About Leo Shirley-Smith
The CONTEMPORARY SILVER web site is a silver shop for designer & maker Leo Shirley-Smith.
Leo was born in London in 1962 and grew up in Marlborough, Wiltshire, England.
He has always been fascinated with the process of designing and making things, and has been a craftsman and inventor since childhood.
He studied Jewellery and Diamond Mounting at the Sir John Cass School Of Art followed by an apprenticeship to the distinguished goldsmith, Peter Page, in Ramsbury Wiltshire.
He is the silversmith for Styles Silver, and has been for over 30 years. This has given him a broad and diverse knowledge of how silverware is made, from every genre and period, and how it fares over time. He is highly skilled in restoration.
His inventor's talents have led him in directions from boat interior design to website design, the latter with a sensitivity to the needs of fellow artists. Cleopatra was a boat interior & exterior design project completed by Leo in the mid 1990s. It attracted an 8 page article in the World Of Interiors magazine and the BBC2 cameras for a day. It was an exercise in visual and functional design.
"What interests me in design is the combining of visual elegance, functional elegance, and the elegance of the manufacturing process."
From within a family of artists, Leo has grown up understanding the power of the visual image.
How a blank piece of paper is transformed with paint or ink to be so much more than the sum of it's parts.
Leo has become interested in producing images that etch to a very high standard onto the surface of silver, to produce beautiful yet unusual objects. "I like the wit and interest of images on the surfaces of objects."
After developing designs and finished pieces for three years Leo discovered the work of Fornasetti. An artist who unbeknownst to Leo, had famously reveled in adorning objects with unusual imagery. Interestingly, often in black & white. Leo feels strengthened by this discovery, and that it validates his design work.
Inspiration for Leo's work comes from his photography, often of nature. He develops images using modern techniques to etch into silver. He likes to combine this with images by other artists to create a rich effect.
Members of Leo's family are a great inspiration. Richard Shirley Smith and Simon Brett both have an extensive catalogue of wood engravings. Their work as an art form in black & white is a great help for Leo. The paintings of Juliet Wood and the paintings of Richard Shirley Smith inspire in different ways and also form an artistic background to his life.