Oscar Saurin on making the Spiral Beaker
Oscar Saurin is a Goldsmiths' Centre Foundation Programme alumnus, an Apprentice at Fox Silver Ltd, and an emerging talent in the world of silversmithing. He is also one of nineteen makers selected to create a beaker for this summer’s Made for the Table Exhibition at the Goldsmiths’ Centre. We met with Oscar to discuss his beaker, his influences and his post-apprenticeship plans.
What inspired you to become a silversmith?
When I was fifteen I attended jewellery classes after school, and had a very good teacher named Joe Swan who opened my eyes to a path that wasn’t college or university. Then I applied for the Goldsmiths’ Centre’s Foundation Programme, and that’s how I discovered silversmithing, with really good support from Goldsmiths’ Company.
How would you describe your design style?
As an apprentice I’ve only worked on a few large-scale commissions that have been purely my design - a spiral vase which earned a Goldsmiths’ Craft and Design Award, and now this beaker for Made for the Table, so I’m still finding my style.
I do feel that in the trade at the moment, the style tends towards matte finishes and very contemporary looks. Being trained from apprentice level by someone who was trained at the Royal College Art, I prefer highly polished things, hammer work, and intricacy like that, and avoid matt finishes. In general, I avoid techniques that can be used to hide mistakes, as I want to show the best design and skill in a piece possible.
Are you looking forward to becoming an independent maker?
Being an apprentice, your Master typically does the designing, so in terms of design creativity, you’re limited. But with the recent work I’ve had with competitions and now Made for the Table, I’ve found my own clients and done everything independently of the workshop, though they have offered me lots of support. You need a lot of experience as a silversmith to go independent, but when the time comes, it will be good.
The theme for Made for the Table is Old and New - how will this be represented in your beaker?
By combining various old and new techniques. I’ve combined hand-raising, which is one of the oldest forms of metal work, so it’s very classical, and chasing, which typically looks old, with polishing, as in the past you couldn’t make metal shiny in the same way that you can now.
I’ve also tried to communicate a message with the design. The outside is oxidised to represent age, and the dark oxidisation fades up the vessel as if getting younger and younger, and then you tip it and the inside is gold, to represent youth.
Do you agree that gin tastes better in silver?
Yes I do! My mother is a distiller so I’ve done a fair bit of experimenting with drinking from silver.
It’s great that with the resurgence of gin and whiskies, people are becoming more interested in buying and commissioning silverware.
What are you most looking forward to about participating in the exhibition?
Being selected as one of nineteen excellent makers is a privilege for sure, and there’s also the privilege of exhibiting. But I’m also looking forward to broadening my horizons by meeting people who are interested in contemporary design or in commissioning high-end silverware, and the makers themselves.
Are there any other makers who’s work you admire, and do they inspire your own work?
James Kidd and James Handyside are fantastic silversmiths. Also Chloe Lightfoot, the jeweller, does the most amazing work. There are aspects that I like about different makers in terms of design, but I am mainly influenced from a technical perspective, through seeing what’s possible.
What sets silver apart from other tableware?
From a practical point of view, silverware when made properly, silver cutlery in particular, is strong, sterile and always repairable. In terms of re-usability for tools like vessels and cutlery, silverware is the best, not only can you repair it, it can also evolve. A stainless-steel spoon, for example, can’t be turned into anything else, whereas a silver spoon can.
Do you have any advice for other aspiring makers?
Apply to the Goldsmiths’ Centre - they’re the most friendly, most helpful people you could hope to meet. There’s no way that I would be sitting here without the support of the team here and there’s no way I’d have gotten my apprenticeship, so I honestly love this place.
Find out how you can purchase Oscar Saurin's Spiral Beaker here.