Born in London of Irish parents, we moved back to Co. Wicklow, Ireland when I was a child, I was very lucky to grow up in a fantastic place. Returning to England I fell in love with a fellow Celt, a Cornishman, we moved to Cornwall after getting married and have loved living here for the past 20+ years. I have been enamelling silver and copper for over ten years.
I create the initial design for a bowl or vessel on paper, and then usually play around with it for a while, shading different colours and enamel design on various copies. I then start the slow process of creating a physical template of my design. I cut a disc from copper and start to create the bowl or vessel using hammers, stakes and silversmithing techniques. This includes lots of annealing the metal to soften it, then pickling it to remove the fire scale before starting to sink the shape, this process is repeated many times depending on the shape and size of the finished piece. When the piece has been sunk it is then time to start raising it, this involves more annealing, pickling and hammering but on the other side of the shape, the outer. when the shape is in the shape that you require the real painstaking part begins with the planishing to remove all the hammer marks from forming the piece.
Once the shape is completed I then start the process of enamelling the shape. Enamelling is the fusing of glass and metal in an extremely hot kiln, anywhere between 650 degrees C and 950 degrees C depending on the type of metal, effect that I require and which stage of firing that I am at. I use ground glass that comes from the potteries district of Stoke-on-Trent, I wash the glass to remove the very fine dust particles that could make the final piece cloudy and grind the rest of the powder with a mortar and pestle to get the grade of glass that I want. The process may be repeated upto ten times. When I have layered the first coat of glass onto the surface of the vessel I have a rough idea of the results that I will achieve but it is a bit like alchemy, you are never sure of exactly what you are going to see when the kiln opens and unlike other kiln crafts you remove the item when it is glowing hot and you do not see the final effect until the glass has completely cooled. Reds originally come out of the kiln as black and it is amazing watching the colour change before your very eyes as the glass cools. To achieve the design that I am happy with the piece may need to be coated and enamelled upto ten times in fine layers.
When I have the enamel effect that I am happy with I can then start to expose the copper to complete my design, Sometimes I leave the copper with some of the patina and fire scale that it gains through the kiln firing, sometimes I sand back the effects of the kiln through my layers and grades of sandpaper. I then apply the texture that I want to the copper. I very rarely enamel my complete pieces as I love showcasing the material that the vessel is created from.
When I am happy that the shape of bowl works for the enamelling technique and appearance I wanted I then send the design to Warren in Sheffield who using a lathe creates a vinyl mould of the bowl and then handspins each of the bowls, the chuck that he made is then stored and kept exclusively for my designs. You can watch Warren creating mine and other peoples bowls on Instagram (@wm.handmade)
Warren then sends me my bowls which I then can start creating my finished enamelled pieces ready to go to the shops, galleries or events. Some pieces are limited editions, some are one off unique pieces and some are retail favourites but all are unique as they are handspun, and then hand enamelled.
Where you can find me
My studio is in Krowji creative space in Redruth, Cornwall - Krowji is Cornish for workspace/shed and Cruan is Irish for enamel. Some of my pieces are inspired by the seascapes around me and others are inspired by the light playing over the Cornish fields or Wicklow mountains.