Helena M Ibbotson
, 1877 - 1962
Material and Medium: Gold , Enamel and Amethyst
Department: Decorative Art
This gold and enamel cup was made by Helena Mary Ibbotson (1877-1962) of Sheffield in 1929. Around the base are four enamel panels that read 'Sport', 'Silver', 'Steel' and 'Science', in celebration of Sheffield's excellence in these areas. Around the rim of the object are the words 'THIS CUP WAS MADE IN SHEFFIELD 1929'. The stem is formed from gold wirework and enamel panels set with four amethysts.
Helena Ibbotson specialised in enamel work. In 1928 she was described her contemporary, Joyce Himsworth, as "undoubtedly the best enameller in Sheffield". This cup is decorated using a traditional enamelling technique called plique à jour and is a fantastic example of this complex method of working.
Plique à jour translates from French as 'against the light'. Most commonly, enamels are applied to a solid metal backing, which gives stability and strength. Plique à jour enamels do not have a metal backing, which means they are incredibly fragile. Instead, the enamel is applied to a temporary backing that is removed once the object has been fired.
Although this method is incredibly time consuming, it has considerable aesthetic benefits. It gives an incredibly beautiful and delicate finish to an object. Light can shine through the enamel, creating an effect similar to that of a stained glass window. Ibbotson has made particularly effective use of this feature in her design for the cup, as the bowl is constructed entirely from plique à jour.