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Work After West Dean

What do students get up to after they leave West Dean? Here's what a few of former students are doing now.

Edward Cheese, Book Conservator, Cambridge Colleges’ Conservation Consortium,

Studied Postgraduate Diploma Books and Library Materials

I came to West Dean from an academic background. Having enjoyed restoration work in my spare time for many years, I wanted to combine my practical skills with my academic interest in books. West Dean College was a tremendously exciting college at which to study: enthusiastic experts as teachers were fully engaged in the students' interests and were on hand to provide the means to develop them. The well-equipped workshops which were open for long hours, the creative atmosphere in such a beautiful setting, and the ethos of excellence in craft work were deeply inspiring and have left a long-lasting determination in me to strive always for the best I can do. West Dean gave me the time, space, and practical support to immerse myself in the study of historic book structures and their conservation, and the opportunity to develop the practical skills necessary to start my career as a conservator working on the Parker Library Manuscript collection at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge.

Helen Stockman-Todd, Associate Conservator of Objects at the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation in Virginia, USA

Studied Postgraduate Diploma Conservation and Restoration of Ceramics, Glass and Related Materials

I chose to study at West Dean because it offered a rare hands-on approach with in-depth knowledge in my chosen field, coupled with excellent tutors and tuition from visiting professionals from the museum and private sectors. Working in wonderful facilities, accompanied by access to analytical labs, made the learning experience enjoyable, thorough, and helped equip me for my career. Since graduating, I have undertaken post-graduate internships/fellowships, along with Assistant and Exhibition Conservator positions for museums both in the UK and the USA. I currently care for the Colonial Williamsburg’s wide collection of 17th – 20th century objects including a large collection of Decorative Art Ceramics and Glass.

Rory McEvoy, Clocks and Baromoters specialist, Bonhams

Studied West Dean Diploma in Conservation and Restoration of Antique Clocks

Before applying to the College I was at a career crossroads. My interest in antiquarian horology began as a hobby designing and making clocks using scrap metal and modern quartz movements. Through doing this, I was approached to look at several antique clocks, which led me to the College. I was very impressed by the workshops at West Dean and particularly the practical emphasis to the course. My year at West Dean was very intense, yet thoroughly enjoyable. Upon graduation I went on to work as a full time clock restorer for a dealer in fine antique clocks where I consolidated my West Dean training and had the pleasure of working on some very rare and prestigious clocks. Now I am working as an antique clock specialist for Bonhams auctioneers in London where I run quarterly Knightsbridge clock sales and assist with the twice-yearly Fine Clock sales. When the schedule permits I enjoy creative clockmaking.

Graham Marley, Freelance furniture conservator, Midhurst

Studied Graduate Diploma Conservation-Restoration of Furniture

My wish to become a furniture restorer came from an interest in antiques and visiting historic houses along with the pleasure I got from working in wood. After a two year course in cabinet making at Rycotewood College I then progressed to West Dean’s Diploma course in Furniture Conservation and Restoration. The course at West Dean gave me the building blocks upon which to build a career in conservation. I recall saying, when applying for the course that I wanted to work for the National Trust - I am now one of the group of freelance conservators working for them, as well as being a trustee of the Frederick Parker Foundation and an accredited member of ICON. West Dean has also given me a great group of friends and colleagues who I still see socially. For me, West Dean turned a passion into a career.

Viktor Koós, maker of modern and baroque instruments

Studied West Dean College Diploma in Making Stringed Musical Instruments

Born in Hungary, I originally studied repair, and construction of violin-family instruments in Budapest. West Dean gave me the opportunity to focus on stringed instrument making from the Renaissance and Baroque periods. I learnt so much during my time at West Dean, including careful preparation and research and keeping accurate records, which has ensured a professional attitude in all my work. Upon returning to Hungary, with a broadened approach to instrument making, I soon found that I was the only person trained in making early stringed musical instruments in Hungary. I am making all the string instruments for the Castel of Esterhaza. These instruments will be played by the Orfeo Baroque Orchestra at a big celebration of Haydn’s 200th anniversary in the 2009 festivities - a great honour. I have recently been commissioned to make baroque instruments for the Ferenc Liszt Music Academy in Budapest for the opening of the new baroque department in 2012.

Thomas Cronenberg, Tapestry Weaver

Studied Postgraduate Diploma in Tapestry Weaving

Fascinated by textiles since a child, I realised I needed to do something about a long-held wish to learn how to weave tapestry “properly”. I had regularly read about West Dean so it seemed a natural starting point. I was interested in tapestry-as-art, and the West Dean course offered a solid grounding in the art and the craft side. The College’s short courses and modules provided me with my initial entry-point and I attended a seven-week module, where I found myself simultaneously learning tapestry technique and being introduced to as yet unknown-to-me realms of contemporary art. But I was hooked, and decided to return to study on the full-time programmes. The combination of the practical and the intellectual makes the West Dean programme so attractive. Having your own studio space with access from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. including weekends was another big draw. Only when I returned to Hamburg did I realise how valuable all that weaving time was: I had learned to “see” in weaving terms. I have now set up my studio in Hamburg and exhibit extensively in Europe and North America.

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West Dean College and Gardens are situated in South East England, six miles north of the historic city of Chichester and 12 miles from the south coast.

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