Bill Chaytor: Reflections in Silver


30 April - 20 July 2016

This special display showcased a number of works by renowned local silversmith, Bill Chaytor. A local artist, Bill has taken inspiration from the magnificent countryside of the North-East.As he states;

‘From early childhood I have lived in the countryside with nature’s bounty all around me. Growing up in remote Coverdale my playground was the dales around my home where, with my talented artist mother’s encouragement, I learned to observe the natural world keenly.

My own art was slow to crystallise into silversmithing. I found my metier when I attended sculpture classes at Darlington Tech and the John Cass in London and fell for silver as a medium whilst on a jewellery making course at West Dean College in Sussex.

Silversmiths do often work in other such as gold, copper and brass. Bill works predominantly with silver, which is usually purchased in sheet form – often 0.9mm thick. 

Silver has been used for thousands of years. The techniques employed by silversmiths today can be traced back to ancient times, with considerable modifications following the advent of electricity and modern manufacturing techniques.

There are different techniques used by silversmiths such as forging, casting, soldering, cutting, carving and cold-joining where adhesives or rivets may be used. Different finishes are created by polishing a piece to make it highly reflective and shiny, or hammering a piece with different shaped hammers to create different patterns and shapes.

Courses in silversmithing are generally balanced between the art and making of objects and the theory and history behind the craft. The innovation and development of practical projects utilising different skills is actively encouraged on all courses. 

However it was a key event that triggered Bill’s ‘serious silversmithing’,  the theft of the 18th Century Milbank communion silver from Croft Church in 1990 As Bill says:

I offered to make a wafer box after which followed a ciborium, two chalices and a paten. The Goldsmiths’ Company was very supportive and the brilliant master silversmiths tutoring at West Dean College gave and continue to give me inspiring guidance and encouragement. Five other churches requested communion silver and I hugely enjoyed designing and making pieces that related to each church in question.

This special display featured a menagerie of birds and animals among spoons, chalices, tumblers and other religious pieces, his most recent being the Bishop’s crozier and three butterflies.