Moving Metal with Contemporary Silversmith Alex O’Connor
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?
One Year In is a great opportunity to get out there and showcase what I do. When I exhibited at New Designers last year, I won the Contemporary British Silversmiths design in silver Award which meant I could go and work with a silversmith; I chose to work with Rebecca de Quin and was able to develop the new work that I'm showing at OYI.
I felt that my vessels needed to soften a bit and get some curves so I asked her to show me how to construct with curved scoring and folding. Rebecca was an absolute joy to learn from- very generous with her skills and her time.
In terms of inspiration, my work is really driven by walking in amazing landscapes, 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. The curator, Rheanna Lingham is very helpful, straightforward and has a clear ideas on how to present what you do at its best. Also, Patricia van den Akker of The Design Trust, who came to talk to us at Getting Started at the Goldsmiths’ Centre has been great, they don’t do it for you but they show you what you need to do.
I’m actually quite shy but I discovered at New Designers that I love engaging with people when I am on the stand. It is important to keep telling your story and it is good practice for the 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 it's a readymade network. It was the encouragement I got from Getting Started 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 chunky forged chain hallmarked. The hallmark 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 very.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 the hallmark and that family.
I get most of my work laser hallmarked now. The Assay Office are amazing. I live miles away and deal with them by post and they turn the work around so quickly. I just think the service is great.
How will exhibiting at New Designers help you to prepare for Goldsmiths’ Fair?
We’ve had one Goldsmiths’ Fair prep day and there is another one coming up. 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 warm up for the Fair. 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! I know competition for those places is quite fierce but there is an affirmation around being selected and that is not given lightly.