It’s been a more-than-usually-hectic end of term at the School of Jewellery, so forgive the silence for the past couple of months, and prepare for a rush of posts about a handful of intriguing events that I’ve been involved with since then.
Enamelled Mechanical Marvels showcased the work produced by eight students from the School of Jewellery (from the BA(Hons) Jewellery Design and Related Products/MA Jewellery, Silversmithing and Related Products courses), who had been working with designer maker and post-grad researcher, John Grayson. John provided a six-day masterclass in wet process enamel and automata-making. This really stretched the students, as much of the content was entirely new to them; in addition to learning new techniques, they then spent the second half of the course applying them to a piece of original work of their own. The results were fascinating and full of risk; the students were thrown into this challenging project (alongside the demands of their courses), and yet they embraced the opportunity to develop as practitioners.
And that’s the point of stuff like this: students get to take part in learning that doesn’t have learning objectives and assessment criteria – instead they get to focus on skills and making, under the close watch of an expert. It can be career-changing, as Becky Williams, one of last year’s participants discovered; her practice shifted direction entirely as a consequence of working with John. But even for those who stay on more familiar ground, this is an opportunity to get off the assessment treadmill, and to get a taste of creative practice as it unfolds in the field: work emerging on the bench; design decisions made on the hoof. It provides an opportunity for students to work alongside makers within a community of practice that involves sharing ideas and techniques – and something of themselves in the process. This reminds me of the discussion of professionalism I encountered recently in a blog by Kate Bowles, that – as she points out – runs counter to the current drive in HE to herd students, account for their time and seek to bring the development of life skills within the formal curriculum.
John and I were keen to mark the students achievements but, given that the School was already running at capacity in preparation for the graduate show, we contacted our new neighbours at Ruskin Mill. This is a charitable organisation who are currently developing the New Standard Works Building on Vittoria Street, turning it into Argent College, with provision for students with support needs. The New Standard Works building is a beautiful, decrepit manufactory; the second floor has been converted into learning and teaching spaces, but the ground floor is still relatively undeveloped, and the staff generously agreed to let us use their space for a pop-up show. The show was an object-lesson in reciprocity: Ruskin Mill provided the space, Rick from 3D Rigging provided the lighting, and the School of Jewellery provided the wine. The show was fantastically well attended, and it was great for the students – both exhibitors and visitors – to see the work, experience the space and toast our new neighbours. Enormous thanks to Rick Waterworth, Jo Chapman, Janine Christley and Suzanne Carter (whose blog about the event can be found here) for making this happen.
As a final flourish, check out this tweet featuring the Mechanical Marvel made by Danielle Laurent.