Having just returned from a successful few days exhibiting at Art in Action at Waterperry, near Oxford, it was great to report that it remained dry for the whole four days (excluding the odd shower, unlike last year when the event was flooded out) and that so many Guild Members visited! It felt like an almost continuous stream of you who kindly passed by my stand to say ‘Hello’ and I am sure you did the same to our other exhibiting members Tamizan Savill and Harriet St Leger, who were both demonstrating our craft in the Metal and Jewellery tent. Any of you who subscribe to Craftsman Magazine may have also noticed Harriet St Leger’s great feature in the July/August edition, which gave the Guild a mention as well as cataloguing Harriet’s success as a jewellery designer and maker and in more recent years, her new found love of using enamel in her work. Harriet won the Enameller Elect award at Conference in Leicester this year and it is always a pleasure to see one of our members receiving well-earned recognition for their achievements.
As the year progresses with alarming speed, the Guild continues with its work encouraging and promoting the craft of enamelling. We have many members who are out there either practising or teaching spreading the word about the pleasures of enamelling! We are also delighted to welcome our new Graphic Designer, Jane Wilkins, who responded to our advertisement in the Summer Journal. Jane’s Mother is a member in Region 5 and is keen to aid us with developing our promotional literature. Jane has already attended a Region 4 Workshop along with me, to meet some of our members and a few of our executive committee members to discuss our requirements. Thanks to all of you who made Jane and me feel so welcome.
Progress with the new website is continuing behind the scenes and we hope that Tom Lundsten, our Web Master will be giving a presentation of his and Julia Riddington’s work in the autumn. Having had a brief preview of the new site with Tom talking me through it, it is clear that there will be many more features available with different levels of access for the Public, Members and Members of the Executive Committee. Keymembers such as Regional Reps will also be able to login and add relevant information directly, such as forthcoming events, and other items like the AGM minutes will be available on line for viewing by members only as soon as they are available (members without access to the web will be able to request the minutes by post if they so wish). There will be a more extensive Gallery and a Library listing what is available in the Guild Resources. Our thanks must go to Tom and Julia who have already put in a huge amount of work and there is still much more to do. We are aiming to go live with the new site in time for Conference next year.
Gillie Hoyte Byrom, our Bursary Co-ordinator is also doing a great job with networking and promotion of the scheme, which has included a visit to New Designers in London this July. The event showcases new graduates from art colleges all over the UK and Gillie sought out and talked with nearly a dozen young enamellers who were full of enthusiasm! Enamel work was particularly strong from Edinburgh and London Metropolitan University and Gillie has subsequently received three applications. The closing date is 30th September, so there is still time to apply if you or anyone you know is eligible. Full details can be found on the Guild website. This year Gillie was also asked to write a piece on Jane Short for the Goldsmiths’ Review, a superb article that celebrates one of our finest enamellers and is appropriately titled ‘Jane Short Enameller Extraordinaire’.
As Chairman I have been able to visit two of our regions to date, starting back in April when I went along to Lesley Millers house in Region 7. I was very impressed by the number of members who attended and the facilities available, I am only sorry I was not able to stay the whole afternoon to join in with the workshops. I talked to the group about how I became an enameller and showed examples of my work. Thank you to all of you for making me feel so welcome. Then in June I went along to Shrewsbury in Region 4, which is actually my own region, but it was the first time I had made it to one of the workshops! As I mentioned earlier, Jane Wilkins came with me and again I was able to say a few words about my enamel work and introduce Jane. It was great to meet more members and watch the enamel beads propagating as the day went on! It is very apparent that regional meetings have a relaxed atmosphere and social element alongside the desire to share and learn more enamel techniques.
Since Conference, as Chairman I have also been approached with the question of ‘How do you go about opening a new region of the Guild in the Channel Islands?’ A question that has required some research and discussion on my part! However, I am delighted to say that as a result a proposal will be submitted for the next Executive Meeting in October with a view to the opening of a new region in due course. This is another sign of how the popularity of enamel and the Guild continues to grow and with our ability to respond and encourage new initiatives like this many more budding enamellers will benefit.
In June I was invited to go into Ninestiles Secondary School in central Birmingham to help them set up their enamelling department. I had been recommended to them by one of the Jewellery Supply Companies in the Jewellery Quarter and went along not knowing what to expect. I needn’t have worried as I was greeted by a superb Technology Department, with two kilns in good working order, enamel supplies dating back nearly twenty years and lots of enthusiasm! It was a real pleasure to teach the (very young looking) teachers how to prepare a piece of copper and apply enamel. Everyone got very excited (as they had previously had a go with very little success) and within two hours they were ready to start working with the children. It was particularly important to them as the school was in the middle of an exchange programme with a group of German students focusing on a jewellery project.
I signed myself up for a little of my own training at the start of July when I went on a three day Gravermax Course at the Jewellery School in Birmingham. It is years since I had done anything like it but my first day nerves were immediately dissipated when I realised that all the other course members were from the Guild! Tamizan Savill, Rachel Emmerson, Teresa Speer, Andrew Dixon and Helen Morris were my classmates and aside from having a great few days together, we all found the course, run by Harry Forster Springer and sponsored by Sutton Tools, excellent and extremely informative. We would recommend it to any other members who either use engraving or want to do more engraving in their work.
I would love to say things are less busy now the sun has come out (however briefly, there is a raging thunderstorm going on as I type), but I am now immersed in making my pieces for ‘Playing With Fire’, a major survey exhibition of contemporary UK enamelling, for which I was lucky enough to be selected. My challenge is to produce a new group of pieces, which is very exciting for me! The show starts on 20 September – 2 November at The Devon Guild of Craftsmen in Bovey Tracey and then tours the UK until 2010. For full details go to www.crafts.org.uk There will be great diversity of styles and approaches to enamel in this show, so it will be a very interesting one to watch out for!