A Cutting-Edge Silversmith Takes His Traditional Craft into the Future

Mar 9, 2016 12:58AM

If silversmithing makes you think of the Renaissance Faire or the costumed milliners, cobblers, and wigmakers of Colonial Williamsburg, you probably haven’t yet seen any of the stylish silver works by a modern practitioner like Kevin Grey.

Grey is an artist on the cutting edge of contemporary British silversmithing, a craft that has roots in the traditional guilds of medieval Europe. But there’s nothing Old World about Grey’s aesthetic. His silver pieces—on view at Maison Gerard in New York and in “Silver Speaks,” a group exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London—are sleek and futuristic. Some evoke aerodynamics, the smooth lines of airplane wings, or the curves of spaceships. Others seem to mimic the symmetrical shapes of flowers, leaves, seeds, and other specimens from the natural world.

Grey spent more than two decades working in design engineering in the luxury automotive industry, creating bespoke pieces for the likes of Rolls Royce and Bentley. The experience helped him master his materials and hone his craft; it also afforded him the opportunity to experiment with industrial techniques. Today, he’s considered a pioneer in tungsten inert gas (TIG) welding, a technique first developed in the aircraft industry during the 1930s, but not applied to fine art until Grey. Cygnus (2013) is a perfect example of his TIG welding technique: The striking sterling-silver piece represents a black hole inside the constellation Cygnus X-1.

“What interests me,” Grey has said, “is the relationship between the smooth surfaces and the strips” of silver he joins together like “sinews and muscle tissue.” In this exploratory process, “forms are amputated [by] cutting off or scooping out elements of a shape,” thus exposing a sharp edge.

The effects are stunning to behold. Grey’s works have a mysterious feel: It’s impossible to tell if a piece is light or heavy, hollow or solid, decorative or functional. This is modern silversmithing—high-tech and elegant, grounded in the past but quickly evolving into the future.

Bridget Gleeson

Kevin Grey’s works are on view at Maison Gerard, New York.

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