Sunday, November 4, 2012

Recycling, repurposing, resurrecting ....

From time to time when I'm doing a post and choosing labels for the content; when I'm writing descriptions for items going into my online shop; or describing my work to visitors (e.g. during our  open studios events) I get to thinking about what describes what I do with the metal I salvage and use.

There is no doubt that I'm recovering and recycling metal salvaged from donated, found and purchased objects such as trays, pots, jardinieres. But I tend to respond to and work the metal in different ways.

When I cut up silver plated cake and biscuit trays and brass and copper jardinieres I am usually just interested in getting a stock of plate metal.

©2012 Barry Smith - Cut up silver plated EPNS trays - metal stock
I then beat and fold form this flat metal into bowls and leaf forms. This is very similar to what other metal workers do when they buy sheet metal stock.

© 2012 Barry Raised bowl beaten from silver plated EPNS flat metal

©2012 Barry Smith - Beaten brass bowl made from recycled flat brass 
©2012 Barry Smith - Leaf form foldformed from silver plated EPNS flat metal
I use the offcuts to make riveted earrings and stamped inspirational words - again recycling and pretty standard metal and jewellery making work.

©2012 Barry Smith - Brass and silver plated EPNS flat metal
©2012 Barry Smith - Stamped words - silver plated EPNS flat metal
But in other instances I cut forms from objects and in some case rework them. For example, I sweat the stems off silver plated EPNS or copper wine goblets and cut the bowl of the goblet down to a size that suits me; and then after annealing the shape I beat it into the form that I want such as the bowl for a ladle or a small tall sided bowl. I also take salvaged metal tubing from old spirits stoves and reform it into rings. I see this as a form repurposing as I don't create the original shape from flat metal but rather reform and enhance what exists to give the section of the found object a new purpose a new life.

©2012 Barry Smith - Ladle 'bowl' reformed and repurposed from small silver plated copper wine goblet
©2012 Barry Smith - Small bowls reformed and repurposed from small silver plated EPNS wine goblets
©2012 Barry Smith - Ring made from brass tube from old spirit stove
And of course there are times when I simply find shapes in the metal offcuts; and give them a new life as is the case with found earrings. I don't have to do much more than harvest and polish such bits.

©2012 Barry Smith - Earring drop cut from a biscuit tray handle
©2012 Barry Smith - Earring drop cut from the edge of a silver plated EPNS tray 
So in fact at different times I simply recycle plate metal but at other times I repurpose forms and resurrect existing forms. I know this is not a world shattering revelation but I think it is useful for us as artisans to stop and reflect on just what it is that we do.


  1. this is a fantastic post B! before, i had a vague idea of what you do ... but after today, i know exactly what you do. the visions of you beating metal in my mind is not fuzzy anymore. thank you for sharing your varied processes with us! i really never thought of the 2nd process, until you wrote it here ... and then i think ... that's totally awesome and a totally natural thing to do! reform something which is already in the form you want but adding your style and touch to it! this is great stuff!

  2. B - I truly enjoyed this reflection. I think it's good to stop and think about what we do; because each of these processes IS different from the other, and there is a talent in determining which approach to take, and a skill in identifying the potential for each within the scraps you find. Just great!

  3. there is something so wonderful about seeing your hammer marks on the metal. The texture is beautiful. Each piece is a joy to see.

  4. Wonderful photos, great creations, the ring is gorgeous, good compositions, my favorite is the third photo, greetings.

  5. B, this is a glorious overview of your work! Inspirational and magical. Thank you for sharing these photos,

  6. B,
    I really enjoy your blog and have learner much about looking at repurposing with more open eyes than I once had. I realize I can use items I once questioned and I am loving it.

    Living in "the sticks" as they say, has meant I'm self taught. This is a blessing in many ways, but in some it means digging around more for safety's sake if anything.

    Thank you for being so inspiring.


  7. LT, F, TL, L & C - glad you enjoyed my musing on my approach to metal. LT & F - I always feel a little like I have cheated when I reform; but then again there is the skill in seeing the shape to be harvested and then the skill in reforming the piece. TL - hammer and fire you can't really beat them for textured and colour on metal. L - glad you like the pieces. C- an overview is good. All go well and harvest well. B

  8. A stunning showcase of artworks and images you've got going on there, B.


Comments are welcomed - it is good to connect with fellow travellers.