BAJ Apprentice Megan Rigby was named the winner of the Goldsmiths’ Craft and Design Council Gold Award for junior engraving at Goldsmiths’ Hall in London on Monday evening.
The prestigious award from the ‘Oscars of Jewellery’ recognises outstanding technical skill and design ability.
This year, British Academy of Jewellery (BAJ) apprentice Megan Rigby received the honour for her marine life-themed copper engraving, ‘Whale In Space,’ impressing with her attention to detail and creative talent.
The 20-year-old student and artist from Middlesex completed a Level 2 Diploma in Preparation for the Jewellery Industry at BAJ before progressing to the BAJ apprenticeship programme, with which she is currently training in engraving.
Discover more about Megan’s experience and her winning project in her BAJ interview below.
BAJ: Congratulations Megan! How did you feel about winning the award?
Megan: I was surprised, because I’m training as a seal engraver, so I don’t actually do that much surface engraving. And I just wanted to do the surface engraving in my own time as a bit of a challenge. So when I did win I was a bit shocked at first but I felt proud.
Can you tell us about the piece ‘Whale In Space’?
I originally did the piece because I went up to Manchester for a weekend to learn about printmaking. While I was there I did a small piece of three fish swimming in a galaxy – that gave me the idea to do it as a series. It’s the biggest piece in what is going to be a three-part series. It was more like an experiment – I didn’t think I would enter it for the competition because I was just playing around with the textures and trying out using a few different tools.
What was the process of making it?
I started as an artist, so I always start with drawings. So I was sketching out different ideas and then I started drawing it onto a piece of copper with plasticine – you can do these faint outlines – doing all these different designs. I engraved the whale on its own first and then I added different things, first the jellyfish and all the stars and fish. I didn’t really do it in a process, I just… started doing it!
I originally made it to turn into a print as I have my own printing press, so that’s its purpose, but I just entered it [into the competition] as a plain engraving plate.
And you’re doing an apprenticeship through the BAJ now.
So first I did the Foundation Level 2 and then I became an apprentice for Rebus Signet Rings, which is who I entered my piece with for the competition, and I come here every two weeks as an apprentice.
After I did my Level 2 [PJI], which was a six month course , I took a short break and then the BAJ had an open day for students to show their work off. My current employer came to that, and that’s how I got my apprenticeship. It was a really good networking opportunity; that’s how both I and another boy got our apprenticeships. He’s now doing an apprenticeship in Covent Garden.
A BAJ Short Course gave me the foundations to learn more and incorporate it into my own work
What do you think being an apprentice at BAJ has contributed to your practice as an artist, jeweller and engraver?
It’s nice because I just do engraving at work so when I come here my main focus is developing my jewellery skills. We did a short course in setting here which gave me the foundation to teach myself more setting and to incorporate it into my own work.
It’s nice for me at [BAJ] because I like being around the other apprentices – we all talk to each other and we all have different skills. I’m an engraver and there’s a boy who can do setting, so I’ve been helping him with engraving and he’s helping me with setting. So you can ask other people about what skills they have and advice about work. And [at BAJ] I can take the skills I’ve learnt here, like making a ring, and the skills I learn at work, and combine them.
What would you say are the most valuable skills are that you’ve learnt at the BAJ?
Hard work is always the most important thing. If you put in the time and you’re prepared to work really hard then you’ll see results. And just try to learn everything: if you ask [BAJ tutors] then they’re willing to help you, that’s what they’re there for. If you know there’s a tutor who’s really good at setting or really good at CAD, you should seek them out.
You should enjoy being around people who are like you: interested in jewellery and being creative. I did my first course here when I was 17 and I’m 20 and I made loads of new friends.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with us?
I’ll finish my apprenticeship in three years and I’ll just carrying on what I’m doing, expanding and learning new skills. That’s my plan!