Scarlet artist Abigail Brown is one of a growing number of makers bringing the ancient art of silversmithing up to date. Next time you’re in London, pop along to the Victoria & Albert Museum where Her latest work, Boscawen-Un, inspired by the Cornish landscape, is on show at a year-long exhibition.
The exhibition, says curator Corinne Julius, celebrates the creative stages of silversmithing, and traces how a work in silver is made, from inspiration, through sketches, models, material experimentation and construction processes, to the final piece.
“I wanted to show the very different ways that contemporary silversmiths use this magical material,” says Julious, “and to encourage visitors to understand how silversmiths use a combination of head, heart and hands to create their designs.”
Abigail Brown’s piece is one of just 18 works selected for the exhibition. Boscawen-Un is a monolith-like vessel covered lichen inspired by Cornwall’s ancient monuments, in particular the stone circle ‘Boscawen-Un’, near her studio in Penwith, South West Cornwall. The name translates, somewhat expansively, as ‘the pasture of the farmstead at the elderberry tree’.
Brown visited the circle several times to observe, contemplate and document it through photography. She studied the lichen, sketched vessel shapes that evoked the monolithic form of the stones, then worked directly in silver. Similarly, she worked directly in the metal, to create the ‘lichen’ forms, using numerous techniques and piercing patterns before settling on the final outcome. She made several test pieces to investigate the colour for the enamel.
The vessel was hand raised, planished and then textured using a variety of hammers – and even a rock from the site in Penwith. The lichen was pierced, hammered, reticulated and fused, before the application and firing of the vitreous enamel. These elements were then riveted to the body of the vessel.