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Home > Publications > Historic New England Magazine > Fall 2002 > Recapturing Time-Honored Techniques

Recapturing Time-Honored Techniques

 

Photograph by David Carmack.

ABOVE  Left to right: handmade reproductions by Steve Smithers of a mug made by Boston silversmith John Burt between 1725 and 1735; a miniature tankard made by Samuel Edwards between 1757 and 1762; and a beaker made between 1725 and 1750. The originals of the mug and tankard will travel nationally with SPNEA's Cherished Possessions exhibition.

BELOW   A page from Steve Smithers's sketchbook.

To order, please call Steve Smithers at (413) 625-2994. For information about SPNEA's reproduction program, visit the Historic New England collection of the Museum Shop at www.spnea.org.

Filing, hammering, soldering, annealing, casting, burnishing, and polishing were some of the techniques used by eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century silversmiths. Today, when so much silver is factory made, SPNEA licensee Steve Smithers uses the same traditional methods as the early craftsmen. SPNEA is proud to introduce three of his handmade reproduction silver pieces to its Historic New England collection. Two of the originals, a mug and a beaker, date from the second quarter of the eighteenth century. The third piece, an unusual miniature tankard, was given by its maker's sister to her granddaughter, Mary Smith, shortly after her birth in 1757.

Smithers begins the reproduction process at SPNEA, where he photographs, measures, and draws the originals. Back home in his studio, he rolls silver into sheets and shaped wires, places patterns on top, scribes, and finally cuts. Using a variety of hammers, forms, and anvils, he shapes and fits the pieces together, solders and smooths the joints, then finally cleans and polishes each piece. The resulting finish, with its slight irregularities, has a richness to its surface that can only be created by the skilled hand of a master craftsman. Smithers, who has been practicing his craft since 1975, says he often feels as though he is "painting with a hammer," as it takes thousands of hammer blows to complete each object.

-Carol Bruce
Director of Licensing & Merchandising

Recapturing Time-Honored Techniques