What Fellows say: Louise Walker
Q: Tell us about your current work and your studio…
I trained as a silversmith so my creative practice is rooted in that field. While at Bishopsland I developed and refined a technique for soldering silver and stainless steel, and since have been researching and developing approaches to change in scale, which is quite a challenge. As for my studio, I am currently Artist in Residence at South Hill Park Arts Centre.
Q: What made you decide to join the Bishopsland programme? Why was it right for you?
I was really clear and knew I wanted a career in silversmithing and jewellery, and from my degree course knew I still needed to develop my technical skills if I was to do this. I also realised I needed to understand the business side – how important it is to promote yourself as a designer maker, how to work with clients, find commissions – and getting the real-time experience and knowledge that enables you to do that.
Q: What were the most valuable skills or areas that the programme covered in relation to your own work?
I feel the technical assistance from the regular tutors and visiting tutors was offered at a level that I had never experienced before – intensive one-to-one tuition, once or twice a week, working with people such as John Bartholomew, a longstanding and hugely respected silversmith. I also got the opportunity to work with silversmiths such as Angela Cork and Kathryn Hinton. Being pushed to meet the Bishopsland Standard was a factor as well – knowing that level that you have to achieve to reach the Standard. And on top of that, all the practical information you need on marketing yourself, pricing, presentation of your work, and opportunities to exhibit work and meet clients. The Precious Metal Bursary scheme really helped, as I could build up stock while at Bishopsland so I could take part in exhibitions straight after leaving. It was an extensive experience that really prepared me for professional life.
Q: What do you feel you achieved as a result, and what did you take away from your time at Bishopsland?
I reached a higher professional standard in my making practice, and learned how to create my own business model, and how to represent myself through my work. I wouldn’t have done that as a result of going to university alone, as I wouldn’t have reached that standard or had that understanding. Bishopsland was also a really good introduction to networking in the industry, how to communicate with clients, working with suppliers, and how to present yourself.
Q: What would you say to someone thinking about whether or not to go to Bishopsland?
If you’re passionate about developing your work as a silversmith or jeweller into a viable business, Bishopsland can do that. It teaches you about those kind of realities, and how to work professionally. A lot of my Bishopsland year is hard to put into words, but it has made such a difference. It’s a tough year – you’ve got lots to learn very quickly – but it’s hugely rewarding, and really does bridge that gap between studies and your professional career.
Louise Walker now works from her home studio in Berkshire selling across the UK. Find out more about Louise on her website.