“Our work is the result of thousands of hours of training and honing our skills. When you buy a piece of our work, you are buying into that recent history.”

Mester Class is the brainchild of Warren Martin, a silversmith and metal spinner. The project brings together his work with that of blacksmith Joe Moore, knife maker Michael May, silverware chaser Dan Jeffery, and silversmith and blacksmith Kurt Calow. The pop-up shop, running from 19 to 22 October at APG Works, is a showcase for their wares, a chance for anyone interested in the best of what Sheffield’s new breed of ‘little mester’ has to offer to take home a piece of their work.

“The skills we represent have been in decline for many years. We will probably be the last generation of Sheffield craftsmen to be apprenticed in a factory environment. A lot of ageing master craftsmen in the city have not taken apprentices, so unfortunately when they die so does their knowledge of the craft.”

A casual look at the Mester Class Instagram (@mester_class) reveals a world of fine technique far beyond what can be taught in a few days. These are not home makers who have turned a hobby into a business, but real craftsmen who have learned the intricacies of hand making and channelled this into objects of genuine beauty.

“All of our items are made entirely by hand, some are one-off unique pieces that are the result of collaborations, and others are personal designs that are batch produced. All handmade items carry a certain presence,” Martin says. There may be a decline in the number of people learning and practising these skills, but there is a demand for quality. Three of the makers have their work showcased in the Museums Sheffield metalwork collection.

“I am very proud to have my work exhibited alongside some of the finest examples of metalwork to be produced in Sheffield. I do believe, however, that all silverware should be used and enjoyed. We do not make ornaments, we make tools and objects that are designed to enhance the life of the user.”

This is the heart of the challenge that presents itself to the members of Mester Class; the objects themselves are worthy of display, but they were made to be used. Perhaps those who buy them should see them not as investments to be kept for the future, saved ‘for best’. Rather these are things that can and should be used every day, so that the full benefit of their appearance and quality can be felt, a thought echoing that of Michael May in these very pages a few months ago: “If you’ve bought a knife, it wants to be used.” Perhaps people who buy his knives will struggle to accept even the slightest scratch or dullness on the blade? “That’s part of what it is. That’s the history of it.”

History is at the heart of Mester Class. Warren Martin again: “My Dad’s workshop was full of Sheffield-made tools that he revered (he was a welder and fabricator in Kent). I grew up knowing about Sheffield. Sheffield to me was the city of the smith. The place names, and the surviving community of traditional craftsman makes me feel at home here and proud to be part of its history. Kelham Island is named after the City Armourer, who ran his forge off of the river there in the 14th century. There aren’t many cities in the world that can boast of such a rich metalworking history. Our intention is to continue this tradition and hopefully there will still be traditional metalworking craftsmen in Sheffield in the next century.”

The Mester Class pop-up shop is at APG Works on Sidney Street, 19-22 October.

Andrew Richardson