James LynnGoldsmith

What is Chasing and Repoussage?

Chasing & RepousseChasing is the term for making a design by hammering or punching on the front of a piece of metal.

Repoussage is the use of punches to create a raised, or relief, design by hammering or punching on the back side of a flat sheet of metal. (The word repousseé is often used. Both are forms of the French verb repousser, meaning to tool or to push back.)

These two processes are usually combined, so that the rough outline is punched up from the back by repoussage, and refined by chasing on the front. This can result in very sharply defined reliefs, which I refer to simply as "chasings."

Dozens of different punches may be required for a typical project, and these are usually made by the artist for their specific requirements. I have around 180 chasing tools, which is not unusual in this type of work. It is extremely time consuming, but very enjoyable.

A chasing is made up of punch marks as a painting is made up of brush strokes, so it is a similarly personal, expressive medium.

Great examples of chasing and repoussage have been produced since antiquity. During the 20th century this type of work fell out of fashion, as less labor-intensive processes became popular. It has never disappeared entirely, however, and very fine work has been and is being done in recent times.

Using modern reproduction methods, it's possible to make very faithful copies of chasings. It is my hope that this will allow craftspeople to explore this beautiful and versatile medium while still pricing their work affordably, so that a contemporary audience will be created for this ancient artform.

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