I was privileged to be invited to the Hand Engravers Association’s Symposium, a 5 day event at master engraver Malcolm Appleby’s workshops in Scotland earlier in June. This was the second time that I attended and this year there was an increased focus on international participation. On this occasion I helped artist and silversmith Miriam Hanid plan and film some of the action and interview many of the participants. View her informative video about an earlier gathering at Malcolm’s, the Master Craftsman Internship here and look out for the fresh footage in due course. In the meantime here are some of my mobile snaps of the 2017 HEA Symposium.
I arrived just in time for the Open Day which is an opportunity for visitors from museums, galleries, high end retail stores, collectors and other interested parties to view, purchase and commission work direct from silversmiths and other makers. A display featuring pieces by all the artists and craftspeople in attendance was set out in a gallery space. Vincent Crowley, a talented gun engraver, had for fairly obvious reasons been unable to bring any current work with him but we borrowed one of Malcolm’s old rifles and photographed (and filmed) Vincent next to a fabulous Morgan, parked outside by one of the guests.
Silversmiths and hand engravers including Miriam Hanid, Bryony Knox, Takuya Kamiyama, Nan Nan Liu, Angus McFadyen, Elsa Tierney, Jane Short – an enameller of international repute – and medal maker Kerstin Östberg (as well as many others!) each had their own work space in the studio and were busy with one or more of their current projects. This was a chance for Open Day visitors to see them at work and to find out more about the different processes involved. There were also demonstrations on other days giving attendees an opportunity to learn new skills or enhance existing ones whilst providing a lively creative interchange. The overall atmosphere was collaborative and energising interspersed with some prize moments as various ‘awards’ were handed over in inimitable Appleby style.
Outside, was Philippa Swann – Malcolm’s wife, collaborator, and an accomplished artist in her own right – and Malcolm’s extensive garden, brimful of natural inspiration. Flowers, trees, fruit bushes and grasses, mostly chosen for their native and aesthetic value are planted in abundance and feature heavily in Malcolm’s work. Silver the cat weaved its way in and out of the studio while chickens and a handsome cockerel presided over the areas surrounding the house, joining in inquisitively with our photo shoot. A series of meandering walks through the garden and up into the fields provided us all with meditative breaks from the creative activity in the workshop.
The Hand Engravers Association, which organises the Symposium in collaboration with Malcolm every 2 years, was formed to champion and preserve the skills of this specialist craft and its practitioners. Their focus is on hand engraving on metal as well as on precious and semi-precious stones. The HEA’s remit extends to education and training; stimulation and new ideas; and representation. They run workshops throughout the year and are well worth joining for those interested in every aspect of hand engraving.
Without such organisations traditional crafts like hand engraving are in danger of disappearing altogether. A large part of their activity lies in connecting aspiring young engravers with experienced craftspeople who are more than generous about passing their skills on to the next generation. The Symposium is just one of many projects that provides this kind of forum with the added benefit of visiting artists from other countries where crafts are sometimes more highly valued than in the UK. As highlighted in a Guardian article in 2014 the waning of craft subjects in schools will eventually have a profound effect on our society, not just in relation to the opportunities afforded to the young, but also on the UK economy which has traditionally benefited from a massive contribution from the creative industries. You might be interested in reading an earlier post about crafts in the UK to find out why working and creating with one’s hands, whatever field you are in, is so crucial.
You might also be interested in Malcolm Appleby’s forthcoming Silversmiths’ Symposium which takes place in late August. And if you fancy an oh-so-topical t-shirt, scripted by him with the words ‘Product of More Than One Country’, get in touch. They cost £27 including delivery.
Contact the HEA to join and support this vital organisation.
© Words and Images: Emma Boden, 2017