Starting as a silversmith

 16 December 2011

Silversmith Victoria Kershaw talks about the scheme that helped her set up a studio after graduating, and how she combines silver with unusual materials like concrete and rubber.

"I think being a silversmith at the moment is really good. It seems to have a real buzz at the moment, especially in Sheffield. But also Birmingham and London and Edinburgh, all of those cities that have Assay Offices.

"There's lots of schemes for lots of people to go on, and lots of support, and lots of exhibitions that are happening. So it's got a real buzz about it at the moment."

Getting into a silversmith career

"I first got into silversmithing through doing a Bachelor of Design degree in Liverpool. The degree enabled me to work with four different materials: textiles, metals, ceramics and wood. In the final year I specialised in silver, and that's when I got a real passion for working with the material.

"To get into silversmithing, do quite a bit of research, find the right degree course, and then work hard."

"After I finished my MA in London, I was worried about how much it would cost to set up a workshop on my own, with all the equipment I'd need as a silversmith.

"So I saw this course in Sheffield which was a starter studio programme for graduates that were just coming out of silversmithing. It was a fully equipped workshop, free assay marking at the Sheffield Assay Office.

"You also had mentor support and business support. This was for two years, so it was an absolutely fantastic scheme to go on after graduating from my MA."

Getting creative with silver

"The type of tableware that I produce is working with silver, but then I also work with other materials like rubber and concrete.

"I quite like to challenge people's preconceived ideas of materials, and silver already comes with quite a high value, whereas concrete can be seen as quite cheap. But when you're working with them in a different way or put them together, you get a totally new style of work.

"Inspiration for my work can come through derelict sites where you find things like concrete and run-down areas, and then working with them in a different way to make them more precious.

"The piece that I designed for the exhibition at Chatsworth, I had the glass in my workshop for a number of weeks while thinking about what I might do with it. I was also thinking about what people might drink out of that glass, and everyday lives, and how we grab coffees on the go.

"So I thought I'd bring that humour into my piece and make a silver corrugated card sleeve to go over the cup so it's like a silver and glass coffee to go."

Help and advice for silversmiths

"One of the things that's great about Sheffield is the silversmiths that have been working there so many years. Any technical problems that you may have, they're more than willing to talk to you, and want to encourage you and see how you're getting on.

"I like to challenge preconceived ideas of materials: silver comes with a high value, concrete can be seen as cheap." 

"Apart from the other silversmiths, there's a number of other people working in the same area, like spinners and engravers and polishers and platers. So you never have to go far away to get some help with a piece.

"My advice to someone who wants to get into silversmithing would be to do quite a bit of research, find the right degree course for them, and then work hard. It is actually all about working hard. If you're being self-employed, it's always going to be hard work."

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