Ancient craft alive at Library program

Note: This program has been postponed due to snow until March 12.

Among the unique and talented individuals who call Rappahannock County home is an Irishman with a worldwide reputation for creating incredible works of art in gold and silver, including pieces made for dignitaries ranging from the British House of Commons to King Saud to the President of the United States.

Craftsman Edmund Kavanagh and mace.

Edmund Kavanagh’s talent as a master craftsman “repousse chaser” is well known in America, and is legendary in England, Ireland, and the many countries where his works have traveled. Today he is among a handful of artists around the world who still practice this ancient craft.

At 8 p.m. Friday, Kavanagh will share his story and a description of all that goes into repousse chasing as the featured speaker at the Second Friday at the Library Series sponsored by the Rappahannock Association for the Arts and the Community (RAAC).

The ancient art of repousse is a metalworking technique in which soft precious metal is shaped by hammering from the underside. Chasing is done on the front of the piece to finish or refine the raised repousse. It is tedious, laborious work that requires meticulous attention to detail and that in the twenty-first century is considered a dying art.

After showing an early affinity for drawing, Kavanagh eventually wound up as an apprentice to a silver maker at age 14. He developed his workmanship and style working for prestigious firms first in Dublin and then in London, eventually starting his own business. In 1967, at the height of his flourishing business, Kavanagh emigrated to America with his wife Bridie to fulfill a boyhood dream.

He persevered tough times in New York and eventually established a highly successful business in Westbury, N.Y., which included design of custom jewelry, leaving there in 1997 to settle in Rappahannock County.

In 2007, Joyce Brogdon wrote a book about Kavanagh’s life and work titled “The Gold Chaser,” in which she describes Kavanagh’s works as “so distinctive that they need no signature.”

Friday’s presentation at the Rappahannock County Library will include a video demonstration of the artist at work. A copy of Borgdon’s book will be on hand, though copies will not be available for sale.

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