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Kate Earlam Wins the 2012 Young Designer Silversmith Award

Kate Earlam hand engraving her silver fruit vessel.

Kate Earlam (26) was formally recognised as the winner of the Goldsmiths’ Company’s Young Designer Silversmith Award at a ceremony at the National Museums Scotland on Thursday November 1.

During the ceremony Kate’s award winning piece, a stunning silver fruit dish was presented to Dr Gordon Rintoul, Director of National Museums Scotland by the Prime Warden of the Goldsmiths’ Company, Lord Sutherland.

This prestigious competition organised by the Goldsmiths’ Company, focuses on young silversmithing students at university in Britain today and is open to any student under 30 on a BA or Master’s degree course.

The Award scheme was started in 1994 as an initiative to encourage students to show their artistic individuality in silver and to give them the opportunity to perfect dexterity of craftsmanship under the guidance of a master silversmith.

This year the designated instructing silversmith was Clive Burr. Kate therefore had the fantastic experience of working with Clive and his team Andrew Briggs, Paul Savage and Junko Adachi, in his workshop in the new Goldsmiths’ Centre in London’s Clerkenwell.

Kate, who comes from Ellesmere Port in Cheshire, studied silversmithing at Liverpool Hope University and more recently completed a post-graduate course at Bishopsland. She was chosen as winner of this year’s Young Designer Silversmith Award having submitted a design for a vessel to display fruit.

The design brief for the award changes from year to year and on this occasion the brief read: “With supermarkets now stocking a large variety of exotic fruits as well as many common varieties, design a piece of silver (with a least one dimension to be in excess of 30cm) that will imaginatively display or present one fruit or a group of fruits as a centrepiece on a table. As many of the varieties of fruit have interesting shapes, textures and forms these might be reflected in the final design of the piece of silver. The form of the silver should interact with the lines and shapes of the fruit and be able to display them for all of their beauty.”

Kate’s original inspiration for her piece came from grapes. “I started by looking at grapevines and recreating the natural context in my own style. Originally the design was going to have chased detail, however whilst I was at Bishopsland I was lucky enough to have a masterclass with virtuoso engraver, Malcolm Appleby in his workshop in Scotland for a week. I totally fell in love with engraving.” Her finished piece is consequently exquisitely and competently engraved with fluid lines of surface decoration.

Under the watchful eye of master silversmith Clive Burr, Kate was able to turn her design into a stunning silver vessel. She said: “I feel so privileged to have been able to work with Clive Burr and his team of silversmiths. To see the standard of the work they produce has been extremely inspirational and has certainly impacted on my own skills and understanding.

Not only did I get a lot of advice and help from Clive, but being based in the new Goldsmiths’ Centre made it possible for me to be assisted by other experts in their field. For example James Neville and Samantha Marsden were on hand to help with any engraving advice and also I was able witness the polishing process in the workshop of Reginald Elliot and Alan Fitzpatrick.”

Kate Earlam with master silversmith Clive Burr and Rosemary Ransome Wallis, Curator of Collections at Goldsmiths’ Hall.

Kate Earlam with master silversmith Clive Burr and Rosemary Ransome Wallis, Curator of Collections at Goldsmiths’ Hall.[/caption]

Clive Burr was present at the ceremony in Edinburgh as was another of the country’s leading silversmiths, Rod Kelly. Having been one of the original judges who selected Kate’s design as the winner Rod said: “It is a beautiful design with contrasting lines and contours, it sits majestically and is full of life. Kate is a very talented young designer and has totally fulfilled the brief set by the Goldsmiths’ competition judges.”

Rosemary Ransome Wallis, Curator of Collections at Goldsmiths’ Hall, and the driving force behind the Award added: “Kate’s fruit vessel is quite ethereal – beautifully and effortlessly composed, like two fallen autumn leaves, their surfaces hand-engraved with sweeping lines which echo their shape. Kate is definitely one to watch!”

2012 has been quite a year for Kate – not only did she win the Goldsmiths’ Company Young Designer Silversmith Award but she was invited by the Company to attend Her Majesty The Queen’s Jubilee Livery Luncheon at the Banqueting Hall in Whitehall.

“I feel so lucky!” she said. “What with the support of all my teachers and mentors, winning the award and the very warm welcome I have received from the industry I have the confidence to take my career as a silversmith further and hope to set up my own workshop in London.”


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