work by rachel Gogerly

Face of Craft: Rachel Gogerly

by Rachael Chambers

Rachael Chambers talks to Rachel Gogerly,
Chairman of The Guild of Enamellers

How long have you had your own business?
I have been in business now for 22 years. After graduating with a BA in Jewellery Design from Middlesex University I was offered several jobs at my degree show, but I had already decided I wanted to produce my own work and the only way to do that was to set up on my own. In the mid-eighties, the climate was ripe for entrepreneurs, and many schemes existed for starting up in business. I got myself onto a Graduate Enterprise Scheme, which was a three-month programme and included a start up grant for my first year and training in the basics of how to run a business, like how to write a business plan. I set up in the autumn of 1986 and I gave myself a target of three years to be earning a living. My first workshop was shared with two other jewellers, which really helped me to get established. Then, in my third year I won a large order from Liberty’s of London at the Harrogate Trade Fair and was selected for an awards scheme with Eastern Arts, sponsored by the National Trust and Anglia TV. The decision to continue or get a real job was made, there was no looking back and my path as an enameller was set.

How did you come to be an Enameller?
For many years I never considered myself an enameller! I tended to see myself more as a jeweller who happened to specialize in enamel, but the longer I have practised my craft, the more I have had to admit that I couldn’t live without it and that anything I make is always enamelled!! My love of enamels came to me in a bolt of lightning, whilst I was doing my Arts Foundation Course after my A Levels. I had always been good at art in school with an eye for fine detail, and I also had a strong interest in biology, so for a long time I thought I might become a Medical Illustrator. However, I liked making things, especially on a small scale. My original plan was to focus on the graphics side of things, but then I did a six-week jewellery project, which combined drawing, designing and making too. We used resins in the project, which led to me attending an enamel evening class. I connected with the qualities of the enamel straight away. Suddenly it was crystal clear to me as to what I was going to do! Previously I had only seen crafts as a hobby, but now a career as a designer maker seemed the obvious thing to do.

I went to Middlesex Polytechnic, as it was then, to do my BA in Jewellery. There, I was lucky enough to be taught by two great enamellers, Alan Mudd, a trade engraver and enameller, who was based in London, and in my final year, Jane Short, an up and coming freelance enameller also working in London at that time. In my first year I tentatively asked Alan if I could visit his workshop and to my delight, he replied that I could work for him during my summer holidays if I wanted! I didn’t look back. I worked all of my student holidays and my placement year there too. It was an invaluable time for me, giving me confidence and the many skills I needed to set up on my own after I graduated.

How long have you been a member of the Guild of Enamellers and how did you become involved?
I have been a member for about six years now and first got involved through two of my students who were also members when I was teaching enamelling one day a week at the Birmingham Jewellery School. The Guild has a quarterly Journal, which discusses all aspects of enamelling, including techniques, exhibitions and events as well as Guild news. It was a useful resource for me as a tutor but also a welcome window of opportunity into a group with an immense amount of energy who were very willing to share their knowledge and experiences. Then in 2005 The Guild approached me and asked me if I would consider being a Selector for them at their annual Conference. It was a three-year commitment, which gave me the opportunity to learn a lot more about the Guild and to meet a good proportion of the members. The Guild consists of hobbyists through to professionals, and the one thing that really struck me about them was the overwhelming enthusiasm, which was very refreshing and very infectious!

What is the Guild of Enamellers?
The Guild of Enamellers is a non-profit making organisation for the advancement of enamelling. This year (2009) it is proud to announce that it will be celebrating its 30th year. It has a wide membership across the UK of over 250 members, plus a few overseas members too, who all receive a quarterly Journal and have full use of the Guilds impressive library of books and DVDs. The Guild also produces its own DVD for beginners, which can be used as a teaching aid.

The Guild holds an annual Conference each spring, which is regularly over subscribed. It includes workshops, exhibitions, awards talks and a Master Class presentation. It is a great opportunity for members to get together, exchange ideas and learn lots in a welcoming and friendly environment. The Guild also runs a Bursary Scheme, which offers free membership for a year and a free place at the annual residential Conference to the successful applicant. More information about the Guild can be found on its website

You are currently the Guild’s Chairman, what does this involve?
I consider myself very privileged to be Chairman of the Guild in its 30th year and in my role I represent and promote the organisation, encouraging the craft of enamel on all levels. My primary job is to organise our annual conference, which will be held in York this April (2009). I have a conference secretary and executive committee to help me, but it is up to me to invite tutors and speakers to create a stimulating two and a half day event for the 70-80 members who will attend. As Chairman I will also deal with any on going Guild business and visit as many of our regions as possible to meet more members. If there is time, I also hope to develop any new projects!

You are also a Freeman of The Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths. How did this come about?
I became a Freeman in 2002, which I received by Redemption at a Freedom Ceremony held at the Goldsmiths’ Hall in London. It is a special award and gives me a lifelong membership of one of the twelve great Livery Companies of London, of which The Goldsmiths’ Company is one and it also grants me Freedom of the City of London.

You have won many awards, which one are you most proud of?
Being a Freeman of The Goldsmiths’ Company is particularly important to me working in precious metals with fine enamels and I consider it a great honour to have received such a prestigious award, but winning or receiving acknowledgements of any kind is always gratifying. I have won awards for both my business and craftsmanship skills and I am proud of them all.

What is the best part of your job?
I get a great deal of satisfaction from creating pieces of fine enamel work, that start as an idea in my head, become a drawing in my sketch book and develop through to a finished item that may have hours of work invested in it. To then take it to a show where other people fall in love with it and want to take it home with them is even better! The process makes every day different, so there is no time to get bored with what I am doing! Even when you plan your day and have jobs that must be completed, there is always something that comes along which changes the pace of things. There is no doubt however, that when the opportunity arises I thoroughly enjoy becoming totally absorbed in a piece of work, such that when I look up I realise that the day has flown by!

If you weren’t doing this job what career path would you have liked to follow?
As I have already mentioned, I thought I would go into Illustration initially, but actually if I hadn’t gone into the Arts I would have liked to become a surgeon! I studied Human Biology at A level and I find the complexities of our bodies amazing! And I think my dexterity would have been a very useful skill in the operating theatre!

What inspired you to get involved in the craft and design industry?
I really enjoy making things and I wanted to be a skilled craftswoman. I also like the connections between contemporary and traditional craft skills and the idea that I am part of that lineage. The decision to take this path was not always a conscious one, more of a gut instinct, but it has allowed me to discover and develop my skills and to find my own niche which suits my personal approach to working as a craftswoman extremely well.

What do think the future of the craft industry holds?
The craft industry has a positive and exciting future. In the current climate of so much mass production surrounding us, handmade goods are sought after and appreciated as much as ever. Craft can be functional through to sculptural and can be appreciated on many different levels, but its commonality is the pleasure it brings. One of the Industry’s main strengths is the way it is structured, consisting of many individual makers who can be flexible and who have the ability to adapt and respond in our constantly changing world, absorbing new ideas materials and techniques and combining them with traditional skills to continue to produce desirable objects.

If you could change one thing in the craft industry what would it be?
I would like to see more technical tuition re-introduced within many colleges. Traditional skills are still very relevant and are essential even with advancements in modern technology. In my experience, the level of technical input received has decreased in recent years, leaving graduates ill prepared for life as a maker.

Do you have a memorable career moment?
Lots! I would describe them more as significant turning points within my career and there have been many over the last twenty-two years! However, probably the one that had the biggest impact at the time was in my third year of starting out, when I was selected for the First Impressions Award Scheme, which was sponsored by Eastern Arts, The National Trust and Anglia TV. Ten Crafts people were promoted for a year and part of the scheme involved appearing on a regional arts TV programme, which was broadcast on Anglia TV at 10.30pm on a midweek night. The very next morning and for the best part of the following three weeks my phone didn’t stop ringing and I realized the power of television!

What was the last piece of craft/design that you bought?
I often treat myself to something at one of the craft shows I exhibit at, if I have time to have a look around. Most recently I bought a Sylph Baiers hand-thrown ceramic tableware piece, a ‘colander serving dish with plate’ in a soft lilac coloured glaze. I liked its appearance and the way it handled and it has proved to be very functional too.

If you have a favourite designer/maker why do you admire their work?
This is a really difficult question because I have so many favourites! I particularly like contemporary glass and the work of Katherine Coleman really stands out in my mind, especially her sea themed engraved pieces such as her sea anemones and the stormy waves rolling prayer wheel. (As yet I have not acquired a piece).

What is your most prized possession?
I have the most beautiful, tiny white bone rabbit, approximately 25mm long, exquisitely carved, which is absolutely perfect in every way. It comes from Russia. I don’t know who made it, as it was a gift, but it is so life-like I want to stroke it and it gives me an immense amount of pleasure every day.

Rachel Gogerly
1 Winyates Craft Centre,

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