Robert Birch


Silverware Collection

Design & Research

Robert is fully engaged in design research at The University of Sunderland, involving two principal areas of personal interest.

1. The integration of new technology and traditional craft practice of Jewellery and Silversmithing.

2. Investigating the historical application of geometry and proportional theory associated with various works of Art, Particularly Renaissance paintings and Architecture. i.e. The Penshaw Monument and a less well-known Greek revivalist folly 'The Counts House' in Durham.

Rudolf Wittkower says 'In trying to prove that a system of proportions has been deliberately applied by painter, sculptor or architect, one is easily misled into finding in a given work

1. The Design 4 Science Exhibition 2007

Featuring a collection of silver and14Ct gold Jewellery that explores the possibilities of form, derived from the scientific discovery of ATP synthesis. The Collection was created using Rhino software and rapid prototyping. The collection was exhibited in The Nobel Museum Stockholm. 6th Feb 2008 – 31st Aug 2008 and the Medical Museum Copenhagen from 21st Jan 2009 – 12 April 2009

2. Digital reconstruction

Digital reconstruction of a gadrooned silver monstrance featured in the painting of Mary Magdalen by Bernardino Luini
 circa. 1525
 National Gallery of Art
 Washington, DC

3. Bull and Butcher

This "Bull and Butcher" was made to emboss a decorative reeded wire similar to that illustrated on the Mary Magdalen monstrance. The tool is described as a "swage" ornamented with decorative details which are transferred to the work ~~ a kind of stamp which uses a combined punch and die principal for shaping cups from both the inside and outside simultaneously as mentioned in "The Work of Birmingham Jewellers" BY J. M. O'FALLON. Published in the Art Journal 1894

However O'fallon confuses the bull and butcher with a snarling-iron which in my opinion uses a somewhat different principal being a springy stake or cranked punch which rebounds to a hammer blow therefore "belchering" or doming parts of a pattern from the inside only particularly used for gadrooned or fluted decoration

The bull and butcher shown was that used in the Silversmithing workshop of the Butterworths family where I was apprenticed and finally passed on to me by my master Peter.

4. Photographic Interpretation and Transmutation:

A search into that which is hidden in the stone. Inspired by English Alchemical Verse from Elias Ashmole's Theatrum Chemicum Britannicum

The Holy place where dawn is never done
The garden wherein rebirth is begun
Is where the children dance the dance of life
With love and logic, reconciling strife
Enjoy the sacred garden of the sun.

Ammonite from Whitby taken to the Alchemy The Stone of Wisdom Symposium and Stone Cutting Workshop held in Lapeenranta College of Crafts and Design Finland. August 1997. © Robert Birch

5. Liturgical Silver

Silver Chalice based on the Vesica Piscis geometry (The spheres of heaven and earth) is paced on loan to The Treasury at Canterbury Cathedral where it was originally exhibited.