A shared cultural and artistic exchange between Japanese and British silversmiths has forged a remarkable and unmistakable tradition of excellence. Eleni Bide explains why.
Crossing a border has not been an easy thing to do in recent times. But while our physical travel has been restricted, the creative forces released by stepping over boundaries can still take us on an adventure.
The continuing dialogue between Japanese and European silversmithing is a powerful example of this. In the UK, Japanese metalsmithing might bring to mind a wealth of complex techniques used to create stunning effects: the layered colours of mokume gane (meaning wood grain metal, where several layers of metal are fused together to create a patterned surface) or the subtle tones created by alloys such as shibuichi ( ‘one fourth’ in Japanese, indicating one part silver to three parts copper) or kuromido (99% copper alloy). According to Katie Jones, whose experience of representing Japanese decorative artists in the UK spans three decades, many of these techniques were originally used in the production of weaponry. They have no European equivalent, and their visual impact has been admired (and consumed) by people in the West since the 19th century.