Jeweller picks students with skills

CREATIVE HUB: Chris Minturn says he’s always impressed by the creativity of the students at the Peter Minturn Goldsmith School.
CREATIVE HUB: Chris Minturn says he’s always impressed by the creativity of the students at the Peter Minturn Goldsmith School.

Chris Minturn, 47, lives in Waiatarua with his wife Lee-Anne, daughters Ruth and Grace and their two pets Tui and Sapphire. He talks to reporter Vanita Prasad about his work as the general manager of the Peter Minturn Goldsmith School.

I start my day around 7.45am when I leave on the school run to drop off Ruth.

I then head to Kingsland where our jewellery school is based.

I try to be here by 8.30am to open the school and let the students in.

I begin by setting up the workshop for the day and the students usually have jobs to do.

My role here is looking after student and staff management as well as tasks like payroll, ordering stock, data entry and workshop management so my mornings tend to vary.

Sometimes I'll have to take photos of a student's work and during exams there are a lot of essays to mark. The school was started up 11 years ago by my father Peter when he retired.

He'd spent many years lobbying the government to get a jewellery school opened and eventually he asked my mother if they could put some money from their retirement fund into opening this one.

My dad spent more than 50 years in the trade and he wanted to give back to the New Zealand jewellery industry which had given him a life of happy memories. He's made rings for Sir Elton John, the Queen, Princess Anne and Sir Michael Caine.

I came into the fray six years ago to help out with running the school. Before that I'd been in the photography industry and spent some time in the home brew scene.

Our school started with two students and now has room for 22.

Lee-Anne helped set up the administration side of things at the school and wrote the curriculum which is NZQA accredited.

We get times where there are more applicants than positions available. To get in, students go through a two-day audition process which is a practical test to make sure they have the basic hand-eye co-ordination to handle the 40-hour weeks during the four 10-week terms.

We are a designer school which maintains a high calibre of students - we're not trying to get bums on seats. We only take those who we think have the skills to be able to be employed or be self-employed at the end of the course.

Our students train to make handmade one-off pieces rather than mass-produced pieces. In this line of work your always seeing people in the happiest moments of their life because they are getting engaged, married or celebrating a christening or graduation.

The time it takes to make a piece varies on what the customer wants. A plain single stone ring can take two to three days where a complex cluster may take a week. It also depends on whether they want a finish that we need to outsource for like plating or setting or engraving.

I don't have any formal qualifications to make jewellery, I've just learnt through my time spent at the bench. I grew up around Dad's work and remember folding ring boxes when I was eight years old. By the time I was 10 I was cleaning the workshop and putting things in order. We close the school at 5pm and I head home unless I'm taking Ruth to wrestling or teaching photography at Rutherford College.

Western Leader