When people ask me what it is I do, I say “I’m a silversmith”, which often elicits a confused look or sometimes an intriguing “Ohhh what’s that? What do you make?” I go on to explain that I’m a traditional silversmith and a jeweller. I thought I'd tell you a little more about what the silversmithing aspect of what I do means...
Traditionally, a goldsmith referred to a skilled maker of jewellery, whilst not always strictly in gold – they made small jewellery pieces, bracelets, rings, necklaces, pendants, tie pins the works. A silversmith was traditionally a maker of hollow objects. Once again, not restricted to working in silver (though they often did), they made objects from a flat sheet of metal and worked them into a hollow form. Pieces include things often for the table setting – vases, beakers, plates, cutlery, candlestick holders, toast racks, jugs, milk and sugar sets.
This making of objects from a flat sheet into a hollow form is an age-old process, it’s also a process that I was trained in and fell in love with. Whilst my body wouldn’t handle me doing it day in day out (and neither would by bank account, but that’s another post altogether), it is a process I thoroughly enjoy and continue to use in my work whenever I can. I also see traditional Silversmithing as a dying art. There is no doubt about it, it’s hard work and it takes a long time. And yes, you can often make something a faster way or a more efficient way – but that isn’t the point – there is something very special about the simplicity of working a sheet of metal with a few relatively rudimentary tools into a hollow form. Although it is a labour-intensive process and can be physically quite exhausting, there is something mediative about the repetitive process, the huge sense of achievement you feel at the end of a day looking back a piece that was just a flat sheet to start and is now a three-dimensional form.
It’s the days where the power goes out that I realise how much ‘making by hand’ is absolutely what I do. Power or no power, I can still make.