[The original version of this blog post appeared on the Primitive Method Blog.]
I put a post up a couple of months ago, about applying to the AA2A programme. In short, the programme aims to get practicing artists into University and College workshops across Britain, giving the artist access to facilities, and the students access to practicing artists. You can find out more information on the AA2A website.
The good news is, I was sucessful. I put in three applications, to Derby, Nottingham and Loughborough. Notttingham rejected me outright, Derby gave me an interview but turned me down, and Loughborough, thank goodness, understood what I'm doing, and offered me a place based on my application - I attended an interview last week, but it seems to have been a formality, or possibly they were just checking that I wasn't completely insane (after all, even sociopaths can write good applications).
One of the main concerns that I had with my application was supplying examples of my work. Fortunately, everything came together - we received a commission for an anticlastic bangle while I was writing up my application, and then my dad found some fine silver bullion in a cupboard - we didn't even know how long it had been there! That was used to make a chased knotwork bangle (pictured) and some synclastic earrings. You can look at the photographs for my application on Flickr (you can look at a few other photos, too, if you look at my photostream).
Now, the difficult part begins. The initial stage is navigating the Kafka-esque bureaucracy of the university, but once I'm past that, I'll be able to work according to my own schedule. It's going to be a slightly strange experience, working in an educational establishment - very different to the commercial environment I'm used to. Safety procedures will be more significant, but that might be a good thing for me to see - the trade tends to be very under-regulated, in my opinion.
One thing I'm very excited about is access to the university library. They have a wide range of books themselves, and they can get me many other texts via inter-library loans. I should also be able to get access to journal articles and research papers. My AA2A liason even suggested that I should get a reader's pass for the British Library in London.
The workshop facilities themselves seem very good, and I've met a few technicians, who seemed interested and helpful, and weren't even eating cold spaghetti hoops out of the tin, which is always a good sign. They've got a lot of large silverworking machinery, a blacksmith's forge, and modern wood and metal facilities for tool making. They don't have any small machinery, like we do at the shop, but that shouldn't be an issue, because I'll be doing a lot of work with traditional handtools, and half the reason for pursuing this project is getting outside my comfort zone. I'll write more about facilities later, when I've had a chance to examine them in detail.
I've arranged a couple of meetings tomorrow, first with the head technician, and then an induction for the silversmithing workshop. I'll then be able to start on some practical work, and fit my other inductions and meetings around that. I'm really excited by having some facilities to use. My original plan to build a workshop in my yard is on hold now, until next summer - I want to concentrate on Loughborough as much as I can - the programme only lasts for 6 months, so I can't squander the time I have.
I hope to get a lot out of this experience. Loughborough School of the Arts is a prestigious arts centre, so it will do wonders for my profile and CV. I'll also get to exhibit my work towards the end, which is a first for me, and will give me an understanding of the way that work and information should be displayed; because the Primitive Method is meant to be educational as well as practical, information posters and graphics will be just as significant as the finished pieces. One of the posters I'll be putting up is a flowchart of medieval techniques (pictured above). It's only a work-in-progress, but if anyone wants the most recent PDF version of the document, comment here or email me, and I'll send you a copy.