International Collaboration With U.S. Artist Ana Lopez for Co-Operation: Garnish with All You Need is Telstar

Ana M. Lopez and I formed a temporary, transatlantic, creative partnership to make a piece of wearable art for the Crafthaus Co-Operation: Garnish project.  This project was intended to join a more traditional artist with a non-traditional one.  I am an Abstract Artist/Jeweller based in the United Kingdom and Ana an American Metalsmith who is fond of plastically deforming metal based in Texas.

Our response to the theme of Co-Operation: Garnish was based on the structure of two specific songs and how they played their part in communications history. We have taken the rhythm and bassline to be the foundation and the melody and vocals to be the “garnish”. One artist worked with the foundation the other worked with the garnish. The two songs were written either to be transmitted by or in praise of the first communications satellites, thus starting a communications revolution that makes our co-operation and collaboration possible.

The Artists

We have very different styles of working. Ana is traditional in the sense that she is a metalsmith using a variety of traditional silversmithing materials and techniques. Her work, however, is far from traditional in form and excites curiosity through its often organic appearance. I am synaesthetic and have a visual response to music and sound that resembles a colourful, abstract animation. I take my inspiration for my jewellery and painting from the drawings I generate while listening to music. I use a variety of techniques and materials to make jewellery, usually creating or finding a form that will be painted using automotive custom painting techniques.

The Collaboration

We were strangers at the beginning of the process that started just before Christmas 2014 and will not have met by the time the piece is finished in February 2015. In fact, as I made my half first, it is possible that I will never see the finished piece in person! The entire project was conducted and made possible in the time available via social media and email. The constraints of time and distance focused the making process considerably.

All You NeedI s Telstar card model
All You NeedI s Telstar card model

This transatlantic communication sparked the idea for the piece. We decided we wanted to work with music to use my synesthesia. Ana suggested using “All You Need Is Love” by the Beatles which was commissioned by the BBC for the first live global television transmission
 in June 1967, and I suggested “Telstar” by The Tornadoes a 1962 instrumental piece about Telstar, the first communications satellite.

After email dialogues and starting a Facebook group to document the process and ease communication of ideas we decided to make a necklace. This would be comprised of 12 ovals; each oval would be around 4x6cm, half of the ovals will be inspired by “Telstar”. The other half of the ovals would be inspired by “All You Need is Love.”

Using Music as Inspiration

We decided to look at the structure of the music and use that to reflect the theme of “Garnish”.  I (a bassist among other things) began by laying down the groove, creating the foundation of the piece by responding to the rhythmic structure and basslines of both songs. We agreed Ana would then look at the melody and vocals to “garnish” the foundation.

Porter/Lopez: All You Need Is Telstar
Porter/Lopez: All You Need Is Telstar

I listened, looked and drew several abstracts for each song. The main colour of the basslines for both songs was purple with distinct white shapes superimposed over the top, cubes for “Telstar” and star shapes for “All You Need Is Love”. There would be twelve purple ovals, six with white cubes and six with white stars to represent each song. There was also a very sci-fi sound effect at the beginning and end of “Telstar” clearly meant to represent the satellite itself. This was a very dominant shape, and I decided to include it as a central motif with the ovals coming out from it as if they were the transmissions. I airbrushed these abstract shapes on to pierced out aluminium composite panel using automotive custom painting techniques for vibrant colours, adding a little stardust for sparkle at the end. Each piece was designed to be elements that Ana could arrange in any way she wanted once she was working on the necklace.

All You Need Is Telstar detail
All You Need Is Telstar Necklace detail

As teleportation is a thing of the future there was an anxious wait for the UK and US postal services, Ana received the elements and respond to my groove with her interpretations of the melody and vocals to “garnish” the foundation. Although Ana had made a variety of abstract sketches based on the impressions of both pieces of music, her elements were also considerably changed as a result of my painted imagery. Not wanting her elements to obscure too much of the white painted forms jumping off of the painted ovals, Ana strove to position her complimentary elements around the baseline-inspired pieces, creating a harmony. Ana was further inspired by my sparkle finish to include fine light-catching textures on her dimensional garnishments.

The success of the piece comes from the conscientious merging of the disparate strengths of each contributor. The merging of my colorful approach with Ana’s dimensional methods has resulted in a fun and wearable necklace. It is a fitting expression of international communication, representing the cordial and encouraging working relationship that developed between us who were strangers at the beginning of the project.

Poppy Porter wears All You Need Is Telstar Necklace while visiting Lee Tuan
Poppy Porter wears All You Need Is Telstar Necklace while visiting Lee Tuan