MA Conservation Studies, specialising in Clocks and Related Objects 2015 - 2017

Fjodor van den Broek

Horological Conservator

Do you remember coming to an Open Day at West Dean and if so, how did it help you decide to study at West Dean?  

Unfortunately, I didn’t have the time to attend the open days when I was in my last year of clock restoration school in the Netherlands. Thankfully I was instead able to come over on another day to see the college, workshops, and student housing. It was quite fun to have a ‘private tour’ and it gave me a chance to see the college on a regular working day.

This visit was more a formality to confirm I indeed wanted to come to West Dean (and I had to convince my dad, who had joined me on this trip, that this would be a good next step in my education). 

What do you consider your biggest achievement to date?  

Without a doubt that is being offered my current position.  I can use all the skills I have learned at West Dean, next to the restoration and conservation of clocks I am also responsible for their storage and moving, as well as anything else that has to do with the clocks. 

Talk us through your career path since graduating  

After graduating I started doing some work at a local clockmaker whom I also worked for during my breaks at West Dean. This was great as it meant I could keep busy with clocks while I looked for more permanent positions. After a while I switched to a different clockmaker who had some challenging projects for me (like restoring a 500 year-old clock). A year and a half after graduating West Dean I landed a position as a trainee conservator at the Dutch Clock Museum on the Zaanse Schans (just north of Amsterdam) for 3 days a week over the course of 6 months. This was a great place to gain more experience as a starting conservator.

After those 6 months I started my own company and found myself a nice workspace to use. The Dutch clock museum was my first client, so I started of very well. About half a year later I saw the vacancy for a Horological Conservator at The Royal Collection Trust and that was too good a chance for me to miss. I was very grateful to be offered a position in Windsor Castle and I haven’t looked back since. 

What projects are you currently working on?  

I currently have a French mantel clock with music box on my workbench, which normally stands in the Kings Drawing Room on the public route. It is a very similar clock to the “Elephant Clock” in the Music Room at West Dean (At least, that’s where I left it when I last worked on it) although this one has a bull instead of an elephant (among some other differences to the case). While at West Dean I serviced the Elephant clock and did some research on the provenance and I had great fun servicing it, it is great to have a similar clock on my workbench now as a throwback to my time at West Dean. 

Do you have any tips for recent graduates?  

I think it’s important to remember that it’s difficult to find your dream job right after graduating. It’s easy to lose motivation, I know I almost did a couple of times. After graduating you will still need to work hard to get a foot in the door at any institution. Keep in touch with the friends you made at West Dean and with anyone who you did a work placement with. A large part of finding the right job is networking as well. Make sure you keep your portfolio and CV (and your LinkedIn profile) up to date.

How do you think studying at West Dean College prepared you for what you do now?  

My previous school focussed mostly on the restoration of clocks, and almost nothing like collections care, preventative conservation or art handling was covered, so it was great to be shown the full picture; and as I already had some experience before coming to West Dean, I was able to go a bit more in-depth and take on some more challenging projects.

One thing I also very much liked was that there were students from multiple disciplines with whom I sometimes worked together on projects but from whom I could also learn a lot. When working with clocks I will encounter metal, wood, ceramic, stone, leather, paper etc., so knowing at least the basics of handling or treating other materials gave me a better understanding of what I’m working with.

What's your favourite memory from your time at the College? 

My fondest memories are from the time spent with my fellow students. As it’s such a small group of people living together away from any big city, it soon starts to feel like a big family. A big family consisting of nerds and geeks who are training to become experts in their respective field.

Making our own outfits for Halloween, having a movie in the Oak Hall with the fireplace burning in the back in winter, looking at the newly hatched ducklings in the creek in spring, swimming in the pool in summer.  We worked hard during the day but also definitely knew when to stop working and unwind for a bit.