ARTIST AND ARTISAN
John Limbrey (1933 – 2013) trained at the Birmingham College of Art 1949 – 53, where he gained the National Design Diploma, specialising in Silversmithing.
After National Service 1954-56, and before coming to Chipping Campden in 1958, John became a trainee silversmith with R. E. Stone at 20 Garrick Street, Covent Garden. Robert Stone specialised in ecclesiastical silverware and employed a small team of some of the most skilled silversmiths in Britain.
Poor career prospects as a silversmith, together with an unsatisfactory bed-sit life in London, led to a meeting with Robert Welch with whom he had studied at Birmingham. The subsequent move from London to Campden established what was to become an outstanding working relationship embracing silversmithing and product design.
From 1958 John was responsible for making the majority of silverware designed by Robert Welch and producing models in a variety of materials together with production drawings.
John’s first ambition was to be a painter and throughout his working career as a designer he painted constantly, always travelling with a sketch-book. His work tends to show nature and landscape through the eyes of a designer and his preferred subjects were generally wide, open landscapes: Wales, the Lake District, the south coast. It is almost as if his tightly-focussed work as a designer needed this contrast for his artistic sensibility to breathe.
John Limbrey’s style is instantly recognisable and individual. ‘Stylising the subjects and extracting the basic linear design’ was how he described it. John Limbrey’s palette is also remarkable, but seems not to be derived from any obvious source of the 1950s or 60s. His tutor at Birmingham, Cyril Shiner, was certainly a strong influence in his design work but his first ambition was to be a painter.
The great skill and sense of design that went into them does not obtrude, but is undeniably omnipresent, giving the viewer a sense of reassurance along with a breath of fresh air.