Heath Robinson Museum exterior by Tom Fish

The Maker's Art

19th May 2017

The small-but-beautifully-formed shop at the Heath Robinson Museum, Pinner, does not confine itself to works inspired by the man himself, but also offers a selection of contemporary pieces designed and handmade by local artisans, and collectively known as The Maker’s Art. The contributors change every six months, so that the museum is constantly forging fresh creative partnerships.

Jill Glenn meets the collection’s curator, Jeannine Lawder, and the new makers: Charlotte Harker, Joy Trpkovic and Morag vanGeyzel.

It’s easy to imagine, in a world in which everything seems to happen online, that contemporary artist-makers are relying on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and the like to get their work seen. In many cases, they have to. Opportunities to showcase their skills in real spaces over extended periods of time can be few and far between – so the Heath Robinson Museum’s initiative is particularly impressive. The Maker’s Art, the brainchild of Jeannine Lawder, presents a trio of artist-makers and gives them exposure for six months. The idea is that the ranges should, at some level, reflect the imagination and enchantment of Heath Robinson’s own work. The 2017 summer/autumn selection includes poems and drawings from Charlotte Harker, porcelain ceramics from Joy Trpkovic and dichroic glass jewellery from Morag vanGeyzel.

Jeannine’s background is as a textile designer. She trained at Hornsey College of Art, specialising in woven fabrics, and after a spell with the John Lewis Textile Design Studio, built up an international freelance practice. She has also lectured in creative textiles, run summer schools in textile design, and found time to acquire a City and Guilds Diploma in Embroidery. She’s also one of the leading lights behind the biennial Pinner Arts Week, so she’s eminently suited to manage The Maker’s Art project at the Heath Robinson Museum. She’s full of enthusiasm for the wealth of artistic talent in the local area, and confesses that she is “just loving” the opportunity to select and nurture participants. “I am thrilled that these amazingly talented artisans are supporting the Museum,” she tells me.

Jeannine is already looking for three more ‘magnificent makers’, as she calls them for the autumn 2017 to spring 2018 slot. If you are a practitioner and are interested in learning more, contact her via the Heath Robinson Museum.

Charlotte Harker

Curator Jeannine Lawder (standing) and artist/printmaker Charlotte Harker

Originally from Lincolnshire, artist/printmaker Charlotte Harker has lived on the Pinner/Eastcote borders for some 25 years, and feels embedded in the local area. She describes herself as ‘geographically connected to Pinner’. She expands on that with the word ‘rooted’ – and then laughs. ‘Rooted’, in this instance, has a particular double meaning: Charlotte’s contribution for The Maker’s Art is called ‘Drawing the Line’ and consists of a selection of prints of trees and landscapes.

Presented as both drypoint and giclée prints, they are intended to evoke an intimate sense of place and memory, and they have a wonderful soft elegance.
There are also two publications: ‘Species of Trees and Other Landscapes’, a project developed in 2014 with a grant from Arts Council England, and ‘Nowheres’, a collaborative project with poet Tamar Yoseloff, and published under her previous name, David Harker. The prose and poetry was written in response to drawings of landscapes which included suburban Pinner. This work was exhibited at the Poetry Society and also the Barbican Centre in 2015.

Charlotte is also currently the Heath Robinson Museum’s inaugural Artist in residence, and is relishing the opportunity to work in a studio which holds the national collection of the work of a such an accomplished artist. As well as being well-known as a cartoonist and social commentator, William Heath Robinson was, of course, an accomplished illustrator and painter, and Charlotte tells me that it is fascinating and exciting to be able to immerse herself in the collection, and make work that responds to it. ‘Heath Robinson shows you how to see things’, she explains, adding, ‘I love to draw, and I’m really enjoying being able to get inside Heath Robinson’s techniques and process.’

Charlotte doesn’t do things by halves; not only has she lately been working through selected Heath Robinson drawings, she has even restaged some of them with help from Museum staff and volunteers in order to understand them more.

www.axisweb.org/artist/charlottedavidharker

Joy Trpkovic

Joy at work on one of her intricate funghi sculptures

Joy Trpkovic, who lives in Hatch End, has chosen to call her Heath Robinson Museum range ‘Sprung from the Mud’. It’s a title that rather belies the vibrancy of her beautiful translucent porcelain bowls (often gilded, adorned with precious metal lustres and/or partially glazed) and her striking brooches, and the delicacy of her signature intricate funghi sculptures.

She describes her work as being ‘all about risk’ – and it’s easy to see why. She creates what she calls ‘tiny, fragile pieces’ – but also describes herself as clumsy… I don’t like to ask about the wastage, but she does tell me that she spent 7 months developing one idea because she couldn’t get it to ‘come right’. She enjoys the tactility of clay, and works mainly with her hands and her fingertips – ‘the simplest tools,’ she explains – with just the occasional use of a scalpel or a little wooden modelling tool. She pinches the bowls into the frailest of shapes, paints them with precious metal lustres – like ‘applying smelly treacle’ – and waits to see what happens.

Although she works predominantly in porcelain, she also creates wall installations and collections of tiny sculptures inspired by sea forms, strata and fossils.

She studied Fine Art at Goldsmiths College School of Art, Portsmouth Polytechnic and Sussex University, and since 1979 has been exhibiting widely in Britain, Europe and the USA. She has also shown in Minnesota, Zurich, Basle and New Delhi and has work in private collections in many countries. She’s particularly proud of the ceramic installations in the permanent Contemporary Ceramic Collection at the Museu de Ceramica de L’Alcora, Spain – although the complexities of getting her submissions there would strike fear into a lesser artist. Like she says, ‘it’s all about risk…’

www.joytrpkovic.co.uk

Morag vanGeyzel

Morag preparing her beautiful Dichroic glass bracelets

Born in Uganda, and educated in Kenya and Edinburgh, Morag has had the most diverse career of the three current makers, navigating her way through a range of creative and artistic practices before becoming the jeweller that she is today. She trained first as a beautician and masseuse in London, before returning to Edinburgh and taking up a job with Revlon. It was during this time that she began to make patchwork duvet covers with 1 inch squares of embroidery and fabric paint. One of these, made as a wedding present, was displayed at an exhibition of American and European quilting in Saudi Arabia.

‘I love colour,’ Morag explains, and that’s been a recurring theme throughout her life. Moving back to London in 1979, she started working in programming, and carried on embroidering as a hobby. A television series about American-born artist Kaffe Fasset (known for his love of colour and fantastic designs for knitting, needlepoint, patchwork, painting and ceramics) captivated her, and she took up designer knitting. Being Morag, she didn’t do this half-heartedly, but rapidly developed her skill to the point at which friends and family were commissioning her to make cardigans and jumpers in delicate yarns: cotton, silk, mohair and wool…The acquisition of three cats made knitting more challenging, however, and Morag put her needles down.

Undaunted, she turned her attention to ceramics, studying at night classes in West London. Then, after retirement, came ceramic jewellery classes at Brunel Art Centre; then a weekend course on Dichroic Glass and Precious Metal Clay… and then she was hooked.Ever since then, she has worked in four mediums ever since: ceramic clay, fine silver, semiprecious stones and Dichroic glass.

It’s not surprise that her Heath Robinson Museum shop range is called ‘The Kaleidoscope Collection’. These bracelets and earrings of fire-polished and etched Dichroic glass and silver shimmer and beguile from every angle. Dichroic means having different absorption coefficients for light polarized in different directions… which, in plain language, means that it looks a different colour as you tilt it in the light: ‘It’s blue… no, wait; it’s purple… no, that’s green.’

Whatever colour it is, it’s lovely. These pieces are deceptively simple to wear, and yet surprisingly complex to generate. They’ve taken over Morag’s life. ‘I make,’ she says. ‘It’s what I do. I make…’

Morag exhibits and sells with Octavia art group at the Cow Byre in Ruislip, Harrow Open Studios in Harrow and TFS Group at West House in Pinner.

Contact details: mavangeyzel@btinternet.com

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