A Day At The Races
Posted: 25th Oct 12
We very recently completed work on this beautiful, one of a kind, bangle. It has been donated from Timothy Roe Fine Jewellery to the St Wilfrid’s Hospice Silver Ball.
Here is the story from Tim Roe himself:
“In July, Vice President of St Wilfrid’s Hospice, Anthony Wickins came to me to discuss any support I could give with the upcoming St Wilfrid's 25th Anniversary at Goodwood house. He suggested a table, an advert in the program or maybe a raffle prize . November seemed a long way off so I put it to the back of my mind.
A couple of weeks later Anthony contacted me again - "had I decided if I could help the Hospice " he asked - " Yes of course" I replied realising I had not thought about what I intended to donate "a prize for the raffle would be our contribution" I continued and hoped he had not noticed my pause for thought. "That's good, let me know what it will be won't you" I put the phone down and went back to the shop counter to help the next customer.
Most of what we make in our workshops starts out on paper which is then transferred to a CAD program in which we make up the jewellery - this provides a perfect image of the nearly finished item of jewellery and more importantly, a file that can produce a wax model which can then be cast in our workshops upstairs.
I had recently obtained a new CAD modelling program mainly used by game and film designers which was more like modelling a lump of clay than controlling vertices and planes in my normal jewellery program. I loved this new method of working and the possibilities for more sculptural designs but as it was a new interface with a huge number of functions I could only allow myself the time to learn it at home.
One Sunday I was looking for inspiration for these more sculptural jewels and came upon a Lalique blog with a number of images of his beautiful jewellery, from the turn of the last century.
A bracelet with a frame of trees caught my eye - it had an Art nouveau enamel lake dotted with a few small diamonds showing between the trees in the foreground. Thin plaque-a-jour enamel is not very durable so if I was to make a more practical bracelet the enamel lake would have to go.
A few sketches later, bearing in mind the venue for the Hospice celebration, I decided a view of horses racing past the trees could become a more interesting and appropriate subject.
It was a beautiful sunny Sunday so I jumped in the car and drove up to Goodwood racecourse with my camera. I took shots of the track near the 6 furlong marker from the tree line across towards the stands and Trundle. There was racing the next day and preparations were going on around the track with Goodwood officials doing work nearby. I needed a shot from the other side of the track so ignoring the keep out sign I strolled across and took the shot I needed. A shout rang out so I pretended not to hear and walked back towards the trees thinking that an explanation of my reason to be there would be listened to in disbelief and I might be arrested for trespassing or worse!
I got back to my car and was soon at home and forgetting the beautiful weather outside I set to work.
The frame was first and I decided on 5 oblong panels for the bracelet. Each panel had to have an arrangement of trees which would give it strength, texture and also frame the scene. Too close and you wouldn't see enough of scene and too open the 3d effect would be lost.
Over the next two weeks I completed the modelling of the trees twice losing many hours of work through not saving my work before the overworked laptop crashed. I must remember to save ! I was not sure at this stage which metals to use for which part of the bracelet but I was starting to realise that there wasn't much depth left behind the trees for the landscape and the horses.
My photos of Goodwood were to be used now, while each scene was developed. The centre panel was to me the most important and needed the grandstands to be visible on the horizon. I struggled with the detail on the main stand as it was so small but I still wanted it to be recognisable. After a few more days I was happy with the shape of the stands and the simplification of the groups of trees and fields, I added rails to the side of the track but took it away as it looked to harsh and confusing. I followed this with the Trundle panel, followed by the Singleton panel and the southern two panels. Each panel took about 3 or four days of home evening or Sunday work with a day or two in between.
While the bracelet was being worked on I gave the estimated size of the completed bracelet together with a design to our box makers in Birmingham and asked for a three week delivery for a presentation box. It would need to be made in our shop colours too and I crossed fingers that it would be delivered on time.
The horses were next. I made five basic horses with five different jockeys adding fine detail which unfortunately is lost during the conversion to wax and the subsequent casting and finishing- I had so much fine detail on the jockeys that I named one "the Frenchman" due to his Gallic profile which sadly cannot be distinguished now.
The gap between the landscape and the trees was between 2 and 4mm and I had to try to get parts of two or three horses overlapping between those parameters. This is where silver and it's ability to oxidise (blacken) or shine brilliant white, made this the right choice of precious metal for exaggerating the depth of the compressed detail and make it show out from between the trees.
Finally by the end of September the CAD files were ready for production. The five panel frame with the trees was built in wax using our additive rapid prototyping machine and the horse and landscape models were milled from wax using subtractive prototyping. The wax models produced were then carefully cast in gold and silver in our workshops above the shop. I had two weeks left now before the deadline and all the work now was by hand.
Each cast component then needed to be carefully filed, papered and fitted together. The detail had to be enhanced on the gold trees and silver panels with fine texturing and burnishing with the oxidation added then partly removed on the silver panels. Diamonds were then grain set along the edge of the clasp and the top and bottom edges were hand engraved with a running leaf design. The box arrived with a week to spare and fitted perfectly!”