Castro Smith began his training with a traditional apprenticeship with the Goldsmiths’ Company and studied with one of the largest engraving firms, RH Wilkins. He started at the bottom, and it was there that he learned to keep the tools sharp, clean the workshop, polish, file and engrave. It took him three months just to learn how to hold the tools correctly. He now makes his tools; it’s such a small industry you either need to have them handed down to you, or make them yourself.
The technique Smith uses, ‘seal engraving’ goes back to ancient times. A seal is always engraved in reverse and is much deeper than traditional two-dimensional hand engraving with a third or fourth dimension added which is deeper and finer and takes much more time to achieve. Traditionally the signet ring would bear the family crest and the ring would be stamped onto hot wax to seal important documents, with the Intaglio engraving acting as a signature, and the engraved image or crest reproduced in the wax as a 3D relief. Now, Castro uses his knowledge of engraving to create contemporary pieces and to experiment with European and Japanese engraving techniques, producing cross-fertilisation of styles and processes.
Smith’s style developed when he was rushing for an important deadline early in his career. He made a couple of slips with his tool and had no time to restart. So, he engraved around the whole piece with seal engravings, which people wouldn’t do traditionally because you can’t stamp using the sides of the ring. Purely by accident, his aesthetic evolved from a slip.