Giles Milton is passionate about the traditional skill of repoussé metalwork.
This involves cold working sheets of metal into objects of high relief.
The craft of punching and sculpting sheet metal requires skill and patience. The metal cannot be stretched in a single blow: it must be worked slowly from behind until the image emerges on the other side.
The metal is worked cold, having previously been heated until it is red hot. This alters its molecular structure and renders it more malleable. But if it is pushed too hard it will split.
sheet metal rests on a semi-solid support - German red pitch or
thick cow’s leather.
Giles works in sheet nickel silver, brass and copper. All are resistant yet malleable and respond well to patina. When polished, these metals have the dull glitter of pewter or gold.
In Byzantine times there were workshops and ateliers where repoussé skills could be learned from master craftsmen. These days there is no longer anyone teaching such skills.
Giles works with a repoussé hammer and a selection of punches and embossing tools.
Some of the heavier punches were handmade by a blacksmith in Fez, Morocco. Others come from the specialist German toolmaker Karl Fischer.
Giles also makes his own tools, from both wood and metal.