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Teaching an old Cat new tricks

Cat James
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Last weekend I did a spot of majiggering. No, it’s not a rustic two-step of the type performed by hanky-wafting Morris dancers. Nor is it the kind of activity undertaken by the sexually liberated in the Island’s more remote car parks. Majiggering is, in fact, the process by which two ends of the same piece of silver wire are manipulated together to create a seamless join. I learned this technique, and its name, at a silver bangle-making workshop run by jewellery designer and maker Jennifer Holloway-bridges at Jubilee Stores, Quay Arts‘ creative studios in Newport.

Anyone who has met me will see that I love jewellery; I positively jingle-jangle – kinda like Mr T, if he were a middle-aged white woman (although I do have a similarly questionable hairstyle). I love a bit of bling and feel naked without rings on my fingers and, in the summer, rings on my toes. Having the opportunity to learn how to design and make a bangle – which I then got to keep and wear – was too irresistible. At the workshop, I wielded a raw-hide mallet, rattled my planishing hammer and controlled a flaming torch to solder that majiggered join. At the end of the day I had a beautiful bangle hung with four silver charms, which chatter together as I move my arm.

But I haven’t always been so keen on being taught a lesson. On my last day of school, I stuck two fingers up at my old institution as I walked through its gates that one last time, pleased that I would never be forced to learn anything again. Of course, it didn’t work out like that; with weeks I was striding in through the doors of Portsmouth Art College where I spent four years learning how to be an industrial designer.

What they don’t tell you about life – of at least no one sought to enlighten me – is that once your formal education is over, it’s fun to learn and grow, develop skills and experience. Since moving to the Island, with the help of adult education classes, I’ve become a skilled potter, been instructed how to make a stained glass window, printed an anarchic poster using letterpress techniques and, of course, made that precious bangle. Thirsty for knowledge, I also went back to college in 2004 and, alongside my day job, spent two years in what gubbers might call night school, upgrading my design skills to emerge blinking into the light as a qualified graphic communicator.

And, last month, I used those now long-established graphic design skills to produce a publication extolling the merits of studying on the Isle of Wight. You may think that local higher education might be all about hospitality and sailing. However, in producing the booklet, I discovered that it’s possible to study here up to masters degree level – and you don’t have to be a nipper to continue your education. I am proof that it is possible to teach an old Cat – and others – new tricks.

This article first appeared in print in the Isle of Wight County Press on 30 November 2019, and also online.

Cat James

Graphic designer, creative director of Pinkeye Graphics, Isle of Wight County Press columnist, Cat out of Matt and Cat

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