Acting the Fool – the Goldsmith’s Apprentice

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Statue of Touchstone Henley Street, Stratford Upon Avon

The other area of research for ‘The Noble Fool’ was touchstones.

I had been keen to look at the character of Touchstone, the fool in the play, and early in my research, I discovered that Shakespeare wrote the character for a new member of his company called Robert Armin, who had originally been an Apprentice Goldsmith.

This link was really exciting for me: Imagine, my first major piece of research into a Shakespeare play to create jewellery and I stumble across a Goldsmith who inspired one of my favourite characters!

Touchstones, usually slabs of black stone or slate, have been used by the Assay Office for more than 700 years to test precious metals. A streak would be made by the gold or silver to be assayed (tested) and then it was compared with streaks made by touch-needles or strips of gold or silver of known quality.

Through my research, I found out that this link was used by Shakespeare quite explicitly in the creation of his character. Touchstone always ‘tells it like it is’ in the play – he is the measure of all things, exposing counterfeit and falsehood, in the same way that a touchstone is the method used by Goldsmiths to test metals, identifying counterfeits.

I decided that I wanted to include a real touchstone in my piece and so my next task was to work out how to set it…

The picture is of a touchstone that is used every day by the samplers at the Assay Office. The pattern created by their scratching and acid tests looks like patchwork and gave me inspiration for my final design.

The picture is of a touchstone that is used every day by the samplers at the Assay Office. The pattern created by their scratching and acid tests looks like patchwork and gave me inspiration for my final design.

 

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