Away Day at Ironbridge, 2011

by Julie Whitelaw

Twenty members managed to clear their diaries to attend an away day in April in the picturesque area of Ironbridge: Julie Chamberlain, Rebecca de Quin, Mary Ann Simmons, James Dougall, Brian Williamson, Anton Pruden, Lucian Taylor, Martin Keane, Howard Fenn, Jacqui Sholes, Olivia Lowe, Clare Ransome, Rauni Higson, Rajesh Gogna, Kirsty Eaglesfield, Phil Jordan, Katherine Hinton, Keith Tyssen, Clive Burr and Julie Whitelaw, who offered to write up the event, all took part in some interesting discussions, wonderful meals and a bit of competitive gaming…

The weekend at Ironbridge was organised by Jules back in the autumn of last year so it was great to see that almost all who had booked were still able to make it. The purpose of the meeting was to pick up on ideas that had come up at a previous away day 4 years ago and to pursue some ideas from the last AGM that Jules thought would be worth discussing. The plan was to keep things informal while attempting to come to some sort of agreement on issues or ideas which were: achievable, relevant, and time-bound. In other words, projects or commitments that could be done sooner rather than later.

Group photo
Discussions in the Youth Hostel Meeting Room


Anton got the discussion started with our greatest concern: the rapid increase in the price of silver. He suggested that we could try to get a deal to hold the price of silver for a certain amount of time by having an agreement with a supplier to pay half up front for a designated amount of silver. His suggestion of a firm in India he has contact with was discussed but in the end we agreed that we preferred to support a British supplier like Argex, who are already the business of choice for most silversmiths.

In the past there was a preferential rate at Argex for ABDS members and it was felt that this would be worth re-negotiating. Clive knows all the suppliers quite well and has volunteered to pursue this on our behalf. If anyone can’t wait for that, Brian suggested the best price for silver is to purchase by the ingot with no manufacturing charges but a lot of hammering!

View of a pottery bottle kiln outside the Youth Hostel
View of a pottery bottle kiln across from the Youth Hostel

Pickle tank envy was an unexpected topic and it would appear that James is our resident expert. He had to make one big enough to hold a mace he was repairing. If anyone has tips on making your own humongous tank and heating it then contact James, as he has undertaken the task of writing about this burning issue.

Relaxing in the sunshine
Relaxing in the sunshine

There is a possibility that Contemporary British Silversmiths could have its own dedicated tent at Art in Action in 2012. Phil Jordan volunteered to lead a group to research this and work out the logistics for an interactive area, a display of completed work and the creation of a video. We all got excited by the idea of creating a sound recording / composition of workshop noises to use as an accompaniment.

On a smaller scale Brian suggested, after a long and arduous cleaning session of ‘SIDE x SIDE’ exhibits, that it might be nice to do an ‘easy to transport’ exhibition to showcase small items. The project brief would be constrained by either weight or dimension such as a mustard pot and spoon, caddy spoon or tea strainer. Rajesh picked up on this theme suggesting that smaller bids for funding tend to be successful and that a bid in one area, such as the starting point of a touring show, could then be replicated for applications in other areas to support the continuation of the project.

Spectacular view of Ironbridge
Spectacular view of Ironbridge

The Youth Hostel was a superb venue for a meeting with plenty of space, picturesque surroundings and set in a really interesting area: the birthplace of the industrial revolution. Having the space and free agenda proved to be a wonderful way to discuss the future of the Contemporary British Silversmiths over a weekend. The weather was gorgeous and we could socialise in a convivial setting with a little ultra competitive table football or pool thrown in for good measure.

There were charming local pubs within easy walking distance, the food was better than expected and Phil generously organised a regular supply of tea during the day. We all walked away feeling refreshed and each member agreed a task that suited them. Altogether it was a fun and useful away day.

Group Photo of Away Day April 2011
Group Photo of Away Day, April 2011