The Marchmont Silversmithing Workshops - A gift, an idea and some generosity


A gift, an idea and some generosity

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Benchpeg has met Ebba Goring a few times now. She has a generosity of spirit which shines through as soon as you meet her. You can feel the warmth of personality she emits as you approach her to say hello.

She’s also a fiercely intelligent woman which is conveyed through carefully considered words, a warm countenance and an extraordinary vision for what could be. But she’s also a person of action, and these attributes very rarely collide in a single person.

As CEO of the Scottish Goldsmiths Trust (SGT) she is in an enviable leadership position within an entire country helping to map out a future for silver and Scottish craft. The SGT was founded on the charitable objects to champion the education, design and craft of precious metal jewellery and objects within its geographical remit of Scotland. It was responsible, for example, for the ground-breaking ‘Silver and the Stars’ project which highlighted the commissioning process with well know Scottish celebrities. Such work goes a long way to working towards its adage to “preserve the past and support the present and future”.

However, its impact as an organisation is much wider. It is with the foundations built on Mary Michel’s vision of the circular economy which Ebba joined the SGT as a Project Lead on the Ethical Making Pledge and for Elements, the ground breaking resource for businesses endeavouring for a  more sustainable approach and the route to market event for designer maker silversmiths and jewellers. Two of the current and live long term projects the SGT is responsible for from concept.

Marchmont House

A relatively small organisation with just one full time member of staff complimented by a few part time specialist staff, the Scottish Goldsmiths Trust is about to embark and launch on its largest project to date.

The Marchmont Silversmithing Workshop is a visionary idea which came out of a benevolent legacy gift, a generous willingness to support craft, and the desire to build infrastructure without repetition to provide a future for making in precious metals.

The late and great master silversmith Graham Stewart, a friend of Benchpeg, decided upon his diagnosis of terminal cancer, to bequeath his lifetime’s collection of tools, equipment and workshop facilities to the SGT on the understanding that they be used to train emerging silversmiths. Hugo Burge of Marchmont, had already begun his ‘Creative Spaces’ initiative where he had been supporting crafts and heritage skills in the arts and crafts movement style from his country estate south of Edinburgh.

A happy coincidence of interconnected networks led Graham Steward, John Andrew, Tom Murray, Hugo and Ebba to come together. With sensitivity and exploration a kernel of an idea was formed to use Graham’s gift of tools and equipment to set up an incubation space for fledgling silversmiths within the grounds of the Marchmont Estate.

Marchmont Creative Spaces

These discussions were occurring pre-pandemic. It is mark of leadership when vision is borne out of experience and knowledge in a sector. The SGT already knew their industry, already knew that certain gaps in strategic infrastructure were missing in the heritage craft skills in Scottish silversmithing, and that these gaps needed to be filled for the furtherance of the craft in the country. What is great about the Scottish Goldsmiths’ Trust is that they have a motto of ‘no repetition’. They do not want to re-invent the wheel or encroach on facilities which already exist but work in partnership and collaboration. After some horizon scanning, specialist incubation space for silversmiths, with large spaces, full of specialist equipment was seen the gap within the existing infrastructure. To ask the obvious we push Ebba on this and the response was simple, that jewellery workshops are relatively easy to set up, require as little or as much space as needed and shared space is readily available in the marketplace. You can make jewellery in a silversmithing workshop, but you can’t make large pieces of silver at a jeweller’s bench.

And so the Marchmont Silversmithing Workshops were borne out of a discussed kennels building on the estate. With capital build costs met by Marchmont and additional funding from the William Grant Foundation, the charitable arm of the vodka brand, which covered some additional infrastructure and staff costs, monies were used to get an array of consultants namely Rob Kelly, Bret Payne and Bryony Knox, makers, staff and a business plan together ensuring alignment with Hugo’s vision and the Marchmont Creative Spaces ideals.

The Marchmont Silversmithing Workshops

The collaborate or connect rather than replicate model will see the Marchmont Silversmithing Workshop provide a supportive business incubation space for fledgling and mid career businesses – providing time and space for growth, honing and collection, commission and range building. Five benches in total will accommodate a master silversmith for guidance and oversight, three benches on a two year tenure for incubation and the fifth bench will be given over for a rolling visiting space of artists in residents, international knowledge and skills transfer, and residential placement opportunities.

The Marchmonth Silver Team with Ebba Gorming and Hugo Burge

And when we ask Ebba, what will it look like in ten years time? She answered instantly, that the Marchmont Silversmithing Workshops will have had a significant impact on the craft of silversmithing, will have an alumni of reputed makers and will have helped create infrastructure to build sustainable businesses for the long term.

What an exciting period we are in where goodwill, generosity of spirit, the desire to make change for the better through partnership and true collaboration meet harmoniously to indeed make that change.

The future is bright, the future is silver.


Rebecca van Rooijen


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