Since graduating last year, Alex O’Connor has been seizing all the opportunities she can, expanding not just her technical repertoire but her business acumen too. We caught up with her ahead of New Designers: One Year In to find out what she has been doing since she made her debut at New Designers.
→ What does being selected for New Designers: One Year In mean to you?
It’s been a good opportunity for me to get out there and showcase what I do. I am including a new vessel group because when I did New Designers last year, I won the Contemporary British Silversmith Award for Design in Silver and that meant I could go and work with another silversmith, so I went to work with Rebecca de Quin and was able to develop my new work.
I was doing a lot of scoring and folding with Rebecca. I felt my work needed to soften a bit and get some curves so I asked her to show me how to construct with curved scoring and folding and it is tapping into that technique. Rebecca was a legend an absolute joy to work with and it was a direct opportunity that came from working at New Designers in 2017. In terms of what inspiration, my work is really driven by amazing landscape, walking and its all of that; water, landscape and weather.
I was very glad to do New Designers and One Year In because it is a big event but they give you so much support. So, people like Rheanna Lingham are very helpful, very straightforward and does not take any nonsense she is really helpful. Also, Patricia van den Akker of The Design Trust, who came to talk to us at Getting Started at the Goldsmiths’ Centre, again they don’t do it for you, they show you what you need to do. I’m quite shy and I discovered at New Designers that I quite like engaging with people when I am on the stand. It is useful to keep telling your story and engaging with people and it is good practice for Goldsmiths’ Fair.
→ How has attending the business taster course Getting Started at the Goldsmiths’ Centre helped you to prepare for this event?
I can’t imagine doing One Year In without it. As I said the One Year In team are brilliant but there are 100 exhibitors in total. Getting Started really covered everything for One Year In, costing and pricing, how to make the most of a big show like this, marketing, getting the website spot on. Also, I asked Martyn Pugh for technical help and I don’t think I would have done that had I not met him during his costing and pricing talk during Getting Started. There is a bunch of Getting Started Alumni at One Year In, so we network there and catch up after spending a week together in January. It was great to do Getting Started and it was the encouragement that I got there that motivated me to apply for the Goldsmiths’ Fair – it is all connected.
→ What was it like getting your first piece hallmarked by the Goldsmiths’ Company Assay Office?
I got my first piece hallmarked was when I was a student. I went to Make Your Mark, got signed up and had a forged chain that I made hallmarked. The hallmark I had was tiny but I was so excited to have it. I still get a real buzz from seeing that London Assay Office Hallmark on my work, it feels special to be a part of that continuity that goes over 100s of years. No matter how diverse the work that all the makers do, they are unified by that hallmark and part of that family.
I get most of my work laser hallmarked now. The Assay Office are always so good, I live miles away I deal with them always by post and they turn the stuff around so quickly. I just think they are brilliant and the service has always been very good.
→ How will exhibiting at New Designers help you to prepare for Goldsmiths’ Fair?
We’ve had a Goldsmiths’ Fair prep day, there is one coming up and one that I have been to. We have been given a lot of project management tools by Jon East as part of the Graduate programme and it has been helpful in the run up to One Year In. I still am finding my way and I am not doing it perfectly but I think by using the project management tools that we have been given for the Goldsmiths’ Fair I can feel on top of my workload rather than doing crisis management.
One Year In is a good event by itself but it also a really good warm up for the Fair. What is so good about both events is that they both offer you great support. No question is too stupid and you always get an answer – for a rookie like me, that is helpful.
Goldsmiths’ Fair does feel like a big deal, I was delighted to be accepted but slightly surprised as well, which is quite nice. Other people who also have Graduate Stands have a good dose of humility around it. We are delighted to be chosen but we know competition for those places are quite fierce.
I think I have found this year that I have gotten more confident about what I am doing and that I am doing the right thing, there is an affirmation around it and that is not given lightly, so I am proud of it.