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Strange how life works out. I never started out determined to be a silversmith and jeweller anymore than I intended to make it my life's work. Some people I have met had told me they knew exactly what they wanted to be when they were 5 years old! Or they always wanted to be wealthy and from an early age were selling to friends and family. Others have followed their parent's advice and got a good 'trade', so they always had something to fall back on. Then there are those that didn't have a choice and no matter how skilled or talented were forced by circumstances to be wage slaves.
I myself never knew what I wanted to be. After school and further education, the general direction for a lad from Torpoint was the dockyard. A thought that filled me with dread as I was far too shy and sensitive to survive in that environment. It was my father who suggested art school - "you've always been good at art". True I thought - I've won no end of prizes at school, and I do like making things. So I applied to Plymouth College of Art & Design. Alexander McKenzie reviewed my portfolio of drawings, paintings and objects I had created. "Well, I'm not sure, but I think you have something. Come and work on the Foundation course and we'll see if you progress".
The Foundation Course covered various aspects of art and design. There was the drawing - still life and life drawing, painting, sculpting, etching, screen printing, photography, textiles, graphic design and printing, the crafts sectors - somewhat looked down on by the fine artists - ceramics and jewellery and silversmithing. I liked drawing, and my teachers said I had good sense of form and representing that in two dimensions. Painting, however, was not my scene and I was not that good with colour. Given a chance I much prefer three-dimensions - sculpting and ceramics - in fact, I really enjoyed ceramics. So how come I ended up being a Silversmith? Well, the SouthWest, and Cornwall in particular, in the early 70s was rife with potters. Not many silversmiths - certainly not any that combined sculpture with craft. And I was about to change all that.
A year on and I had been accepted on the BA(Hons) degree in 3-Dimensional Design specialising in Silversmithing & Jewellery at Loughborough College of Art & Design. In the first year at Lobo (as I called it) all the students were encouraged to try out the other disciplines on offer - not just to make sure you'd picked the right one but as a chance to see what else was possible. The three years at Lobo were a learning experience; a chance to explore, to fail and learn, to succeed and learn, to experiment. The Head of the Silversmithing Department was Keith Smith and the one most important thing he ever said to me was "never design what you know how to make". The concept being that you kept pushing designs forward to explore new concepts. And you were not bound by what you know. So many craftspersons I have met throughout my life have said "I don't know how to make that so how can I design it?" And when I went to Denmark after my degree I was told that in order to be a silversmith designer in Denmark you had to first become a master craftsman so you knew how to make anything and everything. But, and its a big but - who have been some of Denmarks best designers in the 60s and 70s? Architects, Sculptors, Fine Artists - people who knew nothing of how to make silverware. Never be bound by what is thought to possible. If it aint broke then break it. This is innovation.
Three years on and my degree show featured silverware and no jewellery. Bowls, a handleless jug, sculptured vases, decanters, objet d'art and a wall of drawings complete with tea and coffee stains, design ideas on old cigarette packets, doodles on menus and scraps of paper. Did I mention I was very anti-authority when at Art College? Unfortunately, I wasn't very good at Art History and consequently, my grades were not good enough to get me into the RCA not that I wanted to persue that route anyway. I wanted to travel and work in the real world and start my own business.
In 1976 I started my own business and over the following years rose to be recognised as a silversmithing mastercraftsperson, exhibiting in most of the best galleries in the UK, with work in private collections in Europe and the States. I was proud to take part in the Hallmark Silver Selection touring exhibitions organised by the Goldsmith's Company in the UK and the US. My CV gives a glimpse of the exhibitions I took part in.
However, in 2015 I decided to downsize and sold my home and workshops in Cornwall and moved to Somerset. I had intended to continue with silversmithing and jewellery making, albeit using modern technology to design pieces using CAD and then having the pieces produced using wax 3-D printing and casting. But I found the processes robbed me of my freedom, restricted me, even controlled me. I have spent the last three years exploring other creative methods from wood carving to ceramics to modelling clays to concrete - yes concrete. I like concrete. Concrete is a much maligned medium. Watch this space........
2013 Ruby Anniversary Celebration Exhibition, Cornwall Crafts Association, Trelowarren (Best in Show)
2009 British Silver Week, Payne & Sons, Oxford & B. Silverman, London
2008 British Silver Week, Hamilton & Inches, Edinburgh & London
2006 British Designers, The Stone Gallery, Burford
2000 Christmas Show, Hugo Barclay, Brighton
1992 Form & Function, New Ashgate Gallery, Farnham
1992 Where Are They Now? Cornwall Crafts Association, Trelowarren, Cornwall
1990 Agatha Christie Centenary Celebration, Dartington Cider Press, Totnes
1989 Hallmark Silver Selection Touring Exhibition of UK, Goldsmiths' Hall
1988 The Alternative Bouquet, Dartington Cider Press, Devon (Best in show design)
1987 Contemporary Sculpture, Outpost Sculpture, St Buryan, Penzance, Cornwall
1986 Crafts for Everyday, Falmouth Art Gallery, Cornwall
1985 Miscellany, Mid Cornwall Gallery, Biscovey, Par, Cornwall
1984 British Fortnight, Bullocks Wilshire, Los Angeles, USA, organised by Goldsmiths’ Hall
1983 3 + 3, Mid Cornwall Gallery, Biscovey, Par, Cornwall
1983 Prints & Precious Pieces, Dartington Cider Press, Totnes, Devon
1983 Fresh for Summer, Hugo Barclay, Brighton
1982 Chess by Craftsmen, Windjammer Crafts, Salcombe, Devon
1981 Crafty Boxes, Dartington Cider Press, Totnes, Devon
1981 Inter-Celtic Festival, Brittany, France
1981 Spring Exhibition, Windjammer Crafts, Salcombe, Devon
1980 Spoons & Ladles, Oxford Gallery, Oxford
1979 Summer Show, New Ashgate Gallery, Farnham
1978 British Crafts Awards, Somerset House, London
1977 Infinite Riches, Exeter Civic Society, St Pancras Church, Exeter, Devon
Other Retail Outlets/Exhibitions include/have included:
(in Alphabetical Order)
Abbot Hall, Kendal; Alexander Gallery, Brighton; Ash Barn, Stroud (Hampshire); Best of British, Windsor; Broughton Crafts, Stockbridge; Chelsea Crafts Fair, London; Chestnut Gallery, Bourton on the Water; Country Craftsman, Romsey; Craftsman’s Shop, Mevagissey; Devon Guild of Craftsmen, Totnes; Electrum, London; Exhibit A, Wallingford; Gallery 50, Weybridge; Innate Harmony, London; Integlio, London; Lowen Gallery, Stoke on Trent; Old Studio Gallery, Winchcombe; Primavera, Cambridge; Warwick Gallery, Warwick; Wharfside Crafts, Devices; Whiterooms.org, Sheraton Park Lane & China Garden Hotels, London; Whittox Gallery, Frome.