After 16 years working for Development in Africa I became involved with jewellery again. During my brief foray into full-time institutional lectureship at Loughborough University I was introduced to welding with a laser. I was fortunate to be able to agree a partial work-swap with the manufacturers, Rofin-Baasel, in order to be able to acquire an ex-demonstration welding machine. Exploring its capabilities I quickly became cognisant of the advantages of the very restricted heat transfer. Needing low-cost easy-to-work metal with which to make prototype models I started using old tins which in turn led me to a recognition of the fun to be had with the metal from painted tins. The low heat-spread meant that the paint either side of the weld hardly scorched, unless it was (light-absorbing) black. I made a series of painted-tin-over-wood welded pieces, mostly bracelets, of which there are examples in the V&A and Fiztwilliam Museum collections.
Although I had just spent almost 20 years visiting Africa for rural development purposes the use of tins and the shapes I made with them were not inspired by African artisans’ work with tins, though I believe that my familiarity with African work legitimised the shapes and vivacity of the work that emerged. There is arguably a double subversion in the work, seen beside comparable African artifacts. What in Africa would have been a creative but comparatively crude technical exercise is subverted by using sophisticated skills and a high level of technology. In turn this use of skills and technology is subverted by being applied to a waste material of zero apparent value.
The bracelet was originally made with an opening involving separation and a twist to create sufficient room for the wearer’s wrist to enter or exit. This involved a concealed sprung mechanism within the body of the bracelet. The two sides of the bracelet were permanently connected.
Sold by a London gallery it was returned after a few days, the catch having been broken by forcefully inappropriate handling on the part of the new owner. The bracelet was scrapped.
Several years later I had obtained some very powerful small magnets and was experimenting with the possibility of using them as the basis of catches instead of the sprung mechanisms I had been constructing. I realised that with some reworking of the original piece the body of MF605 (Crafts Council note: Gil’s Oats) could be re-used to make a two-part bracelet with a magnetic catch, resulting in the fully-functional bracelet as it now is.
David Poston, 19/07/2017