REFLECTIONS OF A PEWTERSMITH
Vanishing trade has a local advocate
Colin Hamer has been working with pewter for more than 40 years. What began as a hobby for the metallurgical engineer became his full-time occupation after he took early retirement from his work as a federal public servant in research and development with what was then known as the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources.
His interest in pewter was sparked when he met Doug Shenstone, a master pewtersmith working for the same government department.
“Doug had apprenticed for three years with a Swedish pewtersmith and then two years as a journeyman in San Francisco, but after the Second World War, it was difficult to get tin, the primary alloy in pewter,” Hamer explains. “When he finally found a source of tin in the 1960s, he starting working with pewter as a hobby. When I met him, I talked him into teaching me and then we started going to craft shows together.”
Hamer’s interest in pewter grew as the two continued working together. Over the years, they, together with Hamer’s wife Miesje, attended such major local craft shows as the regular events at Lansdowne Park and the Nepean Sportsplex.
“Those years were a good time for craft shows,” says Hamer, who, at 76, no longer covers the craft show circuit. “They ran from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. and the stores then weren’t open every evening or on Sundays.”
Shenstone willed his collection of tools to Hamer, so, after his mentor’s death in 1992, Hamer set up his own pewter shop.
“I started going into galleries and some of my work has been sold to the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development and the Department of Canadian Heritage gift banks,” he says.
“I do repairs, as well as making my own pieces,” he adds, pointing out that there are very few pewter-smiths across North America today. “I have just finished a number of repairs for customers in Alaska, California and New York. Now, I’m working on a lunch box for a hunting group in Ohio.”
Hamer’s pewter pieces are available at art stores in Almonte, Arnprior, Merrickville and Perth, as well as in Ottawa.
For more information on pewter pieces by Colin Hamer, see www. hamerpewter.com.
Colin Hamer planishes the bottom part of a pewter jug in his workshop.