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A person wearing a piece of jewellery around their ears Image courtesy of Jemima Wright
As a winner of the Hammermen Art Award, a competition set up between the ECA jewellery department and the Incorporation of Hammermen of Edinburgh group, Jemima has been able to fund a series of short courses upon graduating from ECA to continue her explorations of the creative process, particularly her interest in art direction and photography. 

Studying at ECA gave Jemima the opportunity to explore the entire creative process through a series of collaborative projects relevant to the industry, allowing Jemima to expand her skillset and explore her unique interests in the subject.

Why I chose to study Jewellery and Silversmithing - BA (Hons)

When I was applying to university I was drawn to living in Edinburgh and wanted to experience the city as a student.

I was attracted to the ECA for its central location, variety of degree options and the elective system which the university runs. I knew I wanted to study jewellery design, but it was comforting to know that I could pick extra courses alongside to support my main degree programme which would allow me to test out other curriculum areas within the ECA.

Another advantage of the jewellery design course at the ECA was its smaller class sizes and therefore workshop access was more guaranteed than other, similar, university courses I had looked at. I thought this would be beneficial as I didn’t have much practical jewellery experience coming into the course.

Someone wearing jewellery around their mouth
Someone wearing piece of jewellery

My time at ECA

My favourite project that I completed while at ECA was a collaborative one with graphic design students. Having designed and made a small jewellery collection, we worked together to develop a unique packaging for the collection which would help to sell it to the public. The experience was really beneficial in demonstrating how this process might work in the industry and I felt encouraged when people bought my jewellery pieces which was helpful in providing me with confidence going forward for the rest of my degree.

The elective classes I took in my first year involved trips to museums and art studios, with the time spent out of class allowing me to make friends and connections across other subject areas which was beneficial in my later years at ECA as we were able to share knowledge and collaborate across our individual skillsets.

Within the Jewellery and Silversmithing programme we had regular talks from external industry speakers, one in particular, from an alumnus of the jewellery department at the ECA, stood out to me. After graduating, she had gone on to work within the jewellery and accessories departments at multiple luxury fashion brands before landing a leading role as creative director of a top fashion company. I found her pathway really encouraging and I admired how she was able to expand her skillset both within and beyond university, using jewellery design as a platform to help launch her into other creative subject areas rather than just focussing on one.

If I could start my degree again I think I would encourage myself to spend much more time in the workshop while I had time and access (and before Covid complicated things), practising basic skills so that by my final year I was more comfortable when it came to designing pieces without workshop access (though this was obviously an abnormal situation I couldn’t have prepared for).

"I was attracted to ECA for its location, variety of degree options and the elective system which the university runs... it was comforting to know that I could pick extra courses alongside to support my main degree programme."

Jemima Wright

Jewellery and Silversmithing - BA (Hons) alumna

My experiences since graduating

Prior to graduating, I won the Hammermen Art Award through a competition set up between the ECA jewellery department and the Incorporation of Hammermen of Edinburgh group which I put towards funding a series of short courses after finishing my degree. This has been particularly helpful in bridging the gap between graduating and starting a new career path and solidifying my confidence in the subject area I want to pursue.

I was initially only thinking as far forward as the final hand in and didn’t have solid plans beyond graduation, but having been given the funding and motivation to do creative short courses I have been able to expand my skills, knowledge and connections within the industry. I was sad to leave the city of Edinburgh and to leave the comfort of the familiar university environment where you consistently know what’s coming up next.

After having some time to reflect on my university experience, I feel confident in my abilities and portfolio work going forward in pursuing the career path I think would suit me best. Though I’m currently not gravitating towards the making aspect of jewellery design, the tutors at the ECA helped nurture my interests in the entire creative process, from the initial research and design stage, through to the making process, and lastly the art direction and photography stage which involves capturing a jewellery piece through a photoshoot in a way that conveys the concept behind it. This is where I think my interests and skills work best, using the creative knowledge I have built up to help curate and design concepts for future projects.

My advice to new and current students

To those entering first year I encourage you to sign up for elective classes that are varied but which also support your main degree programme as this will be beneficial in making connections across the college, with both students and staff, which will help in making your design explorations more unique through the inspiration of designers in other departments.

To those graduating, know that you don’t have to go into a career path directly informed by your degree subject. You can use the combined creative knowledge you’ve built up to make a pathway in whichever creative area suits you best.

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