Kelly, Rod (3 of 5) National Life Stories Collection: Crafts' Lives

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  • Subjects

    Metal work

  • Recording date

    2011-09-07, 2011-10-05, 2011-10-27, 2012-07-19, 2012-10-12

  • Interviewees

    Kelly, Rod (speaker, male)

  • Interviewers

    Wright, Elizabeth (speaker, female)

  • Abstract

    Part 3: Location of foundation course in Preston in a Victorian house in Avenham Park, away from the main campus; getting to know other students on the course; family feeling between students, tutors and others working in the building; feelings about doing A-levels in comparison with going to art school; RK’s enthusiasm. First life drawing class; smudgy charcoal drawings; difficulties with colour; project after first term using three colours and RK’s use of primary colours; learning about mixing colours; learning about art history and technique. Working with wood, metal, plastic; staging happenings. Change in RK’s appearance after starting art school. Enjoying designing things and solving problems; supportive jewellery tutor; feelings about working in metal; encouragement from ceramics teacher; feelings about mess involved with ceramics; lack of confidence with colour as opposed to form. [0:08:38] SL’s encouragement; strength of portfolio and graphic work; interview at Birmingham, RK’s first choice. High regard for metalwork course at Birmingham. Description of activities during first year of the course including furniture design, ceramics, metal, history of art and some graphics; continuing to feel behind others during this year but gaining momentum; specialising in metal and silversmithing. Mention that there were only four the metalwork students in the year; individual attention from tutors. First raising project; DB’s comment that RK had done it before; visit from ML, a former student; his cast hammers with linseed oil shafts; beauty of these tools. Beauty of other people's tools in comparison with those in the metalwork department; setting self the challenge of making some hammers; attitude towards setting goals; friend's father, Lesley Walker, a bookseller, who via another bookseller put RK in touch with the Hart's, silversmiths in Chipping Camden founded by Ashby; invitation to visit David Hart, who gave RK castings of hammers from the Ashby workshop, which he still uses today; description of making hammers from the casts. [0:16:40] Influential people at Birmingham; friends in furniture department; view of silversmithing at that time; RK's respect for small group of young makers including MA and ML mention that Crafts Council [CC] had become more involved with metalwork at this time; view that silversmithing was dogged by dreary reproduction and plated wares made in Sheffield and Birmingham; vibrant people in the furniture department in comparison with metalwork; spending time there. Decline of reproduction silver; repercussions of this during the early 1980s when big London shops started to close. Beginning of new, vibrant metal movement sponsored by CC and the Goldsmiths Company [GC]; rise of the designer artist craftsman; hearing about RCA; other students who were going for interview there. Description of RK's stark plain designs at Birmingham; mention of Swedish influences; changing attitude towards hammer marks and decoration; move towards decoration at this time led by MA, ML, Jane Short [JS] and Alistair McCallum; making first chased beaker during Easter holidays; making four of these for final show. Development apparent in pieces exhibited; competition to design a swimming trophy, sponsored by Cadbury's and made by DB; being awarded a first class degree. Decision to apply to RCA; taking four chased beakers to the interview. Meeting GB and MR; comments about wearing a suit; their response to RK's beakers. Year off prior to the RCA; story about writing to MA asking to go and work with him; journey to his workshop in a disused railway station by train and cycle; story about dead mole; trout fishing. Setting MA's way of working as a benchmark; spending the rest of the year working with a builder learning other skills that would later be useful. [0:30:20] Beginning at the RCA as a chaser; experimentation during first year; tutor, John Bartholomew; learning traditional skills of silversmithing whilst at the same time designing modern objects. Design tutors including MR, KC, JM; asking head of department, PP, if there could be fewer visiting tutors. Former students who kept in touch with the college; seeing other people's work. Meeting wife, SM, who was in the jewellery department; other couples who met at RCA including Michael and Mary Lloyd, Robert and Katherine Legg. Separation of jewellery and silver departments. [0:34:46] GB's encouragement of RK's chasing; individual teaching from RP, who was from a trade background. Settling in London and influence on RK's work; battling to achieve precise chased experiments; revelation that this sort of design was wrong; starting again from scratch with organic shapes. Making four beakers raised in silver; RCA silver account; imagery on the beakers, each representing a season; feeling liberated by the organic shapes. Making a bowl that was photographed for a Dairy Crest calendar; feature in Country Life magazine that led to a commission; clock sold to Sir Simon Hornby, who then commissioned four beakers. Change in RK's work and influences from nature; feelings about chasing; listening to Radio Four whilst chasing. Specialism of chasing technique. Woodworking tool shop on RK's cycle route to the RCA; story about purchasing chasing tools, which RK still uses today; comments about students today making tools which can no longer be purchased. [0:46:50] RP's response when RK scrapped his initial attempts at chasing; RP’s use of textures; feelings about this; traditional work of chasers, including military work; learning skills from RP; teaching students at Bishopsland Educational Trust; persistence required for chasing. Demarcation of silversmithing trade skills; sales of reproduction silver through shops such as Garrard, Regent Street; worldwide market for this; decline of silver sales. Spending Fridays at Vittoria Street, in the jewellery quarter where the trade pre-apprentices were; decline in traditional military work and emergence of an industry of handmade art objects, commissions and ecclesiastical work. Benefits of RK’s RCA training for making large objects; working out how to make new things rather than re-making pieces; difficulties faced by young silversmiths who do not have the technical knowledge. [0:59:05] Final show at RCA; mention of making and chasing a clock for final project; meeting Sir Simon Hornby [SSH], then chairman of W.H. Smith at the show. GB’s suggestion that RK should take the clock to show Garrard; comments about the movement of the clock rather than its design; eventually being commissioned by Garrard, who realised the market was changing. First commission from SSH, a silver and gold cigarette case made in RK’s first workshop in Brick Lane; meeting SSH in his office at Fetter Lane; his advice to RK about obtaining an advance; introduction to the GC via SSH who was a member of court. Invitation to submit a design for a water jug to the Modern Plate Committee of the GC, who commissioned the jug for use at the hall; story about asking Clerk, Peter Jenkins, for a twenty five per cent advance. Moving to a new workshop with SM and four others from RCA, including Mandy Nash; fear of being broken into; not talking about precious metal in the pub for this reason and claiming to be involved in knitwear instead. [1:06:58] Others from the RCA in the workshop including Helen Marriott [HM] and Marianne Forest; story about how HM always wore white in the workshop but never got dirty; other young silversmiths that RK knew at the time, including Richard Fox, Clive Burr. Planning a cycle trip to America with SM after she left the RCA; cycling from Seattle to New York; cycling with SM in Norfolk; influence of nature on RK’s work; finding inspiration in Shetland. Discovering current home in Norfolk during a cycling trip and selling London flat; feelings about moving to Norfolk in 1986; increased speed of commute to London since then; visits from people in London. Commission from DeBeers for the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes; requirements for this design; photographing race horses; description of design; story about going to Hatton Garden to get diamonds; problems with warping during soldering gold; designing outside of comfort zone; importance of delivering on time and to budget. Story about going to Ascot and sitting in the Royal enclosure; mention that the race was won by horse called Reference Point, and the dish made by RK stayed in this country. [1:22:35] RK's outfit for Ascot; privileges as a silversmith including visiting Downing Street and meeting The Queen. Handing over completed commissions; presentation boxes; carrying precious items in old boxes and bags for security. Presentation drawings; use of photocopier in drawing process. [1:29:15] History of silversmithing in the trade and influence of this on pricing in comparison with the art market; pricing records; working out the time that a piece will take to make; not placing value on the drawings themselves. [1:31:52] Workshop in Old Street, London; equipment required to set up a workshop including a hearth, blow torch, air compressor, rolling mills; story about contacting Durston, a manufacturer of rolling mills and striking a bargain on these; expense of setting up a workshop; spinning lathe purchased from John Gilbert, a dentist who had a silversmithing workshop; mention that this is a Taylor spinning lathe, made in Birmingham. Building up equipment over years; further comments about prohibitive expense of setting up a workshop and effect of this on the profession. [1:36:37] Invitation by Garrard to make several items; order from Head of Silver, Fred Bingham, for a pair of vases; visiting Garrard workshop, who would not let RK in; tension between art school trained designers and the trade; feelings about this; strained relationship between RK and Garrard workshop. Display of the vases at Garrard in a showcase amongst reproduction pieces; going to talk to the showroom staff about designing and making the vases; their lack of interest in modern silver; decline of Garrard. Sale of the vases at a show in Maastricht, where they were displayed on their own and properly lit. Auction of the vases at Bonham’s; concerns about this in light of devaluation of modern silver; their sale for around twenty four thousand pounds, the highest price for a piece of modern silver at auction that year; success of subsequent pieces that have been sold. [1:44:55] Description of the carp and willow vases, now owned by a collector who is a good friend; memories associated with making pieces; memories attached to the carp and willow vase; fly fishing trip to the River Itchen in Hampshire and learning to cast; fishing with Angus McFaddyen; photographing and drawing trout caught in Hampshire. Using the Internet for research; drawing from printed images and textbooks. Drawing in the evening; SM's drawing skills. [1:55:00] Feedback on work from SM; decision making; not being near other silversmiths to share ideas; not talking to friends in village about work. Difficulty of finding ideas; being asked about this at exhibitions; problems with developing ideas on paper; feeling that money is earned by making pieces of silver rather than designing things; mention that there is rarely a fee for design, except in work for the royal Mint; reasons for doing design work in the evenings. Feeling of getting up in the morning having finished some sketches the night before; sense of achievement; aiming to achieve something every day; work ethic; never dreading work.

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