Christine Preisig watches beautiful jewellery being crafted at a workshop in Shoreditch
The London Jewellery Workshop is situated in a row of studios that are part of the historic Boundary Estate in Shoreditch. There, Nina Gilbey, the workshop’s founder and owner, has set up a small but exquisite centre for jewellery-making and learning.
The school offers classes for all levels of skill and ambition. There are one-day taster courses, six-week silver jewellery classes or six-month structured diploma courses to choose from.
In addition, the school teaches many specialist subjects and provides jewellery-making parties and events.
Very much in accordance with the historic and vibrant environment of the place, Nina prefers teaching traditional techniques that have been around for thousands of years.
She says: “I like to show my students the long way round and teach them, for example, how to drill a hole by hand rather using a machine. You put your soul in it when you make something by hand.”
Nina’s approach to teaching is a very holistic one that mirrors her own passion for every element in the process of creating a piece of jewellery. Students are encouraged to be creative, to think about designs and how to realise them by way of exploring the media and the making techniques.
The courses are structured but not rigid, such that students can reach their personal goals. With only six places per class it is possible for a teacher to give the students as much one-to-one attention as they want.
Nina came to jewellery-making and teaching almost by accident. At 27, after travelling the world, she found herself without a job or a career. A friend convinced her to study jewellery at The Cass in London. For lack of better ideas she applied, got in and really loved it. “I fell in love with metal there,” she says.
Her diploma exhibition landed her a job with a silversmith and a scholarship for an MA course.
Not long after finishing her MA another offer came her way – a teaching position at the Bethnal Green Centre, a centre for adult education. For 12 years Nina taught jewellery classes there and at other schools while still making and selling her own pieces.
When the centre closed down in 2011, Nina knew that she wanted to continue teaching and decided to start a school of her own.
The place she has created radiates confidence but is also warm and inspiring – an ideal environment for being creative and learning new skills.
The rings, left, are commissioned pieces designed by Nina Gilbey.
Find the full list of courses at londonjewelleryworkshop.co.uk