By Shona Marsh
New Designers, the annual graduate degree show, provides the opportunity of viewing, under one roof, the budding applied artist; the talent, the trends and, more importantly the state of the many applied arts courses from around the UK. Shona Marsh offers her view on this year’s exhibition noting that silversmithing seems to be coming under particular pressure.
At first glance New Designers was disappointing because of the obvious lack of silversmithing. On average only one or two students per university showed silversmithing and very few had a coherent or large body of work. However, on closer inspection the work on display show-cased some excellent talent, craftsmanship and design
Of all the universities Sheffield Hallam University and UCA had the highest number silversmithing students. It was Sheffield graduate Michelle Clare who won the Goldsmiths’ Company award with her unusual and beautiful raised silver vessels. Her intention is to continue and she was awaiting confirmation of a place at Persistence Works in Sheffield.
The winner of our Contemporary British Silversmiths ‘Design in Silver Award 2010’ was Malin Winberg from Glasgow School of Art with a collection of work inspired by the stories and characters in the Finnish folklore epic ‘The Kalevala’.
“Organic forms and textures found in the Finnish forests and woodlands – where many of these stories take place – are also important source material and I try to replicate these in my work.”
Using raising and chasing, filling her vessels with pitch she forms the metal into folds and creases. She hopes to plans to look into courses to gain more experience in chasing and raising. With her pieces she expresses her love of hammer work shaping the metal intuitively saying, “The fluidity of metal when it is worked suits the concept of my work which is why I choose to use a lot of traditional techniques such as raising, forging and chasing in my pieces.”
Malin has been offered a place as artist in residence at the Glasgow School of Art for the next year where she will gain from continued support and access to all facilities.
Over in One Year On I met Niki Byrns who is an excellent example of dedication and commitment to silversmithing. Having graduated in 2009 she has already been commissioned by the Sheffield Assay Office (who she also convinced to sponsor all her marks for One Year On) but has also convinced local company British Silverware Ltd to take her on as an apprentice. She expresses how working alongside other silversmiths on the production line gives her experience in making to high standards and working on pieces that, in both scale and skill, she might not encounter so early on in her career. They also offer support and help in the development of her own work centred “around cutlery, the way we eat, serve and entertain with food” which has a practical yet playful feel particularly her ‘spaghetti tongs’ in silver and ebony.
Not content on being busy with this Niki has also set up her own company called the ‘Sheffield School of Silversmithing’. Backed by the Sheffield assay office it provides tailored course with the specific aim of providing specialist master classes in silversmithing techniques.
Overall, there is an obvious lack in the number of students taking up silversmithing. However, those who decide on this field do so with dedication, confidence and ambition. Many take full advantage of the opportunities presented through various start up schemes helping make the transition from university to skilled silversmith all the smoother. This is encouraging for the future of Contemporary British Silversmithing.