A fond farewell to friend and colleague Tam Savill

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T erry Hunt, Chair of the Association for Contemporary Jewellery, remembers our friend and colleague Tam Savill.

In 2010, in a lunch-hour at the School of Jewellery, I had a visit from Tam. This was the first time we’d met, and therefore my first experience of her “people-persuasion” skills. By the end of the lunch break I suddenly found myself, a lapsed founder-member of the Association, its new chair! And the rest, as the saying goes, is history.

A rich and fulfilling time for the ACJ, with Tam achieving so many of her aspirational and bold projects – work that she admitted to “enjoying tremendously”. Her last project was her brainchild and one of the most challenging: Connections/Connessione. This entailed gathering work from several countries, enabling its curation, production of the catalogue, securing venues across the UK and Italy, and at all times liaising with the Italian group AGC.

But she did enjoy a challenge; it has been suggested this approach to life developed within a challenging childhood. She was born in 1957 in Weymouth and raised there and across the wider Dorset area, though she was only 7 when her mother died and 14 when her father died.

A dedicated, intelligent and sharp student; when younger, “books were her friends”. She went on to take 4 ‘A’ Levels: Latin, Physics, French and Maths. Achieving the highest grades in the Wessex area she progressed to study Languages and Linguistics at Essex University. A year teaching in Paris not only introduced her to “good food, good wine and good company”, but reinforced her interest in languages and the written word, all of which she would relish for the rest of her life.

By the 1980s she was in South London, working with youth groups and, utilising a grant from the GLC, setting up the first of two recording studios in the area. The exit music at Tam’s funeral  - We Built This City on Rock ‘n’ Roll by Jefferson Starship, was apparently a loud and constant background at this time. She went on to build other studios in Birmingham and Coventry; showing, not for the first time, her ability to organise and “put people together”. She would be generous with her time, expertise and knowledge.

In 1990, now in Bristol and working at the Basement Studio, Tam attended classes in jewellery making and enamelling; “which changed my life and career path. I used to build recording studios and run music projects for young people but enamelling is much quieter!”  She loved this new direction; working to commission and selling through various shows. Significant commissions included badges of office for Bristol Cathedral and Friends of Bristol Museum & Art Gallery, and she was very proud to be selected for the prestigious Goldsmiths’ Fair in 2013.

Tam became a Director of the ACJ in 2007, taking the job of Development Manager in 2009, which later became Chief Executive. She also did admin work for Contemporary British Silversmiths and as exhibition organiser/committee member of the British Society of Enamellers. She said that she was most proud of Enamoured, the BSOE exhibition she organised in 2016-17.

A common thread across all of these activities was Tam connecting with people, and connecting people with other people. She liked to be a “putterer-together of people”. So many of those she worked with remember her hugely giving spirit. She wanted us to have a sense of family and, once she’d accepted someone as part of her extended family, she would be quick to give advice and cajole. She said she liked to get people to talk about their passions because “then you see their face light up and show what is really important in their life”.

She could say sweet things in a way that didn’t make you cringe, but she could also be quite frank and didn’t have a tolerance for bullshit or platitudes. She would say it as it was, and we respected her for that honesty.

I believe all of the above represents a Good and Fulfilled life; a life which throughout has had the focus of recognising the potential in others and assisting in their development. I will miss her terribly as a person, as well as our chief executive.


Terry Hunt

With thanks to celebrant Clare Hanson-Kahn

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