The Mighty Metalsmith
Decorative and Domestic Metal and Silverware

23th May - 7th July 2013

Craft Arts International review of The Mighty Metalsmith
Craft Arts International, No 88, 2013
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Craft Arts International
No88, 2013

THE MIGHTY METALSMITH
Decorative and Domestic Metal and Silverware
Kath Libbert Jewellery Gallery, Salts Mill, Saltaire, 23 May - 7 July, 2013


'Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.' These words of William Morris are as relevant today as when he wrote them in his lecture of 1880, "The Beauty of life". He hoped for a return to craftsmanship, the maker being the designer and creator in a world of industrialisation and mechanisation. These hopes are being realised in today's thriving studio craft scene, with independent designer/makers finding there is an emerging market for their highly individual, beautifully crafted products.

"The Mighty Metalsmith" has been curated around this ideology, with 13 of the finest UK-based metal and silversmiths being featured in an exhibition which will champion both the domestic and decorative aspects of their craft. To emphasise this, the gallery will have a model for the contemporary silverware collector's home, the main feature being a dressed table, enabling visitors to engage with the works in a manner often unseen in a formal gallery setting. The cutlery, vessels, beakers, pots and bowls on display will not just be ornaments destined to sit on a shelf as objects of admiration. Instead they will be pieces to be used and cherished and evolve into the antiques and treasured heirlooms of the future.

The exhibition will also focus on
the thoughts and processes which each metalsmith goes through before and during the making of a piece. The work of Stuart Cairns, for example, questions the ideas of domesticity and function by playing with unusual materials and forms, reflecting our ancient history as hunter gatherers and the origins of craft as we know it today. He uses gathered materials and natural fibres to produce a series of work exploring a particular part of the dining experience, ladles and vessels being two elements he has often revisited. Cairns will show his pieces alongside selected pages from his sketchbook, illustrating the daily gathering of found objects and their morphing into the sensitive sculptural forms that make up his collection.

Chien-Wei Chang also explores a theme which has long been associated with human kind, that of representing cultural history and community in domestic and decorative crafts. He is influenced by the utensils of ancient Taiwanese society and in particular the symbolism
of bamboo, which inspires his exquisitely elegant containers.
In employing these forms Chang
engages with issues of Far Eastern culture, particularly resonant to him since moving to London from his homeland.

Craft as a social commentary is what interests Sheffield-based Rebecca Joselyn. Her "Packaging" series of quirky pieces explores the culture of convenience and "throwaway" in our society - for example, her gilded silver milk jug mimics a crushed tin can and her salt and pepper pots are inspired by ring pulls! Such common items become "art", something to treasure and take care of but yet still retain the exact form of the thing which was initially thrown away.

The wild beauty of her home in Snowdonia is what inspires Rauni Higson who makes rippling silver vessels and spoons. The growth patterns of plants and fungi, shells and corals all emerge from the intricate yet unpredictable nature of the folding and hammering techniques she employs, reflecting the "imperfect" symmetry of the natural world.

Contrasting the natural with the built environment, Birmingham based Marcus Steel's inspiration stems from his love of ancient and modern architecture. His pieces are complex in structure but simple and uncluttered in their form. Made from sheet metal and patinated to add intensity, richness and depth to the surfaces suggestive of age and history, these vessels hint at function, are tactile and inviting, contemplative pieces that need to be handled.
The other Mighty Metalsmiths featured in the exhibition are: Adi Toch, Jenifer Wall, Adrian Hope, Sally Cox, Marion Kane, Jacqueline Scholes, Chris Philipson and Abigail Brown.

Based since 1996 in Salts Mill, home to the world's largest collection of art by David Hockney, the Kath Libbert Jewellery Gallery has always been a place to visit for those wishing to commission a special piece of jewellery; and now
the gallery is taking this knowledge and experience into the field of contemporary silverware to encourage the commissioning of fine objects for the home. The 13 Mighty Metalsmiths in this show will all take commissions - a great opportunity to become personally involved in the creation of a treasured piece that can be passed down the generations for years to come. There will also be a special Collectors' Event where silversmith Rauni Higson and Crafts Council Patron and collector Jacqueline Gestetner will be talking about commissioning contemporary silverware from both the maker's and customer's perspective.

Kath Libbert Jewellery Gallery, Salts Mill, Saltaire, Bradford BD18 3LA. Tel/Fax 01274 599790. For directions see About Us
Open Monday - Friday 10am - 5.30pm. Weekends 10am - 6pm. Email:info@kathlibbertjewellery.co.uk