Artist in Residence at ECA – Stories from the Jewellery and Silversmithing Department

Article  /  Behind the ScenesWorkshops
Published: 10.02.2015
Artist in Residence at ECA – Stories from the Jewellery and Silversmithing Department.
Karen Elizabeth Donovan, Hazel Thorn, Juli Bolaños-Durman, Esme Parsons
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Hazel Thorn. Piece: Untitled, 2015. silver, gilding Metal. Hazel Thorn
Piece: Untitled, 2015
silver, gilding Metal
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Hazel Thorn, Juli Bolaños-Durman, Karen Elizabeth Donovan and Esme Parsons reflect on their ongoing artist in residence at Edinburgh College of Art
The Artist in Residence position in the Jewellery and Silversmithing department at Edinburgh College of Art (ECA) is an amazing opportunity for four artists only recently in the field to gain some experience working with students as a teaching assistant one day a week. In return we are given the use of the wonderful workshop facilities at the college to develop our own work.
So, why do a residency at Edinburgh College of Art?
Hazel Thorn: I applied to this post for several reasons. Obviously access to the metalwork facilities in the department is hugely useful, and it has allowed me to carry straight on with making work for the exhibitions I was accepted to after my MFA. But other aspects of the post are equally important, such as a fantastic group of staff and students to work with. Especially appealing for me was the chance to be involved with various different types of projects with the students, as I am interested in teaching in the future.

Juli Bolaños-Durman:  As a Latin American artist with a background in Graphic Design and mixed-media, my recent immersion into the glass material and my present opportunity to be an Artist-in-Residence in the Jewellery Department at ECA, give me a fresh and versatile vision when approaching the research and creative process. The mixture of materials, their interaction and how these have the potential to transform and add value to ordinary objects intrigues me.

Karen Elizabeth Donovan: I applied for the same reasons as everyone else really, to gain teaching experience and use the college’s studio space. I found when assisting Sue Cross on a workshop last year that teaching was incredibly rewarding and that through the eyes of students any given technique can take on a different light. I am also aiming before this year is over to develop a particular skill-shop on working with titanium, particularly so that I can learn how to organise a class and create a syllabus.

Esme Parsons: Having just graduated myself it is wonderful to be surrounded by the support of a university environment, from both the tutors, the other residents and from the students themselves. I find it is very interesting to work together to solve tasks with the students, which thus allows me to work on my own methods of problem solving. Having the support of Sue Cross, Stephen Bottomley and Jennifer Grey is invaluable not to mention visiting tutors such as Jo Pudelko and Kathryn Hinton. It’s great to be part of a community where you can bounce ideas off one another, and continue to learn through having the chance to ask questions and offer opinions.

How does it work?
Esme Parsons: I personally assist with the first and second years and occasionally touch base with the third years in particular assisting them with their projects. I am just a few years ahead of most of them so I can really appreciate how hard they work and some of the struggles that they have and I think that they appreciate that I can relate to them. I teach basic skills and offer advice to students who are trying to figure out a suitable technique for achieving a specific result, as I can often offer a solution that they haven’t considered.

Hazel Thorn: I have greatly enjoyed working both with students totally new to metalwork and those who are more advanced. It is immensely satisfying to see people develop, either learning new skills or refining their own ways of working to find their voice as a maker. I have been mainly with final year undergraduate students and postgraduates, but with some contact with other year groups.

The ongoing work & research
Hazel Thorn: My material research involves a lot of experimentation at the workbench, producing many small metal samples which then inspire finished pieces. I want the final object's form to complement the material it is made from, and so my design process involves a lot of consideration of the aesthetics and practicalities of my fused mixed-metal. I draw from and photograph my samples, collaging 2D design work and then using tiled printed sheets to make paper models. However, I like to remain flexible about the final outcome, responding to the metal at every stage of the making process in order to try to capture a sense of movement and life. During the last few months of 2014 I have been making work for exhibitions, including the largest piece I have ever made, which was nerve-wracking but very exciting! I will continue with collections of pieces for more upcoming exhibitions alongside this planned development work.

Hazel Thorn working on a piece created for Schoonhoven Exhibition

The most influential aspect of the teaching-assisting side of the residency on my own work has been revisiting techniques which I learnt many years ago but did not then pursue in my subsequent work. I have been taking small classes of students from other departments for an introduction to metalwork, which is being run as part of a wider inter-departmental skills sharing program. Aside from the very basics, this class focused on roll-printing, a process which I have not used for years, and so not at all since I developed my current style of mixed-metal fusing. Combining my constructed metal sheets with other techniques will be one of the things I focus on during a period of research and development in the spring and summer of 2015. I will also be integrating new skills into my practice, building on a placement where I developed my skills in raising and other hammer-forming techniques.

Glass objects by Juli Bolaños-Durman

Juli Bolaños-Durman: The primary theme within my creative process is the exploration of preciousness and how intuitive play jumpstarts the creation of new ideas within my practice. Preciousness is not only the value or quality of the materials themselves but more so the journey of transformation they represent. I find myself favouring and treasuring objects that act as storytellers and mark experiences that are linked to emotions. Therefore, it is essential for the creative process to give the artwork the same significance, disregarding where it came from or how it was constructed. I want to create raw pieces that are put together sensibly through the joyfulness of play and explore the different materials to provoke the boundaries of what is art. My whole research process as an artist can be described as a reflective practice of think-and-act. My research can be defined as the analysis of the themes proposed, to later lead a direct interaction with the materials of the moment and the underlying factor of play in the creation process.

Neckpiece Chain No.2 by Karen Elizabeth Donovan
Karen Elizabeth Donovan: My work is inspired by Scotland; its stories and folklore and its natural beauty. I looked closely at heather, or calluna vulgaris, and became inspired by not only its beauty but its importance to the land and the people. I also am fascinated by the history of jewellery and how it is worn, and why it is worn. The intersection of these two concepts is where my jewellery sprouted. I am also fascinated and pushed by the challenges of the material I use: titanium. While it has only been utilized by jewellers since the late twentieth century, I think it is an amazing material and am still enjoying playing and experimenting with it. My current work is all wire worked by hand to create plant like shapes and forms.
Esme Parsons: My work is inspired by the urban landscape, particularly by modernist buildings and the seemingly insignificant aspects of the city landscape such as scaffolding, satellite dishes, traffic lights etc. I create simplified shapes motivated by many sketches and photographs taken in London and other cities. The colours of the city (posters, road markings, graffiti) inform the colours of the enamels that I use. My pieces are created with silver and rich, bright, opaque enamel.

Ring Urbanisation by Esme Parsons

My experience at ECA has been fantastic so far. It is a very encouraging environment for me at the start of my career. The facilities have allowed me to develop my work and to broaden my capabilities. I now enjoy thinking about multiple students’ projects as well as my own and thinking about research I could encourage them to undertake or skills I could teach them. I wish for the students to get as much as possible from their time at university and this is helping me to resolve aspects of my jewellery and to refine my own making. In the future I would like to teach at college/university level and therefore for me this is perfect as I am already learning invaluable skills that can benefit my career later in life. The residency has allowed me to evolve my collection, it has permitted me the time to just design, make and play with ideas while also realising what sells well and what may be missing from my collection. I think the first year of business is all about discovering what works and what doesn’t and to make mistakes, and being in a supportive environment such as ECA is a brilliant opportunity. I have begun to work on examining different aspects of the city in my work and juxtaposition between them, for example; modern and old, industrial and aesthetically beautiful, rich and poor. Having the facilities available to me at ECA at my fingertips has allowed me to achieve so much that I couldn’t have done on my own. At ECA we are given the opportunity to partake in new challenges daily.

Apply for ECA Jewellery and Silversmithing residencies!
The closing date for applications academic year 2015-2016 is Friday 29th May 2015.


Esme Parsons. Necklace: Urbanisation, 2015. Esme Parsons
Necklace: Urbanisation, 2015
© By the author. Read Copyright.