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Students named among most talented jewellers in Scotland

Natasha King GemSet 2016 Winner

A young aspiring jeweller from Kilmarnock has been named among the best in the country after gaining a prize at a national design competition.

Twenty-one-year-old Natasha King, a student at Glasgow Clyde College, designed and produced a brooch that earned her third place at GemSet2016, a contest run by The Scottish Gemmological Association.

Natasha, a former pupil of St Joseph’s Academy, collected her prize at an awards ceremony at Peebles Hydro Hotel on 1 May and praised the quality of teaching in creative subjects at Glasgow Clyde College.

“It’s always nice to know that you’re not the only one who appreciates what you’re doing,” said Natasha, who attended the ceremony with mum Diane and boyfriend Russell. “The only feedback I’ve had before has been from people who are slightly biased, like my friends and family! Winning this competition makes me feel like there might be a market for the jewellery I make and that I might be able to make a go of it as a career.”

Natasha was the sole member of her HNC course at Glasgow Clyde College to be entered into the competition – all the rest were HND students more advanced in their studies – and was up against competition from Glasgow School of Art, Edinburgh College of Art, and several other colleges and universities. Her success in competition marks a major milestone in her college training, which began almost two years ago when she was forced to give up her ambition of becoming a firefighter after being diagnosed with the degenerative condition Ehlers-Danlos syndrome.

“I fell ill while I was training to be a firefighter, and Glasgow Clyde College was accommodating enough to accept me,” said Natasha, who previously attended Mount Carmel and St Matthew’s Primary Schools. “This college is well-known for being really good in creative subjects, and I found I really enjoyed jewellery. You have freedom to do what you want, but with guidance. A lot of people in my year group are precise and like to make things perfect – I like to hit things with a hammer and see what happens! It’s a lot of trial and error.

“For my competition entry, I worked out roughly what I needed to do to create the look I wanted. I knew there was some form of thermal shock involved. I heated the metal using a blow torch to the point just before it starts to bubble and it’s glowing red. Then, I got a blacksmith’s hammer and hit it – sometimes it made a dent so you get a bit of texture; other times it would shatter. It will never come out the same, and it’s nice knowing that no-one can copy it. Whoever wears it will have something that is totally unique and that no-one else will ever have.”

With professional training at Glasgow Clyde College and the boost to her confidence that comes with recognition from competition judges, Natasha now feels prepared to achieve her ambition of becoming a jeweller.

“I would like to work for myself and make whatever comes to mind,” she said. I’d like to do stone-setting and gemmology, as I find them really fascinating. No matter how ill I get, I can continue to set stones and do computer-aided design work.

“After college, going straight into the industry and getting an apprenticeship might be a better option than higher education. To be an award-winning jeweller is great – it makes you feel you’re really achieving something.”

Fellow student Laura Provan also received a Highly Commended award at the ceremony.