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Foundation Programme: An Interview with Varis Prieditis

We got a glimpse into a highly unique area of the trade this week through conversation with Varis Priedeitis, a Foundation Programme alumni and current Goldsmiths’ Company Apprentice who, along with Master Stuart Ray, is among the only working silver spinners in the world.

Could you tell us a little about your journey into the industry?

A teacher, Chris Chalk, recommended the Foundation Programme to me. I was studying 3D Metal work for my GCSE’s, and during lessons, he saw that I really enjoyed working with metals and suggested that I apply. At that point, I didn’t know what to do next, so it was really helpful knowing that option was available to me.

What does a regular day look like for you as an apprentice at Stuart Ray Limited?

Well, there’s the usual apprentice jobs like making tea, sweeping up, and taking the bins out - you can’t avoid those. Aside of that, it varies quite a bit - I’ll either be working on a job from start to finish over several days, or I’ll be doing small things here and there for various projects, so there’s a lot of variety involved. I could be working on a trophy one day and a bottle-stopper the next.

Is there anything unique about working at your company?

Stuart Ray is a small, intimate company, and I have really friendly, easy-going relationship with my Master, so it’s not a typical formal working environment. Of course, being a silver-spinning apprentice is also unique, because there are so few silver-spinners working right now.

What are your plans after your apprenticeship ends?

At no point during the Foundation Programme or my Apprenticeship have I not enjoyed what I was doing, and I can’t imagine a time when I won’t enjoy it, so I plan to continue working at Stuart Ray for as long as I’m able, and in continue in the trade after that. My work is very satisfying and as one of the only silver spinners in the UK, there will never be any shortage of it.

What made you choose silver spinning as a speciality?

It started with me discovering lathes in the Goldsmiths’ Centre workshops, during my time on the Foundation Programme. They got me curious, so I approached one of the tutors and learned about spinning for the first time. The Centre then found me two weeks work experience at Stuart Ray, where I’m currently an apprentice, so through that work experience I found my speciality and my career.

How do your friends and family feel about your career choice?

They’re very happy about it. The industry as a whole is quite niche, and silver spinning is a niche within a niche, so they can relax knowing that I’ll always have work.

Can you highlight one memorable moment of your time on the Goldsmiths’ Centre Foundation Programme?

Winning an award at the Goldsmiths’ Craft and Design Awards was the highlight for me. I had a ‘why not?’ attitude to entering my work, so was totally surprised to win. It made me realise that my piece was of professional standard, on the same level as other winner’s work - you don’t realise that when you’re making something.

How have your experiences with the Goldsmiths’ Centre impacted your life and career as a whole?

The Foundation Programme taught me a basic understanding of lots of different aspects of the trade, and that’s been really helpful. When I entered my apprenticeship I didn’t just have knowledge relating to my specialty, I had more of an overview - so if I’m working on something with a silversmith, I have a sense of the work that they’re going to do and how that relates to my work. It makes communicating and collaborating so much easier when you understand what the other person is getting at.

What advice would you give other young people interested in entering the industry?

Get started now. If you’re interested in craft or the industry, find your local craftsperson, silversmith, jeweller, and reach out to them. Or email the Goldsmiths’ Centre and they’ll point you in the right direction.

Applications for 2019/2020 close on Sunday 5 May 2019. Interested in applying for our Foundation Programme course? Find out more information here.