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Sari Rathel

MA Jewellery & Metal, 2014–2016

I did my BA in Germany, where I’m from, at a very small university in Idar-Oberstein that focuses solely on jewellery – so it’s totally different from the Royal College of Art in that respect. It was the Trier University of Applied Sciences’ Gemstone and Jewellery Design department. The town is world-famous for its gemstone industry, so gemstones are a particular specialism there. The course was fantastic but Idar-Oberstein is a bit of a ghost town; my boyfriend is from London, so I thought I’d come here afterwards and try to get an internship.

I did an internship with Scott Wilson, who is a jewellery designer focused on costume jewellery and fashion, which was a field I really enjoyed and where I felt much more at home. From my studies in Idar-Oberstein, I was used to artistic jewellery in a gallery context, so the internship really helped me find a new direction. I also got the chance to collaborate with other designers, which was great.

For my undergraduate studies, I felt that I was in such a jewellery bubble, and not really prepared for anything after, so I knew I wanted to continue studying. As a bigger school with many different departments, the RCA was exactly what I needed. I also looked into the Fashion Artefact MA at the London College of Fashion, but I wanted the two-year programme that the RCA offers.

With all the different programmes, the opportunities for collaboration are endless. These things are rarely set up by tutors, but you meet people in the bar and café, and great things start. I did a project with a Fashion student called Rebecca Stant. She asked me to make some attachments for her pieces; she’d been using tape and wanted some kind of metal clamps. She gave me the freedom to do whatever I wanted to do. I also took part in AcrossRCA and worked with students from Architecture, Global Innovation Design and Sculpture; to get to know people from other years, other programmes and to learn totally different ways of working was great.

I think the people are the best thing about the RCA. I’ve learnt so much by spending time with second-year students. They have a lot of experience to share and can help you get to know your way around the workshop facilities.

In the first term, I was one of the winners of an eyewear competition organised by Flora McLean, a tutor in Footwear Accessories and Millinery here at the RCA. The project was in collaboration with Algha, which is a long-established eyewear company in London. It was a great project, and helped me to expand my horizons and develop interests in other related fields. Our work was exhibited at 100% Optical, which is a big show for eyewear.

There are core projects offered in the second term, and you can choose from three or four. The project I chose was about writing a proposal, and it was really interesting. We met with people in the industry, including Emma Hauldren, Creative Director of Microsoft Phones, a filmmaker called Tom Leach, and Danielle Pender, Editor of Riposte magazine – all big decision makers, who helped and gave us feedback, so that was really good. I’m hoping there will be more of those industry connections in the second year as well.

I’m currently working on my dissertation and though the writing is difficult for me, I’m really enjoying the research. I’m writing about jewellery as a tool of deconstructing gender roles. Once that’s done, I’m looking forward to focusing on the second year.

Now that I feel secure in knowing how everything works and feel settled, I’m really looking forward to being more productive in the second year. I’m also incredibly pleased because I was awarded a continuation bursary, and also received a grant from Germany which helps towards living costs; I worked so hard in the first year to support myself, in the RCA café, for Scott Wilson, and running a webshop for my parents’ company, so being able to focus more on the MA next year will be fantastic.

"The opportunities for collaboration are endless. These things are rarely set up by tutors, but you meet people in the bar and café, and great things start."
Sari Rathel
Sari Rathel