MA Conservation Studies specialising in Ceramics and Related Materials 2015 - 2016

Harriet Sylvester


What do you consider your biggest achievement to date?

My biggest achievement to date is starting my own business, Hythe Conservation, in September 2020. I have thoroughly enjoyed setting up a studio and equipping it, creating a website, undertaking initial advertising and promoting my company services. I look forward to working as a nationwide freelancer.

Talk us through your career path since graduating.

Since graduating with a Masters Degree, I joined Richard Rogers Conservation Ltd as a Sculpture and Objects Conservator. Over three years, I gained experience working on a variety of materials including ceramic, stone, silver and bronze objects. My work involved projects not only in the studio but elsewhere in the UK and Europe. I committed a year of self-study on The Art Institute course and graduated with a Diploma in Art Appreciation in November 2020. My own conservation business has secured work on a wide cross section of items, whilst also freelancing outside of East Anglia.

What projects are you currently working on?

I recently completed a project on a large-scale figure of a man, standing over two metres tall, by the British Sculptor, Sean Henry. Well known for his sculptural figures created in ceramic or bronze, this was one of his early pieces dated 1988 and had both a painted and glazed ceramic surface. The damaged sculpture required a variety of treatments including removing green algae, dirt and cobwebs over the ceramic surface, consolidating lifting and fragile glaze, bonding areas of broken ceramic, filling and retouching areas of loss.

Do you have any tips for recent graduates?

I would advise recent graduates to create a portfolio which can be emailed digitally seeking potential job opportunities and to also print copies to present at interview. If placements have been undertaken during the Degree programme at West Dean, I would suggest keeping placement hosts updated with your current situation; they’ll be interested to hear about your professional development after leaving college.

How do you think studying at West Dean College prepared you for what you do now?

Studying ceramics and glass at West Dean provided the knowledge and confidence to apply my practical skills and also take on other materials such as stone, marble and plaster. Learning the correct professional approach to writing up treatment reports, preparing estimates, recording time taken on treatments and documenting a daily diary, provided the skill set and equipped me for work beyond college life.

What's your favourite memory from your time at the College?

I have many wonderful memories of my time at West Dean. Alongside the academic study, the studio environment was great. The pottery evening classes were a fun addition and widened my experience of raku and pit firing. Living on campus led to great friendships, film nights in the Peachey House Common Room and sociable break times with an endless supply of tea and biscuits! I will always greatly appreciate my time spent at West Dean College and the platform it provided for my chosen career.

Find out more about the MA Conservation Studies

Harriet Sylvester West Dean College alumna, studied on the MA Conservation Studies