Participating in Cornwall Design: The Art Of Making, at Newlyn Art Gallery

Product photographs by John Hersey

Where did your love of metalwork originate? 

My grandmother was a formidable woman who cared deeply about her possessions. Every artefact had a story from her colourful life full of travel and adventure. It taught me the importance of objects. I would help her polish all the brass and silverware on a bi-weekly basis, and that instilled in me an appreciation for the skill, care and intricacy developed by makers throughout history. My love of antiques, and the tools and processes used to create them, began there. 

How sensory is the making experience for you? 

The feel, patinas, textures and even the smell of the brass and silver have always evoked in me an excitement and intrigue into how it was all created. Brass is quite an old-fashioned metal, and in my current practice I feel it’s important to bring this under-used metal into a more contemporary use and design. 

At what point did you decide to gain formal training in the craft? 

Initially, my passions fell between painting and sculpture, but I never developed a real identity. I was confused and didn’t know that a craft degree befitting my ‘fine art’ style at the time was out there. While at art college, the course leader from Falmouth University’s Contemporary Craft degree visited and demonstrated work created from the course. That’s when I knew for certain that training in craft was for me. 

Where do you work?  

I was in the spare room, but I don’t think my partner, dog or neighbours appreciated the endless banging vibrating through the uninsulated wooden floorboards of our 19th century fisherman’s cottage! I now work from a self-contained unit within an old granite grist mill, which I share with some other wonderful creatives.  

Tell us about your traditional tools and techniques 

I didn’t have much money to invest in a lot of tools when I committed to making, so I started with the absolute basics: for example, a collection of hammers and a doming block, mostly gathered second-hand. It forced me to be creative with the traditional tools that I did have. I love the idea that the processes I use haven’t changed for hundreds of years, keeping the tradition alive but bringing the designs themselves into the present. 

You work on a steel bench block, which contributes to the texture of your pieces

The patterns and textures left on my steel bench block I feel are a secret story left by the maker. The many hours spent hammering away creating pieces have left a mark. The inverted textures left on the brass handles I use for my spoons are created by those many slips of the hammer indenting the steel. Each piece has evolved from a piece made before. 

How do you intend your pieces to be used?  

They are absolutely created to be functional, but they equally look beautiful hanging on the wall. I love the idea of my pieces being a conversation piece and a delight to use. Tableware and serve-ware create rituals within a home. For example, a tea strainer in particular forces you to take a moment of calm – you can’t rush loose-leaf tea stewing in a teapot, delicately pouring it through a beautiful tea strainer, catching the leaves then placing it to rest while enjoying what you’ve just spent the time to make. 

You use rivets to join your pieces. How did this process evolve? 

I was determined to make spoons, but I didn’t have the appropriate facilities or tools to solder such big forms, so I began experimenting with riveting to join my pieces instead. This developed into a meditative and delicate process, and I instantly grew to love it. I then began transferring this skill into all my work, including my jewellery and hair pins. The rivets are so small and intricate, and using recycled silver against the contrasting brass really adds to the aesthetic and intrigue of each piece. 

How do your Cornish surroundings inspire you? 

I create the circles used as my spoon cups in an organic nature, inspired by circles found in my immediate surroundings: honesty seed pods, limpets, wall pennywort and nasturtium leaves. Cornwall is such an inspiring place in general, steeped in history and full of exciting and creative people and makers; you can’t help but feel inspired. 

Rebecca Rasmussen is participating in the exhibition Cornwall Design: The Art Of Making at Newlyn Art Gallery, featuring exceptional contemporary craft by regional designers and makers. They include: glass artist Bethany Wood; potters Jack Doherty, John Mackenzie and Tor Harrison; textile artists Amy Brock Morgan (BROCK) and Darn Collective; jeweller Emily Nixon; wood sculptor Kinsley Byrne; Francli Craftwear and Tom Raffield Design. The exhibition runs in The Picture Room, Studio and gallery shop areas. All work is for sale. 

Cornwall Design: The Art Of Making coincides with the Jerwood Art Fund Makers Open, which showcases a broad range of material disciplines including glass, textiles, digital modelling, silversmithing and sculptural installation. See this in the upper and lower galleries. Both exhibitions run until October 1.