54 episodes

A podcast where artists tell their stories through the materials they choose.

Materially Speaking Sarah Monk

    • Arts
    • 5.0 • 4 Ratings

A podcast where artists tell their stories through the materials they choose.

    Janice Mehlman: Come fly with me

    Janice Mehlman: Come fly with me

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    The long, narrow, glass-walled studio of Janice Mehlman is perched half way up the steep garden of her home, on a hillside near Pietrasanta.
    Many of her abstract photographs are hung on crisp white walls, and she welcomes us inside to look at some of her work from the last 30 years. She explains how she started as a photographer, focusing on black-and-white images of architecture. After creating an image that captured a chance moment of light on a discarded photographic proof in her waste bin, she started to incorporate objects into her compositions. 
    She shows us her workbench, where she finds inspiration. When light from the window shines in, it illuminates a cornucopia of materials in every colour and texture. We see swimwear, hats, netting and fluorescent wrapping – all glittering in the morning sun.
    Janice explains how her work has evolved over the years, particularly in relation to her exploration of her sensuality and sexuality as a woman. She talks about using her own intimate garments and other objects to create compositions that reflect her inner soul.
    She also recounts how her work has responded to different experiences, such as the Covid-19 pandemic and shows us a few pieces from that series.
    We hear how she was inspired by a disastrous trip to Chicago to create one of her most acclaimed series of work, choosing to find the positive even in adversity.

    • 21 min
    Steaven Richard: Artsmithing

    Steaven Richard: Artsmithing

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    Steaven Richard evolved his craft as an apprentice to several artisan blacksmiths over many years and in many countries, before establishing his own atelier in Paris specialising in artistic metalwork
    Soon demand for his work, from architects and designers, grew - and he needed more space. To accommodate this, he moved to a large warehouse in Valenton and expanded his team of blacksmiths and metalworkers who combine traditional skills, and new technology.
    Atelier Steaven Richard has become famous for its artistic metalwork.  Prestigious designs include a bespoke metal floor for the studio of Karl Lagerfeld, the elevator doors for the Hotel de Paris in Monaco, and a ‘Steaven Richard’ limited edition bottle for Remy Martin.
    We started to interview him in front of his wall of gorgeous wall samples in a colourful array of textures, patinas and designs and then went through to the workshops. 
    And we also tour his huge hangar-like workshop, which is buzzing with activity and the thrum of machinery.
    Enormous shelves hold sheets of carefully-labelled metals. There’s large-scale equipment, and workers hand-finishing on long benches. It’s artisans work on a grand-scale. We see some samples of his finished work.
    Mike Axinn and I took the train 50 km south of Paris, through the suburbs, to the dense wooded area of Bois le Roi, next to the forest of Fontainebleau. As the train slowed into the station, a bright blue sky is visible above the dense forest of wintry trees, and we see the lanky figure of Steaven waiting on the platform to greet us.

    • 19 min
    Xavier Montoy: Sternocera aequisignata

    Xavier Montoy: Sternocera aequisignata

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    Xavier Montoy grew up in a family of doctors and was always keen on biology. When he chose an artistic route he wanted to focus attention on endangered insects to highlight how we should honour and conserve them.
    As part of our Paris series, Mike Axinn and I go to the 11th arrondissement of Paris to meet Xavier and see how he creates jewellery with the Sternocera beetle.
    Sternocera aequisignata live in Southeast Asia, especially in northeast Thailand. Their life cycle is two years, of which the period when they live above ground and reproduce and then die, lasts only a few weeks. Once a year, in September and October, villagers harvest and sort the elytra (fore-wings), and then Xavier sources them for his work.
    Xavier’s workshop is in the artisan complex at the Cité des Taillandiers, in rue des Taillandiers, where around twenty artists and artisans have workspaces thanks to an initiative of the mayor of the 11th who is working to support historic craft activities in the arrondissement.
    In his shared, neat workspace we find a magical display-box of beetles and butterflies, a case of jewellery tools and some 3D printing equipment. On a high shelf are some sheets of the precious material he has created from beetles in bright iridescent colours.

    • 24 min
    Judith Kraft: Early instrument maker

    Judith Kraft: Early instrument maker

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    Judith’s workshop is in the 10th arrondissement, tucked away in a courtyard behind huge iron gates where tall white buildings house workshops, and motorbikes and cars are squeezed against the walls. There are lines of plants in terracotta pots and a small white dog.
    Judith greets us in her office where a history of her instruments line one wall – some with painted gold detail and others with fine marquetry work in wood.
    She makes instruments on commission for professional and amateur musicians, ranging from promising students through to well-established performers, from all over the world. She also creates instruments for Swiss and French music conservatories and does restoration work on old viols.
    In her light and airy workshops, we find a large store of seasoned wood including many triangular shapes ready to form the instrument, and shelves holding a rich assortment of spirits, glues and waxes.
    She speaks about how she sources the wood in the Jura and how you can tell the age of the wood in an old instrument, and judge the climate over the years, through the stripes you see in the wood.
    There’s a half finished instrument in a vice on a workbench and Judith runs through the process of creating her instruments for us, each of which takes a couple of months to complete. All the tools of Judith’s craft line the walls, including a fine selection of blades.
    Judith talks of the pleasure both of making the instruments, and of hearing them play in the hands of their final owner.
    In 2018, Judith Kraft was named Maître d’Art by the French Minister of Culture.

    • 25 min
    Sylvain Maenhout: Forging a new life

    Sylvain Maenhout: Forging a new life

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    Sylvain always loved cooking and when he discovered a passion for working with metal and wood he trained so he could create kitchen knives for chefs.
    Mike Axinn and I travelled to Paris to meet four artisans. In the first of our series we talk with Sylvain Maenhout who took the decision to retrain as an artisan in his late 30s. Becoming an artisan has given him the ability to work from home and have a more balanced, family-centred life.
    Finding workspace in Paris has become increasingly expensive and, as in most cities, there are restrictions on noise and dust. So Sylvain Maenhout made the move to an eastern suburb, 10 kilometres out of town in Nogent sur Marne.
    We chatted with Sylvain about his background, and how he worked in business before choosing a different path as a blacksmith making kitchen knives. 
    We visited Sylvain’s workshops – the first dedicated to metal work which had a 1950s rolling mill, anvil & hammer, and hydraulic press.
    He tells of his passion for forging and how he loves working both with metal and with wood. He explains how he sources his materials – steel from Germany and wood from suppliers who have already seasoned it.
    Then we go down to the basement workspace where he has a space for woodwork and knife assembly. In the house’s former coal room he shows us where he does the heat treatments, and sharpens the knives with Japanese wet stones.
    Sylvain tells about the range of knives he creates and his experiences talking with professional chefs and private customers.

    • 24 min
    Trailer: Paris Transformations

    Trailer: Paris Transformations

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    This spring Mike Axinn and I went to Paris to see how artisans are able to practise their craft in a vibrant, urban setting. We wanted to discover more about the relevance of traditional skills in a world of 21st century technologies.
    First we met Sylvain Maenhout who gave up a conventional career and moved his family out of central Paris to devote his life to making kitchen knives.
    Release date: 26 May 2023
    We also spoke with Judith Kraft who left America to establish herself in Paris as a Luthier, making viola da gambas. She tells of her process - from choosing the wood in the Jura to passing the instrument to its new owner and hearing it play in their hands.
    Release date: Summer 2023
    Then we visited Steaven Richard, whose passion for horses took him around the world as a blacksmith, discovering architecture that inspired his fine artistic metalwork. As demand for his work grew he moved to a larger facility where his team of blacksmiths and metalworkers combine traditional skills with new technology.
    Release date: Summer 2023
    Finally we met Xavier Montoy who grew up in a family of doctors and was always keen on biology. When he chose an artistic route he focussed on endangered insects to highlight their importance in the eco-system. He tells how his passion for insects led him to create jewellery with the Sternocera beetle.
    Release date: Summer 2023
    All of these artisans told us tales of transformation and spoke of sourcing and creating from their chosen materials with passion and purpose.

    • 4 min

Customer Reviews

5.0 out of 5
4 Ratings

4 Ratings

Eboniste ,

Maria Gamindi

Excellent! Very interesting and informative without too much undecipherable “art speak”. I look forward to the next one whatever that may be. Bronze? Wood? Paint? Musical composition? So many possibilities.

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