“Contemporary silversmithing is enjoying a renaissance in the UK,” says Gordon Hamme, the managing director of British Silver Week, “In the last three hundred years there have never been more talented working silversmiths in the UK. The teaching by the art colleges of traditional silversmithing skills combined with contemporary design ideas has produced a remarkable group of modern silversmiths.”
This year the five-day ‘Festival of Silver’ at Pangolin London will highlight the depth and breadth of contemporary silvermithing. “The first day is great fun with all 100 British Silver Week silversmiths showing their work and having a get-together,” says Hamme.
Day 2, The ‘Masters’ Day’, will feature 10 of the UK’s finest artist-silversmiths demonstrating traditional skills. While the skills and the enormous dedication required have barely changed in hundreds of years the artistry has. Men like Malcolm Appleby, who will be one of the leading participants, are taking silversmith-engraving to new heights.
Day 3, ‘Decorative Silver, Engraving and Enamel’ features collections by 12 master silversmiths, chasers, engravers and enamellers. Headlining is the Goldsmiths’ Company and Cartier Award winning enameller, Fred Rich, who may have to fire a piece of work 20-30 times in a kiln to achieve all the colours he wants to use, risking the whole piece of work each time.
Day 4, ‘Rising Stars of British Silver Week’ features collections by 16 of Britain’s up-and-coming new silversmiths
The final day, ‘Collections & Commissioning Day’ features contemporary silver collections including the Pearson Collection, one of Britain’s largest post-war silver collections, together with the work of 10 master silversmiths who will talk through their work and commissioning silverware. “Steve Wager, exhibiting on the Commissioning Day, is a fascinating man with over 25 years experience at the great Asprey workshop in London, making for sultans and kings. He can raise a bar of silver into a work of art just using traditional hammers and simple files, one of the truly great modern craftsmen,” says Hamme.
Silversmithing is the great-unsung craft. People are only now starting to appreciate the craftsmanship as works of art, which are often beautiful sculptures, many with a practical use too. There will be pieces on sale from as little as £200 to £100,000. British Silver Week is the opportunity to meet the widely diverse and enormously talented silversmiths currently working in the UK and enables people to view, buy and commission works of art from these great British makers.
Now in its fourth year British Silver Week has benefited hugely from patronage and sponsorship from the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths’, as lead patron, all the UK Assay Offices and trade organizations and Lord Cunliffe.
The original launch at Goldsmiths’ Hall set the tone for British Silver Week in 2008 as an organisation of the highest order. Over 40,000 people saw a major exhibition in 2009 at Chatsworth, the home of the Duke of Devonshire, a renowned contemporary silver collector. In the last three years 57 selling exhibitions in England, Scotland and Wales have sold more than £750,000 of silverware.
The concept of British Silver Week was brought together by Gordon Hamme in partnership with the renowned silversmith Brett Payne. Gordon and his wife Angela are also known as keen collectors of contemporary silver.
Ambassadors for British Silver Week 2011 are Wally Gilbert and Rebecca Joselyn, featured as two very different aspects of silversmithing in the UK. Gilbert exemplifies the best in decorative arts whilst Joselyn points to the future with quirky, fun silverware which is a joy to own.
Selling events start from 6 June at:
Birmingham Assay Office
De Vroomen (Mayfair)
Hamilton & Inches (Edinburgh)
John Higgins (Sussex)
Payne & Son (Goldsmiths) Ltd (Tunbridge Wells)
Scottish Gallery (Edinburgh) 2 July – 31 July
Sheffield Assay Office
Styles Silver (Hungerford)
Urban Armour Ltd (Burnham Market, Norfolk)
William & Son (London)