WILDERNESS HOPE Part 1: The story behind the pendant.

Preparing paper for printmaking. Visit the 'Prints' section on my website to see the finished pieces.

Preparing paper for printmaking. Visit the 'Prints' section on my website to see the finished pieces.

I've been making and designing jewellery for the past 6 years and recently taken up printmaking, I love working with my hands and digital tools. If I was asked ‘What’s one of the things that excites you the most about making?’ It’s definitely learning new skills and using them to create meaningful pieces.

I’ve been a freelance tutor in 3D Printing at the DCA Print Studio for three (!) years. Sometimes I meet visitors and members of the studio who become my business clients and that’s where I met Jim; he had booked a one-to-one session to learn how to use the in-house 3D Printers and I would be teaching him. The majority of the time individuals book sessions out of interest in the technology and want to learn more about it; rarely for a specific project. However Jim had brought along a model, sketches and photographs of a symbol he had been working on the design and creation of for a long time, five years and more in fact!

We discussed his intentions of coming in for a one-to-one and the design he had been working on. Ultimately he wanted to finish the design he’d been working on for so long into a finished pendant, but he wasn’t sure how to go about it.

What a stroke of luck that he also happened to be speaking to a jeweller!

Jim talked me through his design process after which we agreed upon a commission for me to create his pendant. I asked if he would be willing to write his own account of his personal creative journey, I was so taken with it I felt it needed to be shared:


1989 in Glasgow brought the chance to do a higher art at the age of 40. I had applied for an evening art class at nearby Mearns Castle High School but was then invited by the head of the Art Department to join the Higher art class. I had a couple of hours a week, accepted the challenge and was a awarded a C pass.   
                      'From Dust to Dust'

                      'From Dust to Dust'

Though I had begun on the 6th year studies course, which began with self portrait studies,  I found that work pressure stopped me continuing. However I did manage to produce one finished work.  “From Dust to Dust”, is based on a “grand” pose photo.  It is a collage created from from household rubbish (wallpaper, carrier bag, biscuit wrapper, foam from back of carpet, cereal packet, corrugated cardboard, poster paint, PVA water based glue).  I framed it in a tongue-in-cheek “grand” style.  At the end of the school year it was one of a Renfrew schools selection which was exhibited in Paisley town hall.  


                             BTS Strips

                             BTS Strips

 At this point  I began collecting blood testing strips (BTS) in the hope of producing another future “autobiographical” portrait using the BTS as the foundational medium. I have been a type1, insulin dependent diabetic for 54 years. The blood in each strip is processed to show the blood sugar level for that sample.  1,825 BTS represent a year my life. 


While working at my H art and 6th studies I also produced some other portraits friend Margret McCaig, Dad, Father-in-Law.
2014, aged 65, I retired.  This offered me the opportunity to pick up on my art interest after a break of 25 years.  I explored how BTS could be used and discovered that their size, regular shape, resistance to cutting and a range of only five black to white colours all added up to a sizeable challenge. I found it  simple to produce a patterned composition. Expressing the frightening experience of a hypo-glycemic coma in December 2016 proved possible by cutting the BTS and adding in acrylic colour.
 However lack of satisfaction with the medium led me to postpone completing my BTS self portrait.  Attempts using BTS, glass, photo, the 53 software and acrylic paint are featured here: 


At the same time I discovered an autobiographical  image which I decided to investigate. It symbolises the journey of a life which has to navigate desert wilderness landscapes.  The story  behind the symbol combines harsh realism and an unstoppable hope. The first of the  images below dates from 2013.  As my thoughts developed the symbol was expressed in media that ranged from A5 pen & paper to  BTS to A4 pencil & paper to grass lawn (17’x19’) printed A4  53 software to cement (9”x6”) to pigmented epoxy resin (7”x5”) to plaster of paris to Fymo (3x4) to 3D printing in plastic ( 5x2cms)
The symbolic image is derived from  the prophetic vision of a desert wilderness found in Isaiah 40:1-3 and echoed in Mark 1:  and Luke 3: 4-6 with reference to Jesus and the mission journey he pioneered.
Luke 3:4-6
As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet: “A voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him. Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill made low. The crooked roads shall become straight, the rough ways smooth. And all people will see God’s salvation.’ 
 In Isaiah’s wilderness landscape are valleys, mountains, twisted paths / mazes and rough places.  This is symbolic of a hostile, predatory environment for anyone journeying through. Historically it was one that took a lethal toll on the people of ancient Israel. Many of us also experience having to navigate hazardous landscapes on our  own life journeys. The challenges and dangers we face may all too easily lead even the best of us to give up when we go down (valleys), block us moving on (mountains),  loose direction (mazes) or fall apart (rough places). The message is that in and through the worst of circumstances  Jesus’ death and resurrection  demonstrate that the saving power of God’s glory is unstoppable. So the Isaiah 40 image is packed with tough realism and Jesus-driven hope. Dundee Contemporary Art (DCA) print workshop run an introductory  3D printer class.  As a result of going to one I was eventually able to produce a plastic version my  Isaiah 40 image. At this stage I was thinking of positioning it to hang vertically as a pendant. I had drawn it in silver and gold, imagining the possibility of the image being cast in actual silver and gold.”


This is difficult to follow on from, even as a person never mind an artist! So I’ll let that piece of writing just sink in for you all and go on to explain how I made Jim’s beautifully relatable and meaningful pendant in the next blog post. Thanks for reading :) - LA