The GC&DC Awards: Where skills come alive

How the awards have evolved to embrace future talent and manufacture.

The Goldsmiths’ Craftsmanship & Design Awards toast the finest craftsmen and makers working in today’s jewellery and silversmithing industries. Now, with additional awards in place to reach a wider audience, the awards’ secretary Brian Hill says the promotion of craft and skill has never been greater.

There is often a fear that the jewellery industry, with its continual innovation and new technology, is losing many of the traditional skills in which it is rooted.

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Not so, says Brian Hill, secretary of the Goldsmiths’ Craft & Design Council and annual Craftsmanship & Design Awards. In fact, Hill says the awards, known for celebrating the finest and often most experienced craftspersons in the jewellery industry, are becoming more diverse than ever, attracting a younger set of entrants, which in turn proves that many of these celebrated skills are being supported, nurtured and passed on.

More than 700 entries flooded in for this year’s awards, and students from more than 22 colleges and universities entered, believed to be the fruit of greater flexibility and the wider interpretation of design briefs set out for the awards. In fact, the total number of awards given this year covered 23 different categories, a number that is growing as the Council reacts and responds to changing working methods.

The result is an awards ceremony that not only toasts the skills of makers in the UK, but encourages them to push their own boundaries by creating unique and exceptional silver objects and jewellery designs.

“The Goldsmiths’ Craft & Design Council has been proactive in the last few years in positively responding to changes and future developments in the industry,” Hill states. “And it continues to promote its original aims and remit of excellence in craftsmanship and design, which remains central to its work and future direction.”

Technology, once the supposed adversary of traditional goldsmiths, has been embraced by the awards, as it has the industry, with prizes now given for CAD presentation and technological innovation. Hill says this section of the awards is growing in terms of interest and number of entrants and that it identifies and celebrates a new set of skills that can successfully work alongside traditional craftsmanship.

“This section educates, promotes and encourages others to have a go and become involved, and it is groundbreaking work where complicated technological achievements are being explored, developed and realised,” Hill explains. As a result, the awards’ judges are being asked to look even closer at work that combines the hand and technological skills that mirror wider industry developments.

On a similar vein, the Council has been active in ensuring that all categories in the awards represent “each and every activity and trend” occurring in professional practice in the UK jewellery industry. A recent example was to subdivide the awards’ contemporary jewellery category into a silver classification and a gold, platinum and palladium classification, becoming one of the awards’ most popular categories.

While entries are still open for the 2014 awards, the Council is working in close partnership with a number of trade organisations and events to increase the publicity surrounding the awards and encourage designers to consider entering in future years.

“We are both keen and proactive in taking our message out to promote the awards,” Hill states. “Exhibiting at IJL in September this year gave us an excellent platform to launch the 2014 edition of the competition.”

Hill and his colleagues used the trade show to promote the awards’ website, a video about the awards, as well as its new online application process. A selection of award-winning pieces from the 2013 awards also went on display at IJL, and the Council is already signed up to exhibit at IJL in 2014.

It also plans to take part in Jewellery Week 2014 and will hold an exhibition of the award winners’ work at the Goldsmiths’ Centre in January 2014.

“We also have ambitions to create a travelling UK exhibition in the near future that could be successfully accommodated at a business, university or public space,” Hill reveals. “Equally, the Council is keen to work with other organisations in support of its central objective – in search of excellence.”

What is clear is that despite its traditional values and aim of toasting only the finest makers – something that will never falter – the Goldsmiths’ Craft & Design Council is embracing the here and now. By working with the trade and promoting its competition to a wider audience, more jewellers are recognising the potential of their work and the chance to both show off and be commended for their skills.

“The awards are about high standards, excellence and raising people’s skills and capabilities, and it is in everyone’s interest not to lower the bar or give an award to a piece of work that doesn’t befit the level as set by the Council,” Hill states. “[The Council] is constantly aware of the critical importance to keep monitoring and working on this.”

Each year a panel is selected of experts in the industry that have the experience, knowledge and expertise to be able to judge and reward the work. To ensure that its judges are of the highest calibre, and maintain a fair and balanced view, the Council operates a rolling programme of judges and progressively introduces different experts into the judging panels by rotating and refreshing the lists. “We are acutely aware that this is an important aspect of the competition, but equally sensitive to ensuring that every judging panel has the experience and quality to uphold the Council’s high standards.”

Hill notes that the discussion and feedback raised by the awards shows that there is always room for improvement. Nevertheless, the awards have become, and will continue to be, an ever important, vibrant and unique event for the industry. As Hill notes, it addresses a broad UK audience and, through its responsiveness to changes in the industry, the awards has begun to toast a new era of fresh, challenging and impressive work.

Looking ahead, Hill has high hopes for the awards: “We look forward to seeing more talent and collaborative skills that will be a celebration of the technical, aesthetic and creative qualities that help to set bench mark standards and pioneering achievements.”

Goldsmiths’ Craft & Design Council’s Premier Awards
The Jacques Cartier Memorial Award: Given at the discretion of the Goldsmiths’ Craft & Design Council for exceptional and outstanding craftsmanship. It is only awarded when the Council judges an entry to be of the high standard to justify the honour. Each winner’s name is engraved in the Jacques Cartier Memorial Award Gold Book, and they receive a specially-made replica and cash prize.

The Goldsmiths’ Company Award: Also given at the Council’s discretion for exceptional and outstanding design in 2D or 3D. Lifetime Achievement Award: Given in recognition of an individual’s outstanding contribution and commitment to the craft of silversmithing, jewellery and their allied crafts.

Recent Goldsmiths’ Craftsmanship & Design Awards judges
All of the awards’ judges are drawn from the trade and industry and are chosen as experts in their respective fields. In recent years they have included:

Lesley Craze
Ruth Donaldson
Robin Kyte
Marcia Lanyon
Shaun Leane
David Marshall
Angus McFadden
Alex Monroe
Dr. Robert Organ
James Riley
Tom Rucker
Jean Scott-Moncrieff
Jos Skeates
Peter Taylor
Anne-Marie Reeves

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



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