Last year when I was spending some time in London, I did an experimental casting workshop at Cockpit Arts with Katrin Spranger and Kelvin J Birk. In this workshop I discovered the joys of working with pewter. Its low melting point enables it to be melted down relatively quickly in a saucepan on the hob and thrown into water, over pasta and rice, cast into sand and chucked into cracks in the pavement, all resulting in unique and endlessly interesting solid metal forms.
The low-tech delights of pewter casting and the way molten pewter looks as it swishes around the saucepan reminded me of long-ago moments in the school science lab, when globs of shiny mercury raced around a petri dish and iron filings formed regimented and mobile patterns on a sheet of paper directed by the movement of a magnet held beneath the page.
It’s this alchemical magic that entrances me as a maker, the way that materials endlessly surprise me both with their own individual properties and in the way that different materials interact with each other.
Recently, I have been experimenting with pewter again, repeatedly melting and pouring, using improvised moulds for casting and moving the metal around while it’s still in its molten state. I’ve been twinning it with other materials such as stainless steel wire, fish hooks, nails, silver, brass, copper and gold leaf.
Nicolas asked me why I was attracted to pewter and I answered that it’s a material very much associated with Europe in my mind, specifically with the United Kingdom. As such, I find it appropriate to be working with the product of one of my nationalities whilst living in my other homeland. Last week I used the metal as a building block for an exhibition with fellow Handshaker Sandra Schmid at The National in Christchurch, an experience which I will write about in another post.