Three Spirits

To celebrate a half decade of Smithery, we’ve been working on something extra special for our 2016 Christmas project. It’s called ‘Three Spirits’.

It refers, of course, to the most famous theme from ‘A Christmas Carol’ by Charles Dickens, that of the spirits of the past, the present and the future. We’ve explored this is terms of different forms of making, and how they can be used together in new techniques to create new ways of realising ideas.


The tree of the past is made from tin, open cast in a mould of Delft clay. Casting such as this is a technique which dates back over three thousand years to Imperial China. It’s part of Smithery’s journey too, one of our favourite projects and one of the first Fraser worked on. These trees were made at our new office over in Aldgate East, and in Fraser’s back garden.


The tree of the present is cast from white concrete, made by combining ‘Snowcrete’ cement and kiln dried sand in a 1:3 ratio. As craft and the maker movement establish themselves as a permanent feature in the world, people are learning to are appropriating existing materials for new purposes. Helen turned her creative and material skills to concrete for he first time with this project, with great success. People always presume that concrete is a material best suited to use at scale (indeed, by tonnage it’s the most used material on earth), but with the right process you can create phenomenal small pieces with it too.


The tree of the future is 3D printed from Floreon 3D filament, which is 100% recyclable and biodegradable. Originally designed by John as a two-dimensional Delaunay triangulation interpretation of a Christmas Tree, it was then pulled up into a 3D CAD model and printed by our friend Thomas Forsyth. The 3D printed trees were used to create the moulds for the tin and the concrete trees. This method allows us to quickly achieve more complex, interesting shapes in existing materials.

We’ve made just 24 sets of these three trees to send to clients this December. We hope they enjoy these trees for many years to come.

What’s perhaps most interesting for me is that each of the trees will change in different ways as time passes.

The tin will tarnish, but come back to life with a little polishing. The concrete will continue to get harder forever, as the curing process of the concrete continues. But the plastic will eventually break down and disappear, given it’s completely biodegradeable.

Which means the only way to keep the set alive forever is to use the plastic tree in a mould to make another tree. Sure, people have years to plan and execute what that tree can be, it won’t disappear overnight. But giving people a platform to create rather than just a finished thing feels very Smithery.

Merry Christmas, everyone, see you in 2017.



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