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The Tinsmiths | The Story

The Tinsmiths | The Story

It's a real treat early each year to develop our hand-made tin decorations. It begins with field trips, in the depth of winter, to old churches around the country to gather sketchbooks full of ideas. We then work with traditional artisans in Mexico who turn our drawings into these spectacular tin decorations, interpreting our sketches and designs with a real sensitivity.

There is a fascinating similarity between early English church carvings and wall paintings with the Mexican folk art aesthetic, and it's one we absolutely love to explore and develop each year with these decorations.

The wall painting in Hardham church, Sussex (possibly the earliest existing example in England) inspired the introduction of a pale turquoise blue within the collection, as seen on the haloes in the painting above. We worked closely with the artisans to create the perfect blue and have applied it to the angel’s dress, the eyes of the Frog Prince and in ‘gemstones’ in the crowns of the swans.

The whole collection is a rich tapestry, with a wealth of inspiration behind each motif and character.

This pair of Trumpet Angels were inspired by the beautiful ‘angel roofs’ seen in early English churches. First built in the 14th century, these roofs are decorated with intricately carved wooden angels flying above in the oak rafters.

Only 170 survive today and because so little of the art from England’s medieval churches survived the Reformation, that makes these cherubim the largest surviving body of major English medieval wood sculpture. We couldn’t resist celebrating them in these decorations.

Our tin decorations are hand crafted by a traditional workshop in Mexico. Tin work, known in Mexico as hojalata, goes back to the 16th century and is known as ‘poor man’s silver’.

Intricately embossed, the decorations catch the light as they turn in the drafts and breezes in the house. Because tin is a very durable and lightweight material, it’s possible to fill an entire tree with these and not cause the branches to sag! Equally, a single piece looks beautiful in a window.

The Sun Face (above) was inspired by the wall painting at St Mary's Church in Berkeley, Gloucestershire (below).

Finding inspiration for the newest designs lead us to explore the eccentric Shell Houses and Grottos secretly hidden throughout the English countryside, to create some extra special decorations.

The Siren (above), with modelled scaled tail, fish-bone body, encrusted shell crown and a pair of bejewelled fish.

The ‘shell house’ was a trend started in the 1600's by aristocrats who wanted to create follies and structures inspired by ancient Greek and Rome. Often lit by candlelight, these 'hidden' structures often where elaborately decorated with every type of shell conceivable.

We wanted to echo this candlelit atmosphere so created our life-size scallop and mussel shells, lined with gold or iridescent blue. They come to life as the light falls on them.  

The shells can be gently opened or closed. It's a lovely idea to open them on a table and perhaps, in the 18th century style, handwrite your guest's name, a witty joke or a proverb and fold it up inside each shell...

The oldest Shell Room in Britain was built in 1620 by Isaac De Caus. Other magnificent rooms, houses and grottos include the Grade I listed Grotto HIll in Margate and Goodwood Shell House (above) which was most likely designed by Roger Morris (1675-1749). Photograph: Antony Crolla

Make your very own Shell House inspired scenes and watch them catch the low winter light.

More sea-themed tin decorations include the Sailing Ship, Swans, Shooting Stars and Angels to watch over.

The golden Sailing Ship sails on top of blue stormy waves.

The pink angel with gold halo watches over the night sky.

The silver swans glides silently over the midnight blue sea.

In other designs, we go into the forest with the new and mighty gold-faced stag, with his wonderful 'fur' and golden antlers. Deep in the pine forest he finds regal cats, golden geese, hedgehogs and owls. 

The Crowned Cat with an extraordinarily grand coronet studded with painted turquoise.

A wise owl in the tree tops.

Fruits for Kings & Queens. The new Pineapple design is added to the regal pear.




  • Post author
    Caitlin Daw