sculptural pieces as well as doing any gold-plating.
Given the intrinsic value of the metal and time-consuming process, silver pieces are expensive and most of Nicola’s works are commissioned. Her goal is to produce exquisite pieces that far outweigh the worth of the raw material and will be treasured for centuries to come.
“People admire things that are old, but my works will be antiques in 100 or 200 years too,” she says. “We need to have people making things that last more than five minutes.” Nicola has built up an arsenal of shaping tools over the years, many of them homemade or repurposed from unexpected sources. Alongside more conventional smithing tools are stainless-steel hip-replacement joints and heavy nails picked up when cycling the Otago Central Rail Trail. “I filed off the rust and polished them up,” says Nicola, who admits that they made for a heavy bike-load.
“It’s not high-tech. You need a range of hooks, knobs, and domes for getting the subtleties of shape, and the weighting of hammers is important.”
All the hammers and shaping tools are highly polished. “You have to keep everything very clean, as the tiniest bit of grit will mark the silver,” she explains.
Nicola is conscientious about wearing earmuffs and also an elastic wrist strap to avoid damage from repetitive hammering.
A range of hammers
Different shaped tools for planishing and forming, with those for anticlastic raising on the middle shelf