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Meet our Head of School

Stephen Bottomley is Head of the School of Jewellery at Birmingham City University. Learn more about his background, his hobbies and interests and what he enjoys about working for the School and the University

What did you study at University?

My fist degree was a BA Hons in ‘Three-Dimensional Design – Metals ‘at Farnham (1986-89) I then ran a studio and was a visiting lecturer for a number of years, before studying for a MA at the University of Brighton (1997-99), followed by a MPHil at the Royal College of Art, which I completed in 2001.

How did you become the Head of the School of Jewellery at Birmingham City University?

I had been contacted and invited to apply when Dr Jack Cunningham , a ;previous head retired in 2015, but I felt the timing was not right then. In 2017 the post came around again and after careful consideration applied and was successful.

What does your job involve?

My job involves the strategic leadership and management of the School of Jewellery. I work with a fantastic team of academic staff, technicians and administrators to achieve the highest standards possible in teaching and research. Our main goal is to ensure we deliver the best experience possible across seven diverse undergraduate degrees and two post graduate degrees which share a passion for our specialisms within Jewellery, Silversmithing, Horology and Gemmology. 

What’s your favourite thing about working for the School?

This is a truly International school with a world-class reputation.

It’s a daily pleasure to work on the site that the school was first founded in 1890, in a city with an historic Jewellery Quarter. The building retains its magnificent Victorian Gothic facade and grandeur but inside it houses state-of-the-art technology and expertise alongside traditional studios and workshop spaces. The school has increased its studios, laboratories and classes into the new Assay office site and we have further plans ahead that reflect the increasing success of the school.

What have been your career highlights so far?

It was an honour to be awarded a Professorship when I joined BCU in 2017, the same year, totally separately, I was made a Freeman of the Goldsmiths and in 2018 I received the Freedom of the City of London.

I was Head of Department of Jewellery and Silversmithing at Edinburgh College of Art for nine years (2008-17). While there I worked on a number of international exhibitions, including Italy, Poland, Germany and America and set up half a dozen Exchange programmes that took my staff and students across the globe. Previously I was also a BA course leader at Sheffield Hallam and the Hastings College of Art/The University of Brighton.

I served on the advisory committee then board of Craft Scotland (2015-17) and was honoured to also be Vice-Chair, then Chair, of the Association for Contemporary Jewellery (2004-07).

What are your specialist areas?

I have worked hard to maintain both an academic and a professional / research career as a practitioner.

As an academic I have written and validated new courses and acted as an external examiner or course consultant at a great many institutions, including The Royal College of Art, National College of Art and Design (Dublin) and The University of the Highlands and Islands.

I am currently supervising two PhD students and have a previous completion. Research interests include Contemporary Jewellery, Enamel & Metalwork techniques, traditional Craft Practices, (Handmade and Digital), themes of Place, Value and Identity.

I established the Adorned Afterlife network (2015), with researchers from across Design, Archaeology, Forensic Anthropology, History, and Museum Studies to examine and interpret less visible, ephemeral or hidden objects or adornment. 

I exhibit my work internationally and my jewellery is in the collections of the National Museums Scotland, British Museum, South East Arts Collection and the Royal College of Art. You can find out more on my Klimt02 profile.

What are your hobbies and interests?

I’m a member of Scottish Malt Whiskey Society. A perfect evening may involve a glass of single malt (with water, not ice) in a tasting glass to enjoy the nose- listening to jazz or blues. 

I’m a bit of film buff and have been ever since a miss-spent youth working in an independent video shop. Guilty pleasure includes all types of cinema and especially westerns and sci-fi. I seem to have built up quite a library on jewellery and craft,  as well as a collection of books on fantasy, myths and mythology.

One of my favourite place is the Royal Botanical Gardens Edinburgh, I also endeavour to grow fruit and vegetables on our family allotment that is a lot of fun- but also a lot of work.

Could you tell us about your work outside of the School?

I have a studio and am quite a tool collector. I work slowly, but steadily on new collections of jewellery, now mainly enamel based. In 2012 I had a retrospective at the Scottish Gallery in Edinburgh and was honoured to have two pieces purchased for the collection at the National Museum of Scotland.

I have two beautiful and talented twin girls, so work outside of the school comprises weekend chef, taxi driver, entertainer and shopper.

How would you describe the School of Jewellery?

Unique, Innovative, Industrious and World-Class.

How would you describe your staff?

Dedicated, extremely hard working and inspiring.

What can new students most look forward to?

To having their hearts and minds opened to the joy of making and the science of materials and technologies that will stay with them the rest of their lives.

How can they prepare for university now?

Read about your subject and learn to feed a sense of enquiry and hunger. Seek out examples from both the past and present, from the real-world collections of museums and galleries, as well as the virtual on-line one.

Do you have any advice for working in the industry?

The School has a long-standing history of excellent Industry connections, and partnerships.  Our Industry is full of amazingly supportive and friendly people. Being professional, punctual and dependable is key. Working hard and being willing to listen and learn is the best advice I can give- everything else comes with time and experience