Jess Winchcombe

Contemporary jeweller Jess Winchcombe was hooked when she saw works by lecturer and renowned jeweller Peter Deckers.

“I went to the Pataka gallery in Porirua and saw a retrospective exhibition of Peter Deckers’ jewellery. I’d never seen anything like that,” says Jess.

“I went travelling for a while and did the odd night course, but still didn’t see anything as cool as that.”

A few years later she started her training on the Whitireia Jewellery programme, part of Te Auaha: the New Zealand Institute of Creativity.

“I’d always done art and liked the idea of making jewellery – and learning from Peter Deckers,” says Jess, who is now based in Queenstown and exhibits internationally.

She says one of the highlights of the degree was having to exhibit every three months / regularly.

“It taught us to be responsible for our own career. I’d made art and exhibited before – mostly painting – but this frequency of exhibiting isn’t commonly done in art.

“There were also lots of masterclasses. Peter just knows everybody, here and in the world contemporary scene.”

After finishing the degree Jess was invited to participate in the Handshake programme that pairs new graduates with national and international jewellers as mentors. She had a series of exhibitions over the next three years. The programme was started by Peter and is funded by Creative New Zealand.

She also won the Fingers graduate award and was asked to show at the Marzee Gallery in Holland that focuses on the best new contemporary jewellery.

“Each day I still use skills I learned at Whitireia. We were taught all the practical things like how to make a ring, and also really important skills such as editing. Knowing how to edit your work and not put work out that’s not good enough was so valuable to learn.”

You can study jewellery on the Diploma in Creativity and the Bachelor of Creativity (Visual Arts). We also offer short courses.

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