A Starter's Guide For (Soon To Be) Graduated Jewellery Designers. Part 3

Published: 09.09.2018
Annabel Goris
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With these series of questions and responses, I aim to make a crib sheet for (soon to be) graduated jewellery designers. It are practical questions asked from a students point of view to different profiles. The questions are focused on artistic work, education, retail and contacts and learned lessons. By asking different profiles, you’ll get more insights that could come in handy as a starter. And hopefully, they can guide you in making the right decisions and encourage you to JUST DO IT.
In this last part of the article 4 teachers are being interviewed. Just like the gallerists they are sharing and educating their passion for Contemporary Jewellery, to share knowledge with their students and shape them into independent artists/designers. They all have a slightly different approach and focus, and it’s this diversity that makes it interesting.
When nearly graduating, it’s a bit scary to picture yourself functioning in the ‘real world’ as a designer/artist because you have little clue how to address it. You simply need to find a way to make a living with your artistic work, which is not a matter of course. There are no guiding professors anymore, no assignments that give you a sort of direction, you need to start thinking about earning your money, finding your own contacts and clients, workspace, material… A lot of decisions need to be made in a short period of time. And even though none of them are irreversible, it’s still really intimidating.

Illustrations: Ester Vilaplana Miret
1. If you were the one graduating next year how would your ‘step plan’ to find a job and income look like? And are there certain practical tips you would like to give to yourself? 

Dauvit Alexander (Bermingham, England)
During my University time, I’d network lots and make contacts, which I would vigorously keep in touch with. I would make sure that my graduate show was as good as it could possibly be, professionally finished and presented and with a good supply of well-designed, related publicity materials such as business cards and postcards. I might even have a press-pack made up. I would invite every industry contact ever and would ensure that I was available to meet them and talk to them about my work when they arrive at the show. I’d get my work showcased online – using social media – and try to get early exhibitions. I would keep making and pushing the work out there.
Herman Hermsen (Dusseldorf, Germany)
First of all, I would try to formulate for myself what am I: a craftsman jeweller, an artist,
an autonomous designer or a designer in service. What is my main interest and challenges and what are my skills? Do I want to work solo or in a workshop setting or as an employee in a design team? The answer to these questions can give a direction in the strategy I could follow. BUT another opportunity in a school setting is also: I can put a crown on my study with plans and experiments which (pragmatically seen) I’m not able to do this anymore after  I’m finished. So I think I would follow my heart, be curious and go for a good body of work, which represents my vision on jewellery. And if I would decide to apply for a job later or building up a network with galleries, I can offer an interesting portfolio.
Illustrations: Ester Vilaplana Miret

Jantje Fleischut (Amsterdam, The Netherlands)
It depends in which direction you want to develop your career and business. Anyway, an internship during your study in a design company or small studio is extremely helpful to get to know the field better and gives the student first contacts with the professional field. With great commitment during an internship, the company could be very helpfu forl finding or offering a first job after graduation.  Your network anyway is very important; visiting exhibitions and symposia within the design field is strongly recommended already during the whole study. If you start your own studio you just have to work dedicated and you have to initiate a lot. You make yourself best visible with elaborations on broader, socially relevant as well as hot topics concerning the own field.
Tine de Ruysser  (Antwerp, Belgium)
I would find out where to go for help on how to set up as a self-employed artist. Or a place where I could get advice on whether there is a cheaper alternative while my income is still low. What are my duties (for example: when do I pay tax and social insurance, and how much), and what are the benefits of the different systems that are available?
I would also find an accountant that is willing to help a starting artist, I would ask friends and colleauges for recommendations. 
I would also look for a job for an employer, to give myself the assurance of a regular monthly income. Ideally, this is a job in (any part of) the jewellery-world. But if that's not possible, it is a job I enjoy, and that leaves me with enough energy to make jewellery in my own time. 

2. What are, according to you, the most important capacities your students should have learned before graduating?
Dauvit Alexander (Birmingham, England)
It is essential that my students know the realities of the industry that they are about to go into. For HND and BA DFI graduates, this is mostly the realities of commercial jewellery. It is not difficult for people to make a good living as commercial jewellers but it requires dedication and application and an appreciation of the requirements of the customer and the industry more widely. They must be flexible, able to problem-solve and they must have an awareness of technology and how emerging technologies can help them develop and maintain a cutting-edge in their field.
Herman Hermsen (Dusseldorf, Germany)
For making a difference the students should work on a vision from which they can approche different
kinds of  design assigments. Important is that they devellop a broad view on design in general to become
flexible in their creativity. Ofcourse it is very important that students are trained in the 3D-digital skills
they sure will need nowadays.  A good balance between the analogue and the digital skills is very
important. And one of the most important things is always curiousity, reflection on relevance.
Jantje Fleischut (Amsterdam, The Netherlands)
They have developed a defined and open personality. They are able to reflect on social relevance and value of their own projects and products as well on these of their colleagues. They are aware about the important position a designer nowadays can have for society, next to the used techniques and production methods. They have developed an environmental and social awareness, next to the knowledge in material and the sensitivity to use it.

3. What’s the best way to keep unfolding yourself and to keep on learning after school?
Dauvit Alexander (Birmingham, England)
By watching the industry in general and looking to see what is emerging, both technically and stylistically. Keeping up-to-date with the changes in the industry and adapting is a process of learning and crucial to a successful career in jewellery. Taking the odd master-class in something outside your normal field of practice is also a good way of building skills and also networking.
Jantje Fleischut (Amsterdam, The Netherlands)
To stay curious and to intrigue at the same time.
To be very well connected in the field and follow your own intuition at the same time.
Being independent and very close with your colleagues at the same time.
Tine de Ruysser (Antwerp, Belgium)
Stay in touch with other makers. Choose to hang out with people that are as passionate about their artistic work as you are, or with people that love organising/curating/talking and writing about art. Talk about your work, their work, and art in general.
Take part in group-exhibitions and competitions, so that you are constantly challenged to make new work of a high quality.
Take part in a workshop or symposium whenever you see the possibility. This means you get to hang ou with passionate people, and learn new things at the same time.
Read (books or online) about your subject.
Illustrations: Ester Vilaplana Miret

4. How do you think the school system has been improved in comparison when you were a student? And what would you like to improve now?
Herman Hermsen (Dusseldorf, Germany)
During my own study in the 19seventies in The Netherlands, there was not such a thing as supporting students in the
Steps after their study. Maybe it was done indiviual by some teachers but not in the program. We had to
look after ourselfs in planning a carreer. My teachers didn’t tell anything about how to deal with licenses
and royalties. Now our school offers courses for professional practice planning and we give our individual
experiences and information in our courses about the different possibilities and rules to take care of.
Because an art-school or University of Applied Sciences is a higher education for the professional practice
they should have this in their standard course program.
Jantje Fleischut (Amsterdam, The Netherlands)
Compared to my time as a student, a lot more technologies are available now to be used for the realization of ideas. The school is extremely well equipped with experts for each machine, student projects appear very professional nowadays.
As a student, we had to search much longer for the solution and while this we discovered a lot - sometimes used for later projects. This attitude to explore, research and discover was different, but the tools for it were as well.
Through social media and the internet in general the connection to the real business world is much more direct nowadays then during my time. We stayed very much in an art-bubble before leaving the academy. I think as a school you have to guard very well the balance between the academy-bubble and the professional outside world.
The academy should encourage experiment and craziness, where you also have the right to fail within a research next to involving students with the business world outside. The business world needs the craziness of academy projects and the other way around, just in balance.
No smartphone use within the courses would be an improvement on concentration - I think.
Tine de Ruysser
Schools now attempt to integrate all sorts of real-life experiences in the course (price calculation, exhibiting own work, presentation, talking about work, visiting major events, designing small series, working with external companies...). Yet I still notice that many students are not fully aware of their options after school, and of the conesequences of the choices they make during their studies.
I would like to see the system move away from the traditional top-down (master-student) system, where tutors decide the curriculum and projects, and the students follow the course. I would love to see more initiative coming from the students, and to have a system that allows the tutors to look at the individual talents and interests of each student, and build an individual trajectory based on what the student asks for and needs. 

About the author

Annabel Goris, is a master student Object and Jewellery Design at Mad-faculty Hasselt in Belgium. She recently finished a year with diverse internships. Because her scope of interest is very broad and she wanted to expand her experience before starting her master. This included internships at Klimt02, DIM atelier, focussed on lamp design, … She got introduced into the world of design and product during her Erasmus time in Dusseldorf, but also fashion and social design get her attention. In the end she would love to work in an interdisciplinary manner.

Ester Vilaplana Miret is a graphic designer and illustrator born in Barcelona and currently based in London. She studied 4 years of Graphic Design at EINA, Centre Universitari de Disseny i Art de Barcelona (2010-2014). After graduating, she moved to London to do the MA in Graphic Moving Image at London College of Communication (2015) and stayed in the UK where she is currently working as a freelance.