Alumni Reports: Tiago Oliveira

By Tiago Oliveira

My last post on the West Dean Blog was so long ago I feel ashamed to tell! The time went fast, though, and so much has happened.

A first job after graduating in 2012 took me towards the conservation of sculptures---a discipline I studied back in Portugal and which, in combination with what I had learned at West Dean, proved successful.

It wasn't long though before I enrolled one of the yearlong Heritage Lottery Fund/Icon internships. My host was Sarah Peek's Conservation Studio in Brighton and the post was for conservation of ceramics and related materials, which I loved. I aimed to improve my practical skills while becoming more familiarised with the challenges of working in conservation studio that services the commercial sector.

I had high expectations and the desire to develop knowledge and skills acquired as a student. Commercially driven deadlines and working towards clients' high expectations provided an intensive yet rewarding environment for learning with two amazing conservators: Sarah Peek ACR and Jasmina Vučković ACR, both former West Dean graduates.

I was lucky enough to be offered a job at my host's studio on completion of the internship, where I further developed conservation and business skills until I left and headed to the capital to set up my own studio.

TO Conservation is in its early stages now. Thanks to the help of good friends I have been able to share a studio while looking for clients and enough work to sustain a space on my own. Finding clients and having them trust one's work is what is most difficult. However, West Dean is a very well known, reputable conservation college where students are able to make good connections within the museum and art dealing sectors. Incidentally, these contacts were my first clients!

In fact, I have just completed a project for the National Maritime Museum, working on a tile panel for the refurbishment of the Queen's House to open later this year. You can read the first part of its intervention on their blog here.

Starting on my own is hard work but it gives me great pleasure to see my clients' positive feedback and hear more about the objects I work with.