Grant Macdonald: Fine Detail

The thing about really great silver craftsmanship is the ability of the master craftsman to trick your senses. Take this remarkable silver bird of prey. The meticulous chasing of the feathers on this falcon will make you doubt your own eyes. After all, as every school child learns, most metals – silver included – are pale and hard. Metal is a good conductor of heat too, so it’s usually cold to the touch. So why is it, when people see our falcons, lions, leopards and the assortment of animals that leave our workshop for private collections, museums, palaces and charities (like our Tusk elephants), they feel the need to stroke them?

Stroking sculptures, like this falcon, is a sense check. Your brain knows that your eyes can deceive you and despite the soft, realistic fur and feathers your eyes can see, this is cold hard metal when you touch it. Except… it’s not. Your sense of touch can be tricked. There’s a subtle softness and warmth about our metal. Magic? No. Science, and behind that, the craftsman’s art.


The fine chasing on the feathers – representing hundreds of man-hours of hand finishing – leaves tiny ridges and troughs that trap room temperature air around the surface of the metal, creating greater warmth to the touch than a plain polished finish. It is not, of course, warm like a real bird, but warmer than traditional bronze or marble sculptures.

It is the visual impact and the tactile nature of the finish that really brings our sculptures to life.

This finely textured surface is oxidised with chemicals and flame treatments, then lightly polished so that the surface oxidation is lost from the highlights, but remains in the deeper ridges, creating a contrast of light and dark across the surface of each feather. The result is an incredibly realistic, organic surfacing effect, similar to the way fine surface filaments on real feathers reflect and diffuse light, to create their characteristic shimmer.The end result is a bit of a puzzle for your senses. It’s an inanimate object that looks like it’s moving. It’s cold hard metal that feels almost warm and soft to the touch. In fact, it’s replicating the falcon in such fine detail that it might just be as close as most people get to stroking a real one. And fortunately, for the casual observer, there’s no chance of losing a fingertip if you get too close to the pointy end of our bird of prey, which isn’t always the case with the feathered variety.

To learn more about Grant Macdonald please click here.