Ethical Making Pledge Update

If the jewellery industry is to become more sustainable, fair and safe, it is critical for students of jewellery and silversmithing to learn about provenance as part of their education. If this information is available when students are learning how to make and design, on graduation they will already be equipped to consider and implement a fair approach to their practice.

This is why the Incorporation launched the Ethical Making Pledge. The purpose of the pledge is to increase awareness of issues in the jewellery industry and to help students and staff implement ethical making practice into how jewellery and silversmithing is taught. The goals of the pledge are to implement ethical making practices into three key areas.

  1. Lectures and curriculum
  2. Workshops practices and
  3. The procurement of metals.

Representatives from the seven Jewellery and Silversmithing departments in Scotland’s art colleges sign the Incorporation of Goldsmiths’ Ethical Making Pledge, March 28, 2018

Since the launch of the Pledge in March, students and staff from each college have been improving practice in how they make and teach jewellery. The drivers of the Pledge in the colleges are the student ambassadors. These are two aspiring students from each college, nominated by their department leaders to help implement better practice in their department. The ambassadors are doing this through engagement with other students and by demonstrating the methods they have learned in their own practice. The ambassadors are supported by the Incorporation through training sessions and access to resources.

Ethical Making Student Ambassadors at the Elements Festival of Jewellery , Silver and Gold in Edinburgh, November 19th, 2018

Here are just a few of the changes that the departments have made this year.

Daniela Groza from the Edinburgh College of Art organised a sustainable fashion show and plans to do this event again in 2019.

Shirley Warnock-Lowe, designer in residence at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design in Dundee, was one of the student ambassadors for DJCAD before she graduated in May 2018. Shirley has now been working with the Incorporation on the Pledge by giving talks and demonstrations to students about ethical making she has trialled herself. This has included natural hand dying fibres, making wire from scrap metal, recycling glass for new pieces, how to use substitutes to harsh chemicals for pickles, patinas and rouge, salt water etching, innovative packaging ideas and more. Shirley has inspired many new students to start their own research into ethical making and try new methods.

The student ambassadors have been campaigning for change by distributing information about what ethical making means, encouraging students to collect and recycle metal scrap for reuse and to use alternatives to chemicals. Many of the college workshops have switched their pickling solution to a less harmful, citric acid pickle, some are also now using recycled filament in their 3D printers and some colleges are already offering 100% recycled metals to students.

Edinburgh College of Art students collection of metal scrap for reuse

The department heads, tutors and technicians have been working with the Incorporation on the Pledge from the outset. They have made changes in how they supply materials; workshop practices and they have introduced new projects and briefs that will teach concepts of ethical making such as ‘material matters’ briefs where students engage with the value of materials beyond just the economic value.

We are seeing great change happening in the college’s jewellery departments in Scotland and this is thanks to the enthusiasm and collective effort of the student ambassadors and jewellery department staff.

What’s next?

The Pledge Programme will see new courses and projects in the Scottish colleges in 2019 and further changes in their workshops towards more sustainable and responsible practice. More students are incorporating research of issues in the industry into their dissertations, so we expect to see more of this in the degree shows this year, which will stimulate conversation about these issues beyond college walls. The Incorporation will continue their work with students and staff and support their efforts to increase ethical making practice in the art colleges in Scotland.

Here’s to 2019!

Originally published December 6th 2018 by Emily MacDonald