“In a basement workshop a bearded college student is plotting a revolution’’ - The Palmers Green and Southgate Gazette, 3 October 1969
In 1969, and still a student a young Grant Macdonald wrote an article for the trade press. Increasingly fascinated by how silver pieces were made, Grant had begun investigating new ways of utilising epoxy resins in the creation of stakes and jigs.
Stakes, used for making particular shapes in silver, were traditionally made in wood, or cast in iron and laboriously fettled and polished. This was a time-consuming and costly process. Epoxy resins, however, offered tremendous strength, and could withstand heavy hammering, which provided an opportunity to break the mould of stake making. Whilst writing his article, Grant experimented with a silver communion flagon of unusual form, and concluded that special stakes and jigs could be easily made with epoxy resins, and later modified by machinery.
Keen to enhance his skills, he spent the summer of 1966 working for Brody Williams, the manufacturing jewellery firm. Filing, papering and spot-welding hundreds of 9ct gold castings for Zodiac pendants, Grant discovered that manufacturing work was in fact significantly more repetitive than his college work. However, in learning the basics of his trade and gaining insight into what this work environment was really like, his determination to succeed in the world of silversmithing increased.
When Grant graduated and stepped out of college, he was ready to make his living. Within a week of leaving, he had already set up his business, trading as Silverform. With several important commissions in his portfolio, Grant was able to start up in his own workshop in the basement of his parents’ house. His intention was crystal clear - as well as expensive handmade objects, Grant was going to produce silver of a clean, modern design, “at a price that was very nice.”
A commission through the Goldsmiths Company to produce some sidemen’s badges for Gloucester Cathedral brought a reality check to the young silversmith’s workbench. Receiving the order shortly after graduation, he thought nothing of the six week delivery date. However, dealing with the trade proved to be something of a wake-up call. Whilst at college, any facility he could imagine was always available. In his workshop, he found himself taking in work from other manufacturers, repairing and refurbishing old silver for retailers in order to establish himself and earn some money. The work was repetitive, but in Grant’s opinion, it was yet another opportunity to learn and practice his skills. Occasionally, special commissions came his way, and Grant began to develop a modern collection for sale to the retail trade - looking forward to the day that his own work would be bought for the shop’s stock, rather than on a ‘sale or return’ basis.