Back in February I received a very exciting email -
Would you like the opportunity to make a silver beaker, to be used at gin tasting events and displayed at The Goldsmiths’ Centre over summer 2018? You are one of 25 makers who are being invited to take part in this commissioning project.
The Goldsmiths' Centre is commissioning the beakers to be displayed in a selling exhibition alongside the touring exhibition Made for the Table (13th July-31st August 2018), and used in gin-tasting events."
Of course I would like to!
The only criteria we had, aside from it being used for gin tasting, was that we all started off with the same shape and size silver beaker. As I'm used to creating my designs from concept to completion this presented me with a bit of a challenge. But that is my favourite part of commissions, being pushed outside of your comfort zone and being made to look into areas you wouldn't usually consider. I don't yet have skills such as chasing or engraving so I thought instead of focusing on what I *could* do, I would create a design I was happy with and if it was chosen to be made, I would enlist the help of professionals in those disciplines. Which frustrated me quite a bit in the beginning as I love to be in full control, but eventually I came to terms with it and started to enjoy the experience. A valuable lesson has been learnt - don't let my current skills hinder future designs!
My very first thoughts were along the lines of contrast (as with all my work) and some kind of repetitive design running around the base of the beaker, as repetition has featured strongly in previous designs too. I noted down my 'vision' as a starting point.
Next I set about research how gin is made, in particular the use of copper stills. I grabbed images of these from Pinterest and started to trace over them, seeing of any of the forms appealed. This is another technique I have used in the past, if an idea doesn't present itself I will trace various lines and forms until something starts to appear. A starting point.
These are some of the pages from my sketch book, showing how I explore different ideas. One really stood out for me, so I decided to develop it more.
I had initially wanted a black gold plating, but this isn't suitable for items with food use, but once I saw the gold sketch I preferred that anyway. Thankfully! I scanned this sketch and transposed it into Adobe Illustrator, that is were I create all my templates as I can insure lines are straight and repetition is exact. But I could never create the design straight into Illustrator, I need to work through with pen and paper first, and my line drawings are never precise enough so I enjoy a marriage of the two. I had a sudden brainwave to carry the design over on to the bottom of the beaker, which is now my favourite bit.
Now I had the design resolved I sent it off to Goldsmiths, and with all applications I make I tried to forget it existed. This is my way of not building my hopes up to avoid disappointment!
Hurrah, my design was chosen and I was sent a beaker. I spoke to a few different engravers before deciding to use Karen Wallace, who is apprentice to Malcolm Appleby so not only did I know she would be excellent but when we discussed the design on the phone she suggested little touches such as shading the cross over areas to add that little extra. I knew the beaker would be in safe hands after that initial phone call and I had gone from being hesitant and worried I would every find anyone, to calm and confident that my design was in the best hands and with someone who fully understood.
Receiving the silver beaker and checking the design against it, marking it up for height so Karen knew exactly where to engrave up to.
Once I received the beaker back from Karen I needed to mat the body then send off to be hallmakred.
Once I had the beaker back I blocked that out the main body surface to polish the Still parts up, in prep for the gilding. I wanted those nice and shiny, so they would contrast with the matt silver body of the beaker nicely. Duct tape and a scalpel, and lots of patience, was my friend that day.
I discussed the design the Steve Woods, the gilder, as initially I wanted a rose gold to replicate the copper colour of the stills. Steve advised that while that was achievable it was increasing the odds of some slight bleeding. So I went with the usual gold I have and I'm really pleased with it.
I also debated whether to gild the interior also, as is usual in many drink beakers, but it was suggested that a gilded interior means the eye is drawn to the interior first, rather than the exterior, and I wanted the exterior to get all the attention. Also, gin doesn't tarnish or discolor the silver like wine does, so its not necessary and that helped to make my descidion.