Mentorship is a relationship in which a more experienced or more knowledgeable person helps to guide a less experienced or less knowledgeable person. The mentor may be older or younger than the person being mentored, but they must have a certain area of expertise.
Ever thought about getting a mentor to help you with your creative practice? Don’t know where to start or how to ask someone to mentor you?
We at Vanilla Ink truly value the mentor relationship, with Kate herself being mentored through various programmes, as well as being a mentor herself for Cultural Enterprise Office.
Being a jeweller can get particularly lonely… it’s the perfect opportunity to get inside your head, to kick around those damn negative thoughts and doubt your ability. This perfect storm overshadows your creativeness and can be exhausting, leaving you not knowing which way to turn. If this sounds like you (it sounds like us!), it may be time to consider our INKubator Programme.
Being assigned a mentor is one of the most important elements of the Programme. We look at your goals and aspirations and try to understand your values, what stokes your fires and where you want to take your practice. We then search our pool of designers, makers and professionals that we think match your criteria and invite them to mentor you, offering their expertise.
A mentor should act as a sounding board, allowing you time and space to breathe and reflect. Our Programme can often be intense (in a good way!) and your mentor should help you process the information, helping you to navigate your way around the sessions (to understand what sessions we hold take a look here).
More often than not, we look for those out-with our profession as we don’t want you getting bogged down with the specifics of making jewellery. However, sometimes an INKer just screams to be paired up with someone from inside the industry, and it makes perfect sense to hook them up. We have had some fantastic mentors that are jewellers, so we caught up with a couple of them to hear their insights on mentoring within the Programme and its importance.
Katie Lees is a Glasgow-based jeweller and has kindly been a mentor for two separate INKers over the years. She has built up a very successful jewellery business specialising in bespoke, heirloom and fine jewellery, in particular causing a storm within the wedding industry.
Sarah Hutchison mentored for us back in 2013/14. She runs the beautiful SH Jewellery in Morningside in Edinburgh after training as a silversmith at Edinburgh College of Art. She has had experience running her own practice as well as running a successful shop stocking the work of lots of incredibly talented jewellers.
Vanilla Ink: Katie, can you tell us a little about the mentees you mentored?
Katie: First was Sophie Warringham, in 2016 whose intricate, blue enamel bespoke jewellery were sought after by collectors and galleries. Sophie had aspirations of stocking top galleries which she achieved with aplomb.
In 2018 I had Ashley Lovie of the brand ‘Behind Bracken’, who had a clear idea of what she wanted to achieve from a business, focussing on expanding her fine jewellery brand. She was extremely adept at business strategy and forecasting.
VI: And how important do you think things like the INKubator Programme are?
Katie: It’s important they exist because there isn’t anywhere offering the space to marry business and creative jewellery making, which is the downfall of so many jewellery graduates. The networking opportunities, classes, skill development and courses offered, along with vital space and tools, is invaluable to the industry, and provides a stepping stone for graduates, self taught and existing jewellers alike.
VI: What one piece of advice would you give to someone starting out in a creative career?
Katie: Be prepared to wear many hats. The dream is to be able to enjoy a creative-led job, but there are so many other things to consider, from bookkeeping, to marketing and costings/budgets, all of which are featured in the INKubator Programme. Persistence and patience in equal measures will stand you in good stead.
VI: Sarah, who was it that you mentored and how important do you find mentoring?
Sarah: I mentored Karen Smith and I think it is a great platform for new graduates to find their feet in terms of their style and what direction they want to take their career. At college you are so focused on the ticking boxes required to get your qualification that it can prevent you from thinking about what happens next and having time to develop your style and think commercially.
VI: How valuable is the mentoring process?
Sarah: I think it is a nice thing to do, or to be involved in. I would do it again and it was part of my job when I managed a jewellery gallery in London to offer new graduates advice on how to develop their ranges / pricing and how to approach galleries etc. Advice from someone who has been there and done it, successfully, is key! I still use my contacts now to get advice, as you can never know it all.
VI: And if you were to give one piece of advice to someone starting out what would it be?
Sarah: Oh just one piece of advice is hard as it varies hugely depending on their creative practice and what route they want to take. I think even since I have graduated things have changed massively, as there was no social media to reach clients. What do I think is the biggest thing? Customer service. Building a relationship with your clients is vital to the success of your business. I have clients who bought from me in my degree show, who still shop in the gallery now 15 years later! Build a mailing list and nurture it and grow from there.
The INKubator Programme can truly transform your business and your creative thinking. It could be the best thing you do for your practice. Find out more about our INKubator Programme and Get INKspired.
Applications close for next years programme at midnight on the 29th of September, so you better get cracking!