Today I went to the Fowler Museum at UCLA. Of all the exhibitions in the museum, I found the many works of silver to be most closely related to the intersection of art and science. For example, I learned that the production of silver products was an art form in and of itself. In an 18th century goldsmith’s workshop, one would hear the roar of furnaces and the hiss of metal being plunged into cooling baths. There’s an incessant staccato of hammers on anvils of every shape and on silver sheets. These artists’ choice of tools were big and small hammers, wooden and metal. Interestingly, contrary to what we have learned in class in which technology has helped artists innovate new forms of art, the techniques used in producing silver products in the 18th century are still in use today. Modern technology has done little more for the artists than provide a few powered mechanical aids. The artists still require pure skill and traditional techniques aging all the way back to the third millennium B.C., when silversmithing was fully developed. Modern technology has actually led to the devaluation of the art.
|Cup in the Form of a Horse|
A particular silver product I found intriguing was the coffee pot (I promise the fact that I’m addicted to coffee has nothing to do with this). Coffee and tea had become popular by the mid-17th century in Europe. Guided by Protestant ideas of sobriety, the newly prosperous middle class found coffee an “exotic” alternative to drinking. The silversmith’s work was revolutionized by the demand for new vessels suited to these drinks. Containers had to retain heart and yet stand on a tabletop without damaging its surface.
|Silver Coffee Pot|
|Me in Front of Fowler Museum|