Contemporary makers working with metal no longer simply concentrate on jewellery or working with precious metals. They use metals in all its forms to make sculptural work. Andy Hazell uses recycled and waste sheet metal from canning factories to make humorous figures and models that are informed and decorated by colourful printed designs on the metal surface.
Cathy Miles uses wire of a different thickness to make three dimentional drawings and sculptures.
Junko Mori's work is inspired by nature and consists of many modelled elements joined together, while Ndiddi Ekubia uses more traditional methods of metal smithing, raising flat sheets of metal into vessel shapes.
Cathy Miles wire sculpture
Junko Mori forged metal sculpture
Andy Hazell sheet metal sculpture and automata
Ndidi Ekubia vessels and silver
Celia Smith wire bird sculpture
Metal can be used in many forms to create sculptural or functional forms.
Sheet metal can be cut if soft enough and bent or moulded into shapes.
Wire can also be bent and used to draw three dimensional shapes.
Harder metals must be forged or heated in order to be shaped, by forming over a mould, bending, hammering or with other treatments. These metals come in rods or blocks. To join metal securely it has to be heated- welded or soldered.
Common Terms Explained
Elasticity: the ability of a metal to regain its shape after being deformed.
Hardness: resistance to being scratched or worn.
Malleability: a malleable material can be hammered, spread or pressed into a desired shape.
Ductility: a ductile metal can be drawn into fine wire.
Brittleness: a brittle metal is apt to break easily and is usually hard.
Tenacity: a metal which is resistant to breaking when stretched has tenacity.
Work hardness: the condition brought on by the impact of hammer blows or other processes which alter the structure of the metal causing it to harden.
Annealing:the process of heating metal to soften it once it has been work hardened so that it can be worked more easily.
Hallmarking: silver is a precious metal and is therefore stamped with a group of marks to verify its quality. For this work is sent to one of the Assay Offices in the UK, in London, Birmingham, Sheffield or Edinburgh. The piece is tested for quality and if it passes is hallmarked. The hallmark is usually stamped on, or near, the base of a piece of work. It contains the makers mark, usually their initials, a sterling stamp, a Fineness mark - the metal content; the assay office mark; and a date stamp.
Tin plate is a thin sheet of mild steel coated with tin. When the coating is removed rusting occurs. It is malleable and easily cut with tin snips.
Copper or brass shim is a useful introduction to sheet metal as it is thin and can be easily cut with scissors and bent with fingers.
Sterling Silver is white and is an alloy of of 92.5% fine silver and 7.5% copper. It comes in sheet form or as wire. It is used commercially by jewellers and silversmiths. Properties: soft, malleable, good conductor of heat, work hardens.
Copper is reddish brown and is very soft, softer than sterling silver. It comes in sheets and as wire, is malleable, a good heat conductor and the work hardens.
Brass is a yellow metal alloy of 70% copper and 30% zinc. It is tough and resists corrosion.
Bronze is an alloy of copper and tin, which is much harder than copper and can be melted and cast. It resists corrosion.
Mild Steel is an alloy of iron and carbon, and is malleable and ductile.
Cast iron is an alloy of carbon and iron. It is brittle and cannot be forged but casts well.
Wrought Iron is 99% pure iron with slight impurities. It is malleable and ductile.
Gold comes in various colours depending on the alloy it is mixed with, but the most common is yellow. it is malleable and ductile.
Aluminium is a white, light weight and low cost metal, common in everyday life. it is highly malleable and ductile.
Pewter is very malleable but also brittle. It can be formed, cast, soldered and sawn.
Iron wire is also called black annealed wire. Easy to manipulate and 'draw' wit. it will rust but can be spray painted or painted with enamel paints and sealed.
Copper wire is easy to manipulate and is very soft. It does not rust. Wire is sold by weight. The thickness is measured in millimeters. Standard gauges for small to medium sculptures are: 0.7mm, 0.9mm, 1.2mm. 1.5mm.
Tin snips, pliers and wire cutters and soldering irons can be bought at DIY shops. More specilist equipment suppliers are below.
Cookson Precious Metals cooksongold.com
HS Walsh 44 Hatton Garden, London EC1N 8ER hswalsh.com
Rashbel UK 24-28 Hatton Wall, London EC1N 8JN rashbel.co.uk
Columbia Metals columbiametals.com
Ormiston Wire Ltd ormiston-wire.co.uk
Wires UK wires.co.uk
Wire can be found in florist, DIY shops etc. Recycled metal sheets, such as offcuts from industrial canning processes, can be found at recycling centres, and usually come with a printed coloured side and a metallic side.
Metal Specialist Websites
Association of Contemporary British Silversmiths
Designer Jewellers Group
British Artist Blacksmiths Group
British Metals Recycling Association
Metal Collections and Displays in Museums and Galleries
V & A Metalwork Department
Birmingham Jewellery Quarter
Sheffield Millennium Gallery
Lefteri, Chris ( 2004) Metals: Materials for Inspirational Design. Rotovision
McCreight, Tim (2004) Complete Metalsmith. Brynmorgan Press
Miles, Cathy (2011) Sculpting in Wire. A & C Black