By Veryan Vere Hodge, Head of Development
The Design Hub in the new Art & Design building was packed with students, Old Bedalians, present and past parents on 9 November to hear the life stories of jewellery experts Joanna Hardy (OB 1974-78) and Shaun Leane.
Joanna talked of starting her jewellery-making life in the Bedales workshop with the help of teacher Martin Box, then becoming a diamond grader and a leading trader in the diamond industry. She was hungry to learn and even though she was a young woman in a completely male dominated industry at that time, her gender soon became irrelevant. She was respected for her knowledge and quickly realised that knowledge meant power, which no one could take that away from her. She further inspired with tales of her extensive travels and going down mines all over the world, her incredible detailed knowledge of gemmology, and her experiences working for Phillips and Sotheby’s. She admitted she was terrified the first time she stood on the rostrum, but that she knew she had to put herself out of her comfort zone to keep developing. Joanna is now an Independent Fine Jewellery Specialist and her application to join the BBC Antiques Roadshow consisted of an email with a photo attached of her on her Harley Davidson motorbike – a good way to ‘stand out from the crowd’.
Shaun Leane then took to the floor and explained that he had been a restless child and a little bit naughty, but he found his path when at just 14, his school’s careers advisor helped him onto a foundation course and from there he went on to do a seven year apprenticeship as a goldsmith in Hatton Garden. The fine examples of his early works were astonishing but it was his friendship with Alexander McQueen (known to him as Lee) that enabled him to put the traditional skills he had learnt to new mediums and push the boundaries of fashion. His skeleton corset has become an iconic piece, showcased in museums all over the world.
He also talked of his honour to design a piece for Boucheron’s 150th anniversary. The audience audibly gasped at the beauty of his ‘Queen of the Night’ piece as they did for his gauntlet ‘Contra Mundum’ made in collaboration with Daphne Guinness, which had taken four years to make and had pushed the boundaries of what was technically possible. He now has his own Shaun Leane collection, inspired by his catwalk pieces and he continues to push the boundaries, working his designs onto buildings. Both speakers had clearly worked hard during their careers, and this drive was evident in their complete passion for their subject matter. The talk raised £800 for the John Badley Foundation and huge thanks goes to Joanna and Shaun, and also the BPA Fundraising Committee and Design department.