As of writing this post, QEST has provided over £5 million in funding to around 700 craftspeople across 130 traditional disciplines. But what exactly is QEST? Keep reading to learn all about this fantastic organisation, including how to get funding for courses and workshops you might be interested in.
What is QEST?
QEST is well known to those practising traditional arts and crafts, and if you’re thinking of taking a course or workshop in such a craft (including glass gilding), it’s worth knowing who they are and how they might be able to support you.
QEST stands for the Queen Elizabeth Scholarship Trust, and it was set up in 1990, by the Royal Warrant Holders Association to celebrate their 150th anniversary alongside the 90th birthday of the Queen Mother.
QEST offers apprenticeship funding for those craftspeople already working in a discipline, but this article is about their scholarship programme. Providing you are over 18, have a right to work in the UK (permanently or on a long-term basis) and can articulate how the scholarship will benefit you, your discipline and the community in general, you are eligible to apply. There are currently two application rounds: spring (January and February) and autumn (July and August).
Successful applicants receive both a scholarship of up to £18,000 and a funded place on the prestigious Cockpit Professional Development Programme.
The scholarship is flexible and could be applied to everything from college courses to one-on-one vocational training to bespoke programmes of courses and workshops.
QEST also runs a Building Arts Programme in collaboration with the Prince’s Foundation. This is a nine month scheme that supports practitioners of the decorative and applied arts as they relate to architecture.
QEST often supports craftspeople beyond their initial funding, for example by providing opportunities for exhibitions and private commissions.
How to apply for funding for courses and workshops through QEST
First, you need to think carefully about your future career plans and how you can justify a scholarship. While QEST supports the development of individual craftspeople, it also wants to ensure the sustainability of traditional skills and crafts. Therefore, you must demonstrate a commitment to your discipline and a desire to support Britain’s cultural heritage through your work.
Then, it’s simply a case of visiting qest.org.uk, hovering over the ‘Apply’ menu and clicking on the ‘Scholarship’ page. You will find all you need to proceed with your application, including a link to detailed application guidance.
If you are from a group that is under-represented in your chosen discipline, you are encouraged to schedule an enquiry call with the Grants Officer. Again, full details are on the Scholarship page of the QEST website.
How your application will be assessed
Your application for a QEST scholarship will be seen by a panel of assessors which will include specialists in your chosen discipline. The panel will consider your skill, quality of work, level of experience and the likely impact a scholarship award will have on the preservation and promotion of your craft.
The Heritage Crafts Association and the Red List
Another organisation that offers funding for courses and workshops is the Heritage Crafts Association (HCA). The HCA was founded in 2009 in response to concerns about the decline of traditional crafts.
To raise awareness of the issue, they created the ‘Red List’ which displays those crafts which are most likely to become extinct in the UK. These include tinsmithing, glass eye making, oak bark tanning and many more.
If your chosen craft is classified as endangered or critically endangered on the Red List, you could apply for up to £2,000 of funding from the HCA’s Endangered Crafts Funds. Go to https://heritagecrafts.org.uk/ and look under the Funding menu for the relevant page. There are also a range of bursaries on offer together with information and links to other sources of funding.
Other funding organisations
Aside from QEST and the HCA, there are a range of organisations that do provide funding for individuals, partnerships and organisations involved in traditional arts and crafts. These include:
- The Arts Council England
- The British Council
- Prince’s Trust
- Winston Churchill Memorial Trust
- Garfield Weston Foundation
Each has a different remit, so you will need to study the eligibility requirements by visiting the respective websites.
Robert’s Story with QEST
In Spring 2021 Robert [Umberto] Walker was awarded a scholarship from QEST, the scholarship was in signwriting and his training was specifically to learn the critically endangered craft of brilliant cutting as well as chemical silver nitrate mirroring.
Robert was well known to me, having already self-funded two separate workshops before applying, he was looking to enhance his studio own output whilst prolonging the education of craft.
He underpinned his application process with his desire to teach as well as working with his hands for wellbeing, whilst cementing his own sense of heritage. Robert outlined how he would use the funding (if awarded) and how it would benefit his long-term goals and studio output.
Now Robert brings all of his experience and obsession together to create high-end pieces from the byUMBERTO studio, for exteriors, interiors, and collectors, and is increasingly exploring the creation of contemporary art pieces using traditional sign-writing methods.
Robert was kind enough to share with me that his focus is not just on learning from the best (and in his words, sometimes the last) in their field, but he believes in finding and using the tools once used by masters of their trade, to stay true to these heritage skills.
A lifelong learner & teacher, he is also a zealous advocate of sharing his expertise through ongoing workshops, lectures & community engagement, and is always looking for new ways to inspire others.
His trip to my studio gave his skillset the springboard to continue his love for Verre Églomisé and is now at the beginning stages of his lifelong quest to make work using his newfound knowledge with the generous help of QEST and their donors.
Since being awarded his scholarship, Robert has been involved in London Craft Week 2021, and The Great Northern Contemporary Craft Fair 2022 to name just a few events and will continue to pursue excellence in his chosen field.
QEST are very supportive in their application process and will often offer webinars prior to applications going live online, as well as this, Robert will be offering insights and guidance via his new Youtube channel.
Could you earn a living while preserving a beautiful Victorian craft?
Glass gilding is a beautiful technique which deserves to be preserved for future generations.
I have created an introductory online course, containing over 50 hours of in-depth videos, which will take you through the process of creating 12 stunning gilded letters.
Or if you are like Robert and looking to come and get hands-on, find out how you can learn from me with an in-person workshop.