Jacky Oliver is exhibiting at Muse: Makers in Museums at The Museum of Somerset until 3 February
Crafts Council Maker of the Week, Jacky Oliver, talks to us about getting into making, what inspires her and her favourite part of the making process.
Who or what got you into making?
My earliest memory of making was working with paper and card. My grandmother worked in a paper factory so I had access to an endless supply. This was the beginning of me creating a vast number of models in paper that that still continues today.
My parents are both amazingly practical. My mum would always be creating fantastic inventions to help solve practical problems like getting conkers down from trees. My dad’s meticulous attention to detail with everything he does was also very inspirational.
I found my love for working in three dimensions half way through my Foundation Course at Middlesex Polytechnic. My tutors, more through despair than anything else suggested jewellery when I refused to work as quickly and freely as projects needed, preferring to focus on tiny details for hours, days and sometimes even weeks. My degree course allowed us to work in a wide range of materials, which was fantastic, but I soon discovered that I loved working with metal and have constantly added to this knowledge ever since.
Could you please tell us a bit about your work?
I am passionate about working in metal. I utilise a range of techniques and processes, including jewellery, silversmithing, blacksmithing and enamelling skills to create small hand held objects through to large-scale architectural pieces. I am fascinated about taking metal on a journey where it changes form, though forging or fabricating or the surface is transformed through etching or enamelling.
I am drawn to both processes where the results cannot be predetermined. For example, enameling and etching have enabled me to add details of archive material onto the surface of elements of final outcomes allowing a narrative quality to the work.
In other pieces I make use of blacksmithing skills. I love the highly physical activity of working at the forge, which makes hard earned pieces, shaping the forms through hammering and carefully manipulating the lines.
What is your favourite part of the making process?
I love it once the ideas have started coming together. I normally go through an experimentation and trial and error phase to determine the appropriate processes - soldering, enameling, etching, or forging, then the making process becomes really exciting. Working through any project is normally a very long but exciting and rewarding journey. I like being able to take ideas from the page and model these into three-dimensional objects with tangible results. I find all of the various processes I use have fascinating qualities to them, the way that metal - something so solid can be manipulated and redefined, is still amazes me and gives me real satisfaction.
What are you working on right now?
I’m just getting ready to deliver some workshops in schools and colleges as part of Muse: Makers in Museums. The ‘Muse’ project was a wonderful opportunity for myself and seven other artists to respond to collections in museums across Devon and Somerset. I was inspired by the archives at Teignmouth and Shaldon Museum, in particular the technical drawings from the Morgan Giles boat yard that are part of the collection. The final outcome I created was informed by and used text from interviews, with a worker from the boat yard and members of the Morgan Giles family. I created three dimensional wire interpretations of the line drawings, not attempting to remake the actual boats, but more to pay homage to the plans and technical drawings themselves. This project allowed me my first opportunity to exhibit my enamel work, part of a larger installation of suspended wire elements.
What are your inspirations?
I am inspired by processes, materials, history, people, and the work of others. I am often inspired by just talking to other people and bouncing ideas off each other is a key part of my practice.
I have drawn inspiration from archive material to complete some recent commissions. It has been fascinating to explore museums and archives around the country to celebrate different aspects of history- from D Day to agricultural workers and in the last project the Morgan Giles boat yard, Teignmouth. From undertaking these projects I have learnt a great deal about the different subjects, whilst exploring different ways to make use of this material to create a final outcome.
And finally I am inspired by others. I love the work of Eduard Chillida and in particular how he is able to explore his ideas through a range of materials and scale. Richard Deacon’s exhibition at Tate Liverpool inspired me to attempt work on a much larger scale. Whilst the simplicity, harmony and balance of Alexander Calder’s work has been inspirational for years.
See Jacky Oliver’s work at Muse: Makers in Museums at The Museum of Somerset until 3 February.