June 2008 – Repoussé work.

At our June meeting we were introduced to a craft new to us: Repoussé work. Repousse is defined in the Oxford English Dictionary as ‘Of metal work: Raised or beaten into relief, ornamented in relief, by means of hammering from the reverse side’. Titled ‘Working with pewter’ Mrs Field’s talk and demonstration set out to reveal the mysteries of this ancient technique and maybe get us interested enough to try it for ourselves.
Mrs Field herself had been initially enthused by a speaker, Barbara Coleman from Woodbridge, at Brackenbury W.I. thirty years ago. A group of members asked this lady if she would organize some classes, and when later she could not carry on due to ill health Mrs Field took over and since then has never looked back.
Her chosen medium for repousse work is pewter, although copper can also be used. Pewter is usually an alloy of tin and lead and was known to the Egyptians and later the Romans. Its revival in Europe dates from the eleventh century, when chalices of pewter began to replace vessels of wood. For domestic purposes, pewter vessels were made as early as the fourteenth century in France and Germany and in England it became widespread in the sixteenth century when many examples reached a high degree of ornamentation. The increased use of china and electro plate in Victorian times meant the use of pewter began to die but more recently, taken up by the Arts and Crafts Movement, pewter work has become valued as a purely decorative art form.
Mrs Field set out to show how to create a pewter cover for an address book using a sailing ship motif. Employing a thin, very pliable sheet of pewter she first incised the design on the reverse side pushing out the interior of the sails until they were proud. When the relief was finished to her satisfaction this was filled in from behind with a polyfilla-like substance to give it permanence. The front was then treated with acid and polished to give it an attractive patina and lastly affixed to the front of the address book to create a very acceptable gift.
As an accompaniment to her talk we held a competition for a piece of pewter in which Mrs Pam Dickerson came third, Mrs Iris Hitchen second and Miss Jeanne Walker first.
V E Bines


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