I was in Dundee for a meeting with the staff at Duncan Of Jordanstone with a view to having them validate our own jewellery degree programme and, Dundee being the compact city that it is, found out that Mike Press, Dean of Design, was also involved with Kate Pickering's project as a mentor. As today was the first day that she had actually taken anyone into the studios as full-time members of Vanilla Ink - delightfully, these people have become known as "Vanilla Inkers"! - Mike brought Kate to the meeting and then we all trooped round to the studio to see it for ourselves. Kate explained to my colleagues what the project was about:
What we had not expected to see was that one of our own graduates, Ruth Morrison (show in a dreamy photograph below) was part of the intake.
The project works by taking a group of jewellery graduates and "hot-housing" them for a year. They have access to subsidised workshop space and they get both business and design mentoring, plus the opportunity to sell work through the Vanilla Ink shop. The workshop is large and well-equipped and the idea is that as the group require additional, specialised equipment, it will be bought for the studio as a whole.
The project has a lot of support from established designers and makers - the postcards of support shown above are testament to that - and Kate has the energy, focus and understanding to make this work. Interestingly, social networking plays a big part in her strategy.
I can only wish this project all the very best and hope that it encourages similar projects to spring up around the world. Kate said that she had already had enquiries from people asking her if she would start similar projects for textiles and ceramics!