Church Communion Tray Commission
In October 2019 the silver communion tray pictured above was dedicated to First Presbyterian Church in Aiken, SC. The entire process from designing it to making it to the dedication was a great experience I so enjoyed! This Blog post highlights this very special commission project for a church my family has been members of for four generations.
The church contacted me in the spring of 2019 and asked if I could make a custom, silver communion tray for them. The current tray they were using was not the right size or shape for the communion bread loaf, so they needed a more appropriate, oval shaped tray. During the communion ceremony the church also uses a silver chalice and flagon, or pitcher, both shown above, as well as small round silver bread trays to pass the bread throughout the congregation. All contributed to the design elements incorporated into the tray.
I worked very closely with the church’s committee on the design and met with them to discuss the project in depth and look at the existing church silver together. One extremely important item was the size and shape of the bread, because it would determine those elements of the tray. I did several rounds of drawings with numerous options for them to choose from. The existing silver pieces were so gorgeous they provided a lot of beautiful design inspiration!
The drawing above was the final rendering of the top view. I also provided other renderings of additional angles of the tray and all were drawn to scale of the actual object.
The chalice and some of the small, round bread trays have a bead rim in their design, so that element influenced the bead rim on the tray. Both the chalice and the flagon have very curved, flared shapes as part of their surface design that include on the chalice a chased floral pattern and on the flagon around the spout, so the tray handle design is a combination of those two motifs. The tray plate has a very slight curve, so when seen from the side angle it looks like angel wings lifting up. The dimensions of the tray plate were based on the size of the bread loaf used for communion.
The chalice and flagon both have an interesting past and during the Civil War they were hidden from the Union soldiers in a cistern. During both the Revolutionary War and Civil War, silver was frequently plundered from churches and private residences. Now it is not uncommon for historic silver pieces from the American South to show up in auctions in the American Northeast and England.
The chalice was made by Rogers Brothers Manufacturing in Hartford, CT between the dates of 1853-1861 and has the date 1856 hand engraved on the front of it. The flagon was made by Reed & Barton in Taunton, Massachusetts with the date unknown. Reed & Barton was founded in 1824 by silversmiths Henry Reed and Charles Barton, so we know if was made after 1824. I am still researching what the numbers stamped on the bottom mean and likely they hold the key to the date it was made.
Once the design was finalized and agreed upon, I created the tray out of sterling silver sheet and wire. It was an extremely challenging piece to make! The dimensions are 15.5″ length by 9″ width, so it is a very large and heavy object. The shape and curve to the tray plate required a lot of attention to detail and many rounds of hammering to get it in the correct shallow curve. The bead rim was a careful application on top of the flat, rectangular rim. In order for the slightly curved tray to stay stationary on the alter, I added a silver foot. The handles were the finishing touch to a very complex design.
The interior and exterior of the tray has a high shine, mirror finish, which to achieve over that large of a surface required many, many hours of sanding and polishing. The end result is stunning and worth every minute of time!
The perfect finishing touch was the gorgeous hand engraving on the back done by the very talented Kristina McClure, the only hand engraver in Charleston.
The inscription commemorates the dedication of the tray in celebration of First Presbyterian Church being located on Barnwell Avenue in Aiken, SC for fifty years. The worship service on October 27, 2019 was the church’s Jubilee celebration and the tray was dedicated then. It was a lovely service and a special day enjoyed by many. It was an honor to have created this silver tray to commemorate this momentous occasion. I love the idea that it will be used and enjoyed for many generations past mine and likely by my future family members.
If you are interested in commissioning a custom object or jewelry piece from me, then please check out my website Commission page that has examples of drawings and finished pieces. My Commission Policy outlines the details of commissioning me to make something unique and special for you. Thank you for your interest in my work!