Introducing Goldsmiths' Company Apprentice Eleanor Woolacott
Eleanor Woolacott is in the penultimate year of her 5 year apprenticeship. We spoke with Goldsmiths’ Company Apprentice about what she does day-to-day, her time on the Foundation Programme and the women in the industry that have inspired her.
Would you mind telling us a little bit about yourself?
I’m in the final year of my five-year Diamond Mounting apprenticeship at C.A. Treble. I initially came to the Goldsmiths’ Centre for the Foundation Programme in 2015 and then I went straight into my apprenticeship.
I’ve always loved art so when I was at school I knew it was the thing that I wanted to go into after I finished. Whilst I was at sixth form, I did a 10-week-long adult education course in silversmithing and found that I enjoyed working with metals. I already knew that I didn’t want to go to university so I researched jewellery related courses online and the Goldsmiths’ Centre Foundation Programme came up and I was impressed by all the things I could learn on it so I applied and was chosen!
You’re currently a Goldsmiths’ Company Apprentice, what does a regular day look like for you?
Now I’m in my final year of my apprenticeship I am working on company jobs. That means working in precious metals, like Gold and Platinum. Occasionally, I get to do practice pieces in Silver, whereas in the first year of my apprenticeship I was mainly working in Silver to improve my skills. Towards the end of my second year they started introducing jobs for the customers.
A big part of my role as an apprentice the running the jobs around Hatton Garden to different people. I really enjoy that aspect of it because I get to speak to lots of people, see different workshops. Inside the workshop I’m in charge of sweeping and general maintenance; it is challenging work but it is worth it because you learn so much and it is very rewarding, especially when a customer is happy with what you have produced. I enjoy being an apprentice. Five years sounds like a long time but it is not because you are always busy.
Part of being an Apprentice is being bound to a Master, mine is called Tony Wood. We sit next to each other for 40 hours a week and surprisingly, we get along well, he’s got a good sense of humour and I think if I had any issues at all I would go straight to him and he would help me to resolve it. Tony is the right person to teach me and I am glad that I found the right workshop and the right person, he is a hub of knowledge, I feel lucky to be sitting next to him. What’s more, it is fun in the workshop, we celebrate birthdays and we do staff lunches regularly and I think that helps because it is a relaxed atmosphere.
Do you have any women in the industry that you look up to?
I remember when I was a part of the Foundation Programme there was a Setting Out group that was based in the workshops and Monique Daniels was one of them. It is quite cool to see how she started here on the Setting Out Programme and now she has developed her business, her products; you can see how her business has grown. Also, Imogen Belfield who is based here, I follow her on social media as well and she goes around the world with her work, it is amazing. I find that inspiring.
I have also done a bit of research into women apprentices because I wanted to see who was the first female apprentice in the Goldsmiths’ Company’s books. I found out from the Goldsmiths’ Library that the first recorded female apprentice was called Brigies Cross and she was bound in 1614. I just thought how inspirational, even though I don’t know her work, it was amazing to see how long women have been in the trade despite it being quite male-dominated. It must have been very daunting for her.
And then Judith Cobham – Lowe the Prime Warden who is the first Prime Warden. The gap between the first female apprentice and Prime Warden, it is very interesting, it is such a long time, centuries have gone by. I saw her speech at Goldsmiths’ Hall and I found her inspirational, to be the first female to step up to the role. I don’t think she has a maker’s background but it’s great to see women in the trade like that.
Before becoming an Apprentice, you took part in the Foundation Programme. What did you learn and what did you gain?
You start off by learning the basic skills that I still use to this day. I was to do mounting and silversmithing a few days a week and could build up my hand skills; when I started I couldn’t even file properly, my hand was going all over the place. During that year I was introduced to a range of different skills from the trade and expanded my knowledge. It opened my eyes to all the things I could do in the industry and being here built up my confidence because every few weeks had to stand up and present what we had learnt to each other.
I’m still friends with everyone I met on the Foundation Programme and I still see them around Hatton Garden doing their running, it is nice to have that network of people of similar age. I think there is a big gap between the people that are established and the new people coming in it is good to know people your age just to be able to relate to them.
What are your hopes for the future?
I would like to finish my masterpiece, I want to do a good job on that and come out feeling proud of what I’ve done during my apprenticeship. In the future, I would like to work in the West End, perhaps on Bond Street if I get good enough. And one day I would quite like to give back to the trade, maybe through teaching. I quite like the sound of that, because so many people have helped me in the trade that I would quite like to help someone else. I also quite like the sound of being the Prime Warden one day, I hope I am not the second!
Interested in starting a career in the Jewellery industry? Find out about our Foundation Programme.