Rachel Gogerly Fine Enamels
Celebrating 25 years in Business

by Angie Boyer

Rachel Gogerly, silver and enamel swizzle sticks

Listening to Rachel Gogerly as she talks about having celebrated her 25th year in business in 2011, I realise that it’s no accident that she has successfully reached this point in her career, where she earns her living as a widely respected engraver and enamelling artist. There is a consistency in Rachel’s work that reflects the commitment, passion and enthusiasm that are major factors in her approach to everything she does. Rachel has established a style of her own which is readily recognised and – with a sound business head on her shoulders – has progressed through those 25 years in a way that has created an appreciative audience for her award winning work.
We talk about the past, the future, and where she is now with her work as a leading designer maker of contemporary silver and enamel jewellery and small work.
“I trained in London and during my time there I used to go along to Goldsmiths’ Hall. Over the years Goldsmiths’ became a special place for me, presenting something to aspire to for the future, to attend events there and show my work. I have been a Freeman of the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths since 2002,” recalls Rachel. “I’m pleased to now be able to give something back, having been inspired by it all in my earlier years.  Being a Freeman used to be the next step on from being a Journeyman – after travelling and learning your skills, you finally arrived at your destination as a Freeman. The philosophy behind this is a big part of what I do now, sharing my knowledge with others by running my workshops and courses, being involved with the Guild of Enamellers and perhaps taking on an apprentice at sometime in the future.”
Since graduating in 1986 with a BA honours degree, Rachel’s work has developed a distinctive style that now echoes the maturity and confidence that she has gained in that time. She is meticulous in all that she touches and this fine, delicate style of work suits her perfectly.
“One of the things that attracts me to vitreous enamel is the tactile, glass-like qualities and transparency of colours. Aesthetics is the primary driver in the way I work and I often spend longer on enamel work than anything else, so the choice of colour is critical if I am to do justice to the enamel.
“I like the effects created by the engraved pattern as well. I’m especially interested in repeating patterns, which work well with reflected light in enamel.”
The work Rachel creates requires not only expertise, but also great patience. “To get a colour looking perfect over an area is a real skill, it’s very rewarding when it all turns out as it should. It’s equally satisfying when I take my work to a show and people want to buy what I’ve made.”
It’s at the shows that Rachel’s strengths as a business woman stand out. Like her work, her display is carefully planned, every piece of her fine jewellery and small work is perfectly presented and she, herself, is the epitome of a professional at work. But again, none of this comes about by chance, it takes hard work, dedication and energy to maintain the standards she has become known for.
“To be successful you have to embrace all aspects of running a small business. You have to have a sense of what you want to achieve, how you promote and market your work, how you run your workshop – as well as actually making your work, it’s all part of being a self-employed craftsman.”
It’s not unusual for craftspeople to feel a little reluctant to face their public, to take on the role of marketing their work and being pro-active in selling it, and many find this the most difficult aspect of running their business, but Rachel says:
“I sell mostly through shows, I love meeting my customers. Once you overcome the shyness of presenting your work to the public, it can be really rewarding. Selling is really just another creative process which, like everything else, requires practice.”
Rachel, who until recently held the position of Chairman of the Guild of Enamellers, exhibits at about twelve shows each year and considers her business planning to be a vital aspect of running a successful business.
“January to March, when there are no shows on for me, is the time to create new designs, evaluate the business, analyse the previous year and look ahead to the coming year.
“I approach everything methodically particularly my book keeping, that way I know when to expect more lean or flush times and can plan accordingly. To quote something that was once said to me: ‘Good books make a good business’- I really think that’s true.”
It’s this rounded, balanced approach that Rachel shares with the young designer-makers who assist in her workshop.  As well as learning creative skills, they become aware of the practicalities of running a workshop. There’s encouragement from Rachel for these young designer makers to think ahead about their career paths, just as she herself continues to do.
“You’ve got to have a vision of where you want to be, to know what you want long term  – you need to have a focal point to work towards, even if things change along the way. Think about where you want to be in five years time, build the foundations and get results. Then, when you reach your goals, you can go forward and look ahead to the following 5 years.”
In contrast to her hectic life when she’s exhibiting at shows, Rachel’s workshop is a place of quiet and calm. “When I’m immersed in my work there, it can be almost meditative. In the tranquillity of my workshop I find the mental space to daydream, and whether I’m engraving or enamelling, I can lose myself in the designing and making processes.”
As a student, Rachel was inspired by the work of Lalique (“after seeing a superb exhibition at the Goldsmiths’ Hall”). ‘Fish’ have been a recurring theme throughout her work over the years. She   also has an interest in Indian and Chinese motifs, using stylised flowers and other motifs in repeating designs.
There are contemporary makers, whose work Rachel says she finds herself drawn to, “I admire the glass engraving of Katherine Coleman and the simplicity of line in Rachael Woodman’s glass work.” And of some of her fellow Goldsmiths’ designer makers she says, “I love the elegance and quality of engraving in Graham Stewart’s silver work; and there is a pleasing balance in the way that Alistair McCallum creates his work.”
Looking back Rachel talks freely about the ups and downs of the past 25 years, recalling a particularly significant event in her career. “In 1989 I won a huge commission from Liberty to make a range of jewellery using one of their fabric designs, it was an amazing time for me and I gave up other work to accommodate their orders. But eighteen months later they dropped me, out of the blue. In that eighteen months I moved from the slow lane to the fast lane and back again, it was a very hard lesson to learn.”
Over the past 25 years Rachel has learned how to successfully stay on top during difficult times; with prestigious and coveted awards from The Goldsmiths’ Craft and Design Council tucked under her belt; where does she think the future might lead her, I ask.
“I consider myself very lucky to be doing something I enjoy so much and there’s still an awful lot I want to do with my work, alongside continuing to share my skills with others,” she replies. “That’s why I enjoy what I do so much, and I’ve yet to decide where I go from here and how I do it!”
Visit Rachel’s website for more information about her work:

Rachel Gogerly Fine Enamels
1 Winyates Craft Centre, Winyates, Redditch B98 0NR
T: 01527 502266
E: [email protected]
www.rachelgogerly.co.uk

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