[NOTE: This blog post originally appeared on the Primitive Method Blog in August. It's included here to show people the background to my (sucessful) application.]
So, I was reading Benchpeg last night, which is a weekly newletter for the UK trade, and I saw an advert for a scheme, called AA2A, or "Artists Access to Art Colleges". It's quite an interesting scheme - the basic intention is to give artists from outside academia access to the facilities that students get. If any of you have seen the inside of a jewellery or art college, you'll know that they have loads of tools, machinery and expertise, all crying out for practical use, and then there's the access to the library facilities, which must be worth more than the rest put together, with the kind of work I want to do. Comments on this blog often have great suggestions for my reading list, but the good stuff costs £100 or more, which puts them outside my purchasing budget.
The scheme is big enough that 3 nearby colleges are involved, so I'm going to apply to all of those (you can only accept one offer, of course) - the colleges are Derby, Nottingham and Loughborough. I'm gutted that Birmingham Jewellery College isn't on the list - I thought they'd be a prime candidate, and I've done a couple of short courses there. And I'm often in Birmingham for work. Still, we can't have everything, can we?
A look through the application guidelines makes me feel positive about my chances - I'm not a student of any sort, and I do have access to a workshop (my dad's place, and maybe my own, if I ever get it built). I work very flexible hours, so I've got plenty of opportunity to use the facilities, and (I hope) the skills to make best use of those facilities. There's a flipside to the access, too - it's not just about me, it's also about the students getting access to working artists, and I'd be more than happy to talk to them about what I'm doing.
There's only one thing that might let me down. You see, I've always tried to put myself across as a thoughtful technician, rather than an artist per se. By now, I must have made at least 100 different commissions, and repaired a few thousand items of jewellery. But I've never really catalogued my work - customer requests are often quite straightforward, and the odd bits of silverwork I've done for stock have been trinkets, really. As many of you will empathise with, I'm always meaning to photograph the things I make, but I never quite get round to it - when one item is finished, there are usually half a dozen more to get on with, and by the time I have time to wash my hands and take a photo, the customer cas already collected.
The work I'm doing on this blog is currently very basic - I'm trying to develop practical skill in techniques, but I do feel like I'm trapped halfway between the dry world of the archaeometallurgist, and the soft fluffy world of the conceptual designer. Application deadlines will be about a month from now, so I've got time to create some items for a portfolio, but my existing bench skills won't do justice to the project, and my medieval skills are too meager to actually make anything yet. Oh, it's a quandry!
I can only hope that they think my project is a noble and artistic endeavour. If anyone has any advice on how best to put myself across, I'd love to hear it.