Sheffield's Galvanize festival sparks reinvigoration for Steel City's famous industry

By Richard Hook | 04 April 2011
a photo of a spherical metal object with many petal shaped protrusions
Chris Knight, Leaf bow. Part of the Beneath the Skin exhibition Sheffield Institute of Arts Gallery© Courtesy Galvanize Sheffield
Festival: Galvanize Sheffield, various venues, Sheffield, until April 24 2011

The steel industry made Sheffield internationally famous as the home of fine cutlery and engineering innovation; now the city is looking to create a 21st century steel market with the beautiful and innovative work of local silversmiths and designers.

Until April 24, the Steel City is playing host to Galvanize Sheffield, a month-long event aimed at celebrating metalwork design and sparking new interest in metal products.

The event highlights the best in contemporary metalwork from beautiful art pieces to practical tools, at a range of exhibitions in more than 20 venues across the city.

Galvanize is in its fourth year, and with the 100th anniversary of Sheffield’s invention of stainless steel on the horizon, there is a nod to past innovations in metalwork.

a photo of a sliver object with a golden interior
Katey Felton, Yorkshire Rose Punch Cup© Courtesy Galvanize Sheffield
“It’s the first time we have brought together all these wonderful silversmiths," says Festival Manager Sara Unwin, who calls it "a kind of retrospective to show the scope of achievement coming out of the city."

One of the key events is Interchange at the Butcher Work’s Gallery, a free exhibition running the length of the festival. It showcases beautifully crafted work by more than 20 of the UK’s finest designer makers with past connections to Sheffield.

These exhibitions aren’t just focused on steel’s glorious past. Visitors can enjoy work from up-and-coming artists such as silver photo-etcher Victoria Kershaw and silver spoon maker Charlotte Tollyfield, alongside works by established designers such as Maria Hanson, Jennie Gill, and Keith Tyssen.

Another event sees renowned silversmith Tyssen unveil a new commission in honour of the late David Mellor, the former Royal Designer for Industry.

“I’m aiming for a design that makes a bold visual statement, but calmly equips the article with a reassuring presence, enabling it to stand alone, yet to harmonise within its setting," says Tyssen. "This forms a major part of the appeal of any good design, no matter its market value or social status.”

a photo of two silver metal bowls with a circular gold pattern
Together # 1, Drinking cups by Maria Hanson. Part of the Women of Silver event – the leading women in metalwork© Courtesy Galvanize Sheffield
Galvanize isn’t just confined to shows in galleries. Metalwork is appearing in unexpected locations across the city, with visitors to the Winter Gardens already enjoying a new set of benches.

Festival-goers can even get involved themselves by commissioning their own works, attending classes in jewellery-making or metal spinning, taking a behind-the-scenes look at British Silverware or touring the steel factories of Sheffield.

"As a festival, Galvanize is continuing to develop," points out Unwin. "The workshops are already booking up and we are particularly beginning to reach young people with events like Steel Pulse and Metal Film Night.”

a photo of two men working a forge
The largest gathering of blacksmiths in the UK. Sun April 23 and 24 at Abbeydale Industrial Hamlet© Courtesy Galvanize Sheffield
The finale of the festival, on April 24, sees the largest ever gathering of UK blacksmiths in Abbeydale Industrial Hamlet at the British Artist Blacksmith Association Festival Forge.

Not only is this a rare chance to see hot iron being forged, as blacksmiths work together to produce a piece of public art, but children can also have a go at blacksmithing themselves.

More on the venues and organisations we've mentioned:
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