I was kept very busy after I left ECA. I went straight from submitting my final project and preparing for Degree Show to getting ready for New Designers 2015 along with the rest of my class. Then, before New Designers was even over, I was in Erfurt, Germany for an Enamelling Symposium, working alongside some of the best enamellers from all over the world. Between that amazing opportunity to learn and develop my skills in enamelling on the one hand, and all the busyness on the other, it was almost August before I even realised that I had actually finished my degree. By that point I was already looking forward to going back to ECA in September as the Artist in Residence for the Jewellery and Silversmithing department!
After New Designers I was approached by quite a few galleries and shows, asking me to take part in their Winter exhibitions. Looking back, I can see that I was very fortunate as I had more offers for exhibitions than I was able to accept. I was reluctant to turn any of these offers down, but in the end I think I made the right choice as preparation for the six exhibitions I took on kept me very busy all the way through the Autumn and into the new year.
My residency in the Jewellery and Silversmithing department has been a very worthwhile experience, both because it granted me the space and resources to work on and develop my collection, but also because it was a good opportunity to invest in the development of other students, particularly the fourth year jewellery students. It has been an honour to be someone that they would turn to for advice, and a joy to see their ideas and work take shape.
A lot of the time since graduation has involved applying for funding in order to develop my designs and make them a reality. It’s hard work applying for all the different bursaries and awards, as you are constantly filling in forms. It can make you feel quite vulnerable, as it is like inviting people to judge you and your work. In the end I found all the effort to be worth it, as it has led to my receiving funding and to possibly my biggest achievement since leaving ECA: winning a prize at Scottish Craft Awards 2016 this Spring. As well as the impact this will have on my work, it was a big confidence booster at that point in the year and something I can look back on with pride.
A real highlight of this year has been the opportunity to be involved in the Heat Exchange II symposium on enamelling run by Fife Contemporary Art & Craft. As well as being invited to speak on my work with enamels, I also took part in the pop up fair at the opening of the exhibition. I was very nervous speaking alongside other more experienced craftspeople and designers at the symposium, but it was good to be there and share my experiences. I found the pop up to be very rewarding personally as it was just a pleasure to see people interact with my work.
Starting out on your own can be a big challenge. At times it can be daunting and overwhelming. I would say that regardless of how many or how few invitations you might receive to exhibit or be a part of different projects, it’s important to find a balance between ‘striking while the iron is hot’ and also being realistic about how much work you can handle. I would really encourage new graduates to make the most of as many opportunities as possible.