Craft Practices

Foundation Degree Arts – Musical Instruments

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Applications open
Duration: Two academic years (36 weeks each year) full time
School: Arts
Location: West Dean
Scholarships and bursaries: See available funding

If your goal is to set up an instrument-making workshop or to work in the trade, this foundation degree is internationally respected for the high-level craftsmanship students attain. It encompasses the whole field of stringed musical instrument making. This enables students to then transfer their skills to making any stringed musical instrument, including guitar and violin. Through learning and assessing the historical approach to constructing the viola da gamba, students are equipped with a broad knowledge and ability to assess construction for a wide range of stringed musical instruments.

Learning environment

  • Low student: tutor ratio
  • Your own bench in the workshop with access 8.30am - 9pm, seven days a week*
  • A professional environment that encourages a business-like approach
  • Lectures, tutorials and demonstrations
  • Study tours and visits to specialist collections

You can expect

  • To learn basic tool skills and advance to decorative and head carving, purfling design and motif
  • To study instrument design, history and playing
  • To complete up to three instrument-making projects a year (you will be able to keep the first instrument you make and keep additional instruments for a nominal fee to cover the cost of materials).
  • To have access to a separate machine shop, varnishing room and photography space
  • To develop skills in machine setting, woodturning, varnishing, care of timber/tone-wood
  • Visiting tutors in bow-making, pigment laking, soundboard construction etc.
  • Playing lessons by early music professionals
  • To attend events such as The London International Festival of Early Music 
  • To have the opportunity to sell instruments through the College with the income split 50:50

Read more about studying musical instruments

Course structure

Learn more about the programme structure of each semester and the breakdown of study blocks.

Course units

Year 1 / Semester 1 (18 weeks)
  Christmas vacation  

HC-M1
Materials Technology
delivered in pathway workshop and cross-curricular

  10 credits
(common)
HC-D1
Drawing and Aesthetics
 

10 credits

(common)

HC-R1
Study/Research Skills
  10 credits
(common)
MID-YEAR ASSESSMENT
Year 1 / Semester 2 (18 weeks)
  Easter vacation  

HC-M2
Materials Technology (Metal/Wood)
delivered in pathway workshop and cross-curricular

10 credits

(common)

HC-H2
History of Craft
20 credits
(common)
HC-C2M1/C/F/ME
Craft Skills
2-20 credits
(subject specific)
SUMMER ASSESSMENT
Year 2 / Semester 1 (18 weeks)
  Christmas vacation  

HC-P3
Professional Skills incl. work placement

20 credits
(common)

HC-R1
Study/Research Skills

HC-C1M1/C/ME
Craft Skills

10 credits
(common)

1-30 credits

(subject specific)

MID-YEAR ASSESSMENT
Year 2 / Semester 2 (18 weeks)
  Easter vacation  

HC-P4
Professional Portfolio
student led

60 credits

(common)

FINAL ASSESSMENT

Contact hours

Teaching

You are taught through a combination of lectures, seminars, external trips and visits and workshop practicals. In addition, you have personal tutorials with your subject tutor.

At level 4 you typically have around 18-19 contact hours per week, typically consisting of:

  • 4-5 hours of lectures
  • 1 hour of seminars
  • 8 hours of supervised workshop practicals
  • 1 hour of one-to-one meetings/tutorials

At level 5 you typically have around 16-17 contact hours per week, typically consisting of:

  • 3-4 hours of lectures
  • 1 hour of seminars
  • 7 hours of supervised workshop practicals
  • 1 hour of one-to-one meetings/tutorials

Independent learning

When not attending lectures, seminars and workshop or other timetabled sessions you will be expected to continue learning independently through self-study. Typically, this will involve reading journal articles and books, working on individual and group projects, undertaking research in the library and preparing coursework assignments and presentations.

Overall workload

Level 4: 53% of your time is spent in scheduled teaching and learning activity
Scheduled teaching and learning: 633 hours
Independent learning: 567 hours

Level 5: 50% of your time is spent in scheduled teaching and learning activity
Scheduled teaching and learning: 600 hours
Independent learning: 600 hours

International study trips

The College continues to monitor travel advice from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office with regards to any international travel. At this time, all international travel which includes study trips will be subject to agreement by the College.

term dates
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School of Arts

Explore and expand your work in a uniquely immersive environment with its own connections to art history. Our School of Arts students enjoy specialist studio spaces dedicated to painting and drawing, sculpture and tapestry and textile-based work as well as exceptional exhibition space.

School of Arts

Fees and funding

Course fees are the same for UK and international students

  • £4,760 per term (£14,280 per academic year)

Lunch, accommodation and other living expenses are additional. Find out more

A £250 course fee and £200 accommodation deposit (if residential) is required to secure your place. Details will be provided to you in your offer. Fees are billed termly in advance. Please see the Terms and Conditions for further information.

Funding

Scholarships and bursaries are available from £500 to £10,000. 

If you are a UK/EU student you may be eligible to apply for a Student Loan (tuition fees and/or maintenance loans) from the Student Loans Company. 

Find out more about funding

Entry requirements

UCAS tariff points: 120 Completion of a level 3 qualification, for example: A-Levels, BTEC or Foundation Diploma in Art and Design.

Applicants can be considered if they can provide evidence of prior learning and should provide a digital portfolio. You will be invited to a portfolio interview. The portfolio should evidence commitment to the discipline. It could include sketchbooks, technical and material exploration, design work, project development from start to finish, detailed images of finished work. Where possible, applicants are encouraged to include a video of working on a practical exercise as part of the portfolio, of which the College can provide guidance if required (see below). If applicants cannot provide a portfolio, the College will provide a practical exercise that can be done remotely to asses mental agility and dexterity and suitability for this skills based programme.

To guide you through the process of putting together your digital portfolio, we've put together our six top tips; including how to select projects for inclusion, and formatting your portfolio. Read more here.

International students must provide evidence of English language ability to Level B2 (IELTS 6.0), as well as equivalent level 3 qualifications.

How to apply

If you only wish to apply to West Dean, please contact [email protected] for an application form. 
If you are applying for more than one institution, please apply through UCAS.

Any questions?
Email [email protected]; call us on: (01243) 818 300 and select option 1, or read more about our Admissions processes.

Apply through UCAS

FAQs

What level of qualification is the Foundation Degree?

The Foundation Degree Arts is a Level 5 qualification and equivalent to the first 2 years of our BA (Hons) in Craft Practices.

Entry requirements ask for a portfolio. What is this and what should be included?

Students need to prepare a digital portfolio to evidence their manual dexterity and their interest in the area of craft practice they have chosen. It could include sketches, images of finished work, videos of them working with their hands. Read more tips on preparing a digital portfolio.

I have no experience and therefore no portfolio – can I still apply?

If applicants cannot provide a portfolio, we will ask you to complete a practical exercise to assess mental agility and dexterity and suitability for this skills-based programme. Assessments take place onsite at the college workshops or remotely when it is not possible to come into college.

What do students do after their Foundation degree?

This course is designed to give you well-rounded theory and craft skills. You can set up as a self-employed maker or find employment in this or a creative industry sector. The Foundation degree is also an excellent first step before progressing to the BA (Hons) Craft Practises if you wished to pursue a career in making, or the Graduate Diploma in Conservation Studies if you wish to pursue a career in Conservation.

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Commendations

Commendations from the University of Sussex include:

"The high quality student experience and strength of student representation within the College."

"The introduction of a “maker-in-residence” scheme to the FdA."

"Responding to employer and student feedback in extending the work placement from 2 weeks to 4 weeks to support employability after graduation."

"The range of tailored study trips to suit different student cohorts."

 

Tutors

Dr Nicholas Pyall Musical Instruments Tutor at West Dean College of Arts and Conservation

Dr Nicholas Pyall

Subject Leader - Musical Instruments

Nick makes instruments that are inspired by the Viennese guitars of the early and mid-nineteenth century, including those with extra bass strings, and by mid-twentieth-century North American guitars.  He is currently Subject Leader for the FdA Historic Craft Practices - Musical Instruments.

Shem Mackey tutor at West Dean College Credit Jack Lawson

Shem Mackey MA

Master Craftsman Tutor

Shem Mackey is a founder member of the British Violin Making Association (BVMA) and founder editor of its newsletter. His research into instrument construction has been published in The Strad, Early Music and various publications of the BVMA and Viola da Gamba Society.

Arnaud Giral

Subject Tutor - FdA Musical Instruments

Arnaud Giral completed his violin making studies at the Newark School of Violin Making in 2004. He then moved to Montpellier where he focused on viols and baroque violin making. His dedicated approach to historical instruments and his attention to gut strings has led him to work for numerous specialist musicians and renowned early music ensembles.