“My parents knew a jeweller who was doing very well in the industry and suggested I look into it myself. To be honest, I’d never considered working with jewellery but I enjoy working with my hands so I did some research to find out more,” says Ryan.
Soon after enrolling in gemmology to study gemstones Ryan applied for an apprenticeship with Gemcraft Australia, and was offered a one week trial.
“When I sat in the chair and learnt how to use the specialist tools to work with metal and stones, it opened my eyes to my new career. I’d never dreamed of being a jeweller, but I fell in love with it and I was really happy when got the apprentice role.”
Three years into his four year apprenticeship, Ryan aspires to get his skills to the point where he will work for himself to design and create hand-crafted original pieces.
Helping Ryan to get his skills to that level is his block training with TAFE Queensland, where he studied towards his Certificate III in Jewellery Manufacture (MEM30605).
Combining his apprenticeship training with TAFE Queensland meant Ryan would visit the South Bank workshops four times per year, for three weeks at a time, learning new manufacturing techniques.
“The study blocks with TAFE Queensland were great - I was learning alongside other apprentices and absorbing everything I needed to perfect my craft under our teacher’s expert guidance."
“It was great to be able to go to class and have an ‘exhale’ from how busy work was. Collaborating with the other students from different backgrounds, with different strengths, really helped me to hone my skills,” says Ryan.
“Even though I’m working as a jeweller there is always something new to learn. The facilities and equipment is the same as the industry and we were able to make beautiful pieces at TAFE Queensland’s workshops.”
Over time the surrounding of fellow students in the workshops helped Ryan to explore his own capabilities and round out his skills set.
“While I’m stronger in the hands-on manufacturing side, other classmates were more artistic, so we helped each other to build our strengths and improve our weaknesses – it was a wonderful environment,” Ryan continues.
For their final assessment, Ryan and his classmates created three bespoke and unique jewellery pieces to enter into TAFE Queensland’s Apprentice Jeweller of the Year awards.
And, up against the best of the best of the class of 2020, Ryan was crowned both Apprentice of the Year and won the Best Technical Aspects award, acknowledging the quality of his workmanship, the strength, durability and wear-ability of his designs as well as the overall quality of the finish."
“I certainly wasn’t expecting to win anything, let alone win two awards. My classmates and I put in a lot of work for these awards and the quality of everyone’s designs was really impressive, so winning was an amazing surprise!”
While his classmates helped, Ryan also credits his teacher for getting him to where he is today.
“Jane Foster is an amazing teacher. She brought her industry experience to the class every day and was able to answer questions, show us design techniques and give us feedback on every step of the manufacturing process."
“She’s so knowledgeable, experienced and approachable and was able to guide us through the course, show us best practise and was very giving of her time."
Going from wanting to be an electrician to becoming an award-winning jeweller is quite the leap, but Ryan is pragmatic when it comes to explaining his decision to follow that latter.
“I just had a crack – I asked for a trial and I enjoyed it, so my advice is for others to have a crack too. See what’s involved and if it’s something you enjoy follow it. Most of all, relax, trust yourself and have faith that you can pick the job skills up."
“So many times I’ve felt that I wasn’t learning but then when the job is finished or the training block is over, I could see how much I’d learnt and how my skills improved.”