Anne V Massey: My Story

Anne at workbench, turned towards viewer, smiling

                                            Anne V Massey

I didn’t get the most straightforward start in my journey as a maker. In fact, I originally trained in Chemistry at the University of St. Andrews, but even before I finished the course I knew it wasn’t for me. I went back to school to do an A-level in Art and then a foundation year at Maidstone College of Art (long defunct, alas!) and it quickly became clear that 3D work was what fired my enthusiasm. A three-year degree course in Wood, Metal, Ceramics and Plastics followed from 1986-89 at what was then Brighton Polytechnic (now the University of Brighton), during which I really embarked on my love affair with metal. I later augmented my metalsmithing skills by doing a City and Guilds course in Silversmithing at London Guildhall University (subsequently absorbed into London Metropolitan University) in the Sir John Cass School of Art.

I have been making jewellery in Hove on the south coast since 2002. Being close to the sea and the beautiful South Downs helps recharge my creative batteries.

My work has always been about form. I think of it as wearable sculpture. I have always loved natural objects such as shells, seedpods and marine invertebrates. Over the years they have become embedded in my imagination, where they are abstracted into simple, timeless forms such as spirals and helices.

The other most important aspect of my work is hand-making. The process of creating a three-dimensional form from flat sheet by use of a hammer is fascinating and compelling in its immediacy and intimacy. It creates a highly personal connection with the work which I have never felt with more removed techniques. I tend to design with a hammer in my hand rather than on paper.

Ever since my college days I have had an obsession with anticlastic raising. Back then even my tutors hadn’t heard of it – nobody knew what to call the sinuous forms I wanted to make or, indeed, how to make them. I was forced to find my own solutions and the work I produced wasn’t exactly what I wanted. But subsequently I was able to access information and in 2005 I attended a week’s course in anticlastic raising with the American goldsmith Michael Good at the Bergin-Clarke studios in Eire. I’ve never looked back – since then the technique has dominated my work.

Anticlastic raising produces forms which are curvaceous, seductive, elegant and strong. (It doesn’t do straight lines or flat surfaces!) They are also light and deceptively easy to wear. Work is formed over metal or plastic formers with mallets or hammers. Many pieces are hammer-forged before forming to introduce texture and vary the thickness of the metal sheet. It is a technically demanding process which demands years of practice.

Since 2015 I have been a member of the Sussex Guild, a group of makers who have come together to collectively promote their work and champion the crafts in general and whose membership criteria are originality, good design and skill. The Guild's website is always worth a look. It contains information on upcoming events as well as a page for each of its members.

I am always striving to deepen my understanding of the technique and to improve my mastery of it. Watch the video below to see me demonstating the process of anticlastic raising.