Abigail Buckingham on making 'The Mandala Beaker'
This week we caught up with Abigail Buckingham, a Goldsmiths' Centre Foundation Programme alumna who, after completing an apprenticeship in 2017, is beginning her silversmithing career on auspicious terms. This summer, her unique silver vessel, ‘The Mandala Beaker’, is on display at the Centre's Made for the Table exhibition, along with eighteen others created by up-and-coming makers.
What inspired you to become a silversmith?
My dad is also a silversmith, and he's got a workshop on the back of the house where I grew up. From about the age of eight I was in there, seeing what he did, making pieces myself for friends and family.
What's your favourite thing about creating a piece for commission?
I love remodelling client's pieces, like their old jewellery. For example, a client might have a ring from their grandma that has sentimental value, but they don't necessarily like the design — so I remodel it into something more contemporary that they like, but it's still their Grandma's ring. I love seeing the joy on their faces looking at the piece as it's moving forward throughout the design stages, and the finished product.
What were the biggest challenges involved in creating The Mandala Beaker?
I'm quite a new maker, I only recently finished my apprenticeship, so I'm still finding my design style. I'm also a jeweller by trade and did my apprenticeship in diamond mounting, so a beaker was quite new to me. The basis of the design was engraving — the mandala pattern that goes around the beaker. Getting this symmetrical was a challenge, as the mandala had to be the same the whole way round, so I spent a lot of time sitting and drawing to ensure I got it right.
How is the theme of 'old and new' represented in your beaker?
The techniques used to create the beaker are very old and have been around for many a year, like hand-engraving and setting, but they've been used to create a modern kind of design.
Are there any other makers whose work you admire?
Yes — my fellow apprentices Castro Smith and Sam Hunter, their work is amazing, but I also follow a lot of jewellers in Australia, like Jodi Phillips and Harry Rose. Their style is quite different to what we're doing over here but still amazing.
What are your favourite things about being a maker?
I've always loved working with my hands and making something up from almost nothing — from very basic materials, and creating something that's completely different and is one of a kind.
How have your experiences with the Goldsmiths' Centre impacted your career?
My experiences with the Goldsmiths' Centre have been amazing, it's a great place to learn and everyone is so friendly. I did the Foundation Programme at the Centre, and though I came into it knowing what silversmithing was, I learned skills like enamelling, engraving and chasing that I might not have otherwise — all the basics of the trade.
Do you have any advice for other aspiring makers?
Just practice — learn the trade from skilled craftsmen, like at the Goldsmiths' Centre, and just practice, practice and practice, and try to develop your own style.