03 juli

Metal Futures

By Justine Fox

I have a developing obsession with metal. Not the hard rock version but the stuff that comes out of the ground and forms the foundations of some of the most wondrous and beautiful objects. It began a year ago at London's New Designers graduate event where I met Suzanne Jamieson whose work on the simple cubic shape was fascinating. She'd been exploring how a material informs this humble form, working in porcelain, stoneware, silver and most interestingly to me gilding metal. Her collection Left Hand Right Hand although not immediately obvious, sits comfortably in either one hand or the other dependent on the contours and materials selected. The treatment given to her gilded boxes creates an incredible range of colour variance. It has the high tech edge in violet and magenta softened by cool organic verdigris. This project has a lot to do with human interaction and the gilding metal seems to have a warmth and reassurance that is missing from gleaming copper.

(image above: black stoneware and patinated gliding metal boxes by Suzanne Jamieson)

(image below: metal & brass jewelry by Payson Ni)


Gilding metal and reactive effects are bubbling away as the next step of the warm metals to make a trend statement. Although perhaps not suitable for all applications this metal's rose pink hue has a delicacy that humanises form and will be replicated in many other materials. Forecasters and talent scouts alike eagerly await the graduate shows from Central Saint Martins School of Art, possibly one of London's most famous design institutions. One of my favourite designers this year was from the Jewellery BA and involved my material of the moment. Payson Ni presented a range of striking pagoda-like jewellery in gilding metal and brass (image above), a beautiful balance between yellow and red bases with a feminine industrial feel. These sculptural pieces are surprisingly formed from quite basic techniques in metal folding and fabrication. The solder silver tips on the roofs were she admits a happy accident, but they act as a sharp highlight to the gentle colour gradation of the main body.


The effect of time and environment on a metal itself is something that is infinitely alluring and is something of selling point for products like the zinc wrapped MC2 coffee table by Benchmark for The Conran Shop or Tecu brass external cladding by KME. The next image from Clarity InColour (image below) takes me to back of a kitchen cupboard and the forgotten silver jug, a family heirloom. This is very little to do with the object itself and everything to do with the myriad of colour created by neglect. An intense ochre slips into simple magnolia neutrals on one side while the other is revved up by an energetic deep azure. Like Suzanne Jamieson's gilded metal boxes, this patination is tempered by aqua. Although this inspiration would work easily as a colour collection in matt it becomes magical when rendered in gloss and reflective materials.

(image below by Justine Fox, Clarity InColour)

ClarityInColour Tarnished Silver-2

Totey Wee Whatever Fruit No1 Eamonnhiggins

 (image above: Totey Wee Whatever Fruit No1, by Eamon Higgins)

Metal really does have a basic relationship to the earth and human experience. I was lucky to meet artist Eamonn Higgins (image above) at Craft Northern Ireland's private view earlier this year. It is always amazing to speak with the artist or designer directly because you get a real sense of the work and its origins. What struck me first about Higgins' work was the energy and life within not only the sculpture itself, but also within the colour combinations. They seem to have an innate connection with water and soil. It is almost as though the pieces have recently been unearthed or raised from a seabed. Higgins' is from the glens of Antrim and explains that there is 'an appreciation of colour balance born out of austerity of the weather with picturesque but rugged country. You'll find moss and dirt in my work, you'll see the pattern of cut grass (silage and hay) you'll find contrasts with concepts in the forms that reflect my understanding of the community I come from.' Higgins works with steel, aluminium and copper all within one piece and as they react differently under heat, in combination with each other and when treated by patination acids they form powdered, globular textures and oxidisations. Enamel metal pigments like gold leaf added through these acids cement the authenticity of finish. The vibrancy of colour, deep amber to blackened jade, evolves from the steel almost naturally related back to the origins of their inspiration.


Explorations into the reactive and aging effects on materials are now at the core of any responsible and sustainable specifications. An appreciation of time's touch, the human impact on a product is something that makes the simple extraordinarily special.


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