Bryony Knox spent a month filming for a new BBC Arts series where six makers were taken back in time to live and work as Victorian artists.
“I’m a real night owl,” says Edinburgh-based silversmith Bryony Knox, “I like to work late into the evening, so I missed having electricity. When you’re on a roll and then suddenly night falls it’s so frustrating to have to stop. I don’t miss that at all but I loved the dressing up!”
Last summer, Bryony spent a month filming for a new BBC Arts series in which six makers of different craft disciplines were taken back in time to live and work as a Victorian artists’ commune in an original Arts & Crafts house. Cut off from 21st century life and striving to live by the ideals of the Arts & Crafts Movement, the group were tasked with furnishing the house, making everything from scratch under the conditions of the period.
The Arts & Crafts movement began in the late 19th century as a stand against industrialisation and the low status afforded to the decorative arts.
Bryony’s own work combines a fascination with the natural forms of birds with an elegant and engaging approach to functionality – both qualities that would have endeared her to the Arts & Crafts movement.
She makes an eclectic range of items from decanters and vases to card boxes and sprung paper-clips, with each individual piece brought to life using the techniques of repousse and chasing.
Many of the tools I use day to day in my own workshop date back to the Victorian era. The core skills and equipment used in metal-working have changed very little through time
“I felt that I was at something of an advantage as a silversmith,” Bryony explains when describing the technical resources available to her and her fellow makers at the Arts & Crafts house. “I’m used to working with old tools. Many of the tools
I use day to day in my own workshop date back to the Victorian era. The core skills and equipment used in metal-working have changed very little through time.” Throughout the programme, the commentary often reminds the viewer that the Arts & Crafts movement put a heavy emphasis on making as a collective, communal activity. Bryony concedes that this is not generally how modern makers work.
“I’m not going to pretend that sharing living quarters with five other makers wasn’t challenging at times. We were a mixed group of different ages and backgrounds but after a few initial clashes we realised that actually this made for really interesting discussions about our craft and our understanding of its broader place in life.
I hadn’t had discussions like that since I was at art college! I loved it!” Over the course of their five week stay, the community produced a variety of pieces to furnish the house, ranging from wallpaper to chairs, with Bryony contributing a bowl, a clock and a weathervane. Bryony describes the clock as a real problem-solving exercise, with a limited amount of metal to use and each piece attached with a ‘cold-fixing’, without the use of heat or solder.
All in all, Bryony seems glad to be back in the 21st century but is delighted to have been allowed to keep her Ashbee-inspired silver bowl and her copper clock as souvenirs of her time travels.