When I see work which excites and interests me at an exhibition or fair, or in a gallery, it always has something about it which sparks my imagination, making me want to understand the journey which the artist and object have taken – from the germination and development of an idea, and the materials and techniques used, to the creation of the finished piece.
I suppose being a designer and maker, this is natural to me, and I thought it might be nice to give a small insight into what inspires my own work and the processes behind it. I’ll start by outlining the process of designing, making, and also describe some of the themes and ideas within my work.
I collect initial design material from a wide range of sources, sketching and taking photographs all the time to build a visual library, studying images, objects, landscapes and places which contain inspiration, or even just give a feeling; an aesthetic which resonates.
It doesn’t need to look like my work at all, just something which triggers an idea… It could be a piece of writing, or just objects or structures which ‘talk’ to each other. I use my photography, sketching and print making to explore initial ideas for form and surface texture. I initially started to use abstract printing as a part of the design process, to generate shapes and linear forms, but the printing process that I was using also produced really interesting textures.
I had taken lots of photographs of natural and man-made surfaces, and was fascinated by the effects of light & shadow. With this in mind, I began to experiment with creating textures which could be transferred onto the metal by using the prints as resist for etching.
These are examples of some of the etched textures on finished pieces. I’ve kept them quite subtle, so that they don’t interfere with the overall form. I like the effect of random pattern with geometry of the folded lines.
I make a large number of tests and models in card/ paper when developing new designs. I use these to experiment with scale and to look at different groupings of pieces and how they interrelate.
I also use models to just test folds to get an idea of how the sheet will behave, what direction it move in and what stresses will be created. Often, a small fold or cut can affect the form and balance of the whole piece much more than expected.
I like to play with this, and use warping and twisting, contrasted by crisp fold lines, and soft, curved surfaces. I have chosen to use traditional and relatively basic techniques for scoring and folding sheet metal, which are traditionally used by box makers. I use various simple scoring tools, most of them I made myself, using machine steel or graver bits.
The head of each tool is ground to a slightly different angle, which will correspond to the acuteness or depth of the fold required.
The skill lies in knowing how the sheet metal will respond when folded in different directions and on different planes, under varying tensions. I enjoy developing designs which can be made from a single piece of silver. The challenge of starting with a totally flat, featureless sheet and transforming it into an original new from is really exciting to me.
I spend a lot of time figuring out how pieces will relate to each other, and creating pairings and groupings of complimentary forms. I want my pieces to have a strong overall aesthetic, so that they can be immediately recognised as mine, but I also want to introduce variations in scale, texture and colour.
In the way that I compose my pieces, so that they interact together, I am trying to bring ‘life’ and animation to the objects. This can also be highlighted with diagonal, bisecting folds, and irregular rims and bases, as well as by creating the illusion of thinness or narrowness in a piece. There is also the appearance of fragility, and delicacy, with the white edges of the unpolished silver sheet on display, and the way in which the vessels are folded almost like paper.
Another important aspect of my work is the play of light and shadow on the silver, which is a particularly beautiful material, and the folds combined with textured surfaces really emphasise its reflective qualities, and its ability to interact with its surrounding environment. It has the ability to totally change its character, and colour, depending on how it is lit, and where it is placed in a room.
I feel that there is something very instinctive about making a vessel. They are an archaic or primal form, and there is a universal preoccupation in art, sculpture and rituals with vessels, and with containment as a tool for the communication of abstract ideas and meanings. This means vessels have a resonance beyond just being a functional item and I hope that they work as sculptural pieces as well.
People seem attracted to vessel forms because there is that possibility for interaction with them, whether by literally placing something inside them, or by simply knowing that there is a void which could be filled. You could say the same about an empty room and the desire to fill it with human presence through the placing of treasured objects and possessions.