Case Study: Ethical Making at The City of Glasgow College Jewellery Department

14th March 2019

Case Study: Ethical Making at The City of Glasgow College Jewellery Department 3

City of Glasgow College Jewellery Department have been undertaking a series of initiatives to tackle climate change and sustainability in their work.

Educational institutions have a significant role to play in educating the next generation of makers in sustainability and climate change. In this case study, Green Champion of City of Glasgow College's Jewellery Department, Lisa, tell us more about how the department has embedded dimensions of sustainability into their workshop and curriculum.

Committing to Ethical Making

In March 2018, The City of Glasgow College Jewellery Department signed the ‘Ethical Making Pledge’ alongside other Scottish Art Colleges’ Jewellery Departments. Designed by the Incorporation of Goldsmiths, the pledge meant that as a department we will:

  1. Move towards the sole use of ethically sourced precious metals;
  2. Include ethical theory and practice on their curriculums and in workshop practices;
  3. Nominate student ambassadors to take part in ethical making information sessions organised by the Incorporation.

For a number of years we have been reflecting on our practice and our responsibility as an educational institution to respond to ever changing environmental issues. We know that as a department, we can help reduce waste and help raise awareness of climate change and it’s short and long-term effects.

Hosting Eco-Awareness Week   

In October 2018 we piloted an eco-awareness week, where a number of activities took place throughout the department.

  • We hosted the Discover Fairtrade Gold Photography Exhibition: a series of 16 striking photos, quotes and stories from gold mining villages in South America and East Africa, which explain the challenges facing small mining communities, and the difference Fairtrade can make to their life. This was run by the Scottish Fair Trade Forum.
  • We invited ethical stone suppliers, Gemstones Brazil into the College to display a range of their beautiful stones and make them available for students to purchase and incorporate in their work. Gemstones Brazil is an international wholesaler of ethical gemstones, many of which are produced in their own mine, which they operate as ecologically as possible.
  • We discussed sustainable practice as a class and staff demonstrated how to melt scrap silver and the process of turning it into sheet or wire. We encouraged all students to recycle their silver that week and to use off-cuts for projects from the scrap bin. Each student was also encouraged to bring in a tea towel to use instead of paper towels.
  • We invited a selection of speakers to address the issues of ethical making and sustainability in the workshop, including:
    • A previous student of the Jewellery Department and ethical ambassador for the Goldsmith’s Trust, whose work incorporates all environmentally friendly material.
    • Representative from Mastermelt, who gave a talk on various ethical workshop practises. For example: safe chemical disposal, reclaiming silver shavings/dust from files mops etc. and sending to them to recycle.
Case Study: Ethical Making at The City of Glasgow College Jewellery Department 1

The college invited Gemstones Brazil to display a range of their stones and make them available for students to purchase and incorporate in their work, as part of their commitment to ethical and ecological gemstones.

Growing Awareness in the Curriculum

By signing up to the Green Craft Initiative, we aspired to promote change in the workshop to encourage zero waste and sustainability, and raise awareness of these issues with the students. By integrating these concerns into project briefs, they would have to research these issues and think carefully about the subject and materials and processes they considered using in their work.

Projects which promote environmentally sustainable jewellery:

  • NQ Jewellery: This Spring the NQ students are undertaking a brief entitled Journey – A View of Africa. Designed as an Assessment for the SQA Unit ‘Jewellery – Non Precious Materials.’ This will be run as a competition with the Scottish Fair Trade Forum. A representative of the Forum will be launching the project, judging, and providing a prize for the piece which best fits the brief and has used the most innovative and sustainable materials.
  • HND 1 Jewellery: The British Art Medal Society run an annual student project with various Art Colleges across the UK to design, carve and cast in Bronze an art medal with a message. For the 2019 project we gave our HND 1 students the theme of plastic pollution. It allowed the students to research this subject and produce a tangible object highlighting the negative environmental impacts of plastics.
  • HND 2 Jewellery: For the HND 2 Graded Unit, all materials used in their work have to be sustainable, using ethically sourced gemstones. The silver used is recycled silver grain, provided by a grant from the Goldsmith’s Trust, Scotland.

Finalist in The Green Gown Awards

In 2019, we were finalists in the ‘Next Generation of Learning and Skills’ category of the UK-wide Green Gown Awards (which celebrate excellence in sustainability at academic institutions). This video gives an insight into the work we were recognised for:

City of Glasgow College Green Gown Awards from Creative Carbon Scotland on Vimeo.


Our Challenges

There are a few challenges which impact the wider work of the College in this area:

  • There is a shortage of technical support within the department hindering the implementation of some of our proposals.
  • Using ethical precious metals, ethically sourced gemstones can be more costly than other material, meaning less economical for students to use. This has caused complications when designing and some students having to compromise their design in order to afford the materials.
  • We have found it restrictive trying to integrate sustainable issues or using ethical practises into the Curriculum when bound by SQA requirements. There are parameters with each Unit as the NQ and HND are Unit based, therefore it can be problematic when creating projects.
Case Study: Ethical Making at The City of Glasgow College Jewellery Department 2

City of Glasgow College Jewellery Department have been undertaking a series of initiatives to tackle climate change and sustainability in their work.

The Benefits

Despite these, there has been several benefits to incorporating sustainability into the work:

  • Through adapting our project briefs and introducing environmental topics, we have increased student engagement and found the department to be more connected to these concerns.
  • Students are producing more exciting and innovative work as a result of being challenged by using more sustainable materials and researching into working with materials not previously considered.
  • Students are developing a broader outlook and deeper understanding of issues, which affect the planet and are leaving with a more considered approach, which they will share with others.
  • Producing less waste, changing our workshop practice, and raising awareness can only be good for the environment.

Moving Forward…

We wish to develop the Eco-Awareness Week to include our fellow department of Applied Arts, and are excited to be conceptualising ideas for them to be involved in the event. We will be working to increase the number of activities happening in Eco-Awareness Week, and liaise with the College’s Marketing Department to raise awareness both within and outwith the College.

We are looking forward to forging new partnerships with organisations concerning the environment and organising other collaborations! We would be happy to offer a tour of the facilities to interested individuals or groups and talk more about our green work.

Green Crafts Initiative

City of Glasgow College Jewellery Department are a member of our Green Crafts Initiative: a growing networked community of makers and craft organisations committed to reducing their environmental impact. It is free to become part of the community. Take a look at our Green Crafts Initiative page for more information.

All images are from City of Glasgow College Jewellery Department

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