Ethical champions in the making at City of Glasgow College

Embedding sustainability into the art of jewellery making.

One year on from committing to using only ethically sourced precious metals, Lisa McGovern, Curriculum Head for Craft Design at City of Glasgow College, reflects on the benefits and challenges of going green.

In March 2018 City of Glasgow College, together with Scotland’s leading art colleges, signed an Ethical Making Pledge designed to help the country become a world leader in ethical gold and silver work. The pledge means the college’s jewellery department would:

  • Move towards the sole use of ethically sourced precious metals
  • Include ethical theory and practice in curricula and workshop practices
  • Nominate student ambassadors to take part in ethical making information sessions organised by the Incorporation of Goldsmiths.

“We knew as a department that we could help reduce waste and raise awareness of climate change and its short and long-term effects. Since committing to the pledge we have held an eco-awareness week, discussed sustainable practice with students, and invited speakers to address the issues of ethical making and sustainability in the workshop,” explained Lisa.

“We also signed up to the Green Craft Initiative which aims to promote change within workshops, encourage zero waste and sustainability, and raise awareness of these issues with our students,” added Lisa. “By integrating these concerns into project briefs, students need to think carefully about the subject and materials and processes they consider using in their work.”

Future projects to promote environmentally sustainable jewellery include NQ jewellery students completing a brief entitled Journey: A view of Africa, designed as an assessment for SQA unit ‘jewellery - non precious materials.’ This will be run as a competition with the Scottish Fair Trade Forum with a prize for the piece that best fits the brief and which has used the most innovative and sustainable materials.

“There are a few challenges which impact the wider work of the college,” said Lisa.

“The use of ethical precious metals and ethically sourced gemstones, for example, can be more costly than other materials, making them less economical for students to use. This can mean some students compromising their design in order to afford the materials.

“We are seeing the benefits however; students are producing more exciting and innovative work as a result of being challenged by using more sustainable materials and researching into working with materials not previously considered. They are also developing a broader outlook and a deeper understanding of the issues which affect the planet,” said Lisa.

The next academic year will see the department’s eco-awareness week become an annual event with the number of activities increased, and the theme broadened to include applied arts. Lisa and her colleagues also plan to raise awareness across the college.

Follow this link for more details on the steps Lisa and her colleagues have been taking since signing the Ethical Making Pledge, and their future plans.