CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe to Devon Life today CLICK HERE

Magical Metals – the art of fused metal work

PUBLISHED: 16:38 11 July 2016 | UPDATED: 16:39 11 July 2016

Wayne Meeten's silver jug. Photo: Andrew Jones

Wayne Meeten's silver jug. Photo: Andrew Jones

Archant

Silversmith Wayne Meeten is a leading light in the art of fused metal work – an ancient craft originating in Japan.

Wayne Meeten creates the surface of his work through thounsands of tiny hammer marks. Photo: Andrew JonesWayne Meeten creates the surface of his work through thounsands of tiny hammer marks. Photo: Andrew Jones

In a purpose built studio a few miles outside of Exeter, Wayne Meeten sits surrounded by hand-made hammers. He estimates there are more than 150 in total - All in different sizes and weights and made by Wayne to create the stunning patinas on his range of vessels, plates and silverwork. But that’s not even the most interesting thing in the studio of this award winning silversmith. It is the metal that he uses to create these stunning works of art that makes them so special – slabs fused with alloys of fine silver, copper, shakudo and Shibuichi, which creates wonderful patterns of colour.

Wayne’s love of fine metal working began at the age of 16 when he started his career in the famous lanes of Brighton renovating antique jewellery, where he remembers he wanted to be a diamond-mounter for Cartier. “I was eager to learn the trade properly but my boss at the time had other ideas,” he remembers.

Wayne Meeten creates hundreds of bespoke hammers to create the tiny patina effect. Photo: Ewen MacDonaldWayne Meeten creates hundreds of bespoke hammers to create the tiny patina effect. Photo: Ewen MacDonald

Instead he left to travel the world from Canada through Asia. On his return some years later he enrolled at the Sir John Cass School of Art – renowned as Europe’s finest metalwork academy, where he remained committed to the idea of working in the jewellery industry. “At college they said why don’t you learn design and make your own jewellery?” says Wayne. So he began to experiment with ancient Japanese metalworking techniques, teaching himself from textbooks before heading to Tokyo to study under several of the country’s leading experts in their field. It is here that he learned the art of Mokume-Gane. This very old technique of fusing various different metals together using pressure and heat originated in Edo period, the making of swords for its Samurai warriors.

Today Mokume-Gane remains a specialist craft practised by a very few in Japan – and Wayne who is now recognised as a leading practitioner. His time in Tokyo not only taught him technique but also the philosophy that underpins this ancient practice. And decades later, looking at the array of pieces in Wayne’s studio it is easy to see why he developed a life-long interest in transforming the fused metal using this painstaking method that to create pieces that have an ethereal beauty.

Wayne Meeten created the goblets show from a single sheet of fused metals using a Japanese method. Photo:Andrew JonesWayne Meeten created the goblets show from a single sheet of fused metals using a Japanese method. Photo:Andrew Jones

After sketching out his ideas – each one is often a unique design – he creates a wooden model which is itself a work of art, before starting on the final piece. There is an alchemy in working with a thick slab of quite uninspiring-looking metal (to these untrained eyes) but as the metal is expertly worked, the different layers reveal themselves; something Wayne carefully plans in his designs.

“Each piece starts off with a flat sheet, then I raise it up – that can take 100 hours,” he explains. “I make the tools and hammers I need for the piece – each mark on the metal is created by an individual hammer mark; it can take months to make each piece – the longest a piece has taken me is two years.”

Wayne Meeten at work in his Devon studio on a commissioned item that will be send to New York. Photo: Ewen MacDonaldWayne Meeten at work in his Devon studio on a commissioned item that will be send to New York. Photo: Ewen MacDonald

When a piece is not being worked on it is kept warm with an electric blanket. “The metal is made of atoms,” he explains. “If it’s not warmed up the metal can split or crack.”

Most of his work is in vessel form and the interior of each piece is as important as the exterior. “The inside has to be perfect,” he says. “The buying public will always look inside to see what’s hidden.” It’s the inner hidden qualities that interests Wayne from his teachings of Tai Chi Chuan and Chi Kung movements, where he studied for more than 25 years in Devon. “It’s a bit like people,” he adds. “As you get older, you stop looking at the outside of people, and look for the inner hidden qualities.” Wayne is also renowned for adding unique hidden messages on the underside, from golden facets, to beautiful floral designs.

Wayne Meeten first sketches out his design before creating a wooden prototype. Photo: Ewen MacDonaldWayne Meeten first sketches out his design before creating a wooden prototype. Photo: Ewen MacDonald

Wayne’s work is inspired by the materiality of the fused metals, as well as observing the world around him – from the night sky seen without light pollution to the fluidity of water. Japanese philosophy also continues to inspire and enthral him.

His work has become highly collectable and sits in a range of important collections, among them Chatsworth House, Exbury House, the Goldsmiths Company London, the Contemporary Arts Society and the Pearson Collection. People are seeing his work as antiques of the future, he tells me. His awards are many and the latest is an International Art Craft Design award 2016. This year he will also be included in the Who’s Who in Visual Art – 100 Artisans, Craftspeople and Designers. In May he went to Japan where he studied Zougan Inlay and Uchi Dashi, with one the of highest Living national Treasures of Japan – a term given to people or groups who embody intangible national, cultural values of Japan. This month he will be showing in Oxford followed by exhibitions in London and new York. “There’s a real renaissance with Silversmithing – and the British are leading the vanguard,” he says. “I was 16 when I started and I am 54 now and I am still going – and I love what I do. You know you are in the right job because the time flies.”

Discover more at wvmstudio.com.

More from People

Wed, 11:54

In the latest in her series throughout 2018 profiling inspirational women, KATE HASKELL talks to England Women’s Cricket Captain, Heather Knight

Read more
Wed, 11:44

Actor Tom Burke talks to JUDI SPIERS about his production of Don Carlos staged by his own theatre company Ara, in association with Exeter’s Northcott Theatre

Read more
Friday, October 26, 2018

There is more to Georgia Toffolo than an award-winning TV show, as HOLLY EELLS discovers

Read more
Friday, October 26, 2018

Striving to be the best in the world, homegrown Devon professional squash player Lyell Fuller is seeking sponsorship to help reach his goal. KATE WILLAMS finds out more

Read more
Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Tavistock Rugby Club in Devon is celebrating after being awarded a grant of £2,500 to fund private showers for referees at their Sandy Park ground, as part of rural energy provider Calor’s annual funding scheme

Read more
Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Devon’s Wilfred Emmanuel-Jones, also known as The Black Farmer, tells KATE WILLIAMS about his new book, Jeopardy, encouraging the embracing of risk to enrich life

Read more
Tuesday, October 2, 2018

As five members of Dartmoor Search and Rescue Ashburton celebrate 125 years of collective volunteering, we look back on their time with the organisation

Read more
Tuesday, September 25, 2018

CAROLYN SEAGER reveals how long after her mother’s death she discovered her amazing career in the service of her country

Read more
Tuesday, September 18, 2018

An author known for her novels depicting life on the Channel Islands is nonetheless happiest writing from home here in Devon

Read more
Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Fig Tree Court is a development of 14 apartments in Tiverton for retired and semi- retired over-55s with gorgeous views over the Grand Western Canal

Read more
Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Alex Green goes behind the scenes on the Dartington Hall Estate to find a community of artists, makers, farmers, and social entrepreneurs living out the legacy of its founders

Read more
Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Many people know of award-winning Roly’s Fudge, but do they know how much hard work and business insight goes into making it?

Read more
Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Topsham businessmen Steve Williams and Pete Woodham-Kay take an ethical stance on eating meat | Photos: Nick Hook

Read more
Tuesday, August 28, 2018

As llama love grips the nation, we meet a Dartmoor couple who have spent the last 11 years making them their livelihood | Words: Lydia Tewkesbury

Read more

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy



Topics of Interest

Food and Drink Directory

Subscribe or buy a mag today


subscription ad

Local Business Directory

Property Search