I am often asked why I chose to work with copper. The answer lies in a chance encounter during the 1990s with one of the last ornamental coppersmiths in the country, Sam Fanaroff. I had been a silversmithing student until then, but the second I saw the beautiful autumnal colours and smooth lines in Sam’s work I knew I’d found what I’d been looking for.
I was apprenticed to Sam for the following four years where I learned antique restoration, ecclesiastical work and about producing one-off pieces of copperwork for the high-end crafts market.
There have been coppersmiths in Britain since Bronze Age times and the Arts and Crafts Movement of the early 1900s certainly helped to revive and promote copperwork. However, when the Second World War came both men and metals went into munitions factories and so the tradition largely died out. Now, having being given such a rare opportunity to learn this unusual craft I do feel a great responsibility to preserve it.
So in 2004, after a decade devoted to raising my four children, I returned to the craft I adored. With the help of a scholarship from QEST, I graduated a year later from London Metropolitan University with an MA by Project (Metal). In 2007 I started my business “Coppersmithing by Siân” and I now create (entirely by hand) unique bowls, mirrors, boxes and vases. Some of these are commissions, whilst others are creations of my own - sold to the customer at exhibitions or via my website www.coppersmithing.co.uk
I work mainly from large copper sheets, which I cut to size in my workshop. I create much of my decorative work using an appliqué technique, produced by piercing fine designs in a thinner gauge metal (copper or brass) and soldering them onto the surface of the piece. This gives enormous scope with regards to subject matter. If I can draw the design with a pencil, I can make it in the metal. I also set stones and add riveting to enhance a design and create an emphasis on a given area. Another signature technique is the use of soldered wirework. These can in turn become tendrils, branches or waves, as well as adding strength to the piece.
In December 2010 I appeared in the second series of Channel 4’s “Kirstie’s Homemade Home” demonstrating how to make a copper bowl.
In 2012 I completed my Winston Churchill Travelling Fellowship, which took me to France, Greece and India, where I was given the opportunity to learn ancient techniques from master craftsmen, discover the historical relevance of copper - and forge some new friendships along the way.
You are very welcome to read my report to the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust here: www.wcmt.org.uk/reports/897_1.pdf
“Marrying knowledge from a traditional apprenticeship in a forge with a love of natural history, Siân produces exquisite oxidised pieces of copperwork. Her mirrors, bowls, boxes and vases are narrated by fine metal appliqué and punctuated by set gemstones and rivets. Here contemporary elegance meets traditional values and craftsmanship. This is the unmistakable touch of a woman’s hand.”