Sandra Wilson

I am a jeweller and a silversmith/ Goldsmith working with precious metals recovered from electronic waste. My practice also explores frugal ways of working with these significant materials. In particular, I have been developing work using a damascening technique known in Japan as Nunome Zogan which translates as cloth weave. This uses chisels to create a cross hatched effect in silver to which thin gold foils are applied to create surface decoration. My practice is highly collaborative working with colleagues at the Chemistry department at Edinburgh University. They use a hydrometallurgy process that utilises alcohol-based solutions to recover precious metals such as copper and gold from old computer circuit boards and mobile phones. One of the key outputs from this process is fine gold powder that can then be transformed into foil used in damascening. I am excited about how traditional and historical craft techniques can be utilised to address 21st century challenges such as e-waste.


Artist Statement

Sandra is a silversmith and goldsmith working with precious metals recovered from electronic waste to create new jewellery. Electronic waste is one of the fastest growing waste streams in the world and in Europe we are only recovering around 15% of the precious metals such as gold, silver and copper. The European Chemical Society have also highlighted that these precious metals are also endangered elements that we may run out of in less than 100 years. So working with metals recovered from electronic waste and finding frugal ways of working with these significant materials are vitally important. Through collaborating with chemists Sandra is able to work with e-waste metals in solution to create new patinated surface finishes and create thin metal foils for damascening – a unique frugal way of adding surface decoration.  Sandra is an award winning designer and maker whose research is also funded by various UK research councils. She is also Professor of Ecological Metal Design at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design part of the University of Dundee, Scotland UK.

What craft do you work with? 

I came to design as a mature student having started making jewellery with bathroom sealant before working in precious metals. I have now been working in precious metals for 33 years. My current favourite technique is damascening and in particular nunome zogan which translates from Japanese as cloth weave.  The technique uses chisels to create a cross hatched effect onto which thin gold foils are attached.

What inspires you to work with this craft? 

Materials such as gold and silver are incredibly versatile and beautiful. Both have a long history stretching back thousands of years and it is incredibly exciting to be a continuing part of that legacy. These metals however are now endangered and I believe it is vitally important that we develop systems to recover and reuse these precious metals before they are lost to circulation ending up in landfill. Processes of metal recovery also suggest new ways of working with these materials for example working with metal powders and gasses and this provides opportunities for innovation.

How do you start your creative process?

Play and experimentation are incredibly important in my process. I usually start with some inspiring images often of seaweed and its interaction with rocks and pebbles. Given I am working often with metals in solution – I am curious about interactions in water in different environments.  I enjoy exploring different design ideas, working with metals in their different states and looking for new processes. The most difficult part is often focussing on completley resolving and finishing a piece.

How would you best describe your workspace and what tools could you not do without?

My workspace is perhaps best described as that of a modern alchemist with bottles of copper sulphate from electronic waste sitting alongside traditional jewellery and metalwork tools. I couldn’t do without my Japanese nunome hammers and chisels and my copper pots that are used for solutions that patinate metal.

Are there new techniques you would like to try?

Im looking to learn more Japanese recipes and techniques for patinating metals for example colouring silver purple. Japanese metalwork is quite chemical in its approach and so we may be able to learn more about how we can work with precious metals recovered from e-waste using hydro-metallurgy.

What have you learnt or the best advice you have received that you would like to share with fellow crafters?

The best advice I have received is working at the edges of our discipline is where the most exciting practice exists. Im interested in collaborating with mezzotint printmakers as I see a connection between making a nunome zogan chiseled plate and a mezzotint rocked plate and there may be opportunities through sharing tools and techniques to deepen practice in both these areas. My professional dream is to mount a solo exhibition showcasing examples of working with metals in different states eg liquid, solid, powder, gas.

Media & Contact


Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design part of the University of Dundee, Scotland UK








Photography credit

Sandra Wilson and or Diarmid Weir.


Dundee, Scotland

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