“YOUR TIME STARTS NOW”
The ‘All That Glitters’ journal by Emma White
I’ve been asked what it is like competing on the BBC2 show, ‘All That Glitters’ many times, and I still don’t have a succinct answer. There were a million thoughts, feelings and emotions coursing through my body, all at once. It was exhilarating, challenging, terrifying, surreal and fun. I could throw in plethora of other adjectives for good measure and there were certainly a few choice expletives jumping around in my brain too.
Like many of us ‘in the trade’ I watched the first series with great interest. I was delighted that jewellery making was showcased on prime time TV in this way and I was intrigued to see how it would be portrayed. I was A HUGE fan of series 1, it aired during lockdown in 2020 and became a talking point with my jewellery friends, both colleagues and students, all via Whats app, as were bound by ‘the rules’ and our banter was limited to the cheerful dings and bings of our group chats. We bantered backwards and forwards and squealed and groaned with the disasters and the panic. Watching together was light relief in a heavy time and I thought it was brilliant, educating people on the skill behind the trade but also fun and silly and entertaining, playing really but with precious metals and gemstones, what’s not to love?
I knew with growing certainty as I watched that I REALLY wanted to take part, like a kid wants ice cream, a LOT. As a jeweller with an abundance of teaching experience I thought that my ability to talk and make at the same time would translate into the show really well and I saw a chance to refocus on my own practice at a time when the youngest of my three children was about to start school. When I got ‘the call’ asking me to apply I took a deep breath, hesitated just for a teeny tiny split second, while my heartbeat went through the roof and then squeaked ‘Yes, I would really like to apply.’
The process of being selected for All That Glitters is a closely guarded secret and as someone who has waded through a 25 page NDA; which took me 4 attempts to read without falling asleep; I’m afraid I’m not going to divulge much about the application process here, but I will say that it’s not easy and there are lots of stages to it, and getting ‘the call’ to ask you to apply does not mean that you are ’in’, sorry to be the bearer of bad news, it ain’t that easy! It’s merely the first step of a long journey towards a bench within the green walls of a not so secret location in Birmingham (which may or may not be The School of Jewellery, but it wasn’t me who told you, OK?)
Have you ever jumped out of a plane? I haven’t, but I imagine walking into the ‘All That Glitters Workshop’ delivered to me an adrenaline rush, which would hold it’s own against such airborne craziness. When I arrived at the aforementioned, not very secret at all, jewellery based venue, I was a wreck. I’d barely slept, my eyes were bloodshot and my hands were shaking. We were still in the grip of COVID restrictions and I was shot in the head with a temperature gun when I arrived. I wondered what would have happened if I’d had a fever. Was there someone else waiting in the wings to take my hard won spot? There was. Where were they? In the hotel I’d just left? How were they feeling?
My brain was rammed with nerves, energy, excitement. There was a generous dose of full on, nightmare level terror in there too, which I desperately tried to reframe as excitement, with limited success. After all I had been such a fan of the first series, walking into that famous workshop felt as if I was walking into my TV screen and meeting Katherine and the two judges was initially pretty weird but they were beaming at us, nothing but warm and friendly, actual real people and very well dressed in comparison to us jewellers, in our slightly grubby aprons and, ever so glamorous, optivisors.
I had considered my attire with more care than was probably obvious, I’d gone with jeans and trainers (because who dresses up to make jewellery?) and I’d ordered a thicker foundation online, which was really not the right colour at all. But it was COVID-tastic on the high street and there was not a tester in sight so I mixed it up with the last of my old shade and hoped for the best. I remember that Katherine complimented me on my bright coral nail varnish, which I was wearing to cover up my battered and abused jeweller’s fingernails and detract from my strong but ill treated hands, which I reckon could be mistaken for those of a 90 year old coal miner on a good day. The colour (Chanel #634 ARANCIO VIBRANTE in case you were wondering) helped a little and I wore that same nail varnish for every episode, which was a deliberate decision I made to make it easier to spot which hands were mine when the programme was shown, I was later told that it really helped in the edit too. Happy to oblige team!
Someone gave me some porridge in a pot, I couldn’t eat it, there were a lot of bars of chocolate on a table but I found a banana and tried to eat that instead, A fella with very cold hands came and wrapped a camera pack around my waist and it was lovely and warm against my skin, like a teeny little hot water bottle! I kept spotting things with my name on, a water bottle, a list, a clipboard with questions typed out and my name at the top. Everyone seemed to know who I was but I only recognised one or two faces. It was the strangest thing and very different from my usual cloak of invisibility, worn by women of a certain age everywhere.
We were called to the the doors to the set. It was suddenly very real and I was ready. My name was called and I jogged down the stairs into the TV set of my favourite ever TV show and laughed. I’d actually made it through, if walking down those stairs was all it was going to be, I was happy. I made a deal with myself to stop every now and then and consciously appreciate the experience, to just remember that it was an opportunity I’d wanted and pursued and was fortunate enough to be offered. It was bloody incredible and I wanted to enjoy every second.
There was a lot of standing and smiling, there was banter, there were lines and introductions from the judges and Katherine, who it was obvious were the real stars of the show! It was fun and silly and it took a very long time. But finally, I laid my hands on my big black sketchbook, took a deep breath and looked over at Katherine. She held a stopwatch in her hand, looked me straight in the eye and said ‘JEWELLERS, your time starts NOW’ and I began…