The smallest lot in the sale
Most of what you see here is just to look at the actual object, a miniature engraving on the screwhead of a pencil sharpener.
This was created by Graham Short, a micro engraver better known for his £5 notes that went into circulation in 2016; he engraved Jane Austen in the transparent section of four notes, one for each region of great Britain. The Northern Irish note was subsequently auctioned for charity raising £5,000.
Graham Short started out as an apprentice engraver to a Birmingham stationers. After finishing his training he went to London setting up on his own; he convinced Gieves & Hawkes to accept two reams of headed paper, who were so impressed that he took over their supply and on the back of that went on to work for banks celebrities and royalty.
In 1970 he began trying to engrave the Lord's Prayer onto the head of a pin, starting a 40 year quest which was competed in 2010. The following year he had his first exhibition at Art Decor Gallery in Whalley, Lancashire, selling out in 20 minutes. He has gone on to create micro engravings for the likes of Stephen Fry.
He works in silence and to avoid the vibrations of passing lorries, he works only at night ~ midnight to five or six in the morning. He can work like this for three or four nights in a row before he gets too tired and needs to rest.
Apart from silence, Short’s most important tool is his body. To steady himself he ties one end of a strap around a heavy piece of machinery in his studio and secures the other tightly around his right arm. He tapes a stethoscope to his chest so he can engrave between heartbeats and places the earpieces in his ears. He holds the carving tool ~ a needle pushed into a wooden engravers’ handle ~ in his right hand like a pen and peers through a microscope.
He then waits, motionless, for 20 minutes or more before starting. He listens through the stethoscope and carves when he is at his stillest ~ in between heartbeats. To keep his heartrate low and maintain good health for the hours of work he has long been a keen swimmer, breaking records even into his 70s.
This piece is in our December Fine Arts & Antiques timed sale which is now live on the-saleoom.com, you can bid upto the 13th December. Viewings can be arranged from the 7th to the 11th December, phone us on 01200 423322.