Stefanie Cleeton, a jewellery apprentice with The French Door Jewellers, has taken out TAFE Queensland’s top honour in the prestigious Apprentice Jeweller of the Year Awards.
The award culminates the 23-year-old’s training for her dream career that began three years ago when a friend introduced her to jewellery design.
“After leaving school, I did a lot of different jobs to find a career I enjoyed. Then a friend of mine showed me an Opal ring that she’d made – and we discussed the manufacturing process. I knew jewellery was the career for me,” said Ms Cleeton.
Despite her love of art class in school and dabbling in creative projects in her spare time, Stefanie never expected to have a hands-on and creative career. But the chat with her friend ignited her curiosity, and she began looking for work experience.
“I emailed jewellers in Brisbane and the Sunshine Coast asking for a job, and, luckily, The French Door in Brisbane responded. After two days of work experience, they offered me an apprenticeship,” she explained.
Her apprenticeship saw Stefanie attend block training through TAFE Queensland, where she earned a Certificate III in Jewellery Manufacture (MEM30605) while enhancing her jewellery repair, stone setting, metal casting, chain making, and technical drawing skills.
She also developed planning and design skills, which helped her design and manufacture the winning Apprentice Jeweller of the Year Awards entry.
Each year, the awards celebrate the talent and creativity of graduating students through an awards program that forms their final assessment.
Students have four weeks to create three pieces of jewellery that meet criteria fitting the award’s unique theme. This year the theme was Alchemy, which allowed Ms Cleeton’s imagination and technical skills to shine.
“Because alchemy is very dark, the theme was a challenge, so I created a pendant, a ring and a hinged bangle with my own “evil eye” twist on it,” she explained.
While she admits to being a little nervous on the night of the awards, she approached the evening with an open mind and quiet confidence that she’d place well.
“Having won the Rising Star Award in previous years, I knew the judges would be looking at the design, manufacture, finishing and my portfolio. They assess the pieces’ practicality, durability and wearability, and I felt that I had done enough to place well,” she said.
Stefanie’s award acknowledges the quality of her workmanship, the strength, durability and wearability of her designs, and the overall quality of the finish.
“Winning the Apprentice of the Year Award was fantastic. My classmates and I put a lot of work in for these awards, and the quality of everyone’s designs was impressive. I don’t envy the job the judges had to do!”
TAFE Queensland General Manager Brisbane Brent Kinnane, who attended the awards presentation dinner, said he was blown away by the quality of the jewellery on display.
“Incredibly, students created the stunning pieces of jewellery on display – young people, who are just starting in the industry,” Mr Kinnane said.
“Everyone was amazed by the range of talent entering the industry – it’s exciting to see this cohort of apprentices graduate with the skills they need to be employable now and well into the future,” he said.
More than 60 guests attended the gala dinner on Friday, 4 November, at TAFE Queensland’s hospitality training venue, 66 Ernest Street.
The 2022 award winners are:
- Best Overall Design Award – Josie Balogh
- Best Technical Aspects Award – Eschelle Walters
- Best Design Folio Award – Stefanie Cleeton
- Queensland Jewellery Apprentice of the Year Award – Stefanie Cleeton
- Queensland Jewellery Apprentice of the Year Award Runner-up – Eschelle Walters
- Rising Star Award – Keelie Sander
- Employer of the Queensland Jewellery Apprentice of the Year – The French Door, Brisbane
You define your greatness. For more information about TAFE Queensland’s courses or to apply and change your career, visit tafeqld.edu.au or call 1300 308 233.