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Tales from the Pewter Shop

by Raymond Gibson

Tales from the  Pewter Shop A publishing first, this memoir by a contemporary pewterer from Hillsborough Centre, New Hampshire, is set inside the day to-day routines and surprises of the pewter shop. It moves easily from the confines of the shop to the long reaches of pewter history.

Raymond Gibson's Tales are about his old teacher and mentor; then the gathering of tools and machines, some of them antiques; teaching his five children; creating a family cottage industry during summer vacations with all profits devoted to their preparatory and college educations. Gibson Pewter, wrote Charles Hull, curator of the London Guild, resembles some of the family firms around London in the 1700s.

The Tales are about the casting, spinning, soldering, and finishing of pewter, and repairing old pewter. An open shop welcomes pewter enthusiasts, collectors, and curious vacationers. Visitors come from near and far, including China and Russia. The business grows in reputation and prestige; the product goes to all fifty states, and to thirty foreign countries. There are Tales of Žapprentices', young people from the community, who worked summers in the pewter shop, and of television reporters who bring their equipment into the tight spaces of the shop producing remarkable picture stories of the craftsmen at work.

Jonathan, the youngest son, decides to leave a promising business career in Manhattan and returns to the pewter shop, where his remarkable development of skills in a few years propels the product offerings to new heights. Jonathan himself describes creating replicas of two premier colonial pieces, the Bradford tankard, and the William Will teapot. His siblings Christopher and Lauren write chapters about their special memories of working in the pewter shop.

There are Tales of craft fairs where father and son demonstrate, and craft shows where they exhibit among elite craftsmen from many states. Repeated inclusions in the Directory of Traditional Craftsmen help establish their national status. Another Tale recounts the author's creation of the fruit bowl that won the prestigious Stevens Metal Award, and then became, with another Gibson creation, a part of the permanent collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Interwoven among these, and many other tales, are stories of colonial pewtersmiths and their work, their families, their struggles. There are reflections on life, itself often seen as a craft. Tales from the Pewter Shop is a warmly human story that shares something about both.

240 pages, 50 photographs.
Paper. 0914339-81-8 $20

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