Jeweller Georgia Piggott
2018 BBM Trade Scholar
After receiving my scholarship in 2018 I commence searching for work experience in the UK and Italy but to my dismay found it very difficult to find a workplace willing to commit to offering me a placement.
After a placement with a jewellers in Italy fell through due to problems with visas, I reached out to one of the teachers at the Goldsmiths Centre in London, who informed me that the industry was having a downward dip which explained the difficulty I was having in finding a work-experience placement. Instead she suggested I applied for an artist in residence position or taking up a short course, Bishopsland Educational Trust was one place she suggested.
Bishopsland is a “post graduate” course that runs from a rural location just outside of Reading, England. There is a workshop onsite and accepted candidates take up residence there. The course offers specialised courses at the Goldsmiths Centre and practical Masterclasses with tutors within both the jewellery and silversmithing trade.
The goldsmith centre classes focus on the theoretical side of making like selling and pricing. You can do six months or a year at Bishopsland using the time to increase your skill level and focus on becoming self employed as a maker.
Bishopsland excepts limited numbers for the class, and to be considered for a slot an application must be prepared and submitted. After submitting my CV and application I was contacted to set up a FaceTime interview with Penelope Makower is a silversmith who started Bishopsland and has been running it for 26 years. After the interview I was swiftly offered the last slot in their 2019-2020 class, giving me just under three months to prepare for my big move, with the class year starting in September.
I left Australia on the 10th on September arriving on the 11th which gave me time to explore London before settling into life on the accommodation on a small block of land a little outside Reading.
On September 23rd the term commenced and the ten of us (nine other students and myself) officially became part of the Bishopsland 2019-2020 gang. The rest of the gang came from both within Britain and overseas, coming from different learning backgrounds and of all ages.
Bishopsland Educational Trust
From arrival the instant focus was creating a range of work to exhibit and sell at the Christmas Fair that Bishopsland holds every year.
On Mondays and Fridays one of the three Bishopsland tutors would spend a day in the workshop with us going over our designs and offering help with any issues we had. Each tutor comes from a different aspect of the trade bringing with them a range of knowledge that we could rely on.
For me, coming from an apprenticeship with a commercial background, I struggled greatly with the design aspect and I relied heavily on the aid of one of the Tutors for help. I’ve learned some ways to better help develop my ideas but its ongoing.
In the first few weeks at Bishopsland we made some tools in the workshop with a tutor and had a class that focused on writing invoices and keeping track of expenses to help us better understand how to be self-employed. We also learned how to price and cost our jewellery.
On October 2 we got to visit the Goldsmiths Fair, which is held at the Goldsmiths Hall in London, and speak with exhibitors (many of which had gone to Bishopsland) which was a wonderful experience and really opened my eyes to the potential I could have as a designer and maker.
On the 9th and 12th of November we got to go to the Goldsmiths Centre for professional classes on Pricing and Costing and then Selling Skills. The topics taught at the Goldsmiths Centre are highly resourced and current to the industry.
Ring in a Day
On the 16th of November four members of the Gang, myself included, assisted with the running of a day long course the Bishopsland offers to outsiders. During the day we got the chance to teach how to make a simple silver ring for the students to take home. It was a fun and rewarding experience as I have never been in the position to teach and it was a great way to pass on my own skill and knowledge as well as being a learning curve for myself.
I found that I greatly struggled with relinquishing control and had to stop myself from taking that rings and doing them for the students. From this I learned restraint and also how to explain how to do things, with demonstrations, whilst giving the student the space to learn and do their own work.
Jacob’s Christmas Fair
Jacob’s the Jewellers are a jewellers that has operated in Reading for the past 50 years. They are on the only jewellers in Reading with a workshop on site!
On the 18th of November they hold a Christmas fair where different organisations display jewellery and goods for sale.
Each year five volunteers from the Bishopsland Gang run skill demonstrations during the fair, each person getting a chance to demonstrate their chosen skill. As each person took their turn during the night the others had the opportunity to talk to the general public about Bishopsland and our upcoming Christmas Fair.
The skill I demonstrated was making a setting for a brilliant cut stone.
This was an interesting experience learning to engage with the public while talking about a skill and focusing on practical work while fielding questions. I’ve had experience working in front of an audience after competing at Worldskills but this time the audience was invited to interact with the demonstrator!
I actually started working for Jacob’s one day a week which I found very helpful to give me a break from the stress of design and allow me to do structured repair work that I’m used to doing.
Working for Jacobs was a wonderful experience, the team was great and it was interesting to work for a smaller jeweller then where I did my apprenticeship. I was starting to experience a little more responsibility before Covid-19 hit.
Christmas at Bishopsland
The last weekend of November we hosted the Christmas at Bishopsland fair where we all exhibited a line of work for sale.We also had to run demonstrations through the days for the guests who arrived for the fair.
The whole lead up to the fair was challenging for me as I’ve never really had to design and am not confident in my ideas. The other students came from university where they spent extensive time working on design while I spent most of my apprenticeship doing practical work.
It was a very frustrating time for me as I was so focused on creating something different making my designs more complicated and unrealistic. Through the gentle support of the tutors I’ve started to learn how to look at things and to not get so fixated on a single idea. Allowing myself more flexibility with my designs and being kinder to myself about my ideas.
I also learned how to price my items and how to make a sale with a customer and made my first sale selling a pair of my earrings with Australian sapphires.
A different thing about England is you have to send your pieces to the Assay office and pay for them to be stamped with the correct metal stamp.
This means I also got to register my own makers mark that also gets stamped on my pieces!
Box Making with Angela Cork
Our first Masterclass followed Christmas at Bishopsland.
It was a box making class run by Angela Cork and was held in the workshop at Bishopsland over the course of three days.
She ran us through the making of a basic scoring tool for making boxes which was heaps of fun. Then using our newly made tool we got to work scoring a folding up boxes.
I really enjoyed this class, I found Angelas instruction very easy to follow and the class extremely enjoyable. Box making involves a lot of precision, something I revel in.
I’ve included Angelas website below, she is a silversmith based in England.
Enamel Master Class with Sheila McDonald
The second masterclass we got was Enamelling which is a skill I’ve always wanted to learn and perfect.
The process of applying the wet enamel, carefully firing it in stages, and watching the design appear while the piece cooled was very therapeutic. It is definitely a skill I wish to pursue further and perfect so I can apply it to my designs in future.
We spent four days with Sheila, and I couldn’t commend her enough. She was very supportive and willing to share her knowledge. One technique I learned was plique-a-jour where you pack the wet enamel into cutouts in the metal, once fired it creates a stain glass effect.
Another technique is Cloisonné where fine wires used to create shapes in the enamel.
Here is Sheila’s website: http://www.sheilamcdonaldjewellery.co.uk/
Raising Masterclass with Ndidi Ekubia
Our third masterclass we spent three days with English silversmith Ndidi. The art of raising is using a hammer to form a flat sheet of silver into a vessel like a cup or vase. The technique involves hammering in a specific rhythm, the strokes landing at the right point on the stake. Raising is a technique that is essential to the art of silversmithing, its a basic skill but requires focus and dedication.
I was thrilled to learn that I have the correct rhythm and took to it with ease although it is strenuous work. As I had never used this technique, I have a long way to go to perfect it.
In regard to my career it may not be a technique I will continue using but I’m interested to see where I could potentially go with it.
Ndidi’s website: www.ndidiekubia.com
Chasing and Repousse Masterclass with Bryony Knox
Bryony Knox was the next tutor to teach us in the skill of chasing and repousse over four days. Chasing is a decorative technique where you use steel tools with polished tips to hammer patterns into the metal. Repousse involves pushing higher raised surfaces into a piece. Unfortunately, I was unwell for week that Bryony was with us and was unable to attend the class.
After I recovered I got careful instruction from my classmates, they were very helpful and the direction they gave me is a credit to Bryony’s teaching. I really enjoyed discovering what patterns and shapes I could create, although all the hammering was starting to make my wrists ache.
Bryony’s website: www.bryonyknox.com
This is a copper bowl I did with native Australian botanicals using repousse to create the pattern. It’s a test piece that I intended to recreate in silver at a later date. I was really stoked with this piece and I really enjoyed the learning experience I got from this and am very, very pleased with how it turned out.
Bryony’s website: www.bryonyknox.com
Engraving Masterclass with Miriam Hanid
One skill I have always wanted to focus on is engraving so this next Masterclass was a thrill to be involved in. We spent three days with Miriam Hanid, a past Bishopsland resident, making tools and engraving into fine silver.
I chose a simplistic design that uses the play of light to enhance the engraving. Engraving relies on the absolute control of the graver, requiring constant consistent pressure and concentration.
It can also really wreak havoc on your hands as it creates sharp pieces of silver, so you have to watch out.
Miriam’s website: www.miriamhanid.com
Engraving Masterclass with Malcolm Appleby
The last masterclass that was arranged for us was the option of spending a week with either Rod Kelly in the Shetland Isles doing chasing and repousse or Malcolm Appleby in Aberfeldy Scotland doing engraving.
Both are masters in their respective fields, having trained some of our other masterclass tutors. I opted to go to engraving as it’s a skill that has always been highly interested in.
So on the 9th of March another student and I arrived in Scotland three train rides later ready to spend five days in the workshop of Malcolm Appleby.
Malcolm helped us shape and sharpen some more gravers (which have to be very precise and finished to a high polished finish) and he taught us a hammer engraving technique.
Malcolm believes in practice more the giving direct instruction and permitted us the freedom to work at our own pace and ask for help when needed.
I found my time with Malcolm very freeing and was hoping to return to perhaps spend more time under his tutelage. Malcolm is a very eccentric character who brought great life to his work and our experience.
Malcolms instagram: @malcolm_appleby_engraving
The week we spent in Scotland was when the pandemic really became serious. We were already aware of it but as the virus moved so swiftly the situation in England changed daily with it getting announced as a pandemic on the 12th of March.
We left Scotland to return to England on the 15th and once everyone returned to the workshop, we held a group meeting to discuss the contingency plan that Bishopsland had in place.
At first, I was pretty confident that I could remain in at Bishopsland safely since it’s at a remote location but, they would be cutting the course short and the tutors would no longer be visiting us for guidance.
By the end of the week the situation got worse and, honestly, my family wanted me home.
It was a difficult decision to leave but, in the end, the best choice to make in the long run.
We got back from the masterclass in Scotland only a few day after COVID was declared a pandemic, and by the end of that week I was on a plane back to Australia.
I had to drop out of my course with 5 months left which was very disappointing and frustrating. On the bright side I have been offered a spot in the 2020-2021 class so that I can start afresh.
The trip over had been nothing special, the flight had been long but I spent a lot of time sleeping and watching movies. On the way back the airport was a little more tense to say the least but the flights home where just like any flight. I didn’t feel the need to be too worried. It was a relief to be home but mostly I was tired.
After the initial stress it created, my life has reverted to the normality that it was before I had left home and started my career in trade (as I have moved home for the time being) I tend to not let it affect me, it is what it is and in time everything will work out.
Reflection and anticipation
For the time being I have been employed by my father working on our family property working cattle, which is a far cry from my chosen field by I have built a bench so that I can do a little of my own work in my spare time.
My jewellery may be on the back burner for a while which may not be a bad thing, but I have received my first commission so it will be exciting to see where it leads me until it is safe to return to the UK.
I think this break will give me a chance to actually plan out what I will do with my time next time around and to go back knowing what to expect and what it is that I want to do and achieve.
If has already given me a better sense of what I want out of my trip when I get the chance to do it over.
To the scholars who are unable to depart I would say to hang tight, in the end everything tends to work out. Maybe use this time to plan or research where you might want to go.
My biggest regret is that I didn’t get the chance to travel more during my trip because I was so focused on doing well. Do not let work stop you living, when you give yourself that space to live and be happy your work will replicate that.
From my BBM trip I’ve learned a lot about myself. I’ve discovered that I’m impatient wanting this done straight away but I’m also a perfectionist so everything must be perfect. In all honesty it’s not the greatest way to be as it creates a lot of anxiety and a lot of dissatisfaction with my work. Although these might be negative things to learn about oneself at least I can start to learn how to counter and work with how I am as a maker.
Career wise I am still partial uncertain about my future but with the knowledge I have gained I now have an idea of what I can achieve and am on my way to learning the skills I need to succeed.
Owning my own jewellery store may be a dream of the distant future considering the current situation of the world but I’m comfortable with the idea of taking my time and rolling with the punches. And who knows, I might discover something else in the following year that sets me on a different path, whatever it is I wait in eager anticipation. Until then I look forward to my return to Bishopsland.