Could you tell us how the Cornwall School of Art, Craft and Jewellery came to be?
I’ve been teaching craft and jewellery classes alongside my full time career for quite a few years. I took early retirement in 2010 and I’ve been teaching at various places around the UK since then. My business partner Marion
also gave up the corporate world to focus on her own craft based business sometime ago. We’ve known each other for a few years and always got on well. When the chance to buy an established business in Cornwall came up, I asked Marion if she’d like to partner with me in buying it. We spent lots of time talking about how we’d run a business together and found that we saw eye-to-eye on many aspects so we decided to go for it. The sale fell through but we’d made so many plans that we decided to set up our own business with a much broader remit than
the business we were going to buy. We’re so glad we did!
What is it that your customers love about learning with you?
They tell us various things. First, they love the environment. We looked at quite a few places when we were searching for somewhere to set up the school but the moment we saw the courtyard and surroundings of Coldrenick Farm, we fell in love! It’s quiet and peaceful but also really close to the A30 so easy to find. Students tell us that they find the environment calm, peaceful and highly conducive to immersing themselves in crafty pursuits. Next they tell us they love the welcome they get. We are open for business every day and we encourage people to pop in if they are passing. We often have people come in to see what we’re up to before booking a course and they always get a cup of tea and a tour!
Mainly, they love the quality of the teaching they get. Marion and I are both experienced tutors, well used to teaching both complete beginners and more experienced students. We take the student experience very seriously and always aim to give students more than they expect. We maintain our own level of knowledge by taking training ourselves and are great experimenters. We’ve always got something new on the go!
Jewellery-making is an ancient art, and silver clay in particular seems to be enjoying a wave of popularity at the moment. Why do you think this is?
Silver clay is a new medium compared to the long tradition of jewellery making which dates back to the time when people used shells and seeds to adorn themselves. This medium is so accessible for beginners and requires simple tools which many people already have. The way we teach silver clay shows people that they can make pieces of jewellery they can be proud of at their kitchen table with the minimum of expense and this approach brings people back for more again and again.
We also have lots of more advanced metal clay work on display in the school which Marion and I have made. This shows people the huge potential of metal clay as a serious artistic medium and gives them something to work towards as they build their skills with us.
Your school caters for a wide variety of crafts. Why do you believe handmade is so important?
There is something incredibly satisfying about making things by hand. In our modern society, so many things are machine made or imported with no idea how, or where, they’ve been produced. Making something from raw materials to your own design and with your own hands, and then using or wearing it produces a great sense of achievement.
One common thing we hear people say when they are new to crafts is that they are not very creative. We aim to change that perception when they take classes with us. People book on our classes for a variety of reasons. Some come to learn new skills or to develop their existing skills. Others just want to spend a few hours away from the normal stresses and strains of life and do something new and fun. We cater for all levels of skill and we help people to make things they can be proud of; that’s our ethos when we’re putting new classes together. It’s so lovely to see people walk out wearing the jewellery they’ve made, seeing them realise they are creative after all. It boosts self-esteem and builds confidence, no matter what the age of the student.
How does the beautiful Cornwall setting influence the pieces your customers create on your courses?
Our customers tell us that the setting produces a relaxed feeling from the start and that was part of the reason we chose this particular location. Marion and I are both relaxed and calm teachers and this helps to ensure our classes are fun and relaxing for our students. We often use leaves and plants from outside the studio in classes; these are good to use with porcelain, silver clay or polymer clay and make great textures.
We are currently developing some new classes for the tourist season which allow people to use shells, stones and beach finds in craft projects. This means they can take home a little piece of Cornwall in something they’ve