Over the years, I have had the incredible good fortune to be invited to deliver challenging and provocative workshops because of the work I make. I’ve received invitations from a range of institutions from Australia and New Zealand to China and Japan, the USA and many parts of Europe. These have allowed me to experience diverse cultures and activate and engage others through thoughtful, creative hands-on practice.
In 2019, I returned to the National Taiwan Craft Research Insitute’s Stone Department to offer another workshop. As part of this trip, I was also invited to spend an additional five days with A-Fu, a master of all things stone. Each day we set ourselves a different making challenge that included taking each other’s work and reusing it as material. We developed many pieces and showed them together in an exhibition in Taipei.
The luxury of five, uninterrupted days working together seemed like five minutes. So sharing space and time with another maker from such a different discipline was energising and inspiring.
The Stone Department itself was also a radically different working environment, with its electrical cutters and water working together. This took some time to get used to, as all I could see was the potential for electrocution.
As a silversmith, it was essential for me to find relevant ways to bring metal into the project. Here I repurposed spare coins that were left on the table. By simply drilling and sawing the coins, it was possible to enable the two materials to be brought together in different ways.
During our time together, A-Fu presented me with a hand-carved bird-thing! What I loved and the only part that stayed unchanged was the beak that was made from brick.
The rest went up in flames …
Learning by quietly but rigorously observing how A-Fu works material, I had so many questions! Watching someone with his skill and years of experience handle stone was a privilege. It helped me see first hand the potential of the material when worked by a master.
Of course, there had to be time away from the workshop, spent eating the best street food, relaxing and refuelling our batteries.
It was an extraordinary moment when we saw what we had achieved together.
The absolute willingness to exchange finished works, no rules applied and mutually happy to treat our work as raw material was liberating. We both realised our five days were more than complete. When thinking on, I see this was a unique opportunity to learn from such a brilliant and generous fellow human being.