Kelly, Rod (4 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 4: Commission for Downing Street in about 1986 or 1987; story of how the Silver Trust was formed; mention of making a presentation to the committee which included Jean Muir [JM]. Invitation to make two large dishes and two large bowls; RK’s suggestion that the dishes were decorated with the four flowers of the four nations and that the bowls were decorated with the four heraldic beasts; these were decorated with fresh vegetables by JM on the opening night; feelings about this. John Major’s comments about the pieces; portrait of JM by John Wonnacott which includes one of RK’s silver vases; Mention that JM and his wife, Norma, championed modern silver and that this continued into the era of Tony Blair. Approach by Cherie Blair to make a small copy of one of the dishes as a production of twelve to give to visiting dignitaries; budget for official gifts; receiving an annual Christmas card from the Blairs; being asked to make more of the dishes during the era of Gordon Brown for less money and being unable to do this. Seeing pieces of silver on television in the background at Downing Street. [0:08:06] First seeing piece in JM portrait when John Keatley [JK] sent RK a newspaper clipping. Brief for commission for Downing Street; history of the show of silver at livery companies, known as “the buffet”; researching the imagery on the vases and dishes from books and newspaper photo libraries; using the internet, especially Google Images, the Bodleian Library, the Bridgeman Art Library and other art libraries today; purchasing the whole back copy of National Geographic on DVD; finding leaves and plants in the real world; doing this due to pressures on time. Description of working out the form and the decoration and drawing this onto the piece; problems with doing this; composing and re-drawing things several times; balancing decoration; time-consuming nature of this; reasons for using pencil rather than marker pen; feelings about completing a piece of decoration. [0:18:00] Deciding when a piece of decoration is complete; starting to cut the part that RK is most confident with; description of building up the elements of a piece; different feelings when a piece is completed. Description of the form of the vase; photograph of people begging in India holding vessels of a similar shape; four sided-shape of the dishes. Intended purpose of the vessels; looking at stems in the vases; technical problems because of the size of the dishes’ “wire” edge. Not always knowing how silver will react to heat; distortions caused by heat dispersal; fixing these. [0:24:48] Process of having designs accepted by Downing Street; input from the Silver Trust. Drawings of work going back to 1983, including original Downing Street designs; time taken to make the dishes; working long hours; looking back on the experience of completing commissions. [0:27:49] Looking back on making the binding for the William Morris [WM] Kelmscott edition of the Works of Chaucer and the Victoria and Albert Museum [V&A] Bible. Suggestion by JK about making a silver book binding; introduction to bookbinder, James Brockman [JB]; traditional approach to silver bookbinding; making the boards and hinges from silver this time; making a series of models. Illustrations in the Chaucer, originally by Burne-Jones and interpreted by WM’s engravers; title page; value of the book. JB’s restoration of the book; process of fixing the book to the covers; problems with silver distortion over large flat areas; rigorous parameters set by JB to prevent harm to the book; JK’s response to the work; mention that RK donated it to the Fitzwilliam Museum; article about the book for the bookbinder’s journal; feelings about this commission in retrospect. [0:36:05] Balance between images on the cover and fittings for the cover and the boards; description of this; use of images from the text; images relating to the Keatley family; description of the clasp. Feelings about the finished piece; anxiety as part of the making process; rising to the challenge of working with silver. [0:42:47] Raw materials used for the Chaucer; silver sent by post from Spain; 1.1 or 1.2, previously known as fourteen gauge; metric sizes of wire. Transferring flat drawings onto the surface of the book; easing into making the book. [0:47:29] Refurbishment of the Sacred Silver Gallery at the V&A by the Whitley Trust; approach from Tessa Murdoch and Eric Turner from the V&A with the suggestion of binding a Bible; finding a Bible to bind that had some history in itself; JB’s suggestion of a Cambridge University Press Bruce Rogers 1928 Bible; sourcing an edition via Maggs Bothers Limited, Berkeley Square; history of this particular Bible from Boston. Story about first seeing the Bible; size of this lectern Bible; feelings about this; mention of advice from Ian Calvert [IC] and JM; building on the experience of making the Chaucer. Mention that the Bible is part of the V&A permanent collection; feelings about this. Description of imagery on the front and back; composing the designs on paper; feelings about these drawings. Changes in the silver during the chasing process; hardening of the metal as the surface is embossed; sagging in the metal over time. Description of trying to straighten one of the leaves; problems of heating the metal to an even temperature to anneal it; various methods used to try and flatten the leaf without damaging the chasing. Visiting IC, who suggested that the silver would have to be plated; description of this process; pressure to complete the piece on time; description of removing the steel plates; feelings about completing this piece of work. [1:11:18] Technique of heating the plates; description of heating silver to a dull red colour to anneal it; leaving some pieces work hardened rather than annealing them. IC’s background in the silver trade; his wealth of experience; first meeting IC at a Garrard exhibition; learning from John Bartholomew at college; benefit of having large hands as a silversmith. Sharing techniques with other silversmiths; cultural background to giving silver which means that silversmiths work to tight deadlines unlike practitioners of some other crafts; lack of opportunity to meet other silversmiths; seeking advice at key moments. Display of The Bible at the V&A; idea of sons going to see the piece in years to come. [1:22:11] Mention that all of these pieces have been made in RK’s current workshop; constant need to move furniture in workshop and home; anecdote about car journey with uncle. Mention that son Jamie is aged eighteen and Angus is aged twenty; feelings about them pursuing their own interests; not encouraging them towards silversmithing at the moment; their attitude towards RK’s work; Angus’ interest as a History undergraduate; working with the family around; having a dog in the workshop; being able to spend time with sons when they got home from school; looking after sons when they were very small. Events that Sheila and sons have been invited to, including meeting The Queen at Ascot, the Royal Mint, Livery Dinners at Goldsmiths Hall; mention that sons can become Freemen of the GC. [1:33:36] Suggestion by Doctor Kevin Clancy at the Royal Mint Museum that RK might design a coin; medal for the Schumacher Trust; brief for two pound coin to celebrate the work of Isambard Kingdom Brunel; process of developing the design; designing the coin whilst in Shetland; working with Bob Elderton [Robert Elderton] to create a low relief plaster model of the coin; being awarded the commission; mention that RK’s initials are on the coin; description of the design. [1:39:45] Story about going to the Royal Mint to see the first coins being hand pressed, where Jamie was allowed to press the coins; transition from metal to coins; special coins given by RK to his sons on their eighteenth birthdays; story about receiving one of the coins in Tesco. Briefs from the Royal Mint; range of responses to the same brief; lecture at Hatfield House as part of the brief for the Queen Elizabeth five pound Crown; visit to Hampton Court; meeting other designers at the lecture. Feelings about design for the Euro coin; typefaces on coins; techniques for designing including use of paper and pencil, as well as Adobe Illustrator; looking at images on screens and on paper. Reasons for not liking the design of the Euro coin; effort involved in producing a new design; mention that the Royal Mint produces coins for countries all over the World; lack of recognition for British expertise in coin design. [1:50:40] Effects of the scale of a coin on its design; wanting to convey too much; designing for one pound coins. [1:52:41] What makes a good pencil; preference for Staedtler pencils and German pencil sharpeners; looking after Rotring pens; feeling that these pens will not be produced for much longer; mechanical pencils; feelings about Derwent pencils. Four items needed by RK to start designing.

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