The Bronfman Collection 
Virtual Gallery

Masters of the Crafts

Lois Etherington Betteridge — Silversmith

About the craftsperson

Lois Etherington Betteridge
"The making of beautiful objects for special and important functions signifies the celebration of ritual and the honouring of culture. This is Lois Betteridge's stated purpose and the reason that her work speaks so strongly to us. Whether her individual romantic pieces take organic or geometric forms, they are essentially emotional. They deal with the connection of our feelings to the world around us. They speak to us and the world through their use in celebrations, whether those celebrations are of a formal or a private nature. Lois Betteridge carefully and thoughtfully structures every nuance of her work toward the act of use and the pleasures of recognising its symbolic content. Its relationship to use, ritual and celebration, and to all aspects of its decoration and form speak of touch and feeling. The romantic connection is made. It is with this approach to Beauty that Lois Betteridge creates a harmonious unity of object and function."

Carole Hanks
Teacher of Art and Design History
Sheridan College
Oakville, Ontario

Lois Etherington Betteridge
Until about forty years ago, the apprenticeship system was virtually the only way of transmitting craft skills. Since that time, however, North American learning centres have developed a new system of skill-building. Influenced by the Bauhaus model of education, American and Canadian colleges and universities have introduced into their curricula an interdisciplinary programme of arts and crafts.

Thus, fine artists, craftspeople and designers are working together to introduce students to a variety of disciplines and materials. This broader approach, de-emphasizing early vocational specialization, has helped to change the idea that craft is responsive only to its own aesthetic and to marketing considerations. Instead, the acquisition of new skills and the recovery of traditional craft techniques are encouraged within the creative university environment.

It was in this vibrant postwar learning environment that Lois Etherington Betteridge was introduced to the traditional craft of silversmithing, newly incorporated into the university curriculum. She says that silversmithing:

"was just starting in the States. Kansas University was the first University to teach silversmithing and I was in my second year [there]. I didn't know silversmithing existed until I went down there.... I started taking it then, as a design student"

University silversmithing retained some of the techniques and attitudes of the historical silversmith guilds, but no longer required apprentices to specialize in a distinct stage or process of silversmithing. A major reason was the influence of Scandinavian industrial design, in which the craftsperson was responsible for all technical stages. As a result, students were taught a wide range of skills. For example, Betteridge learned the value of functional design in hollow-ware (or hammer-raised silversmithing), which requires a technical mastery of tools and procedures and a knowledge of traditional materials.
CMC 86-104.1-11 - CD94-688-023
Private Communion Set, 1965
Sterling Silver
Raised, fabricated
Fitted wooden box by H.M. Forster,
Ruislip, Middlesex, England
20.4 cm x 20.2 cm x 20.1 cm
CMC 86-104.1 to 11
Gift of the artist

CMC 86-102.1-3 - CD94-688-024
Script Assistant, 1977
Sterling Silver, soapstone, gold pen nib
Raised, chased, constructed, carved
Bottle: 16.9 cm x 8.2 cm diameter
Pen: 18.7 cm x 1.2 cm diameter
Stand: 18.5 cm x 14.9 cm x 2.4 cm
CMC 86-102.1 to 3 (Bronfman)
  She spent the next ten years refining the many technical skills required of her craft, experimenting with repousse, chasing, raising and the lost-wax technique, and inlaying silver objects with ebony, horn and precious stones. Public and private commissions challenged Betteridge to produce secular hollow-ware and ecclesiastical silver, which she viewed as "the ultimate compromise of making the functional object sculptural, but not sculpture."

Working with a student
Lois Betteridge working with a student
at her studio in Ottawa, 1976
Even in this most traditional of crafts, new issues continually emerge. The relevance of non-functional hollow-ware in contemporary silversmithing, for example, is a topic that Betteridge debates with peers and a new generation of silversmiths. The application of high technology in craft manufacture and the use of synthetic materials, such as space-age ceramics and plastics, are also provoking animated discussion. Betteridge views these developments with some concern, fearing that traditional skills and craftsmanship will be quickly replaced by the shortcut approach: "Don't solder it, bolt it."

In support of her beliefs, Lois Betteridge has assumed a high profile within the international metalsmithing community, teaching traditional silversmithing skills to apprentices in her studio, giving lectures to students, and participating in professional panel discussions and workshops with her peers. Her recognized professional status demonstrates to aspiring silversmiths that it is possible to make a career of traditional silversmithing today.

Recent Works
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