Since Polly came back to the bench in 2007 after a 30 year hiatus, her work has been, and still is, influenced by the ancient jewellers; mycenaean, Egyptian, Persian and of course Roman. Recently we’ve been drawn to Roman design quite a lot, in particular intaglio work. The history of intaglio is a whole story in itself, but I just want to touch on it briefly with this little ring.
Many years ago Polly bought this ring in Venice depicting the lion of St. Mark’s. We thought it would be wonderful to be able to make and sell something like this ourselves and really the only way to do it was to take a casting from it and make our own version. We didn’t want to replicate the whole ring, we just wanted the intaglio lion, and in our search were introduced to the the art of using cuttle fish bone for taking the impression. It sounds so unlikely, but cuttle fish is very soft and sort of powdery and really good for carving, so we thought it would probably take an impression and we gave it a go.
Luckily cuttle fish is not expensive to buy because it took more than one try to get the perfect impression by pressing the ring straight into the cuttle fish. Too hard and the sides crumble and the image is distorted; too soft and the impression is not enough from which to take a casting, and then suddenly we got it right. Just enough pressure and there was a tiny, perfect little lion in the middle of a big piece of cuttle fish.
I don’t intend to give you a lesson in casting in cuttle fish, but suffice it to say that it was a nervous time cutting the pouring channel down to our little lion, and even more nerve wracking pouring the molten silver into the cuttle fish, but what a result! It came out absolutly perfectly. A bit of a clean up before setting it in the ring, and then a dip in oxidising liquid (rotten eggs, hold your nose!) and voila! It’s no wonder then that with these ancient – and really fun – methods, and the ancient design inspirations all around her, that Polly just loves making these treasures.