Bekki Churcher explains how a listed building inspired new ideas. Since graduating Bekki has been an Artist in Residence at The Glasgow School of Art. This has allowed her time and freedom to continue experimenting and developing jewellery as well as completing various commissions including 10 brooches for the Scottish Decorators Federation and a silversmithing piece for  the British Rowing Federation.

During the year after graduation Bekki has had exhibitions at Yorkshire Sculpture Park as part of the Ring Show and at the Dundee Center of Contemporary Arts as part of a craft focus event. Alongside this she has work displayed in a collection of galleries including Gill Wing in Islington, VolumeOne in Hong Kong, Franny & Filer in Manchester and the SH Gallery in Manchester.

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Brooch, oxidised silver, copper, steel, industrial enamel

In the near future she will be exhibiting at the Rodger Bilcliff Gallery as part of the Christmas showcase and will be travelling down to exhibit as part of MADE in Brighton.

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Brooch, oxidised silver, steel, industrial enamel

Alongside these Bekki has curated a contemporary jewellery exhibition called On:AIR at the Lighthouse Gallery in Glasgow, showcasing the works of Artists in Residence across Scotland.

Bekki Churcher describes her work.

The concepts behind my collection haven’t really changed since graduating. An important source of inspiration for me has been the St Peters Seminary buildings and the themes I have developed surrounding this site have affected the  elements and processes in my work. My techniques and imagery have evolved over the past year although certain key aspects still remain.

I create forms that emulate shapes and textures found at the site and within my documentation of it. The use of enamel plays an integral part in building up  texture, depth and colour that combined, explores the notion of growth that occurs at the site and the natural destruction that entails. Within my jewellery, enamel represents nature and the unpredictability of it. This is reflected in the way that I apply the enamel, which I do in a free and painterly way, building up many layers and rubbing back until the desired finish is achieved.

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Ring, silver and jewellery enamel

I use a mixture of jewellery enamel and wet process enamels. Recently, I have begun applying wet process enamels when the metal is hot so that a textural surface is achieved as the water bubbles out of it. To accentuate the texture of the enamel, I have experimented with fusing a fine gauge of silver sheet to the surface of copper and  continue heating the metals to a point where the silver begins to reticulate. When I apply  the wet process enamels to the surface of the copper, areas of oxide build up where the silver has reticulated, this is an  unpredictable process but achieves a textural painterly surface. I have found myself working with copper more as my exploration of wet process enamels continues, despite this, the use of silver and/or gold is always present. They are much stronger materials that allow me to produce the geometric shapes and harp lines that are present within my jewellery, I find the juxtaposition of the different materials pleasing and they represent different characteristics present at St Peters seminary.

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Pendant: oxidised silver, coppper, steel, industrial enamel

Bekki Churcher writes about St Peter’s Seminary.

There are so many themes that surround St Peters Seminary, it keeps me constantly inspired to develop the ideas and aesthetics of my work. St Peters’ seminary is an abandoned seminary in Cardross, designed by the Glasgow based firm of Gillespie, Kidd and Coia after being first approached by the Archdiocese in 1953. It was a long and arduous process and the design and specifications changed a lot during the process, but, eventually the staff and students took possession of the college in 1966.

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St Peters’ seminary, an abandoned seminary in Cardross

By this time, the need for a seminary out with city areas was almost redundant, the seminary never reached the full capacity of 100 students and the seminary closed fourteen years later. The building subsequently became a drug rehabilitation center but after time, that also closed due to ongoing maintenance problems. There have been a couple of major fires at the site, leaving the huge concrete shell that is slowly being reclaimed by nature.

St Peters seminary was awarded category A Listed by Historic Scotland, but has remained in a ruinous state for the last quarter of a century. The juxtaposition of forms that occur at the site is something that really attracted me to St Peters Seminary. As you approach the imposing brutalist building you have no idea how vast and diverse the building is. It is this element of surprise that I try and harness within my own work.

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Vast scale, sweeping forms and juxtaposition of shape.

As you walk around St Peters Seminary, the building changes so much, changing from harsh, geometric lines to the sweeping curves of the prayer areas; inspiring me I try to design  jewellery that noticeably changes from angle to angle, so that the whole 360 degrees of each piece is important.