Handcrafted Silver Spoons
Serving up silver spoons for this Blog post! Since silversmithing has become an obscure craft, I have decided to write a series of posts that feature various traditional silversmithing processes I use to create my silver designs. As often as I am asked how I make my pieces, I have come to realize how little most people know about silversmithing. I took my first jewelry and silversmithing course over twenty years ago, so it has become extremely normal to me since I have done it practically every day since then!
The majority of the time, people only see my finished works and not the process, so they have no idea the amount of time, labor and skill that goes into making them. Through sharing some of my silversmithing techniques, I hope to give some insight into what it takes to craft my functional works of art.
My journey to becoming a silversmith began long before my first college course and you can read about my background in detail on a former Blog post titled “How did you get into silversmithing?”. During my BFA studies at Winthrop University under Alfred Ward, an internationally acclaimed English silversmith, the first functional object I made was a silver spoon with laminated ebony handle. The spoon form has much significance to my functional work and I have continued to explore it since that first creation so many years ago. To view a selection of spoons I have made over the course of my career and the aforementioned first spoon visit my website Portfolio Spoons page.
As covered in my previous Blog post on my forged silver cheese knife, all of my objects begin as sterling silver sheet and wire. For hollowing and forming silver sheet into functional objects, I hammer it over steel stakes that are the precise curve I need for an item, such as a silver spoon. The stake is held in a sturdy steel vise as shown below.
I use a rawhide mallet to form the spoon bowl, because it does not stretch the silver or leave marks in the surface.
Once the spoon bowl shape is formed, I planish it with a steel hammer to set the form precisely and work harden the metal, so it has strength when used to serve food.
With the planishing technique I use small, light overlapping blows as shown up close below.
The planishing process is one of my favorite silversmithing techniques! It requires focus, rhythm, and precision to hammer around and around consistently over the entire surface. I really enjoy planishing my silver spoons, but a coffeepot or teapot is an extensive challenge that I so revel in!
The two spoons highlighted in this Blog post are from my Flight of Fancy Series in which the handle design was inspired by the shape of a bird’s wing. The serving spoon (first image) has a traditional serving spoon length handle, but the Charleston Rice Spoon has a longer handle. The silver Charleston Rice Spoon, derived from the English Stuffing Spoon, historically had a long handle. During the 18th and 19th centuries rice was an immensely important crop to Charleston’s economy and the rice spoon was created due to it. My contemporary design is based on the historic form and gives a nod to tradition while still looking forward.
Both spoon styles are very popular wedding gifts, so be sure to check them out in my website Shop Home category. A handcrafted silver spoon certainly serves a purpose when stylishly entertaining!
Private Trunk Show
Recently for several exclusive groups I have done a private trunk show, so I decided to highlight one I did last week at a Kiawah Island, SC residence on my website Blog. I was invited to display for sale my handcrafted silver jewelry and functional home objects in the stunning home featured in these pictures. It was the perfect clean, contemporary setting for my silver pieces!
The group who invited me to do the unique presentation asked me to set up my silver designs throughout the gorgeous dining, living, and kitchen spaces. They loved seeing my jewelry and functional objects in this elegant home setting and my design aesthetic harmonized wonderfully with it.
The guests were able to peruse my work, discuss it and my handcrafted process with me during the event. As I do with most of my lectures, I brought a selection of my tools and silver works in progress to illustrate how I create my pieces from silver sheet and wire. The majority of the time, people only see the end product, so by incorporating the tools and in process pieces, I add an educational component to my presentations. They very much enjoyed seeing the works in progress along side the finished items!
The home overlooks a gorgeous lagoon you can see from the expansive window views, open floor plan, and porches. The immense amount of light coming in through the numerous windows created a lovely illumination over my display and made my silver pieces really sparkle!
I very much enjoy sharing my silversmithing work and doing a private trunk show. I welcome inquiries on how to bring my silver presentation to your special group, so please feel free to email me at email@example.com for details and fees. Thank you for your interest in my work!
Forged Silver Cheese Knife
I am constantly asked how I make my silver pieces, so I am highlighting some of my processes on my website Blog to give insight into my handcrafted techniques. All of my designs are created with sterling silver sheet and wire through skilled fabrication techniques. Each object is made individually by my hands and I do not use casting or other mass manufacturing processes. For this blog post, my forged silver cheese knife illustrates one way I use forging in my silversmithing work.
Forging is a traditional metalsmithing technique that moves the metal by hammering the surface, and I mainly use this on flatware and utensils, because it gives the silver immense strength. Using a heavy hammer, forging stretches the metal and creates tension and toughness at the molecular level. Durability is of the upmost importance for functional objects and silver gains enough strength to hold its form precisely when work-hardened. Additionally, silver’s natural antiseptic properties make it the ideal medium for flatware and serving utensils.
I begin my cheese knife by forging the shape from thick, solid sterling silver sheet. The blank begins smaller than the final form because it enlarges and expands during the hammering process on the dense steel block.
Next, I work the blade with a large planishing hammer to smooth the deep forging marks out of it and further refine the shape.
The hammer marks are then removed and the blade edge is honed razor sharp so that it will slice easily and work effectively. Finally, the entire knife is brought to a high shine on the polishing machine.
Polishing is another highly skilled process I will discuss in a future Blog post, so stay tuned.
My silver spreader is made the same way, so check out that piece in my website Shop as well!
For more information on how I handcraft my designs, visit the Handcrafted Process page on my website. Thank you for your interest in my silversmithing work!
Charleston Silver Lecture by Brandy Culp and Kaminer Haislip
Brandy Culp, the Richard Koopman Curator of American Decorative Arts at the Wadsworth Atheneum, and I have recently given several lecture presentations on Charleston silver, so I was inspired to write a blog post discussing our unique collaboration. We have presented to private organizations and groups and last week we gave a lecture on Charleston silver for the American College of the Building Arts. The pictures in this post are from that event.
When Brandy and I collaborate on a Charleston silver lecture, we begin with her discussing colonial Charleston history and silversmithing. She is an expert in the decorative arts field and in particular metalwork. Brandy earned her Master of Arts degree with an emphasis in American decorative arts from the Bard Graduate Center. There she completed her thesis on the 18th century Charleston silversmith Alexander Petrie and the Carolina silver trade. The topic of metalwork remains one of her greatest interests, and she is currently working on a permanent exhibition of the Wadsworth’s English and American silver collections.
Brandy ties my contemporary silversmithing brilliantly to historic forms and processes. I discuss in detail how I design and create my original, silver designs and use tools and in progress silver items to illustrate the relationship between my silversmithing techniques and past silversmith practices. Additionally, I bring a selection of finished silver hollowware, flatware, and jewelry for attendees to see in person during the lecture and up close after our slide presentation is over.
We always save time for a question and answer session at the end of our lecture and spend time with guests after the event to take additional questions and socialize.
Brandy and I both are incredibly passionate about silver and very much enjoy sharing our silver knowledge. The combination of her historic metalwork expertise and my contemporary silver designs has been extremely well received each time we have done a presentation. If you are interested in having us speak to your group, organization, or college, then please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I can provide details, fees, and press material.
Thank you for your interest in silver!
Charleston Silversmithing Lecture at American College of the Building Arts
Thursday, March 7 at 6pm
Brandy S. Culp, Richard Koopman Curator of American Decorative Arts at the Wadsworth Atheneum, and I will give a lecture presentation titled Charleston Silversmithing, Traditions from Past to Present at the American College of the Building Arts in Charleston, SC about colonial Charleston silversmithing and how my contemporary silversmithing relates to it.
It is open to the public, but seating is limited and reservations can be made by emailing email@example.com. There is no admissions fee for attending the lecture, however you may reserve a seat ahead of time by making a donation of any size that is meaningful to you. Included with your reservation is an invitation to meet the speakers at a private reception following the presentation. Without a reservation, seating will be on a first-come, first-served basis.
In the eighteenth century, Charleston’s favorable economic circumstances spurred a healthy luxury goods market, especially the precious metal trades. Through the centuries, the tradition of creating and collecting metalwork has continued in the Carolina Lowcountry. Brandy S. Culp, Richard Koopman Curator of American Decorative Arts at the Wadsworth Atheneum, will explore how the Holy City’s talented silversmiths and jewelers reflected the global exchange of ideas, people, and goods in early America. Ms. Culp will be joined by Kaminer Haislip, a nationally renowned and formally-trained silversmith practicing in Charleston. Together they will discuss how many of the tools and techniques employed by silversmiths and jewelers have changed very little over the centuries. From the combined perspective of a design historian and practicing silversmith, Ms. Culp and Ms. Haislip will present a splendid array of metalwork highlighting examples of Lowcountry silver—past and present—found both locally and in collections outside of the South, including notable objects in the Wadsworth’s holdings.
Brandy S. Culp is the Richard Koopman Curator of American Decorative Arts at the Wadsworth Atheneum, America’s oldest continually-operating public art museum and stewards of a collection of over 50,000 artifacts spanning 5,000 years. There she has most recently curated the exhibitions, Simply Splendid: Rethinking American Design, Bed Furnishings in Early America, and Design in the American Home, 1650 to 1850. Prior to joining the Wadsworth, Culp served as Curator of Historic Charleston Foundation, leading projects for the conservation and interpretation of the Foundation’s collection of fine and decorative arts. Before that, Ms. Culp served as the Andrew W. Mellon Curatorial Fellow in the Department of American Art at the Art Institute of Chicago. She has also held positions at the Bard Graduate Center and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Culp graduated summa cum laude from Hollins University and received her Master of Arts degree with an emphasis in American decorative arts from the Bard Graduate Center. There she completed her thesis on the 18th century Charleston silversmith Alexander Petrie and the Carolina silver trade. The topic of metalwork remains one of her greatest interests, and she is currently working on a permanent exhibition of the Wadsworth’s English and American silver collections.
A native of Aiken, South Carolina, Kaminer Haislip grew up in her family’s hardware store. Amidst the story-telling locals and tools for sale, she was inspired at a young age to create three-dimensional objects ranging from sculpture to jewelry. Haislip received both a BFA in jewelry and metals and an MFA in silversmithing, design, and sculpture from Winthrop University, where she studied under Alfred Ward, an internationally acclaimed English silversmith. After graduating in 2005, she moved to Charleston and established her studio. Nationally recognized for her craftsmanship, Haislip was most recently featured in the Museum of the City of New York’s exhibition Silver: Then and Now. Her handcrafted metalwork has been shown internationally and highlighted by numerous media outlets, including Antiques and Fine Art, Metalsmith, The Magazine Antiques, Traditional Home, Elle Décor, Garden & Gun, Southern Living, Charleston Magazine, and Handcrafted America. Haislip has also collaborated with Reese Witherspoon’s southern lifestyle company, Draper James, to create exclusive objects that reflect the South’s rich metalworking history.
Inspired by Charleston’s extensive silversmithing tradition, Haislip is dedicated to carrying forth that legacy. Hand-forging her flatware, hollowware, and jewelry, she uses the very tools and techniques employed by silversmiths for centuries, yet her metalwork reflects her unique approach to contemporary design.
American College of the Building Arts
649 Meeting Street
Charleston, SC 29403