Our recent sojurn at Cockpit Arts Open Studio brought many new talented makers to our attention, including Shona Marsh, a silversmith whose work is owned by the Pope (!) The clean lines and unusual designs of Shona’s work really caught our eye and the cheeseboard is most certainly a piece we wish to adorn our Pantry, complete with a fine Stichelton cheese, of course. To discover more about Shona’s work and how her amazing Papal opportunity came about, read on…
Please can you introduce yourself and your work?
I’m Shona Marsh and I make contemporary silverware for the table.
Why did you become a silversmith?
Having initially studied Fine Art I missed the simplicity of craft and making. I enjoy myself most when I’m sat at my workbench immersed in making, where I can see my ideas come to life and then go on to be used and enjoyed by others.
Your silverware is absolutely gorgeous! How would you describe your aesthetic and what is it influenced by?
Thank you! Function lies at the heart of my work, making well designed and well made objects. I would say my aesthetic is simple and honest. I’m inspired by quality and substance and believe that an object’s beauty is defined by the detail.
What is the most rewarding part of the designing and making process for you?
If the piece has a simplicity to it it’s very difficult to hide any mistakes so the piece has to be crafted and balanced perfectly. Finishing something and it having that quality is extremely rewarding and when a customer comes along and their eyes light up at it – that’s the cherry on the top!
You designed and made a papal cross for The Pope – amazing! Tell me how that came about.
Before moving to London I studied and consequently set up a studio in Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter. I had not long finished making a large commission for the Birmingham Assay Office that lead me to work alongside Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, when they (BMAG) and the Jewellery Industry and Innovation Centre ( which was affiliated with the Birmingham School of Jewellery) contacted me asking how my schedule was. They then asked if I would be interested in working alongside them to recreate some pieces from the recently unearthed Staffordshire Hoard, the cross being one of the items. They then dropped the bombshell that one of the pieces would go to the Pope. The Pope had expressed interest in seeing the Cross from the hoard collection so it was decided a replica would be gifted to him on his visit to Birmingham. It was a wonderful opportunity and led to some really interesting projects working with other items from the Staffordshire Hoard. To get up close and personal with these beautiful and quite frankly astounding items was very inspiring. I went on to make replica items for the Mercian Trail and Lichfield Cathedral.
What are you most looking forward to in your career at the moment?
I’m currently working on a commission for the Royal Engineers to celebrate the 300 year anniversary of the Sappers. I’m looking forward to finishing that as it’s one of the more complicated pieces I will have made! I’m also in the middle of designing and making a new collection and will be launching that later in the year. It’s been something I have been working on slowly behind the scenes for a long time and to see it finally come to fruition will be really exciting. Getting the first reactions from the pieces will also be something to look forward to and see whether I’ve found the perfect balance between function, beauty and craft in my work.
Finally, what does ‘A Well Made Life’ mean to you?
I would say it means a life dedicated to something you feel passionately about. Living it well, taking enjoyment from the everyday, paying attention to the little things so we don’t drift through and waste it.
This is the first in a series of articles profiling makers from Cockpit Arts Studios in Holborn & Deptford. Keep your eye out for more here.
Interview by Verity Inett
Portrait image by Alun Callendar / Cockpit Arts