Mark Mcleish graduated from Loughborough University in Silversmithing and Jewellery and has since exhibited globally as an art jeweler. He then returned to studies for an MA in Craft Jewellery at Manchester School of Art. Mark is now the jewelry lead for the school and runs collaborative interdisciplinary projects that works with external partners.
Tell us about your work:
Mark’s practice unpacks an interdisciplinary mixed media approach that dominantly sits in the realm of Art Jewellery. His practice led approach to making is pollinated by research that excavates ideas around the intent of magic on material thinking. This cross-cuts historical notations of jewelry as spells, and challenges this with progressive storytelling that is often autobiographical. Mark’s practice identifies as artist as collector, material led witch and art jeweler.
How did you start your metalsmithing/materialsmithing/adornment journey?
I grew up making. [I worked] with broken things, gifts I got over the years: a simple penknife, a small glue gun, small pots of enamel paint, the perfect shaped stone. The things I made were recognised as having a likeness to jewellery. My educators encouraged me to pursue a craft as a career in art school mainly as it was considered employable.
How does your identity relate to your work? If at all?
Making a daily brooch for myself to wear has been a part of my life since 2014. I make these as an antidote or vitamin, folding in the making as a maker and the intent of talismanic magic as a witch. These pull together states of selfhood that become more complicated when worn as they witness my day directly, and become influenced with memory.
If you feel comfortable discussing your queer identity, what is something you would like share?
I believe in visibility and representation as this is inspiring and influential. I grew up in Thatchers Britain, a very different time for human rights. Art Schools allowed me just to unapologetically be who I am. my queerness is rooted within my creativity, how I look and how I make. I remember my sister giving me a used VHS of The Rocky Horror Picture Show when I was 7. I must have worn it out
“Don’t Dream it, Be it”
What are the main concepts in your work?
The intent of magic on material thinking.
Can you share a bit about your conceptual development?
I collect – a lot – all the time looking for things. I stockpile through making and hoarding. The circumstances and province of the things I collect is the pulse for the reason to keep. For example the rainfall collected on Friday the 13th used to make porcelain slip, the led weights from a church piano recast, toe and fingernails cut under a full moon, love tokens found metal detecting. From this I scribble very loose words to direct my thinking for a work. what I wish it to do, this then guides the materials to use and the methods of making.
How do you take a break and reset?
I love to get lost in libraries with no reason, [not] to look for something but just to see what attracts my attention. Cooking is such a big part of my day, I constantly think about food.
What is your favorite tool, material, or process?
For tools; sewing needles, porcelain. For process, sand casting.
What is something no one has ever asked you that you would like to answer?
I love this question!
Who would I like to make work for? Patrick Wolf, it’s a life long dream@! His music videos are bewitching.
What do you want to see in the field in order for it to be more supportive?
I’d like to see more edgy shows that commission works which look beyond the tropes to identify it as jewelry.
*** All interviews have been edited for clarity and brevity