Hammering away, delightfully.
Immersed in the family business of metalsmithing practically from birth, Bethamy Linton started formally working with her father making silver flatware and restoring antiques from the age of 16. Later she trained formally and also in apprenticeships and mentorships in fine jewellery, art and object design.
In this short (and sweet) Q&A, Bethamy gives us a snapshot of her making world and how she upholds the mantle of being a fourth generation silversmith and jeweller.
Read on …
What is your craft? How do you like to describe yourself?
I’m a silversmith.
Your studio – where and what is your studio/workspace like?
When I first answered this question in March 2019, I had three! But it was one too many to handle; so now, since early 2020, I have just two (phew)!
I gave up my city pad, where I did small scale hand makes and taught in a shared space with six other artists. Now I can spend more time in my Gidgegannup workshop, as my son is in school five days a week (theoretically). The workshop is housed in what used to be an emu incubator; it is beautiful, surrounded by trees and filled with things I love.
I am also renovating my family’s workshop in Maylands where I make larger scale silverware and need to make a lot of noise and mess. I’m planning to hold classes and workshops there. It’s filled with generations worth of metal, tools, dust, grime and love.
Which of your tools do you love the most and why?
Oh, I don’t know! I have a lot to love. I love my rolling mills because they have facilitated so much for me.
I have a beautiful collection of hammers too, some are new and purchased from Germany with the help of my beloved mentor Hendrik Forster; others are well used and loved by my father (I have an excellent raising hammer that he brought back from England in the 1970s when he went to study at uni’ there) and others that were my grandfather’s, like the chasing hammer that I use to make my icons, which have now become indispensable to me.
I also recently bought a PUK5 welder which is changing my life, one job at a time.
Your inspiration – what really pumps your creative heart?
Most of my visual references begin somewhere in the natural environment; I am mostly diverted by native flora and fauna, especially those with which I have a personal relationship, and then also by history and the passage of time.
I love challenges in my creative work, I like to continually build new skills and I like making work that surprises me.
What was the spark that made you choose this particular medium?
It was always there, I grew up surrounded by it; that smell of metal and grease.
(Read more about Bethamy’s ‘immersion’ below.)
Your working style – how do you like to start on a project and then progress it? Do you stick to a working schedule 9-5 or flex around a bit? Do you play loud music? Are your pets welcome in your space?
My process has changed a lot since I had a child; I used to immerse myself in work. I used to sit around and think about it for hours. Now I just have to use the time I have and tear myself away when I need to go back to my family with my whole self.
I try to stick to a schedule, and I try to pace myself so I’m not up until dawn on projects anymore. I love having pets in my space, for 10 years my dog was my constant studio companion, I also had a lamb at foot that I was bottle feeding for a time.
Mostly I like quiet, but sometimes I’ll listen to music or a podcast.
What are you working towards right now?
Balance!!! No really – I’m trying to build my classes as a part of practice that delivers a regular income. I’m also working on finding a way to streamline the production of Linton Silver and separately I have a hollowware commission that is leading and supporting a new body of work (vessels) that I have wanted to lean into for some time… as well as other jewellery commissions and silverware orders.
Update: I’ve been shifting my practice a bit this year ; focusing on higher end jewellery pieces as a product line to better support my commission practice (as I seem to have come across a lot of high end jewellery commissions lately). That’s a whole lotta fun, I’ve also started using ethically sourced Australian gem stones and am thoroughly enjoying the colour and sparkle they’re bringing to my life.
If you could land the dream commission/exhibition/project, what would it be?
I feel like I already have it! It blows my mind that I can do what I love for a crust.
Of course, it would be amazing if I could focus solely on art works… and, if somebody paid me a steady wage to make whatever I felt like dreaming up – y’know, if there were no strings attached, and if everything I made found a forever home.
But then, I occasionally receive amazing commissions like the aforementioned hollowware commission which essentially does all that! Maybe I need to think bigger. 🤨[Collected 19 March 2019. Updated 11 June 2020.]
This is a standard set of questions that we ask of all our guest presenters and ‘makers of the week’. They are deliberately low-key.
Post Script from M&S
It’s amazing how in our lifetimes the tradition of the ‘family silver’ has faded. Thankfully Bethamy is able to keep the traditions alive, even if families are not purchasing large sets they are perhaps gifting pairs of serving spoons or platters, which Bethamy designs and makes by putting a contemporary twist on the traditional Linton Silver designs. We look forward to observing how her practice develops over the years and to the opening of her workshops in Maylands.
The Linton workshop was established in 1908 by Bethamy’s great grandfather James Walter Robert Linton, a British trained painter and teacher of art. He was joined in his studio by Mr Arthur Cross, a master jeweller and together they produced commissioned pieces of silverware and jewellery. His son and later his son, Bethamy’s father, also trained and followed in the family business. Linton Silver is held in several major institutional collections, as well as in the homes of royal families and many suburban homes too. It is recognisable for its ‘arts and crafts’ style incorporating Western Australian flora.
On another note and to explain..
Maker&Smith owe the pleasure of highlighting a number of metalsmiths via our platform, thanks to the work we did, producing and facilitating the Adorn program, for the City of Joondalup. It was a delight and a fulsome learning experience to meet and to engage with members of the Western Australian chapter of the Jewellers and Metalsmiths Group of Australia* and other interested makers.
* The Jewellers and Metalsmiths Group of Australia, WA (JMGA WA Inc.) is a membership based organisation which represents jewellery and object practitioners throughout Western Australia. As a volunteer non-profit organisation they provide a forum to promote, support and develop the field of contemporary jewellery.