Onoto’s “Guardian of the Craft”
When it comes to working with silver, you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone more passionate or experienced than Andrew MacGowan. For over a decade now he’s been making silver components and one-off fountain pens for Onoto. His works range from churchware to trophies, tableware and object d’art created for high-profile clients including the Queen, members of the royal family and the Bishop of St Paul’s Cathedral.
Andrew is a Freeman of the Goldsmiths’ Company which in 1327 received its first royal charter. “Being a Freeman is a great honour and comes with many privileges”, says Andrew. “Centuries ago, it meant that you could walk your sheep over London Bridge or have the choice of a silk rope, instead of a regular one, when hung for treason”, and as he says it, his voice bursts into cheeky laughter. Even though he’s been in the trade for 30+ years now, he doesn’t sound a year older than 25. Being a Freeman today is more about acknowledging mastery and keeping traditional skills alive. As the “Guardians of the Craft”, the Company’s members were responsible for starting the practice of hallmarking in Britain 700 years ago. They have also been vital in passing on their savoir-faire by employing young people in their professional workshops. Preserving both the quality of precious metals and craftsmanship.
Andrew is a traditionalist and fond of the classical techniques of Silversmiths that come with a rich professional vocabulary. There is tracing, hand raising, filing, repouseé and chasing. Followed by saw piercing, stamping, casting and assembling by soldering and riveting. In addition, these techniques vary by trade. Fountain pens are mostly made using piercing, casting, polishing and finishing. The adorning phase, however, can include any of the jeweller techniques.
When working, Andrew loves getting in the state of flow which he describes as “concentrating yet getting carried away with the artistic side”.
The latter requires inspiration, which he believes can come from anywhere. Above all, however, he cherishes discoveries unveiled during travel. His trip to Japan and the bamboo forests near Kyoto have served as inspiration for his latest collection of tableware.
He believes that the future of his industry shines bright, especially for artisans who value creativity. “People will always desire something different”, says Andrew, “and there is no better way to get it than by commissioning a special piece”.
Here at Onoto, we celebrate unique designs that enrich lives. And in the process, we can only hope to bring you closer to the artisans’ spirit and their know-how.