Hi John, congratulations on passing your viva! How does it feel?!
Without wanting to sound too Bill and Ted…’totally awesome dude!’ (S. Hereck. 1989)…sorry I’m referencing everything out of habit now.
What was your PhD title?
South Staffordshire Enamels: The lost craftsmanship of Eighteenth-Century copper Substrate
Can you explain in a couple of sentences what your PhD was about?
I was investigating the undocumented craftsmanship skills used by 18thcentury craftsmen to make enamel objects – boxes, candlesticks etc. Manufacturing of enamel objects requires the making of a copper form upon which a thin layer of decorative enamel (ground glass) is melted. My investigation identified that whilst there was much literary focus on enamel design and technique, there was no documentation of how the metal substrate was made. I used craft practice (I’m a craft maker too) to shape my lens of enquiry.
Can you sum up your PhD experience in three words?
Engrossing, revealing, rewarding.
What was the viva like?
Long, very long… but then I have a reputation for enjoying a chat! I had put on an exhibition of my research journey and outcomes, so I spent half an hour talking through that with the examiners, then we retired to the office where the formalities of defending my thesis started…this was demanding but enjoyable, no sense that they were trying to trip me up, just that they were really interested in what I had done and sort clarification on some points. Once the formalities had finished we just talked about ‘stuff’ some more (about an hour), then had tea sandwiches and cakes!!!!
What are your top tips to someone preparing for their viva?
Go to viva survival, that’s a good starting place!
Approach the mock viva as you intend to prepare for the viva proper, then areas of weakness allow you to sharpen your focus.
Relax and enjoy it. It really is a time to talk with passion to people who are interested about the thing you’ve been researching for 3+ years.
Any advice you’d tell your earlier PhD self now you’ve made it to the other side?
Heed the caution that often practice based PhD students end up doing enough work for a couple of PhD’s…I probably did. That said, I’ve enjoyed is thoroughly and would gladly disregard that advice and do it all again!
What are you up to now and any exciting plans for the future?
The exhibition Enamel | Substratewhich documents my research process and outcome is now on tour and is currently at Ruthin Craft Centre, Wales, and then goes to Wolverhampton Art Gallery in April – June, I have a chapter to write on enamel tissue printing for the Midland History journal, and currently I’m putting my energy’s into securing a post doc fellowship to publish the thesis as a book.
Please add anything else if you’d like
I’m off to the workshop….
Thanks so much for your time John, we wish you all the best!