Metalwork

Develop well-rounded metalworking skills and theory to enhance your employment prospects and gain the skills and competences to work towards becoming a professional craftsperson or metalwork conservator. Across all courses you will benefit from close connections with the heritage sector, study trips, placement opportunities and visits from industry experts.

Perhaps you have previously studied silversmithing, medieval studies or jewellery making and would like to further your skills, or have an existing qualification and are looking to transfer to a hands-on career. Our courses offer the chance to gain practical experience of making and conserving.

Take a Virtual Tour of the studios and college.

Depending on the level you wish to study, there are a range of courses to choose from.

Levels 4 & 5: Foundation Study in Metalwork
The Foundation Degree in Historic Craft Practices specialising in metalwork allows students to develop metalworking skills and knowledge of processes, techniques and materials, to enhance your employment prospects, or continue your studies in higher education. Project skills encompass silversmithing through to blacksmithing, and become more challenging as the course progresses.

Level 6: Graduate Diploma in Conservation Studies
Allows you to further your interest in conservation and progress to the MA Conservation Studies.

Level 7: MA Conservation Studies
The global industry standard for conservation.

Students are provided with objects from historical and private collections to work on. Recent projects include an unusual 17th century English knife, Omani Khanjar daggers, 19th century pewterware and 20th century bronze sculptures. 

You will have the unique opportunity to undertake interdisciplinary work with students from other specialisms, for example where an object is mixed materials, to broaden your understanding of a variety of materials and processes.

In conservation, projects use appropriate methods to document objects and assess their condition, discuss treatment strategies, and take part in decision-making. Outcomes are recorded, discussed and communicated as part of learning through practice. The work will increase in complexity and throughout your time you will work with increasing autonomy.

26 June 2020 update: International study trips have been suspended and we aim to recommence UK field trips and visits in the second semester, to comply with current opening restrictions and social distancing.

After you graduate and career progression

The College’s extensive links with museums, conservators and professional bodies in the heritage sector opens up an impressive range of work placement opportunities. 

Foundation degree graduates have gone on to work in the sector, both as employees and self-employed, to further education, and some have established a high profile for their own designs and craftsmanship.

Graduate Diploma students often choose to further their studies on the MA Conservation Studies which includes a six week work placement to help prepare students for a career in metalwork conservation. Placements are in professional studios, museums and collections and have included:

  • Russell-Cotes Museum
  • Fishbourne Roman Palace
  • HMS Belfast
  • Heritage Royal Museums
  • Greenwich
  • Richard Rogers Conservation

Alumni have gone on to work at some of the most significant museums and collections worldwide, including: 

  • The British Museum
  • National Maritime Museum
  • Fitzwilliam Museum
  • Victoria and Albert Museum
  • Museum of London 
  • Plowden and Smith Ltd
  • Arabesque
  • Richard Rogers Conservation
Read more from metalwork alumni Sharon Robinson-Calver

Facilities

The well-equipped metals workshop* offers students individual bench spaces, a forge and foundry equipped for soldering, brazing and welding, and a tool room. There are areas for microscopy, chemicals, hot work, machining, and photography. There is also access to on-site silversmiths and blacksmithing workshops.

Collaboration with other conservation specialisms makes for a uniquely enriched learning environment. Shared facilities include:

  • Analytical laboratory
  • Photography space
  • IT suite
  • Specialist library

The College Art and Conservation Library has thousands of specialist books and journals and all students have access to specialist databases in the IT suite.

*Workshops may need to close outside teaching hours for thorough cleaning (26 June 2020 update). 

find out more about the facilities

I chose to study at West Dean College of Arts and Conservation for three reasons. The most significant reason was because material specific subjects were offered - in my case conservation of metalwork. Secondly, I was looking for a smaller community to study in. Lastly, studying at West Dean College provided me with the opportunity to experience living and studying in a different culture for the last two years. Since being here I have found that between the landscape, the historic house and community that West Dean College provides I could not imagine studying anywhere else.

Kasey Morning, student

Tutors

Dr Eric Nordgren AFHEA

Subject Leader, Conservation of Metalwork

Dr Eric Nordgren brings over 20 years' experience as a metals conservator working with museums, universities, heritage agencies and private practice in the UK and around the world. He is active in the Icon Metals and Heritage Science groups, and is an associate member of AIC, ICOM-CC and the Historical Metallurgy Society.

Grant McCaig

Subject Leader

Grant McCaig is an internationally recognised Silversmith and educator. His work is in several major collections including National Museums of Scotland, the Goldsmiths' Company, Birmingham Museums & Art Gallery and Aberdeen Art Gallery. He has taught in Japan and Colombia, is a selector for Cockpit Arts and mentor for the Crafts Council.

Courses

  • FdA Historic Craft Practices - Metalwork

    Develop well-rounded metalworking theory and skills that will enhance your employment prospects or allow you to continue your studies in higher education. Projects become more challenging as the course progresses and encompasses both silversmithing and blacksmithing. You will be encouraged to understand historic craft practice in order to place your own work in a broader context and gain a keen understanding of the time needed for a piece of work in a creative, problem solving environment.

  • Graduate Diploma Conservation Studies

    The Graduate Diploma provides the theoretical and practical knowledge and experience necessary to start your career as a conservator and to begin to develop an area of specialisation. The programme is designed to be accessible from both the humanities and science study backgrounds. 

  • MA Conservation Studies

    The MA Conservation Studies equips you with the high level specialist skills sought by the conservation sector. This rigorous and highly respected programme draws on an extensive sector network, nationally and internationally, including industry bodies such as Icon.