Sorting through a box of mixed items consigned for sale, amongst the paper and ceramics I came across a box. Inside the box I found nearly a dozen miniature creatures. Each hand made and naturalistically detailed as insects and reptiles.
On inspection they appear to be made of thin sheets of silver, tooled and decorated to look like the real thing – miniature studies of nature wrapped up and kept together for the last however-many-years.
Throughout time artists have produced their own interpretations of creatures and animals through painting, sculpture and metal work. Providing reference for the learner, at times when books were limited and there was no such thing as the internet.
Working in an Auction Gallery environment we see all kinds of works, depicting all kinds of creatures. However, for me, these little models are certainly the preferred way to look at creepy crawlies!
The 1960’s and 70’s saw some silversmiths becoming less interested in designing anonymously for large manufacturers, and started to set out on their own. Focusing on their own style meant they could also publicise and market their own creations.
Regarded as one of the great goldsmiths and silversmiths of the 20th Century – Australian born Stuart Devlin is one such example. Being acclaimed by the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths as the designer with “the Midas touch”, he believed that the role for a contemporary silversmith was to ‘enrich the way people live and work’.
The overall nature of precious metals gave Devlin the opportunity to design pieces that added delight, surprise, intrigue, and even amusement. A recipe for huge success in the concept of ‘limited editions’. The most popular being the novelty Easter eggs and Christmas boxes.
Over time he devised and adapted new techniques in producing wide varieties of textures, finishes and filigree forms, resulting in a new collection being produced each year.
He was later commissioned by Viners of Sheffield to produce a range of stainless steel tableware, utilising the stark contrast of shiny ‘silver’ with textured ‘gold’. Although phased out in 1979, the collection included wine and champagne goblets, dishes and candle holders.
The quality, the workmanship and the overall appearance of Devlin’s work, together with limited numbers produced, result in high prices being realised at auction. Many pieces being highly sought after by collectors.
“If I have made a contribution, it has been to add elements of richness and intrigue to purely functional objects such as knives and forks. It seems this element has been sadly missed since the turn of the (20th) century”
Today, in his 80’s, Stuart Devlin continues to create stunning and interesting pieces, from his studio in West Sussex.