Expressing self and community through jewellery
Kassandra is an award-winning multidisciplinary artist who through a journey of self-discovery found inspiration to channel the experience, texture and voice of herself and her community into her craft. She talks about the skills she took from Warwick, how they helped her career and her passion for what she does now.
Why did you choose to study your particular subject at Warwick?
I wanted to learn more about Sociology and Social Research. I’d originally planned to do a PhD so needed to complete a Master’s degree first. Warwick was top for Social Research and as I’m from Coventry it was ideal as I could go back home and study.
What did you most enjoy about Warwick?
I really liked the library and spent nearly every day there. I worked at the library too throughout my time at Warwick. Warwick Arts Centre was also a great place and I really liked the cheap breakfasts each morning!
Tell us about your journey after graduating from Warwick.
After I finished my Master’s degree, I went to London and began work as a domestic violence worker. I have always loved beading and jewellery but it wasn’t until my mid 20s that I realised I could make a career out of it. I decided to do an evening course on ‘how to make a single ring’ and I fell in love with it. Jewellery means love and I felt I could tell stories through my jewellery. I am now a Hatton Garden trained Fairtrade Goldsmith and my hallmark is registered at the London Assay Office. The Fairtrade Certified Gold I use is traceable from mine to goldsmith. It means no child labour, nor forced labour was used, health and safety standards were applied, environmental protection policies were followed and the gold does not come from conflict zones.
What’s important to you about what you do now?
As an artist, I love telling great stories that haven’t been told before. Helping people to find their voice in different situations. I was recently a partner in the Tailor-Made Exhibition, an active participatory project bridging the gap between fine art and cutting-edge science by working with cancer survivors to express themselves through jewellery. Using my social research, my community work and my art, I feel I have the power to really change lives and help people to recreate their lives.
What skills did you take from your degree into what you do now?
The social research skills have been invaluable - analytical skills, how to do reports, qualitative research and thematic reviews. I use my analytical skills regularly as an artist when writing proposals for art projects, for museums and art institutions.
A couple of years ago after the Black Lives Matter movement, I completed a social report about the lack of diversity and inclusion for black people in the jewellery industry. This instigated a national survey to understand more about black jewellers in the UK and their experiences in the industry, in order to help improve access, training and support for them. The survey looked at the experiences of racism black people said they faced in the jewellery industry, as well as the skills, barriers and opportunities black jewellers needed to grow their businesses and improve their practise.
What would you say Warwick has given you that’s made you stand out as a graduate?
Networking skills. It wasn’t until I went to Warwick that I learnt what networking really was. I learnt how you can add value, how you can talk to people and that you aren’t there just simply to do a degree. It helped me learn that you need to prepare yourself for the real world.
What’s next for you?
I want to continue to increase my social engagement as an artist. Do more public speaking. Focus on the things I’m good at and that I love.