Shaun Wins Young Designer Silversmith Award

Shaun Grace at work on his vases in the Ashford workshop of master-silversmith Steven

The Victoria & Albert Museum in London was the venue for the culmination of the Goldsmiths’ Company’s Young Designer Silversmith Award 2011. At a reception held on Tuesday evening, October 25, attended by the Prime Warden of the Goldsmiths’ Company, Hector Miller, himself a renowned silversmith, together with Rosemary Ransome Wallis Curator of the Collections at Goldsmiths’ Hall, a pair of stunning silver flower vases made by the winner of this year’s award, Shaun Grace (22), was presented to Mr Martin Roth, Director of the V&A Museum for the museum’s permanent collection.

Shaun Grace at a reception at the V & A with his award winning interacting silver vases on display behind.

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.

The design brief changes from year to year. On this occasion the students were asked to submit designs for a pair of complementing silver vessels that had to interact with each other as well as effectively displaying flowers of a particular species.

The standard of entries was extremely high but the judges were particularly impressed with Shaun’s entry, which was inspired by the strong architectural forms of the Sydney Opera House and designed specifically to compliment the strong flamboyant forms of the calla lily. Declared the winner, Shaun was subsequently given £4,000 towards the cost of translating his design into silver and the Goldsmiths’ Company arranged for him to do this in the workshop of leading silversmith Steven Ottewill, based in Ashford Kent.Once the winning design is made, the scheme decrees that it be presented to the appropriate major museum nearest the college for its collection of contemporary decorative arts. As Shaun Grace is a graduate of the University for the Creative Art at Rochester his piece was always destined to be presented to the V & A.

At the reception, Hector Miller gave a speech and said, “One of the Prime Warden’s privileges is to encounter at first hand, not just inspirational creative design in silver, but also remarkable technical craftsmanship. This is especially true of Shaun Grace, the 17th winner of this annual competition. Shaun had the fantastic opportunity of making his design for complimentary flower vases a reality under the watchful eye of master silversmith Steven Ottewill.”

It took Shaun six weeks in the workshop to create this difficult piece of hollowware. Flat sides are always difficult to produce. However, Shaun embraced the challenge and spent many hours soldering, burnishing, filing, and finally pumicing to create these truly technically difficult pieces.

The Prime Warden then thanked Steven, who was also present, for the guidance and support he had given Shaun during his time at the workshop, and especially for fine-tuning Shaun’s craft skills to produce such wonderful pieces.

The judges of the competition, past Prime Warden of the Goldsmiths’ Company and Chairman of the judges Martin Drury, together with Rod Kelly and Clive Burr both famous artist/silversmiths and Annamarie Stapleton, consultant to the Fine Arts Society in London were all present at the award ceremony to witness Shaun Grace receiving his prize the winner’s certificate for the Young Designer Silversmith Award 2011 and a cheque for £500.

Brian Hill, past Course Leader at the University for the Creative Arts at Rochester, was also presented with a commemorative silver plaque of the Goldsmiths’ Company’s coat of arms, designed and made by Keith Redfern and engraved by Stanley Reece. In his acceptance speech, Brian said how delighted he was that Shaun Grace had been guided in the making of his winning design by Steven Ottewill who had also graduated from Rochester some years before. The plaque will now be retained by Rochester for a year and this is the first time this university has been the custodian of this prestigious award.

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