Artisan

BREAKING THE MOULD

Siân Evans, Sussex, England

“In a lot of ways, modern life doesn’t have a conclusion,” ponders coppersmith Siân Evans. “It’s never-ending scrolling through social media, and there’s always another email.

I think that’s why I like the process of starting with a piece of metal, and ending with a piece of jewellery. You do get a sense of punctuation. There’s a beginning, middle and end, and that’s very therapeutic.”
Siân, 50, from Sussex, studied silversmithing and jewellery in the late Eighties, but doing work experience with a coppersmith would start a lifelong passion. “It was a six-week placement that turned into a four-year apprenticeship,” she says. “And after that I set up my own studio.”

“I like the process of starting with a piece of metal, and ending with a piece of jewellery”

Coppersmithing is a niche art. It was common a couple of centuries ago, but the Second World War largely put an end to the practice. “Men and metals went to munitions,” says Siân. “And the landscape of industrial Britain changed forever. But I’m helping to keep it alive.” Siân finds immense satisfaction in the moulding process. “I love the material,” she says. “It’s connecting with an element. I love applying the heat, seeing the colour changes. I enjoy the physics of it. I’ve always loved geology, too. Having that contact with an ore that has come out of the ground, and then making it into things that take away the hardness of the metal, is very pleasing.”

“If you have a bad day but you still made a thing, then it’s not bad”

There’s a contradiction at the heart of her delicate work. “I like my copper not to look too hard, even though it is a solid metal,” she says. “I make small feathers, delicate flowers, insects. I like the idea of bringing delicacy into metal, using a hammer!” The learning curve she’s still on is also hugely important to a rich life, says Siân. “Committing to something and putting in the hours is a key to being content,” she adds. “Even if you just do a little bit each day towards whatever your dream is, that’s important. Eventually the scales will tilt. Keeping the faith is important. If you have a bad day but you still made a thing or learnt a thing, then it’s not bad. It’s all accumulating towards something.”

Photography by Suzy Bennett