First heritage apprentice comes full circle to join leatherwork masters

26 MAR 2020
The first heritage apprentice funded by Allchurches Trust will become a permanent fixture at the renowned Bill Amberg Studio after mastering the craft of leatherworking.
Matt Jacques, who previously had no experience of working with leather, secured a three-year apprenticeship with the Queen Elizabeth Scholarship Trust (QEST) in 2017 and was given the opportunity to study this traditional craft on the job. 
During his apprenticeship, he supported the talented team at Bill Amberg Studio in creating beautiful bespoke fittings and furniture for interiors for a range of settings – from abbeys and churches to private country estates, exclusive hotels, restaurants and retail premises.
By breaking down the complex process of leathercraft into three main areas of study, the apprenticeship taught skills such as understanding the properties of leather, how to look after and maintain leather crafting tools and hand tooling and stitching. 
Having now finished his Allchurches Trust funded QEST apprenticeship, Matt will now be able to develop his skills in the art of leather craft, along with project management. He will also be training a new apprentice in the niche craft of architectural leatherwork, which uses the same traditional skills of leathercraft, but is more difficult when translated to larger scale pieces. 
Another project in the pipeline for the recent graduate will be to find environmentally sustainable ways to reduce waste in the studio, including building upon an idea he’s already had of creating surfaces from offcuts of leather (pictured).
Timothy Anscombe-Bell, a craftsman at Bill Amberg Studio, said: “A lack of formal education in traditional leatherwork is the largest obstacle to recruiting new talent in our field. Apprenticeships are an excellent opportunity to work with young and enthusiastic individuals who can take the time to learn our trade, while developing their own areas of interest.”
Robert Jenkin, Development Leader at QEST, added: “We are delighted that Matthew will be staying on at Bill Amberg Studio, which demonstrates that these grants really are a bridge to successful employment and participation in the UK’s craft sector.”
Allchurches Trust funded another QEST apprentice at the beginning of 2019 and recently funded two QEST scholars. Apprentice Elaine Wilson is developing her skills in the craft of weaving at Dovecot Studios in Edinburgh while ceramicist Katalina Caliendo and iconographer Alison Wootten have been awarded the QEST scholarships. You can learn more about Allchurches Trust’s heritage grant programme here.
A surface made from leather off cuts
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