Silver taleS
by Jan van Nouhuys
Date: 13 Mar 2013

The introductory Silver Tale

Welcome to my first “Silver tale”!

It was last year 2012, February 4th, a day, ever so bright and clear when snow and hoarfrost on the twigs of the trees were glistening in the morning sun. It was a manifestation of ultimate purity in nature, a suitable setting to start making plans for the idea of “Silver tales”, which could appear on the new website, still to be developed by our webdesigner Marijke de Pous.

I love writing, but I am a silversmith. Silversmithing is my medium to convey my form expression and to experience the noisy excitement of a craft. Writing is the silent medium of sharing a story, a thought, an opinion, or a question. Who am I? Though better phrased: Who do I want to be? As a man, I wish to be, I wish to be true. I wish to be conscious of those signals from around, which can mould and change me. I wish to be perceptive to my inner compass, so it corrects and guides me.

A Franciscan monk once said to me: “The more one devotes oneself to the life of  Saint Francis, the more one grows to look like him”. I have devoted myself to silversmithing, and I think I have grown to be like a silversmith, or what one makes of it. In any case, I’m deadly serious, demanding and disciplined about silversmithing, but it is nothing more than what can be expected of any human being who is to perform, in any thinkable place of work. The multiplication of an artist-attitude of faithfulness and dedication to a craft, or to any job, would make the world a better place.

One wonders: What brought this silversmith to set foot on the roof of Buckingham Palace? What brought him to the deepest subway underneath London, reserved for transport of mail, where no stranger is to set foot either? How for heaven’s sake, did he slip into the Hermitage, without paying a bribe, while hundreds of people were patiently waiting outside? What did him walk through the cellars stacked with silver of a royal palace? How did he stumble upon a Rembrandt etching in the Australian outback, in a primitive underground home, dug in search of opal? These remain questions. My tales will deal with the subjects around silver and craft.

On the brink of moving the silver company Wakely & Wheeler from Soho to Islington, I was received in a dilapidated place. Mr. Padgett, eighty years old and senior head, offered me a chair while remaining standing himself, flanked by his son John and Frederick Laggett, a director as well (1975). After many questions, he asked at last: “Please, can you show me your hands?” He took them, turned them, spread my fingers and said gently but firmly: “You can work with us”. From this very moment an exciting silver journey started. 

My silver art objects are marked with an upside-down orb, which is the one heraldic-blue symbol on our family code of arms, placed in silver and girded in gold. Does this explain my profession? I wouldn’t be surprised if the upside-down position of the orb symbolises a trait in my character and in that of other members of my family to not automatically accept authority and to always question the generally accepted way of thinking. It is as it is. Freedom requires space.