Alistair McCallum (born 1953)

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Mokume Gane bowl of copper and gilding metal, hand-raised, designed and made by Alistair McCallum. Height 9.5 cm.

Alistair McCallum has spent 40 years experimenting with the ancient Japanese technique of Mokume Gane, producing a distinctive body of work remarkable for its craftsmanship as well as the intricately patterned surfaces he achieves. McCallum discovered the technique in the 1970s at a time when it was practiced by very few British silversmiths, encouraging him to develop his own version of the process; “I wished to innovate rather than emulate traditional Japanese work.”

Translated into English, the term ‘Mokume Gane’ means ‘eye of the wood metal’, which describes the traditional pattern produced in Japan. He uses anything from five to over one hundred different layers of metal, allowing him to create patterns of great variety and sophistication. The metals are soldered together into a sandwich, which is rolled into sheet; McCallum then breaks through the top layer to expose the contrasting colours of the layers beneath. Once the pattern has been created, the sheet is milled ready to be worked. The form, however, is as significant as the patterned surface; “I have always had in interest in colour and contrast and this has always played a central role in my work …I strongly believe that the technique is only part of the design process and that the relationship of function, pattern and form needs to be understood and work together to achieve a successful piece.”