A Programme of Cultural Exchange: Silversmithing in Yunnan, China

17 Jun 2024 · 6:00PM - 7:30PM
Pay what you can (free, £3, £5 or £10)
Online (via Zoom), UK time
Programme type
Talks, Exhibitions and Showcases
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How can cultural exchange influence the process of design and making? What can you learn from working with artisans connected to regional traditions? How do skillsets and creativity adapt across cultural settings?

Join silversmith and academic, Chris Knight, maker and researcher, Maria Hanson, and gallery director and curator, Sally Li, as they discuss ways that they have been forging cultural exchanges between the UK and China. Born from a series of reciprocal academic visits and residences which started a dialogue exploring how the act of making across cultures can serve as a catalyst to share new ideas, concepts, and techniques.

You will hear about the commission of a teapot with a Western ‘edge’, designed by Knight and produced by local Yunnan craftsmen in the town of Heqing, where around 10,000 artisans work in the area’s historic silversmithing trade. These were first exhibited in the inaugural exhibition Making Connections: Notions of Beauty, curated by Hanson, at the newly launched BR Gallery, which showcased the works of 7 UK based artists. These initiatives were the start of Li’s ambitious vision to promote and extend opportunities for contemporary metal artists in both China and the UK.  

“When I’m responding to different stimuli, different environments and different kinds of people - that’s what I really celebrate in my work.”

– Chris Knight

Image credit: Chris Knight, ‘Damask Teapot’, 2024. Photo: Todd White Art Photography


We run our events in person at the Goldsmiths’ Centre and online, so that as many of our community as possible can exchange ideas, learn from industry experts, and form valuable connections across the UK. We do not record these events, or broadcast them when they are in person, to encourage the open sharing of ideas and experiences and preserve confidentiality. Popular topics will be repeated over time.

Who are the speakers?

Maria Hanson is a designer, maker, academic, writer and curator. She is a Reader and the course leader for MA Jewellery & Metalwork at Sheffield Hallam University.

Her creative research and practice explore personal and social rituals through jewellery and objects and the reading of these in the context of contemporary visual culture. Recent funded projects use co-creative participation to empower and create meaningful agency, working with artisans in East Africa and Indonesia. Maria has participated in many national and international exhibitions and was in the 2000 shortlist for the Jerwood Applied Arts prize for Jewellery. She has made several cultural visits to China giving lectures and running workshops. In 2019 she was invited to curate the inaugural exhibition Making Connections - Notions of Beauty for the opening of the BR gallery at the Intangible Cultural Heritage Centre for Metalwork in Yunnan, China.

Her work can be seen in several public collections, including the Crafts Council, Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, the National Museums of Scotland, the Goldsmiths’ Company, and Sheffield Museum’s Millennium Gallery. She became a Freeman of the Goldsmiths’ Company and the City of London in 2006 and Freeman of the Company of Cutlers’ in Hallamshire in 2007.

Chris Knight is a designer, silversmith, sculptor, public artist and academic. Often working on the boundaries between art, craft and design, he is known for his visually and functionally provocative pieces. Chris has exhibited internationally. These include Notions of Beauty, Yunnan, China (2019), Metal Narrative, Beijing, China (2020), A Sterling Adventure, SFO Museum, San Francisco (2018), Resonance, CAA, London (2015), Cheongju International Craft Biennale, Korea (2013) and Treasures of the 21st Century at the Ruthin Craft Centre (2010).His work is included in major public collections around the world including The Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths’, The Victoria & Albert Museum, the Archdiocese of New York, The Crafts Council, The Shipley Collection, Sheffield Assay Office, Museum Sheffield, Birmingham City Museum, and The Musee des Arts Decoratifs, Paris.

Shortlisted for the prestigious Jerwood Applied Arts Prize 2005, Chris won the Museum Sheffield National Metalwork award in 2010. His largest public artwork ‘Cutting Edge’ Sheffield, received numerous awards including the RIBA White Rose Award and the Marsh Award for public sculpture.

Chris is a Senior Lecturer Post Graduate Jewellery and Metalwork at Sheffield Hallam University and became a Liveryman of the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths in 2015. He is also a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.

Sally Rui Li is the Founder and Director of BR Gallery in Beijing China, which is the only gallery focusing on contemporary metal and jewellery art. BR Gallery exhibited at 2023 and 2024 Collect International Contemporary Craft and Design Fair in London as the first gallery from mainland China.

Sally has curated and co-curated over 15 exhibitions from 2019 to 2023 in China, served as academic advisory committee member for 4 international exhibitions and is frequently invited to give presentations and lectures on contemporary metal and jewellery at forums and universities in both China and UK.

Sally has been a member of China Arts and Crafts Association Metal Art Professional Committee since 2019. She is also the Patron of Victoria & Albert Museum, supporting the V&A acquiring Chinese contemporary craft work. Sally is an important collector of contemporary metal and jewellery art in China, her collection includes over 150 pieces with works by over 30 UK artists and more from Japanese, Korean and Chinese artists.