Academic journal article International Journal of Design

Exploring Elastic Movement as a Medium for Complex Emotional Expression in Silver Design

Academic journal article International Journal of Design

Exploring Elastic Movement as a Medium for Complex Emotional Expression in Silver Design

Article excerpt

Introduction: Elasticity in Silver Design

In the context of traditional and contemporary silversmithing design (Clifford, 1993; Glanville, 2006, Goldschneider & Zapletalová, 1998, Hill & Margetts, 2003; Hund, 1995; Schadt, 1996; Valcke, Weber-Stöber, Schwarzinger, Laet, & Janssen, 1993; Weber-Stöber, 1992, 1995, 2001), elastic movement has rarely been used in relation to emotional expression, and never been theorised. Indeed, silver is not usually associated with elasticity because it is perceived as a soft metal. For example, Sterling silver is softer than most standard gold alloys (e.g., 14 or 18ct standard yellow gold alloys) or similar platinum or white gold alloys (Wolters, 1996, pp. 44, 62). Silver becomes soft through heating and it becomes hard and elastic through being worked cold. Soldering, which is the foremost technique of joining silver, requires heating the whole piece during the work process, which softens the silver. Any design using soldering processes therefore has to use material of sufficient thickness to avoid easy indentation, which not only makes silverware expensive but also structurally rigid.

A previous project, 'Exploring the Creative Possibilities of Argentium® Sterling Silver', demonstrated that a new Sterling silver alloy called Argentium® Sterling silver could be used successfully with laser welding (Niedderer, Harrison, & Johns, 2006; Stern-Leach, 2007). Argentium was developed originally to combat an oxidation process called 'fire scale', which occurs when standard Sterling silver is heated during the fabrication process and appears as bluish-grey stains in the surface of silver, and which is difficult to remove (Davis & Johns, 2007). In addition to being firescale-free, Argentium also has been recognised for a number of other advantages, including lower heat conductivity: compared to fine silver, the heat conductivity of Sterling silver is 96% while it is only 68% for Argentium (Davis & Johns, 2007). This benefits the use of laser welding with Argentium, requiring less than half the energy to achieve the same results compared with standard Sterling silver (Niedderer et al., 2006, p. 18). The benefit of laser welding is in minimal heat application, which allows the joining of thin, work hardened silver parts without losing their elasticity. This opens the design of silverware to the use of elastic movement. The research presented in this article has explored the use of elastic movement for creating emotional expression as an alternative way to semiotic language.

Elasticity refers to the springiness of silver. More specifically, as the quality of being elastic, elasticity refers to a material substance "that spontaneously resumes [...] its normal bulk or shape after having been contracted, dilated, or distorted by external force" (elastic, n.d.). This is not to be confused with the plasticity of silver, which is "the quality of being plastic; spec. the ability to be easily moulded or to undergo a permanent change in shape" (plasticity, n.d.) and which is normally used in the form-giving of silver. Elasticity can enable movement as exemplified by the well-loved slinky toy: a simple metal or plastic spiral which can be made to 'walk down' stairs due to the interplay of elasticity, material weight and gravity (e.g., Figure 1), which is beautifully documented in the Slinky Vintage Commercial (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EZL6RGkPjws). Elasticity thus offers the potential to design movement into otherwise static structures.

[Figure omitted, see PDF]

Figure 1. Slinky Toy (see http://www.poof-slinky.com/)[original design by Richard James, USA, 1943].

Example owned and photographed by the author.

Building on the insights of a previous project (Niedderer et al., 2006), the research presented in this article explores how elastic movement can be utilised to achieve emotional expression in silver design, focusing on the subject of the (fruit) bowl. …

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