Benita Gikaite

Benita Gikaite, Polypropylene Bracelets 2013, Final designs made out of polypropylene

Benita graduated in 2013, here she tells us about working with the Barbican and life at CSM.

Project: Bahaus – Art As Life

In our second year we had a project with the Barbican Gallery. We were asked to design a piece of jewellery as response to the Bauhaus movement, for their upcoming exhibition entitled ‘Bauhaus: art as life’.  Ten chosen designs then were sold in the Barbican Gallery shop. I liked this project because it gave us a very realistic situation of how things are done in the industry. We not only had to design the pieces, but also mass-produce them to be able to sell in the shop.  We also had to design our own packaging and figure out production costs and the wholesale prices. I remember emailing and calling a lot of companies trying to find the best solution for mass-producing my designs.  I have designed bracelet that is made from polypropylene. My design was inspired by the Naum Gabo’s work. He taught at the Bauhaus school and in his personal work was exploring the possibilities of creating space without mass. I really liked this idea and that is how my pop-up bracelets were born. The packaging kept the bracelets flat, but when unpacked it would be popped out into a three-dimensional shape, which could then be fastened around the wrist.  I feel that I have learnt a lot from this project and it helped me to understand the procedures of working with outside companies.

How did you hear about CSM?

I believe it was actually my mom who told me that there was this school in London called Central Saint Martins. At the time I was already in London, but wasn’t applying for any courses yet. I think she read about CSM in an article in some magazine back home (in Lithuania). A few years later when I felt I was ready to study and have decided what subject I was most drawn to. I have applied to few different Jewellery Design courses in London and was invited for an interview for all of them. It was during these interviews that I got to know better the structure of these courses and CSM course seemed most attractive to me. I was accepted to all of the courses I applied for, but chose CSM because it best matched to what I was looking to learn.

How would you describe your course? 

In one word I would say it is exciting. But it is much more than that. What made it wonderful for me is a combination of things. I love the fact that there were many opportunities to work with outside companies on specific projects. I love the freedom to express yourself trough your work and the help and encouragement to push boundaries of contemporary jewellery. I feel that during this course I became more mature not only professionally, but also personally. I met and worked with the most amazing and inspiring people and made some wonderful friends along the way. Overall it is a very rewarding and exciting course, but at the same time it requires a lot of passion and commitment.

What is a typical day like?

Every year is structured differently. For example in the first year a lot of the time was in the workshop. We were learning the basic jewellery making skills. In the second year there was more time dedicated for independent study. In the final year you could choose how you wanted to work. Some people like myself spent everyday in the workshop, others worked from home and would come in for the tutorials and lectures.

Also in the first and second year there are usually two days per week dedicated for the workshop, because first and second years share the same workshop space, whereas in the third year you could be in the workshop everyday because final year students have a separate space. Regarding tutorials, if it’s individual it is quite brief and if it is a group tutorial it can last couple of hours. Once a week there would also be a lecture from someone within the jewellery industry, which would be attended by all three years. I have always found the lectures to be very interesting and it is very useful to learn about different paths people take and how they get to where they are. The selection of lecturers is wonderful, from newly graduated to the biggest names in the industry. 

Why did you choose this particular course?

The advantage of CSM course was it’s structure. During the interview I was told very clearly what I can expect from the course and what they expect from me. I felt it offered the most engaging program focus on contemporary jewellery. 

What sort of person do you think you need to be to do well on your course?

You have to be passionate, dedicated and eager to learn. You also must love a challenge whether it’s managing several projects at the time or making an intricate piece.

What have your highlights been? 

The highlights for me were to be awarded the Cartier prize and internship (second year), Swarovski scholarship (Final year) and participating in Gallerie Marzee graduate exhibition and receiving its award.

Did you gain any experience of working with industry?

I already mentioned a project with the Barbican Gallery. Over the three years we had many projects and competitions from outside companies. In addition to that in the first year we collaborated with fashion students to produce a coherent collection of outfits and accessories, in the second year we had to organize a jewellery catwalk show ourselves and contributed to the organization of final year degree show exhibition. As a result of all these projects we gained a variety of skills: designing for an outside company according to specific requirements and tight deadlines, organization and management skills, working in a design team as well as individually, pricing your work and etc. All these skills and experiences give you a knowledge that helps you while you are on the course, but most importantly it allows you not to feel lost when you graduate and are thrown in to the real world as well as enhancing your CV.

What do you love about CSM ?

I love the quality of the course, dedicated staff, the variety of students and the inspiring atmosphere.

How have you found the support at CSM?

The teaching staff was always very supportive and helpful. They are clearly passionate about the subject and are there to share their experience and knowledge. Technicians are very knowledgeable and will always find a way how to make your idea happen and will teach you what you need to know. It is also very inspiring and helpful to have a possibility to use other courses workshops if that is necessary for your work. 

What are you doing now?

At the moment I am looking for a design job, but my longer term plans are to have my own studio.

What advice would you give others?

Never miss a day.