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Interview

Meet Paul Adie, finalist for the Loewe Craft Prize 2018

In the studio / photo by Takayoshi Terajima

Scottish jeweller Paul Adie has recently been announced as a finalist for the prestigious Loewe Craft Prize. Having studied and exhibited in the UK and throughout Europe, we are pleased to see him receive such well-deserved critical acclaim for his practice. Read on to hear more about Paul’s fascinating jewellery and career.

This year, for the Loewe Craft Prize, a panel of eleven experts convened in Madrid to identify the most impressive works from those entered. Of this year’s selection process, which searched for outstanding technical accomplishment, innovation and vision, Anatxu Zabalbeascoa who is the Executive Secretary of the Panel, said: 'This year the judging was harder than prior years, with the standard of applicants impressively high across every category. Our chosen works reflect an almost alchemical manipulation of each medium’s possibilities and reward those who have mastered traditional skills in order to transform them for the contemporary age.'


 

Q: Hi Paul, congratulations on being a finalist for the Loewe Craft Prize!

Can you tell us a bit about your practice?

Thanks!

Up to now, I have worked in mild steel, combining forms to create sculptural pieces. People often say they are architectural, but I don't have that in mind when sitting down to make. I like to have the work table (or several) covered in bits and bobs, and go along joining, soldering, cutting, filing, banging, walloping, until the piece feels right. It tells me when it's finished. I like to refer to the history of craft, so I'll take metal and solder it, but try to make the technique my own, so I add more and more and more solder. For me perhaps the solder is more important and more expressive than the steel.

I'm currently doing a postgraduate diploma at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich, and am thinking about new ways of making. Why jewellery? Why craft? Why art? Is the wearer important to my work or do I prefer it to be on a wall? I still have a deep conflict in describing what I am – am I a jeweller, a designer, an artist, an artisan, a craftsperson, a mixture of them all? It's easier to say that I just make or do, but people aren't often happy with that description. It's come to the point where I have to think deeper about the reasons why I am so happy making, and am fortunate to have the structure of the Academy to try out new ideas and see if I can come closer to answering my questions.

I'd also like to include other ways of making such as drawing, writing, maybe even sound, into my practice.

Q: Where do you derive inspiration from?

I rarely see something and say that I'm inspired. I can see a great painting and try to take that feeling and then sit down and make and hope that somehow that feeling comes through. A few of my favourite artists are Joan Eardley, Cy Twombly, Mark Rothko, Eduardo Chillida. I remember seeing Guernica by Picasso and starting to cry. So much energy, vitality and sadness.

If I see a building and then directly transfer that into my work, what does that become? Do I want to copy shapes and forms or try to work with something more obscure?

In reference to my previous work, I think it came from a feeling of wanting to be grounded, to control something which was impossible to stop, all the time knowing that it could never be.

My series always start from a point of fun –combining and playing– but tend to creep towards a solemn, serious topic by the end.

Image: Fruits from the Wasteland series / photography by Paul Adie

Q: It's great to see Scottish makers' work being exhibited abroad; can you tell us about your recent/upcoming exhibitions?

A little while ago I was part of an exhibition in the Radiant Pavilion Contemporary Jewellery and Object Biennial in Melbourne, called The material thought. It took material as a starting point and then the process was free, we didn't know what the end pieces were going to be like. It was great to be part of an exhibition with such talented, experimental makers (Sara Gackowska was also part of this exhibition, another finalist for the Loewe prize) and from the photographs, it looks like it was a beautiful show. I feel connected to the work I've seen from Australia; it seems to have a strong point of view, it's experimental, and there's a deep relationship to the land, in my opinion at least. It's also so far away and so enticing.

In May I'll be part of an exhibition called Sign of the times, a reference to the song Sign O' the times by Prince at LA Joaillerie par Mazlo in Paris. This work is still in progress at the moment and I'm trying hard to break from my previous work. I'm always grateful for the opportunity to show at different galleries; it spurs me on and provides the possibility to connect with more people.

I'll also be going back to Barcelona in June, where I first started seriously studying jewellery, to give a workshop called Opposites attract at Taller Perill, a beautiful space for contemporary jewellery in the colourful Gràcia neighbourhood. I'm looking forward to working with people who are interested in object making and hope to have fun with a mixture of quick exercises and time dedicated to making a final piece. I'd like the process and final works to be shown for one evening.

And, of course, I'm very excited to see the Loewe show at the Design Museum in London in May.

Q: We noticed that you spent some time as an artist-in-residence at Glasgow School of Art, how did you find this experience, and would you recommend residencies to emerging makers?

One day teaching per week was involved in the residency - it was much more challenging than I imagined. I enjoyed the experience of working with students and learning from them too. Having a space solely dedicated to making in Glasgow was superb and I enjoyed getting feedback and new perspectives on my work.

From my personal experience, residencies are a good boost to get you thinking in a different way. They recalibrate your thoughts.

It's like having a jigsaw and not being able to find the right piece; sometimes you have to throw it in the air and start from scratch to see with new eyes. Or maybe the jigsaw just keeps getting bigger. I have always been moving about and I hope this continues with residencies in far-flung places. I'd love to go to Australia, China, the US, South America...

Image: Fruit from the Wasteland III / photography by Dan Sim

Q: Do you feel your time studying/living in Glasgow has influenced your practice?

I can see now that Glasgow is everywhere in my work. I think that only through being from Glasgow have I asked myself questions about social class and equality. My secondary school is in Barmulloch, where approximately a quarter of people have Higher qualifications, but in Hyndland and Partick the figure shoots up to 82%. Even accounting for a high proportion of students, the former should be higher and I ask myself why it's like that. I don't understand why in Scotland, where tertiary education is free for Scots, why the situation is like it is. I'm very grateful that my education was mostly free in Scotland - I don't know if it would have been so easy for me to go to university otherwise.

On a purely visual level, people say they see the architecture of Glasgow in my work, lots of Mackintosh details. I sometimes like this comparison, sometimes I don't. Maybe there's something of Scottish austerity in my work.

I also like the fact of being able to speak standard English, but also a dialect of Scots which is for the most part incomprehensible to people outside the central belt. I like this duality.

Image: Searching for solid ground III / photography by Paul Adie

Q: Scotland has such a thriving craft scene, and it's fantastic that a Scottish Maker is a finalist for the Loewe Craft Prize, can you tell us a bit more about your series Searching for solid ground?

Maybe the best description would be the little snippet I wrote about it:

Constructed and put together.
Caught in suspension which may give way at any given time.
Momentary perfection and acceptance that our world shakes from time to time.

///

I realise that I am fascinated by the ground under our feet, what it is and what it means to us.

It gives us the basic stability to live, but it can break and crack and dissolve. I am interested in how the ground can be stable but also capable of dramatic change, a beautiful metaphor for the physical and emotional forces which transform us.

 

To see Paul’s work alongside other exciting makers, we recommend heading to the Design Museum in Kensington, London from the 4 May – 17 June 2018 to see the Loewe Craft Prize finalists exhibition. Visit Paul's website for more about his work and projects.

This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.

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