As industrial designers we're supposed to be well-versed in all manner of materials, able to select just the right wood/metal/plastic/other for the job depending on cost, functionality, aesthetic value, the client's nonsensical demands, et cetera. If you've ever felt like slapping a client -- and don't you lie to me, you know you have -- chances are it's during that materials discussion phase where he asks if you can use a cheaper material to save a couple bucks "But, you know, make it stronger."
It must be neat to specialize in just one material, as a silversmith does, and design without the materials question. "Mindful of Silver" is an upcoming exhibition to be held at London's The Goldsmiths' Company that looks at the design process of the modern-day silversmith:
Creativity remains at the vortex of the exhibition but whirling round it are the complex, demanding and sometimes pragmatic elements of the design process. Hours of contemplation and practical experimentation are involved before an original, beautifully conceived vessel demonstrating the highest skill of the craft and individual intellect eventually emerges. Throughout the journey, which can be both playful and torturous, each silversmith has to make numerous decisions and incremental adjustments -- it is an insight into these decisions which makes the exhibition so fascinating.
[Silversmith] Hector Miller said: "As a designer I am often asked where ideas come from. This exhibition presents some of the creative processes that prompt new work and illustrates the varied ways in which I, and my colleagues, arrive at our own unique solutions to the challenge of a commission. The exhibition is not just about finished silver vessels, it is about drawings and models, images and objects, because although it is often the logic of thoughts and words that start a design process, it is by embracing the material world with the intuitive use of eyes and hands that a new piece comes into existence".
And comes into existence with just one choice of material.
Well, maybe the grass is always greener; I can picture a silversmith's client going "Yes, great, that's perfect, let's do that. Except, you know, make it look like gold." That's when you reach across your chest to scratch your left shoulder with your right hand, and it takes every ounce of willpower not to quickly fling your arm out and deliver a much-needed backhand.