This show certainly lived up to its name, combining contemporary silverware and furniture in a manner that brought both alive and, more importantly, into the context of one’s home or office.
As Brett Payne, one of the exhibitors who also helped devise the layout for Inspired said at the opening on Tuesday: “The connection is immediate. The craftsmanship, the design and the usage are all in evidence.” The fundamental idea was to get precious objects out of the glass cabinet and, quite literally, onto the table, with displays of silver gracing a variety of hand-made pieces of furniture. The quality of craftsmanship throughout was outstanding.
Inspired is part of British Silver Week‘s Festival of Silver, organised by Gordon Hamme with a pair of exhibitions taking place in London and RHS Wisley in Surrey later this month. The London show, which ran from last Tuesday to Saturday at the Goldsmiths’ Centre in Clerkenwell, featured 60 silversmiths and 21 furniture designers.
Among the furniture designs that we particularly admired Daniel Lacey‘s work stood out – pared down contemporary lines using native woods including English cherry and oak, sleek leather lined drawers and quirky detailing, all perfectly executed. Shown here Piefl bedside cabinets, designed to stand alone as his and hers or together, £2450 for the pair; and Barow (the code name for a barn owl, reflecting Daniel’s support of the Langholm Moorlands educational project), an ingenious and elegant freestanding shelf.
A complete contrast in style, we also admired Cimitree‘s exquisite Sakura Drinks Cabinet, a fine balance of form and function and a stunning signature piece selling at £60,000. Cimitree’s work combines strong lines and richly coloured woods with gorgeous ornamental panels – this piece highlights the skills of a small team of master craftsmen, each evidently excelling in their own field. Inspired by the Orient, Sakura is made from English walnut and burr walnut, cherry blossom veneer marquetry in blue birdseye maple detailed with hammered silver drinks coasters. Oh for the space to house it and a butler to serve the cocktails!
Sarah Kay‘s Blue Stripe Cabinet, a sideboard in fumed oak with tambour doors and three drawers in elm with leather lining offered a subtle yet utterly sophisticated interplay between contrasting woods, with bold colour highlights waiting to be uncovered as the piece opened. Stylish and practical, a contemporary classic which would sit equally well in home or office – £6,780. We were interested to note that the piece was designed by Sarah and made by Daniel Lacey.
Multi-talented designer Nick Allen‘s Bobble Mirror, created in collaboration with his wife Sarah, a glass artist, also caught our eye – based on an aquatic theme and adorned with 1000 hand-blown crystal pieces (shown below) – a crisply contemporary design with Rococo overtones reflected in the extraordinary detailing in the frame. Nick also had furniture pieces in the show.
Many of the silversmiths who exhibited in London will go on to show their work in Wisley, with the addition of jewellery. Prices for decorative objects at Inspired started at a reasonable £150, given the materials and the bespoke nature of the work. Our favourite artists included Brett Payne (candlesticks top), who produces sculptural handmade hot-forged silver pieces from his workshop in Sheffield, erstwhile home of the British silversmithing industry.
We also loved Wally Gilbert‘s strikingly bold and ornamental Art Deco inspired pieces including the Topaz Vase below, one of the few items on display featuring gemstones. An equally stunning pair of chased silver candlesticks are visible in the background.
Kate Earlam won a 1st prize in the Malcolm Appleby awards for some the pieces she had on display. Her covetable pair of Tribute Tots (below) in hand engraved silver are finished in red and yellow gold gilt on the inside (one of each) and would make an exceptionally precious wedding present – £1150 each.
In a completely different vein Juliette Bigley‘s Schnapps Set (below) challenges the usual concepts surrounding the shape and feel of drinking vessels. Her pieces stretch the border between the practical and the sculptural in an intriguing and thought-provoking way.
Also twisting preconceptions and the dynamics of form Rebecca Hill‘s ingenious and refined interlocking bowls (below), one of her very first pieces in fact, which received a special commendation by Malcolm Appleby at the show opening.
We loved Sophie Botsis‘ combined use of wood and silver in a series of practical and elegant items including bowls, spoons and these beautiful chopsticks (£150), displayed here on one of Waywood’s pair of console tables in maple and walnut . She was awarded a 2nd Prize for her engraved work including two fine trinket boxes, one of which is shown below.
Malcolm Appleby, renowned foremost as an engraver, was present at the show to award prizes and also had some pieces on display, one of which had been awarded a Silver Society Prize. Shown here an exquisite bowl showcasing his innate feel for form, design and surface pattern – £3200.
Malcolm Appleby’s annual awards for engraving on 3D objects in silver are chosen on the basis of both creative innovation and skill.
Entrance to The Festival of Silver exhibition was free offering a great opportunity to view new designs, meet some of the artists and craftspeople involved and have the option to either buy from the show or commission work direct from the maker. Overall Inspired displayed a fantastic mix of traditional craftsmanship and innovative styling, answering a growing demand for hand-made and bespoke pieces.
The RHS Wisley show, which is ticketed runs from 30 April to 5 May as part of the bi-annual Craft and Design Fair. Find out more here.
© Text: Emma Boden
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