AN ART ESSAY
MIRIAM HANID is an artist
silversmith. In 2016, she was interviewed by
ROSALIND PEARMAIN for Heartfulness
Magazine about her art and her motivations. Five years later, they catch
up again to find out more about Miriam’s journey, and where her art has
Q: The last time we reflected on your work it was in 2016. Looking at your website, you have been so busy since then,
to create so many exquisite works of sheer beauty. How have you sustained
MH: Wow, time flies! Thank you, it’s
always nice to receive good feedback about my work! Many factors come to
mind about how I have sustained my output, but I would say the main ones
are rest, motivation, and beauty. While these words may not seem to be
closely linked, they all work together for me. It is extremely difficult
to be motivated without proper rest. Working at an optimal level, the best
possible, work seems more like play and the end of the day comes as a
surprise. The work is so enjoyable, and one is completely absorbed in it.
I believe that leads to great rest.
As the days and months pass, when reflecting on my career so far, I often
look back on the most productive times with much amazement. But I have
found myself overlooking the times of non-doing – those necessary inner
periods when I’m just resting, relaxing and absorbing all that is going
on. I now know that these are the opportunities where inspirational seeds
can poke their heads above the surface to see what the conditions are like
for growth. If my motivation is replenished (more on that later), and I
can nourish those seeds, I can catch many new ideas for silver pieces,
textures, forms and patterns which then come into being.
Working in precious metal is laborious, particularly chasing and
engraving, my two signature techniques. The metal demands care, attention,
and precision at every step. Nothing can be rushed, or it ends up taking
longer to correct mistakes.
The driving force behind any work, whether the physical sculpting of the
silver, or planning and designing, is undoubtedly motivation. There are
countless books on how to find your “why power,” the reason why you do
what you do. If the mental or emotional “why” is strong, the physical work
will fall into place and become easier. To brighten up someone’s spirit,
to give a gift of hope, to surpass my past performance, to thank the
universe and all the people in it for all the things I’ve learned so far,
and to express them in a creative expression of gratitude, I find myself
going back to my why at times of difficulty. It is hard to put into words,
but I think this is where beauty comes in. The expression and gift of
beauty is probably my biggest why.
John O’Donohue writes in his book,
Beauty: The Invisible Embrace, “When we feel and know and touch
the beautiful, we feel that we are at one with ourselves – because in some
subtle and secret way, beauty meets the needs of the soul. The Earth is
full of concealed beauty,” and all we are doing in art is revealing it
from the depths of our consciousness – and perhaps from the universal
Q: Evidently, you continue to be inspired so much by the forces of
nature, especially water, but we can see that you are also interested in
many forms and patterns that you observe around you.
MH: I think the inspirations that
attract me change and go through seasons. I feel I can always draw on
water with its never-ending variety of forms and patterns, encompassing
energy and movement which echoes the great flow of love all around us. I
also like this to birth in different shapes and matters – those of
botanical forms such as leaves, buds and flowers, wood, earth, stone and
ice. I have realized more and more that the manner in which a subject is
represented in any work is where the real richness lies. The clues around
the subject, how it has been carefully and lovingly shaped and shaded, as
well as represented or considered in the overall design, speaks volumes
about what the artist is actually communicating with the receiver.
Q: I can see that Japanese traditional forms, such as Manga, are also
resonant for your own work and giving you a new direction. Can you say
more about how you came to this?
MH: I have always loved oriental art,
from the time I studied it in my A levels and the influence it had on Art
Nouveau, to coming across beautiful woodblock prints and books, such as
The Grammar of Chinese Ornament, which has many visual motifs
which excite me and subconsciously feed into my work.
When writing my latest blog post, “Oriental Inspired Works,” I
explored pen and ink Manga with a natural theme after my creative
communication assistant, Emma, suggested I look into it. I came across
many striking examples of exquisite mark making, which I found very
inspirational. I can see these feeding into my use of hand engraving,
which uses a series of lines to create different visual effects on
Q: Recently, there were some lovely BBC TV programs by the art
historian James Fox about Japanese art. He pointed out how Japanese
artists and craftsmen show a reverence and care for the materials they
shape; for example, saws and planes are pulled rather than pushed across
the wood by a master carpenter. They revere
the spirit of the material they are working with, demonstrating the
beauty of the humble and everyday object. I was wondering, do any of
these strike a chord with you, too?
MH: I haven’t seen this series, but
will definitely watch it. It sounds fascinating and seems a very natural
way to work with the materials, which are so precious to us as
craftspeople. Reverence and care are also very important to me when
working with a precious metal – listening to it by observing the signs of
stress and tension, and respecting these whilst being aware that the metal
can be worked to its limit if treated with respect.
The Flower of Love Tumbler was a piece where I tried to stretch the metal
a bit further than normal, and I’m very pleased with the result. I plan to
continue in this way, refining as I go, and hopefully pushing more
boundaries. There comes a point where it takes great motivation and vision
to keep going. It is easy to stop and settle for what the piece may be at
that moment, but I feel staying true to one’s own vision is important.
This might equally entail knowing when to stop.
Q: You mention the significance of simplicity.
MH: This has become an element in my
designs all by itself. Looking at my work, one may think that it is far
from simple, however, an object can be meticulously worked by hand and
also be simple in design. That is what I aim to achieve, not adding
anything unnecessary other than the inherent theme which runs through the
piece. Many of my pieces are quite busy, yet I aim to imbue each piece
with a unified feeling so that the piece is inherently harmonious.
The chasing or engraving often follows the same trajectory of the initial
shape of the silver piece, and they work in tandem with its nature rather
than having a different flow. I feel this is the same for simple living,
and it is one of the great insights of Heartfulness – to be plain, simple,
and thus in tune with nature. For example, as the sun rises, we also rise;
as it sets, we rest. We are in harmony.
Q: Are there any pieces you have been making that are most valued by
MH: Yes, the Cascade Loving Cup,
which was my major commission for 2020 and was delivered in October, in
between the lockdowns in the UK. A commission for the Clothworkers’
Company of London, the cup evokes a swirling piece of cloth and is deeply
chased with draped fabric and yarn fibres. The piece took 800 to 1000
hours of chasing, working the metal from the inside and outside in order
to achieve the depth. I collaborated with a fellow silversmith, Jenny
Edge, who developed the design of the handles and made them. Working
together resulted in this key aspect of the design, and a much more
dynamic piece than I could have achieved on my own, particularly as
Jenny’s specialty is anticlastic raising, by which the inner curves of the
handles were formed. It meant she could bring a movement and synergy to
the handles which complemented my chasing. The turned wooden models and
maquettes made by my father, an engineer, also greatly help the
realization of my designs.
The Mountain Incense Burner is another commission that I look back on
with particular joy. After my Union Centrepiece was exhibited in the
“Masterpieces of British Silver: Highlights from the Victoria and Albert
Museum” in Hong Kong, a client who saw it asked me to design and make an
incense burner. I really loved researching the mountainous terrain, the
flora and fauna of rural Chinese landscapes in order to design the chasing
on this piece. It is one of my most intricate pieces to date, and took
considerable time to create. It remains one of my favourites.
Q: I see that you have also been hosting interns. How did you find
MH: It was a great summer of 2019,
and looking back I value it even more! I really enjoyed the vitality,
determination and enthusiasm of my two young students, Sana and Julius,
from Paris and Vienna respectively. They asked to come and learn
silversmithing and chasing from me, in two-month and one-month
internships. Their aptitude and curiosity to learn and apply the
techniques to their own work was really refreshing, and I really enjoyed
having them in the workshop. We made a road trip to see the master
engraver, Malcolm Appleby, in Scotland, and had a great time at a hand
engraving symposium there. I have many fond memories of creating,
designing, experimenting and sharing.
Q: How does Heartfulness affect your work?
MH: I would say that the practices of
Heartfulness enhance my connection to my work, and transform it from
something merely physical into a day-to-day and lifelong passion and
personal practice. This cannot be put into words, but I would attempt to
describe the process by saying, “If Heartfulness were not there, I would
not be able to see in order to create.”
The inspirational people I’ve met through Heartfulness seminars and
groups in the UK and around the world form a network of creative
connections with beauty of spirit as a running theme. The exceptional
talent and enthusiasm for their work of many Heartfulness practitioners –
whatever form that work may take – has inspired and nurtured me throughout
my career and life so far.
I should also say something about the times I find it difficult to carry
on, when I feel depleted, tired, lacking in vision or clarity, or just
can’t see the point of my work anymore. It’s my own regular Heartfulness
practice that always reveals a helpful insight about the situation. That
daily silent time with my Self brings forth new inspiration, energy,
resources, and clarity. It supports my adventure in life generally, which
then undoubtedly influences my silversmithing practice with a fresh
perspective. This cannot be underestimated. It also confirms that without
rest, motivation and beauty, I question whether any of my work would exist
in the way it does today.
I found this quote, which is from The Creative Fire by Clarissa
Pinkola Estés: “Because there must be a decline and a time of utter
stillness, creativity can never be paradisical. It can never be utopia
wherein it just flows and flows and flows with no maintenance, with no
waiting periods. In everything manifest, there is vibrancy then decline
followed by restoration.”
Q: What next?
MH: The effect of the current
pandemic has marginally reduced my commissions, so, whilst working on
various silver projects at a more relaxed speed, I have enjoyed exploring
new techniques, working on a building conversion project with my father,
spending more time supporting Heartfulness practitioners through various
online programs and virtual meditation sessions, reading and gathering new
I have also been having a slower pace of life, which, as I mentioned
earlier, is very necessary. Thankfully, I have been fortunate to have
consistent income from my work, which is very encouraging. My next project
will be a Roses Beaker, as part of a collection of four beakers on the
theme of the four nations of the UK – a concept which my client is
commissioning from four different silversmiths. The climbing roses will be
chased in my usual style and softly gilded with gold fading out from the
centre of each flower.
In the long term, my husband and I have always dreamed of setting up a
center where people can come to retreat from their busy lives, learn
silversmithing and experience the rural beauty of Suffolk. It would be a
creative sabbatical and a retreat from technology. I’m looking forward to
seeing what unfolds in the years to come and to exploring how we can bring
this project into being in order to provide a space where interested
people can slow down and open up the ground for inspirational seeds to
Interviewed by ROSALIND PEARMAIN