chapters (although, they are actually written as lectures) in Italo Calvino's book Six Memos for the Next Millennium.  It is a book I have been carrying around with me since the end of the last millennium!  I dip into it from time to time.  It is like an old friend, we travel around together on trains and boats and planes.  Sometimes we talk, sometimes we just sit beside each other in comfortable silence (they way you can only do with a really good friend).  

This is 'Six Memos ring 3 Exactitude'. 

Calvino's opening words on the topic of Exactitude are :

"For the ancient Egyptians, exactitude was symbolized by a feather that served as a weight on scales used for the weighing of souls. "  

He then distills exactitude down into three salient meanings - the last one being:

"a language as precise as possible both in choice of words and in expression of the subtleties of thought and imagination."

The lecture continues in a curious way - Calvino explains exactitude by describing what it is not, by describing its' opposite!  Sometimes this is easier isn't it?  We know what we don't want, but it is often impossible to explain and describe what we do want.

These words and phrases of Calvino's third lecture were present when I began designing this ring.  

It is exact as it is precise. It is composed of sheets of sterling silver which have been cut by hand and meticulously soldered together. The hollowed domed silver piece that balances on the top is patinated on the inside to give the silver a blackness and depth. The dome represents time, the passing of which is about the most exact thing I can think of. 

The width of the ring tapers by 1mm from bottom to top which means the two sides of the ring supporting the dome are not parallel.  They fly away from each other into infinity.  But before they spread too far apart they support the domed element - and it sits like that Egyptian feather on the scales that Calvino writes of. Precisely and exactly balanced. 

Friday, July 16, 2010

While I was sleeping...

My Etsy shop hit the front page of!  The only reason I know is that I was able to connect my Facebook and Etsy last night.  As a result my status is updated automatically should such a momentous event occur.  The image that was featured was my Silver Shell Pendant.

It features two of my favourite processes - etching and the hydraulic press.  Getting the two halves of the hydraulically pressed silver to fit together is a tricky process but the beautiful puffed out silver pillow that results is worth the effort.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Enthusiasm and Bastille Day

Over on Scoutie Girl Tara is talking about the gift of enthusiasm.  As usual, Tara's poignant writing made me start thinking. And as the whole of France rallies this evening to celebrate the storming of the barricades in Paris as part of Bastille Day my enthusiasm for this topic could be contained no longer.  My point is you need enthusiasm or someone needs to give you the gift of enthusiasm if you are to keep going. Otherwise there is just no way you can keep getting over the barricades that everyday life throws into your path.  

I used to teach architecture - some of the most memorable moments of my teaching involved giving that gift of enthusiasm - sometimes through a lecture and sometimes through a one to one tutorial.  Students would come to you, tired, stressed, at their wits end.  But if you could just impart some of your enthusiasm to them they could rally themselves, smash through that barricade of negativity / fatigue, pick up their pencils and keep designing.

All my life my enthusiasm has been for the detail, those small things that all together make a great design.  In the work that I produce now, the details have to be perfect - if they aren't then a piece won't hang correctly or fit well.  At times I feel fairly isolated from any kind of outside enthusiasm, I only have my own to keep me going.  If I'm honest, just like my students of days gone by, I get tired and negative.  The barriers rise up. I find then that all I need is the enthusiasm of the crowd to get me through, up and over.  The gift of enthusiasm then comes in the form of a 'like' on Facebook or a comment on Flickr.  It's not much, but these little words of encouragement have the effect of toppling the barricade, reminding me that my own little personal 'revolution' is worthwhile and relevant.

Vive la France, vive liberty!



I have managed to fill all the 'shelves' on the first page of my etsy shop.  This included putting my beloved Yellow Submarine rings up for sale.  It really is just as well they really don't fit my fingers properly otherwise I would have had one too many reasons not to list them.

Granted, the small yellow submarine does fit on my pinky, but no, it is time they went off to sail the seven seas and dive to 20,000 leagues and beyond.  Bon Voyage.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


Here are the spoils of my London Summer School at Central Saint Martins.  Herein lie the seeds of a fruitful autumn.  I'm excited, I can't wait to start on new pieces, new series.  Apart from the Winter Song piece I deliberately didn't finish these other fragments.  They are just the raw materials extracted from the machines and equipment I do not have in my own workshop.

Ingredients: silver, copper, enamel, koi carp, allium, kimonos and letter writing in French, mais oui!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Almost French..

I was very excited when Les Illusions Barock included me as part of her Etsy Treasury, French Jewelers on Etsy.  This added to the fact that an advert on the Paris Metro, with french text (naturally!), made me laugh is making me feel almost French. 

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Something different Sunday

On the way to the Musée Bourdelle in Paris I saw this amazing building under construction.  It has presence mais non?  A vibrant cacophony of colour, jewel like, that really stops you in your tracks.

The Musée Bourdelle was a beautiful oasis of calm tranquil courtyard gardens set with sculptures that had monumental gravitas - I stopped, I drew and gathered my strength before entering the hectic busyness of Gare Montparnasse.

Friday, July 9, 2010

work in progress

Winter Song brooch by Cari-Jane Hakes

The new piece I have been working on was inspired by a comment a friend made on the above brooch / necklace which is now part of a private collection.  She loved it - but could it be smaller?  Feedback is important - and while obviously the woman who bought this brooch loved its' scale it had me thinking for a long time about how I could scale this idea down.

Here it is so far.  The 'sun' still needs its' gold leaf to be applied and there are a few little rough edges that need attention - but I really couldn't wait to wear this one.  Ingredients: cow parsley (dried) and silver.  I have added a 'stalk' at the bottom which has been patinated to match the roll printed texture created by the dried cow parsley.  

Tomorrow is the last day of summer school - lots of etching and enamelling and then home.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Taking over the world one stamp at a time.

I am feeling a tiny bit invincible.  The reason?  Well, I picked up my custom made rubber stamp from the wonderful Blade Rubber stamp shop today (it's just round the corner from the British Museum and is the most fabulous place, the British Museum is pretty fabulous too, but alas, they do not make custom rubber stamps).  Now I have the means at my fingertips to stamp any surface I please.  It is a small thing I know, but it feels good.  Let's face it, if you were going to take over the world, you would probably need a custom made rubber stamp.  It would come in very useful for putting your seal of authority and consent on any plans and world domination type documents.  It would save you precious time, no more laborious signatures, just stamp it and your done.  And thus, my little bit of invincibleness emanates from this knowledge.

I vividly remember my first encounter with an ink stamp.  It was one of those empty clock face stamps and my first primary school teacher used it to stamp our jotter pages.  We would then draw the hands of the clock at the correct angle to signify the time that she would call out.  One day, she was away from her desk.  The clock stamp was there.  And the ink pad.  I couldn't resit it and stamped a load of clock faces all over the cover of the jotter on her desk, I made my mark, even though it wasn't my jotter.  I slunk back to my desk having 'claimed' the jotter, it was now under my jurisdiction, it was in my empire!  That said, when the teacher demanded to know who had been liberal with the clock face stamp I relinquished my conquest and kept quiet.

But now, jotters and flat surfaces of the world beware, I have my own stamp now and silver ink and you will ALL be mine!

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