Designs on Silver: Introduction

Introduction to the exhibition from Dr Dora Thornton

Our online exhibition examines the role of design drawings in the art of the contemporary silversmith. Explore the exhibition, and the stories behind the drawings, by clicking on the images.

Shown alongside the finished pieces which have been made from them, these designs take us to the heart of the creative process. A maker uses a drawing to feel their thinking. It is a way of exploring the world and translating a concept into silver.

“…Quite apart from me personally the design drawing went out of fashion after the First War with direct carving without drawings being the
in thing with Epstein & Picasso followed by all the art schools in theory – which explains the low creative standards with much modern work.”

— Louis Osman, in a letter to Peter Jenkins in 1988

All the pieces discussed here are from The Goldsmiths’ Company’s Collection. We support makers through acquisitions and commissions for the Collection which demonstrate the latest in creativity and craftsmanship in precious metals. Many of these are made through the annual Goldsmiths’ Fair. We now acquire drawings, models and videos as an integral part of our commissioning process. These record the design concept and making process as a key element in our understanding of these objects and how we can interpret them, now and in the future. We hope you will enjoy the exhibition.

‘Designs on Silver’ exhibition has been put together by the Goldsmiths’ Company curatorial team led by Dr Dora Thornton, Curator: 
Dr Frances Parton, Deputy Curator 
Manuela Holfert, Exhibition Designer 
Rebecca Ingram, Collections Assistant 
Charlie Spurrier, Silver Steward 

The curatorial team are grateful to all the makers and the following for their invaluable enthusiasm, help and support: 
Eleni Bide, Jocelyn Burton Estate, Hugh Curthoys, Arthur Drysdale, Rebecca Harvey, Ken Mannering, Lucy Morton and The Silver Society, Frances Noble, Adrian Sassoon, Tim Schroder, Harriet Scott, Matthew Burgess.  

Photography by Clarissa Bruce, Richard Valencia and Prudence Cuming Ltd. 

Every effort has been made to trace the copyright holders and obtain permission to reproduce the material in this exhibition.