Knew Concepts - Fine Metalsmithing Equipment Designed for Artisans

Knewsletter Featured Artist: James Miller, FIPG

The Flax Flower EggThe Flax Flower Egg
(click to view more).

The Flax Flower Egg was one of my designs and commissioned by Kutchinsky of Knightsbridge, a commission via Sannitt & Stein Ltd. who supplied most of Kutchinsky’s stock. The egg stood 250mm high, was made from 18ct gold, decorated with hard fired enamels and set with diamonds.

The Table Centerpiece
The Table Centerpiece
(click to view more).

The Table Centerpiece was one of my designs commissioned by Carelle Ltd. and was sold to a customer in the Middle East. The set was made up of a mixture of guilloche enamelled silver overlayed with 18ct white gold piercings. The flowers are hard fired enamelled 18ct gold, each with diamond set centres. Total height is 400mm.

Mystery Clock
The Mystery Clock
(click to view more).

The Mystery Clock was a design and commission from Sannitt & Stein for Kutchinsky. It stood 400mm. high and was made from a mixture of 18ct gold and guilloche enamelled silver. The bull rushes were set with champagne coloured diamonds, the flowers and dragonfly bodies set with white diamonds and the clock's front and rear glasses were 55mm. diameter facetted citrines.

The Single Rose
The Single Rose
(click to view more).

The Single Rose bloom and a butterfly seated on trailing ivy, all set in a carved rock crystal vase. This was one of my designs commissioned by Carelle Ltd. and sold to Asprey. The flower specimen was made from 18ct gold with hard fired enamels and the tips of the rose petals and the butterfly body are set with diamonds. Height 200mm.

I am an English master goldsmith who specialises in the making of unique pieces of gold and silver, so far my career within this trade has spanned 52 years.

I am a traditionally trained goldsmith, I served an indentured apprenticeship at Padgett & Braham Ltd. lasting nearly six years. My indentured apprenticeship was officially backed by the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths in London. The length of my apprenticeship was timed to finish when I reached the age of 21. I was trained by Herbert James Jones, who was a master goldsmith and had spent most of his career working at Garrard, the Crown Jewellers, before moving to Padgett & Braham in 1953 when Garrard closed their original workshops.

Towards the end of my apprenticeship I was required to make a “Masterpiece”, this piece was meant to show the skills that I had mastered during my apprenticeship.

In late 1967 after I had reached the age of 21. I attended a ceremony at the Goldsmith’s Hall, where I was to officially end my indentured apprenticeship by showing my masterpiece to the Prime Warden of the Goldsmith’s Company and after a short ceremony I was made a Freeman of the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths. On this same day I attended another ceremony at the Guildhall in the City of London, where I was also made a Freeman of the City of London.

I had started my career in 1961, as an apprentice goldsmith with Padgett & Braham Ltd. who were a major London goldsmiths and silversmiths company at that time, supplying the nearby major London stores such as Garrard of Regent Street and Asprey of Bond Street with their stock and special commissions.

A Pair of White Chrysanthemums
A Pair of White Chrysanthemums
(click to view more).

A Pair of White Chrysanthemums with trailing ivy, set in a carved rock crystal vase with a guilloche enamelled base. One of my own designs and made of 18ct gold and hard fired enamels. Height 250mm. and part of my own collection.

In 1969, I became the workshop manager of the insignia department and in this period I dealt directly with the then Crown Jeweller of Garrard, William Hamilton Summers. At this time most of the goldsmithing work was commissions of regalia. This included foreign regalia and UK. Civic regalia, such as Mayor Badges of office, parliamentary regalia, and general British Empire decorations and regalia.

In 1976, I was asked to join a new goldsmithing company, this was McCabe McCarty Ltd. This new company had a small workshop, staffed with three ex Cartier trained goldsmiths and one apprentice. I joined their company and became a member of the team that were supplying Asprey with unique gold and enamelled items. Items that were displayed in The Asprey Gold Room, and offered for sale to special customers and royalty from around the world.

During this new period I was encouraged to expand my skills and design ideas, I was asked to design and make my first Faberge type Easter egg, and this was followed by other small ornate pieces that made use of my many traditional goldsmithing skills.

After a couple of years at this new company our workshop had grown and now we had a total of eight goldsmiths, one apprentice and a polisher, I was once again made workshop manager, which meant that once again I dealt with the buyers from Asprey and Garrard.

The company’s reputation grew so in 1982 the company moved to larger premises and we increased our workshop staff, now we had twelve goldsmiths, four apprentices, two polishers, an engine turner and some office staff.

In 1985, I decided it was time for a change, so I left the employ of McCabe McCarty and set up my own, one man company, James Miller Design. At first I made pieces exclusively for my previous employers, some were commissions which they financed and then sold on to Asprey.

This was a great help to start my business. When finances allowed, I designed and made up a few pieces to sell to new customers, such as Cartier and Kutchinsky, although I preferred to sell through agents as I am not a salesman, I am a bench worker.

I was made a Fellow of the Institute of Professional Goldsmiths in 1986. So I now add the initials FIPG after my name.

During my career I have entered some of my pieces into the annual Craft Council competition run by the Goldsmith’s Company. My efforts have been quite successful and I have won three first place awards in my section along with eleven other awards.

In later years I was asked to become a judge for this competition and I accepted and was a judge in the goldsmith’s small work section for a few years.

Since I have worked for myself, I have formed working relationships with other craftsmen who excel at their skills and together we have made some fantastic pieces.

In 2009, a book of my work was published by Hale Books

As I am a keen photographer, I had taken photographs of most of my creations made over my career, so I had a good collection of unique photographs. My publisher thought it would be a good idea to publish the book and show that some traditional skills of goldsmithing were still active today and that current goldsmiths were still creating unique pieces that could rival those of the past Russian masters.

James Miller, FIPG

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