10,000 Hours: The Silversmith

Rauni Higson, chair of Contemporary British Silvermsiths, talks to us about mastering the precious metal

Rauni Higson in her Snowdonia-based workshop
Rauni Higson in her Snowdonia-based workshop

I was always a bit torn between art and science at school, but art won. I went to art college, but didn’t last long. I ended up working as a lab technician, took up jewellery as an evening class, and was instantly hooked on metalwork. I started making things to sell, and working with my teacher, but soon realised I had an awful lot to learn. I started my business straight after graduating, with help from the Prince’s Youth Business Trust, 19 years ago, in Snowdonia, where I seem to have taken root in the mountains.

I can honestly say every single day of silversmithing is a learning experience. It’s such a vast and complex set of skills. There are always multiple ways to approach a challenge; if you ask three silversmiths how they would do a particular thing, you’ll likely get three different answers. It’s a case of predicting what might happen, and figuring out the most effective way to get the job done, which is all about experience. If it looks like it was effortless, it has worked.

My work marries sculpture with function. I aim to create pieces that are striking enough to stand alone, but intended to be brought alive by use. I tend to do lots of flowing forms, which reference water, or growth patterns, like plants, seaweed or fungi. At the moment, I’m fascinated by rocks – especially cracks and fissures, which is all a lot more angular. I’m a climber, so it’s inevitable that getting up close to rock faces is bound to come out in my work, but it’s early days, I’m just experimenting with that.


It’s the most fascinating time in silversmithing, right now. The creativity of contemporary silversmiths, especially in the UK, is just astounding. Without the constraints of commerciality, it really is an artform, and the breadth of expression is extraordinary. The individuality of makers today is exceptional, and it’s a really exciting movement to be part of. The traditional craft is evolving. The challenge is to maintain the traditional skill base, which is still absolutely crucial for a broad creative palette.

Mastering the craft is an ongoing ambition. I have made a point of doing courses or work experience with a master silversmith at least every two years since graduating, which has been crucial. I love working with smiths who were apprentices aged 15 in big, busy, commercial workshops, as well as artist smiths with quirky individual approaches. It’s a really rich field.

Rauni Higson is part of the Idea to Object exhibition, curated by Corinne Julius, at the V&A, which runs until 2 July 2017

www.raunihigson.co.uk / silverspeaks.co.uk

Interview Cécile Fischer

Additional words Jack Morrison


Martino Gamper: No Ordinary Love

Italian designer Martino Gamper delves into his design process, and explains why his latest project brought 10 creatives including Max Lamb, to a pottery class in west London

Martino Gamper has made a name for himself in recent years for furniture design that is bold in form and unapologetic in its challenge of the status quo. In 2015, he proved his assertion that “there is no perfect chair” through a demanding project that saw him create ‘100 Chairs in 100 Days’, using scrap materials.

Opening during London Design Festival 2016, Gamper’s latest exhibition entitled ‘No Ordinary Love’ continues his rebellious nature and provokes the unwritten regulations of commercial design through a pottery class containing participants including Max Lamb, Gemma Holt, Bethan Wood and Faudet Harrison. Here, we chat to Gamper about the exhibition, his career, and why he believes “clay is a very social material”.

Left: Ali Bar Chair by Max Lamb Right: Duo Tone Duo by Martino Gamper  Photo credit - Damian Griffiths
Left: Ali Bar Chair by Max Lamb. Right: Duo Tone Duo by Martino Gamper. Photo credit – Damian Griffiths

You trained under Ron Arad whilst at the Royal College of Art. How has he influenced your own work and what are the key lessons he taught you?

Ron Arad was my longest professor, we met in Vienna at The Angewandte (University of Applied Arts Vienna) and later he taught me at the RCA. His style was to create a course with a great diversity of teachers and platforms – his key lessons were to play, try new things, not to give up to early, believe in yourself, and find your own voice.

Do you think that design should be created with the artisan in mind, or the artisan should adapt to create what the designer requires?

I had a very early start with crafts and artisans, because I had an apprenticeship at the age of 14 years old with a local cabinetmaker in my hometown in Italy. So from very early on, I was thinking with my hands. For me, the thinking and making need to be equal in the design progress. 

Faudet Harrison 'Transient Collection'  Photo credit – Damian Griffiths
Faudet Harrison ‘Transient Collection’
Photo credit – Damian Griffiths

How important is the customer in the process of design?

The customer is a fictional character: he or she doesn’t take part. Somehow, I haven’t got an image of my ideal client. But when I work on private commissions, I like to include the client in the process.

How can design act as a tool to bring people together?

Design does not always manage to bring people together – that would be amazing. Some design, however, is very egocentric and singular, but the mix between food and design can help. 

Collection of ceramic pieces from 'No Ordinary Love'. Photo credit – Damian Griffiths
Collection of ceramic pieces from ‘No Ordinary Love’
Photo credit – Damian Griffiths

How did you come up with the concept for ‘No Ordinary Love’?

I like to bring people together and to share experiences, in this case it’s to work with friends on a new show where we can play and have fun together while designing and making new work. 

Why did you decide to bring the designers together in a pottery studio?

Clay is a very social material, it’s a very fast and slow material at the same time. It doesn’t need many tools and can be worked very spontaneously. I wanted to share some time with my friends in a space while making work.

What’s next for you?

The Vienna Design Week, where I’m working on a glass project with the great Viennese Glass Manufacture Lobmeyr. Then I have a show in Rome at the Quadriennale, and then we’ll see…

No Ordinary Love is on display from 17 September 2016 – 20 Jan 2017 Sept at SEE••DS, Brompton Design District