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Symposium on Precious Metal Skills

Symposium on Precious Metal Skills

When: Tuesday 25 July 2023, 10am to 3.30pm
Where: Somerset House, The Strand, London WC2R 1LA
Cost: Entry to this event is free and refreshments will be provided.

Heritage Crafts and the The Royal Mint are bringing together expert practitioners in precious metal crafts from a broad industry base to Somerset House to create a consensus across the industry of what is required to support at-risk skills.

The symposium will aim to raise awareness and drive support for at-risk skills within precious metal crafts such as gold and silversmithing, medal making, metal thread manufacture, gilding, hand engraving and many others.

The day is supported by the Royal Mint and The Pilgrim Trust and will be opened with a keynote address from Anne Jessopp, CEO of The Royal Mint. The remainder of the day will include talks from practitioners, a panel discussion and breakout discussions on issues affecting skills transmission.

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Heritage Crafts and The Royal Mint award five craft bursaries

The Royal MintEarlier this year The Royal Mint and Heritage Crafts announced their partnership to award four bursaries to preserve and champion traditional craft skills related to precious metals.

Heritage Crafts and The Royal Mint received 80 applications from aspiring precious metal crafters, keen to learn from some of the greatest craftspeople across the United Kingdom. Following shortlisting and interviews, five successful recipients were selected, all of whom show huge potential but require additional support in order to progress their careers. The additional bursary was added at the discretion of The Royal Mint, following a very close and competitive application and interview process.

Later this year, The Royal Mint will open an additional bursary scheme for those looking to hone their skills precious metals and learn from some of the best in the industry.

The five successful applicants of the bursary scheme will benefit from up to £4,000 in funding each, as well as having the opportunity to spend time with The Royal Mint’s master craftspeople, including Gordon Summers, Chief Engraver, and Paul Morgan, The King’s Assay Master.

Precious metal bursary recipients 2023 Claire Mooney from Newry, Northern Ireland, and Caius Bearder from Glasgow will train in silver spinning with Sheffield-based Warren Martin. Silver spinning is the process of shaping a flat silver disk into a hollow item on a lathe, shaping it over a former known as a ‘spinning chuck’. It is a critically endangered craft on Heritage Crafts’ Red List of Endangered Crafts with fewer than 15 practitioners in the UK. Claire will use her new skills to offer one-off and production work to silversmiths across the UK and Ireland. Caius will use the skills he learns to help reduce the production costs of his beautiful engraved silver vessels which have until now been laboriously hand raised.

Iona Hall from Bristol and Emma-Jane Rule from Leicester will train with Kent-based silversmith Ray Walton. Both will spend their time with Ray making silver boxes, with Iona focusing on various techniques of hinge construction and Emma-Jane specialising in chasing and repoussé, the process of shaping silver by hammering from the reverse side to create a design in low relief. Iona plans to take her box making to the highest level, creating unusual objects that evoke a strong emotional connection. Emma-Jane is a second-career silversmith who plans to combine commercial practice with teaching the craft to others.

Rosie Elwood from Whitley Bay, Tyneside, is a jewellery maker who will train in the craft of metal thread embroidery with goldwork embroiderer Hanny Newton and through various short courses offered by the Royal School of Needlework. Rosie plans to incorporate goldwork embroidery into her jewellery, as well as seeking employment in the embroidery itself. The manufacture of metal thread is another critically endangered craft in the UK, and Rosie’s work will help raise awareness of this unique material.

The Royal Mint’s expertise in precious metals spans over a thousand years. Known as the home of precious metals in the UK, The Royal Mint offer products including gold, silver and platinum commemorative coins, bars for investment, and a digital gold saving option, backed by metal held in their vault. Last year they announced plans to build a factory to recover precious metals from electronic waste, currently active at lab level. Recovered metal is being used to create beautiful jewellery pieces in their latest business venture, 886 by The Royal Mint.

Paul Morgan, The King’s Assay Master said:

“As an exemplar of British craftsmanship, we believe we have a duty to promote, protect and celebrate British craftsmanship. I am extremely proud to announce the successful recipients of the bursary scheme in partnership with Heritage Crafts. Our long-term mission is to spearhead the resurgence of precious metals craftsmanship in the UK. By doing this we hope to provide more job opportunities for future generations and offer a more sustainable, viable manufacturing alternative to international suppliers – qualities which are increasingly important.”

Daniel Carpenter, Executive Director of Heritage Crafts, said:

“Our partnership with The Royal Mint speaks to the very core of our mission in safeguarding and celebrating traditional craft skills as being of vital importance to the cultural, social and economic life of the UK. We are thrilled to have joined together to enable Claire, Caius, Iona, Emma-Jane and Rosie to overcome the barriers they faced and set them on the path to mastering their chosen crafts.”

Download the press release

Photo credits:

  • Claire Mooney (top) by Ruairí Jordan
  • Emma-Jane Rule (second from bottom) by Yatish Chavda Photography

Heritage Crafts Awards winners 2017 announced

Martin FrostThe last remaining professional fore-edge painter Martin Frost has been awarded Maker of the Year by the Heritage Crafts Association at its Textures of Craft conference on 6 May 2017. Fore-edge painting is one of the seventeen critically endangered crafts identified by the HCA.

Martin took up the craft of vanishing fore-edge painting in 1970, continuing an English tradition that dates back to the 17th Century. Since then he has produced over 3,300 edge-paintings, many on carefully restored antique books.  His commitment to the craft as an artist and untiring efforts to raise its profile have won him respect from fellow craftspeople and collectors alike.

Maker of the Year is one of six awards with a total value of up to £27,000 presented this year by the HCA. The other awards were made in partnership with Queen Elizabeth Scholarship Trust (QEST), Marsh Christian Trust and the National Association of Decorative and Fine Arts Societies (NADFAS).

  • Leather worker Candice Lau was awarded the HCA/QEST training scholarship. Largely self-taught, Candice designs bespoke leatherwork from her design workshop/studio. The award will enable Candice to attend an intensive 3-month course at the renowned Italian school of leatherwork in Florence, the Scuola di Cuoio, to enhance her technical skills.
  • Shoemaker Frances Pinnock was awarded the HCA/NADFAS training bursary to study with cordwainers Carréducker and pattern cutter Fiona Campbell, and to buy the tools and equipment needed to further her career.
  • Pamela Emerson was awarded HCA/Marsh Volunteer of the Year for her work with NI Big Sock, a community project involving the creation of a world record breaking patchwork Christmas stocking. Pamela devised the project as a way of highlighting sewing as a valuable skill, celebrating Northern Irish traditions of linen production and shirt making, and bringing communities together in the process.
  • Alistair McCallum was awarded the HCA/Marsh Trainer of the Year award. A silversmith who exhibits nationally and internationally and one of the leading practitioners of the Japanese metalworking technique of Mokume Gane, he has been tireless in his efforts to pass on his skills to the next generation of makers.
  • Deborah Carré and James Ducker won the HCA/Marsh Made in Britain award. Their company, Carréducker makes bespoke shoes using the best materials sourced from British suppliers: lasts from Northampton, oak bark soling leather from Devon, exotics from Walsall, and patterns made and shoes stitched by specialists in Wales, Bristol and London. Their vision is to reignite the British shoe industry.

During the conference, studio potter Lisa Hammond MBE was presented with a certificate to mark her inclusion in the 2016 Queen’s Birthday Honours List. Lisa was also one of the speakers at the conference, as was Kaffe Fassett, worldwide authority on textiles and colour and Dr Alex Langlands BBC TV presenter of historical programmes.

The event, held at The Royal Society of Medicine, brought together craftspeople and enthusiasts from all over the UK to hear from makers, celebrate the best in the country and hear about the HCA’s research into endangered crafts, the Radcliffe Red List of Endangered Crafts.

The Heritage Crafts Awards celebrate and highlight the traditional living crafts made in the UK that contribute to our national heritage. Applications for an HCA/QEST apprenticeship open on 6 June 2017.  Applications for the other awards open on 1 September 2017. For more details about this year’s awards, visit awards.heritagecrafts.org.uk.

Silversmithing

Currently viable crafts

 

Silversmithing

 

The making of predominately silver items, such as hollowware (vessels such as bowls, cups, candlesticks etc.), flatware, household and ecclesiastical items, sculpture and regalia.

For silver jewellery see jewellery making. See also engine turning (guilloche) and silver spinning.

 

Status Currently viable
Historic area of significance Sheffield (Flatware) Birmingham Small Working and Manufacturing, London Atelier Workshops and London Assay Office (The Goldsmiths’ Company) established by Royal Charter in 1327
Area currently practised As above and nationally
Origin in the UK

 

History

The manufacture of vessels and other ceremonial artefacts in precious metals can be traced back to the bronze age here in the UK. Grave goods and archaeological finds of fine metalwork can be seen in collections across the UK. The church and ecclesiastical silver played a significant part in the development of mediaeval silversmithing techniques and a guild of Goldsmiths’ (workers in precious metals) responsible for the Assay of Plate and overseeing their craft was established in London in 1327. This is the origin of the Hallmarking process and while today there are four Assay Offices (London, Edinburgh, Birmingham and Sheffield) in the UK today. In previous centuries guild-based Assay Offices also existed where there were significant concentrations of silversmiths and goldsmiths including places like Chester and Yarmouth.

Until the Industrial Revolution silversmithing was predominately a low volume activity with much of the work hand fabricated. The Industrial revolution saw the introduction of mass production in places such as Birmingham (Matthew Boulton’s) famous Soho Manufactory and in Sheffield where flatware and cutlery were important products. Indeed, the Birmingham and Sheffield Assay Offices were created by Act of Parliament rather than Charter to meet the needs of local manufacturers. Use of domestic silver peaked in the 19th Century when domestic staff were viable options for the middle and upper class households. The maintenance of domestic plate being a time-consuming and repetitive process which became less popular after the decline in domestic staff after the first world war.

For much of the 20th Century silver in its many forms became the province of the Church, Ceremonial Plate and Commissions with a gradual decline in wider domestic use. The 1950/60s saw a renewed interest in design and a new generation of designer and makers came to the fore that developed successful businesses that targeted wealthier and discerning clients both in the UK and overseas.

The decline of the traditional silversmithing industry continues and it is today a shadow of its former scale in the UK. Positively, though, a new generation of designers and makers, represented by Contemporary British Silversmiths and incubated through initiatives such as Bishopsland Educational Trust and the Goldsmiths’ Centre are developing viable and sustainable businesses. They remain though, in part dependent upon the specialist craftspeople that make up the supply chain for the sector and therefore there will always be a risk for their long term sustainability if these supply chains breakdown.

 

Techniques

 

Local forms

  • London – craft and atelier workshops, specialist craftspeople, supply chain and regalia.
  • Birmingham – manufacturing, small working and regalia.
  • Sheffield – manufacturing flatware and cutlery.

 

Sub-crafts

  • Spinning
  • Polishing / Buffing / finishing
  • Engine turning
  • Chasing
  • Repousse
  • Raising
  • Hammer forming
  • Joining / forming
  • Casting / lost wax
  • Sinking / tray
  • Forging
  • Cutlery techniques
  • Anticlastic forming
  • Welding / TIG
  • Enamelling
  • Gem setting
  • Seaming
  • Deep drawing
  • Box making
  • Hinge making
  • Planishing
  • Soldering
  • Inlay
  • Niello
  • Plating
  • Patination
  • Wax carving
  • Roll printing
  • Tool making
  • Tube making
  • Press forming
  • Piercing / sawing
  • Scoring
  • CNC milling
  • CAD
  • Wire drawing
  • Mokume gane
  • Gilding

 

Issues affecting the viability of the craft

Skills issues: Lack of craft training opportunities, disengagement by mainstream education providers at Degree level, lack of apprenticeships and other employment opportunities within the industry.

Skills issues: the closing of Polytechnic Colleges in the 90s has had a significant effect on skills within the industry.

 

Support organisations

Craftspeople currently known

 

Other information

Contemporary British Silversmiths (CBS) is running a three year Skills Training Programme offering skills training to mid career silversmiths. CBS found that many current silversmithing graduates do not have the skills, and many specific skills like box making, raising, flatware forging are dying out as the master silversmiths retire. The three year programme in partnership with Goldsmiths’ Centre offers free training to current silversmiths with the proviso that they pass their skills on in some format.

 

References

 

JW Evans silversmiths, saved or lost?

When a craft business that has a special part in our history is in danger of closing what should we do? How about buy it and spend large sums of public money on preserving the building, artifacts and accumulated detritus whilst letting the last skilled artisans stop work and walk away?

Two years ago I blogged about JW Evans Silversmiths in Birmingham. It had just been saved for the nation by English Heritage and at the time they said “at the heart of this decision is the desire to safeguard a skilled craft which is seriously under threat.”

Well after two years JW Evans is now open to the public for pre-booked tours, it looks fantastic and well worth a visit but how well do you think they have done at safeguarding a skilled craft? Seems that they have preserved all the fabric but lost the living heritage of the skills that made the place important. I feel we need a new way to look after this part of our heritage, apart from anything else turning businesses into museums is incredibly expensive. We could learn from the Spanish, I visited the knife making town of Taramundi where many small artisan workshops are open to the public on a sort of heritage tourist trail. This means they get lots of business which keeps the heritage truly alive rather than some preserved in aspic snap shot of how it used to be done.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More info and book your tour here