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Working with traditional Japanese alloys and patination

Water cast alloys

This project explores new ways of working with traditional Japanese alloys and patination through material science analysis and the production of studio work. Japanese metalworkers use a wide range of copper and precious metal alloys which are coloured with a single patination solution, an ancient technique developed for the production of multi-coloured metalwork. Our research aimed to improve our ability to control these materials and processes and to develop new ways of working with them for the production of studio work.

Supported by the Metalwork and Jewellery program and Dr Hywel Jones in the Materials and Engineering Research Institute at SHU, the research builds on traditional craft techniques while using material science analysis to improve our understanding of the metallurgical processes at work.

Dissemination activities included exhibitions of studio work in the UK, Ireland, Netherlands and USA, and lectures at NCAD Dublin, Tokyo Geidai, and Tama Art University, Japan. Studio work was purchased for collections including The Goldsmiths’ Collection, London, and the Crafts Council of Ireland.

We have also been building on this research with the museum and restoration/conservation community. Using the samples and process knowledge developed during the project we have contributed to research on the work of Alfred Gilbert in the collection of the V&A Museum, London. Recently we have also aided in restoration work on the Mayor of Preston’s chain produced by Gilbert in the 1890’s, and also on a mokume gane vessel produced by Tiffany & Co of New York in the 1870/80’s.

The research was funded through a fellowship and grants from the Art and Humanities Research Council, the Sasakawa Foundation, and Arts Council England.

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Water cast alloys