“For the first time I could make what I wanted.” It’s an exciting moment in anyone’s working life, beginning a dream career and pondering how best to cut your teeth in a whole new world.

For silversmith Fenella Watson (J 07-09) there was only one place to start, returning to some unfinished business. “After university I revisited an Art Foundation project, a paper jewellery collection, which I loved and now had the skills to be able to translate into metal. To this day my work is still very much inspired by the design principles and practises I laid out in those early years.”

Whether it is the circular structures which form the foundations of her work, revisiting past projects or returning to Bradfield to marry the boy she first met on the steps of Field House (now Stone House), loops and circles are very much a part of this Old Bradfieldian’s story.

The most creative and striking work can be conceived from very little. It's something I try to emulate now as a silversmith, sometimes less really is more.

With lockdown restrictions easing I’ve been able to travel to meet Fenella at her workshop situated a little way off the beaten track in a converted dairy building amidst bucolic Frensham countryside. With the pandemic altering the way everybody works it must have been difficult for someone who had recently started life as a self-employed business owner.

“Almost all of my business comes from craft and design shows so when it hit [the pandemic] the shows stopped overnight”, reflects the Armstrong House alumna. Reacting quickly to the changing circumstances, she refocused her business efforts on the digital world whilst also becoming a Key worker, helping to feed the nation at her local Waitrose during the first lockdown.

“Fairly soon I found a lot more people were visiting my site than previously. It’s quite scary wondering where your next order is coming from but there is nothing better than sitting at home, hearing your phone ping and realising you’ve sold something.”

Talk shifts to where she first discovered her passion for the creative world of design. Turns out it was half a world away. She was just seven years old when her father’s military career took her family to Mexico City.

“I found myself surrounded by vibrant traditions and a highly creative culture. Something that has stayed with me ever since is seeing how some of the most creative and striking work can be conceived from very little. It’s something I try to emulate now as a silversmith, sometimes less really is more.”

Creativity also runs in the family and a young Fenella was driven to follow in her grandmother’s footsteps, herself a Scholar at the Royal College of Art. “She could do pretty much everything but I never saw her turn her hand to metalwork, so I like to think that I am completing that final piece of the circle.”

Metalwork wouldn’t become a focus until after her Bradfield studies but, arriving in the Sixth Form as a Textiles Scholar, Fenella still quickly found herself at home in the Art Schools.


It wasn’t just the academic rigours of Art, Textiles, Physics and Chemistry that kept Fenella busy during her two years at Bradfield. She sang in the choir, played for the lacrosse team, completed her Silver Duke of Edinburgh’s Award and featured in an improvised play devised by then Head Boy Chris Scott (E 07-09), whose wedding ring she has just finished making!

A decade later, their portraits hang side-by-side in the Dining Hall, inspiring current pupils as they contemplate post-Bradfield career paths. She hopes pupils don’t feel the pressure to plan every step of their careers at such a young age. “Pupils should study what they love. When you leave there is a route into anything and you don’t need to have your entire life mapped out.” She is also quick to point out that a Bradfield education goes well beyond just academic results.

“The confidence my experience gave me to communicate, interact and build a well-rounded set of interpersonal skills has been crucial to getting me to where I am today.” It was also the place where she met her future husband, Peter Humphreys (E 04-09), though on reflection she admits their paths might never have crossed. They didn’t share a classroom and participated in different sports but the community-based nature of Bradfield led their paths to cross and an unstoppable friendship to blossom. “We got married at Bradfield in October 2019. There wasn’t ever really a discussion, it was one of those unspoken things and we just knew there was nowhere else we could get married.”

I haven’t even scratched the surface of where I can go and that is an exciting prospect.

It was during her Art Foundation after leaving Bradfield that she began working with metals and though her final exhibition piece was the aforementioned paper jewellery collection, her interest was piqued. She enrolled on a Metalwork and Jewellery degree at Sheffield Hallam where she spent three happy years creating but not really thinking about how to forge a career. It’s at this point Fenella began to figure out her ‘route into anything’.

“I moved back to Reading on a postgraduate silversmithing course with Bishopsland Educational Trust. I lived and breathed silversmithing for ten months and it was amazing because it was the first time I could make what I wanted without having to fulfil a brief or tick exam boxes.”

Her first project saw her recreate the paper jewellery collection in metal and she hasn’t looked back since. Missing Sheffield, she returned to complete a starter studio programme for young silversmiths within Yorkshire Artspace, a unique opportunity as the course had an association with the Sheffield Assay Office, one of only four in the UK, giving her free access to hallmarking. It was also here that she won the Office’s prestigious Precious Little Gems Commission.

“I was asked to create a Silver Centrepiece for them that would end up belonging to the city’s metalworking collection and is now on display at the Millennium Galleries in Sheffield. That commission was a real springboard for my career.”

Already planning her next move, Fenella returned to the Home Counties spending the next three years as the silversmithing and jewellery tutor at South Hill Park Arts Centre, Bracknell, before taking the plunge and setting up her own workshop and studio in Frensham. She has loved every minute of it, continuing to learn along the way showing that you don’t need all the qualifications to make it a success.

“You have to wear so many different hats; I am the designer, the maker, the customer service, the accountant, the sales person, the marketeer and the brand manager. All of that was quite overwhelming to begin with but I gained knowledge as I went and, bit by bit, I started to really enjoy all of the different aspects of running a business.”

Going solo marks the beginning of her next big loop and this time it’s clear that she is in no rush to complete this particular circle. Instead she is looking forward to enjoying the moment and continuing to create the things she loves.

“There are so many variations and combinations of circles and forms that you can put together to create new pieces. It’s almost endless. I have lots of ideas but for now I’m doing what works in the moment. I want this career to be just that; it’s a marathon, not a sprint. I know I haven’t even scratched the surface of where I can go with it yet and that is a really exciting prospect.”

Find out more at www.fenellawatson.com