The Urban Coo Artist Space will bring you snippets and insights from some of the UK's brightest graduate artists, architects, designers and makers. In this feature we focus on the work of Ruth Page, a metalworker from Edinburgh.
Ruth Page studied BA (hons) Jewellery and Silversmithing at Edinburgh College of Art, University of Edinburgh. Ruth has been awarded the coveted Incorporation of Goldsmith's 'Outstanding Student of the Year Award 2019'. Here we chat to her about life as a silversmith and her exciting plans for the future!
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and what brought you to Silversmithing?
When I began my degree I was really interested in the jewellery side of making. I was not a big fan of the initial silversmithing short taster courses that where offered back in my first and second year. Perhaps it was the pressure of having to get to grips with so many changes at once, coming straight from high school to uni having never done a practical metalworking course before.
I think the real turning point in my career was in my third year at uni; this was when I created, launched and sold out of my first ever smithing style jewellery collection 'Crater' alongside having a three month placement with Hamilton and Inches in Edinburgh.
My time at Hamilton and Inches workshops was where I decided that metalsmithing was definitely for me but I did not put it into my own practise until my fourth year in October 2018. The team's dedication, skill-sets and enthusiasm for their work is incredible and the workshop environment was exactly where I knew I wanted to be in the future. The team continue to be so welcoming to every question I could ever think up and show endless amounts of support to not only myself, but to many other makers. They have taught me valuable lessons in making already which I will take forward with me throughout my career.
I have officially been metalsmithing for less than a year and its been a very interesting and rewarding experience thus far. Being around 70% self taught until now, I have had to overcome many different challenges with every design I have undertaken but the final outcomes and the 'mini-yay' moments are all worth the stress.
I am proud of what I have achieved in such a short space of time and I'm keen to take on any challenge it throws at me. There's something so satisfying in achieving the final outcome you have desired and worked so hard to get for such a long time.
Above Image: 'Tension Weights'
Hanging Vessels in Copper, gold leaf and jesmonite. This design is based on the hanging tension weights which hang just outside the end of most platforms.
What was your graduate collection inspired by?
My graduate collection was inspired by fine details found within train stations and the beauty that surrounds us in everyday life, especially our daily commutes.
I found myself at train stations every week whilst I was at uni so when I finally realised how much my brain was engaging with what was around me on my journeys it was kind of an epiphany moment and i ran with my inspirations.
I often find myself extracting unique aspects from industrialised landscapes and for this collection, it was those associated with railway culture. I find that I focus on forms and patterns that really stand out from their standardised surroundings.
Above Image: 'Anti-Tresspass'
Sculptural tableware and candle holder in cast iron, gold leaf and cork. This piece is based on the Anti-trespass blacks on the end of platforms.
What approach do you take to making? Talk to us a little bit about your preferred materials and ways of working?
I like to think that i take quite a perfectionist approach to making, but in reality i'm probably just quite fussy when it comes to something i am working on. I find that sampling has been excellent for me, I will only move onto precious materials once I have perfected my designs in base materials first. This includes surface textures, patination, scale, form development etc. Each piece has its own design cycle and body of work behind it.
My degree collection involves a variety of silversmithing methods including cold etching, casting and patination. In the last year I have experimented with a wide range of materials; working in silver, steel, base metals such as copper, brass and guiding metal and even cast iron. This was an enjoyable and rewarding experience, where I could explore and build an understanding of each material. Each metal has a different personality and it's so interesting to put these into practice. I often finish non-precious metal pieces with accents of gold lead and feature materials such as cork, jesmonite and concrete. All of which are so versatile and easy to use.
I would definitely say that silver is my favourite material to work in. Silver has a beautiful way of taking on a form and an applied finish will display this to its fullest potential. It can take on so many colour tones depending on its light source and plating or patination can further complement a finished piece.
Above Image: 'Platform 4'
Set of cups in sterling silver. These are a pair of cups with a surface etched design. This design is a combination of Ruth's hand drawings and digitally drawn extracts of her own photography which make her unique design. Once applied to the metal and further perfected by hand, no two come out the same.
Is there any person or artistic movement that you have been particularly influenced by?
I have always been inspired by minimalist, contemporary design - I can really appreciate the beauty and hard work that goes into making a simple really well made form.
More recently, I have been really drawn to Brutalist architecture and art (Brutalism). The marmite of design movements, but I just cant help being drawn in by bold, block-like forms and raw concrete construction, it has such a graphic quality about it.
Can you talk a little bit about silversmithing withing a sustainable context - for instance are you aware where your materials have come from and who has handled them along the way? Do you think there is an awareness amoungst your fellow graduates and the wide industry to support a sustainable future for silversmithing?
I think that sustainable silver / metalsmithing is a very important topic of discussion in terms of moving forward to support a better future for the trade and i am glad that more people are beginning to talk about it.
Thanks to Cookson's, Fairtrade Gold and Eco Silver are becoming much more widely available to makers and they offer quite an extensive range of products within each category.
Fairmined Silver can be supplied by Vipadesigns, which I think is one of the very few, if not the only UK supplier of fairmined silver at the moment. Vipadesigns also work with traceable metals of all types; standard, 100% recycled, fairtrade and faimined.
Whilst i was at Edinburgh Uni, my department signed the 'Ethical Making Pledge'. This meant we had two undergraduate ethical ambassadors who really embraced the role and, along with our technician, made quite a few changes within the department. I would encourage all universities to get involved with the pledge.
Right at the end of my degree, I was awarded the 'Incorporation of Goldsmith's Outstanding Student of the Year Award' which has been mind-blowing. I have been commissioned to create this years goblet alongside a senior supporting silversmith. My goblet for the collection will be created from only fairmined precious metals and should be completed by January 2020.
Condiment pots in sterling silver and black rhodium plating. Based on the hanging tensions weights which hang just outside the end of most station platforms.
Tell us a bit about your plans for the future.
Having completed my degree in May 2019, the last few months have been a bit of a whirlwind. Alongside winning the 'Outstanding Student of the Year' award with the Incorporation of Goldsmiths and receiving the commission to create the goblet, I have been so fortunate to receive another two great opportunities and awards in response to my final degree collection which will keep me fairly busy in the upcoming months;
Firstly, I will be making a trip to Banff in Aberdeenshire as part of my 'Vanilla Ink Smiddy Graduate Play Award'. The fantastic team at Vanilla Ink has allowed me full access to the smiddy and workshops over a weeks residency in September, alongside the opportunity to work with the in-house silversmith Megan Falconer.
After my weeks play at the Smiddy I am hoping to further improve my practise with the 'Contemporary British Silversmiths Design in Silver Award' which includes a 3 year membership and a bursary toward the development of my skills with a senior member of the CBS. This is a great opportunity for me to work with some very talented and highly skilled makers.
A huge thank you to the Incorporation of Goldsmiths, Contemporary British Silversmiths and Vanilla Ink for these opportunities. I am so grateful for each one and excited to work with you all!
Amongst all the excitement , I am hoping to redesign and release my Crater collection, alongside hopefully finding a workshop job. You'll not be able to keep me away from making for long.
Thank you to Urban Coo for this Artist Space, here's to more exciting opportunities in the future!
Thank you so much Ruth, what an insightful and inspiring peek into the life of a graduate metalworker. You have such an exciting year ahead and we wish you the best of luck in your future career!
Ruth can be contacted directly for any private commissions although you had better be quick as she is a lady in demand!
Email: email@example.com | Instagram: @ruthpagemetalwork_