FOCUS: What we learnt at Scottish Jewellery Week

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From symposiums to catwalks, there's a drive to push Scottish craft.

The inaugural Scottish Jewellery Week, organised collaboratively by Vanilla Ink founder Kate Pickering and the Scottish Goldsmiths’ Trust director Mary Michel attracted a host of emerging designer and established talents. PJ’s Sarah Louise Jordan travelled to Dundee to experience the event for herself.

With the issue of independence raising its head at the end of the summer, it is fair to say it’s been a tumultuous time for Scotland recently. But out of an independent spirit has grown a jewellery industry that wants to cement its place in the UK economy; not only by producing talented designer-makers, but by encouraging business that start in Scotland to stay in Scotland.

As someone who’s made it her mission to support young designers in that tricky middle ground between leaving education and starting a business, Vanilla Ink Studios founder Kate Pickering was perfectly placed to launch the first ever Scottish Jewellery Week (SJW), in association with the Scottish Goldsmiths’ Trust. Ahead of the event, Pickering told Professional Jeweller: “Demand came from our ‘Inkers’, who this year wanted to keep their focus on exhibiting in Scotland. Naturally I wanted to do something bigger, so we started to plan Scottish Jewellery Week.”

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Held in the heart of Dundee, where an artistic spirit is imbued in the local residents and surrounding colleges, SJW plotted a series of events starting with a symposium on September 12 and ending with tours of the city’s jewellery workshops on September 21. The Making Jewellery Work symposium at Discovery Point kicked off the week’s events and attracted a crowd of emerging and established talents looking to gain advice from a host of industry experts, including Edinburgh Assay Office chief executive Scott Walter, Smith/ Grey co-founder Sofus Graae, Brazen Studios goldsmith Scott McIntyre and Glasgow School of Art graduate and jewellery designer Georgia Wiseman.

What was perhaps most notable about the day of lectures, question-and-answer sessions and panel discussions, was the air of optimism; not only from the graduating Vanilla Ink alumni, but the audience members who filled the packed theatre. Despite the obvious challenges, the most recurrent of which was the struggle to balance creating a digitally visible brand with making jewellery, the audience seemed confident in its ability to make, and make well. Scottish Goldsmiths’ Trust director Mary Michel, who chaired the end-of-day panel discussion, commented on the success of the first ever SJW symposium, explaining: “There was a real buzz about the day, which was evident in everything from the audience questions, to the sometimes heated panel discussion, to the exchanges at the Meet & Make networking lunch. Jewellers often work in isolation and the symposium provided the space, inspiration and contacts for jewellers at all stages of their careers to share their experiences.”

Equally impressed was symposium attendee and Dundee-based jeweller Genna Delaney, who admitted: “For years I’ve been thinking there should be more opportunities in Scotland to promote Scottish designers, so when I found out SJW was launching I was thrilled to be invited to take part. The symposium was a very interesting day and I gained valuable information, met new contacts and rediscovered my motivation to push on with my practice.” The start of the debut SJW was particularly monumental for the 2014 class of Vanilla Ink, who turned their end-of-year final showcase into evening entertainment for symposium guests. Taking over a dramatic warehouse space in the centre of Dundee, the eight Inkers dressed models in their boldest pieces and sent them strutting down a flight of steel stairs to meet the audience below.

For Vanilla Ink graduate Lucie Hunter, the night represented the culmination of her hard work and dedication to forging a career in jewellery design. “SJW was the highlight of the year and really helped to end it with a bang”, she enthused. “Overall, my time at Vanilla students and the public. The scope of the talks was incredible and seamlessly complimented each other and challenged people’s perceptions.” She continued: “Scottish Jewellery Week is incredibly important; we have a strong community and that should be celebrated. The need for transparency between maker, trade and public is vital and, as SJW moves forward, our focus will be on improving this in our ever-growing industry.”

There is arguably an instinct for jewellers to move to London to secure their dreams of a profitable company, but Kate Pickering, Mary Michel and the rest of the SJW team are out to prove that a burgeoning business can still excel from the corners of Aberdeen, the hilly climbs of Edinburgh and the bustle of Glasgow. One simply needs to know where to go for advice. Our suggestion? Try Scottish Jewellery Week 2015. Ink has taught me to work to a professional level and never be afraid to ask questions. Being part of a collective has been inspirational, but I’m excited to start the next chapter of my career. I look forward to a future of building up my stockists and customer base, while travelling around Scotland, dreaming up new collections along the way.”

After this busy but rewarding first day, the SJW schedule continued to flourish with the two-day 15 Year exhibit at the Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design – highlighting the best of Scottish art college graduates from the past 15 years – and two days of guided Jewellery Trails around the city of Dundee, showing guests the inner workings of some of the city’s studio spaces.

Reflecting on the positivity of the very first SJW, Pickering commented: “The symposium was a huge success, a sellout event to members of the industry, students and the public. The scope of the talks was incredible and seamlessly complimented each other and challenged people’s perceptions.” She continued: “Scottish Jewellery Week is incredibly important; we have a strong community and that should be celebrated. The need for transparency between maker, trade and public is vital and, as SJW moves forward, our focus will be on improving this in our evergrowing industry.” There is arguably an instinct for jewellers to move to London to secure their dreams of a profitable company, but Kate Pickering, Mary Michel and the rest of the SJW team are out to prove that a burgeoning business can still excel from the corners of Aberdeen, the hilly climbs of Edinburgh and the bustle of Glasgow. One simply needs to know where to go for advice. Our suggestion? Try Scottish Jewellery Week 2015.

This feature was taken from the October issue of Professional Jeweller. To read the issue in full online, click here.
 

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