Becoming a workshop apprentice

 28 May 2014

After doing his A-levels, Will Lander's aim was to study politics at university – but he had a change of heart. He gained some experience in a jewellery business, and was accepted onto a prestigious apprenticeship in a jewellery workshop.

"Being offered one of these rare and highly regarded apprenticeships felt like a real honour."

Becoming a workshop apprentice

Will turned down the university path, put off by how competitive it was to get a job in his areas of interest. Instead, he started a part-time job working in IT for a jewellers.

After months of being inspired by the goldsmith that worked there, Will was approached by the owner about doing a business and retail apprenticeship. He jumped at the chance. 

During this valuable two and half years, he developed an ambition to be trained at the bench. Will knew he needed to take a new approach in order to achieve it.

Training as a workshop apprentice

Will saw a rare apprenticeship opportunity advertised at Harriet Kelsall Bespoke Jewellery in their studio, based in North Hertfordshire. With his first ever CV, Will applied and got an interview.

We sit in the ‘Goldsmith's Bowl’, designed so our customers can see the skills that go into creating our jewellery.

He was asked, under the guidance of HK Jewellery’s most experienced goldsmith, to make a silver ring. Harriet Kelsall saw his potential and, combined with his retail experience, felt he would be a great asset to the team.

Harriet Kelsall is a Freeman of The Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths, a medieval trade guild based in the City of London. 

The Goldsmiths Company, through its Freemans, take on approximately 30 apprentices at any one time on a five-year apprenticeship to train aspiring crafts people.

For Will to be offered one of these rare and highly-regarded apprenticeships felt like a real honour.

Being a workshop apprentice

Will explained what his apprenticeship involves day-to-day:

"We open the Jewellery Studio at 10am, which is based in a converted barn. I get into work just before 9.30am to set up the workshop for the goldsmiths before customers come in. 

I thoroughly enjoy seeing and meeting the customers who I have created pieces for. 

"We sit in a workshop, fondly called the ‘Goldsmith's Bowl’, which is designed to allow our customers to see first-hand the skills that go into creating our jewellery.

"I liaise each morning with the project management team who provide me with a job list. This list is based on commissions that have come through from our designers after they have consulted with customers about one-off bespoke designs."

Creating commissioned jewellery

"Each job is assigned to a specific goldsmith based on their speciality. I usually spend half of my time working on customer commissions, which vary but include engagement and wedding rings, brooches and pendants. 

"I thoroughly enjoy seeing and meeting the customers who I have created pieces for.

"At first I was self-conscious about sitting in the publicly-viewed workshop, but now I am used to it and like sharing my knowledge when the studio has open days."

Training in jewellery

"The rest of my time is spent on training projects, working towards a ‘final masterpiece’ in order to become a Freeman in my final year.

"I am currently working on a silver butterfly, which may become a pendant or brooch. 

All staff are trained in how to make a silver ring even if they work in the coffee shop.

"Our head designer helped me to design the piece, and I have sat with the goldsmiths to incorporate many skills.

"As part of my role at Harriet Kelsall Bespoke Jewellery, I help run a workshop to induct new starters into the business. This can be someone from any department, from finance to marketing to the coffee shop.

"Harriet requires all staff to be trained in how to make a silver ring from scratch so that each colleague has an understanding of the craft."

Looking after the workshop

"Towards the end of the week I sweep the workshop. It sounds boring but you’d be amazed at how many filings we end up with, which can be melted down and reused.

"All in all I am really pleased with how this apprenticeship is working. Having spoken to others, I’m glad that I chose this route over university.

"I have four years left of my apprenticeship and cannot wait to see how my skills progress towards realising my final masterpiece."

For more information and to see some of Will’s pieces, visit Harriet Kelsall Bespoke Jewellery and follow them on Twitter @HKBespoke or facebook.

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