Managing Director/Engraver
Sam James Ltd

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00:00 Caption

Sam, Managing Director of Sam James Ltd

Samantha Marsden, managing director of Sam James Ltd. Sam and James are myself and my business partner James, who’s¬† also an engraver and we have been in partnership for 4 years now.
00:12 I wanted to be a pathologist and so I took all the subjects to be a pathologist. God, I’m an engraver now, how weird. Just at the last minute I decided no, because I loved art, loved it, had a brilliant art teacher¬† and I just thought, no, I’m not going to be a pathologist, I’m going to be an engraver. It was certainly nothing that the teachers had recommended that I did. They wanted me to, you know, do my A levels and go on to university and so it was never encouraged. But it was just a, no, I’m not going to do that, I’m going to do this.
00:42 I think I ‘d probably deep down wanted to do it because of the family business. My family are gun-makers and I¬† originally wanted to be a gun engraver. I applied to all the gun-houses and none of them took on girls at the time. Very archaic workshops, no facilities at all for girls. Went to art school instead of going on to do A levels and then straight into my apprenticeship, a Goldsmiths’ apprenticeship and it was fantastic. I’d have done it for free. I’d probably still do it for free now.
01:17 George Lukes, he is probably one of the finest engravers of our time. The best luck of my whole career to have ever been taken on by him. I was an apprentice with him for 5 years and then I was going to leave and he asked me to stay on and go into partnership with him, which I did. So I was 22 when I went into partnership with him.
01:39 When you go to art school or university or whatever,¬† there’s no pressure on you to finish anything in a certain amount of time. With just my experience¬† of going to art school, it’s great fun but you don’t learn anywhere near as much as you do in a working environment and I think that experience I think counts for so much more in the long term.
02:07 Decided to do a bit of freelance work for another engraving company called R H Wilkins. When I was down there I met James, who I’m now in partnership with. So that was a major turning point as well. It was another one of those moments when I thought, wouldn’t it be great if we could join forces.
02:25 You should consider being an apprentice in our industry if it is something you’re really passionate about. I suppose it takes a great deal of patience. A piece might take months, so you’re looking at the same thing for months. It’s just a different way of putting¬† a piece of art down.
02:42 If you’re passionate about a craft, then absolutely do it and work your socks off and spend all your spare time thinking about it and doing it, practising. Then if you’re wanting to do all that, then yes, absolutely go for it.
02:58 That’s the best bit, bringing on the next generation, for me, and making sure that it continues. So I’m very passionate about¬† keeping our trade alive because it’s only an allied craft.
03:10 The Cartier Award. I always wanted to win it because George, my master, had won it and that was always, always, always something I wanted to do. I never thought in a million years I’d win it twice, fantastic. Nothing better really, not in our industry, I think.
03:24 What I would like to have known growing up that I know now would be nothing. I’ve loved learning, I’ve loved making mistakes. I think it would be really dull to know things before you should.
03:40 END


“I’ve loved learning, I’ve loved making mistakes. I think it would be really dull to know things before you should.” Sam wanted to be a pathologist but changed her mind at the last minute. She went to art school and then started her apprenticeship in engraving. She now runs her own business in partnership with fellow engraver James.

More information about Other skilled trades n.e.c.

average salary

The UK average salary is £29,813

average weekly hours

There are 37.5 hours in the average working week

68%  male 
32%  female 

The UK workforce is 47% female and 53% male

Future employment

Future employment?

? Workers in this unit group engrave jewellery and stoneware, make artificial hairpieces, charge fireworks and munitions with explosive material, make lampshades, wickerwork, toys, dolls, models, candles, artificial flowers, other fancy goods, make patterns for moulds for metal castings, make and tune musical instruments, craft precious metals and stones, and perform other hand craft occupations not elsewhere classified in MINOR GROUP 544: Other Skilled Trades.
There are no formal academic entry requirements. Training is typically via apprenticeship or through specialised courses. NVQs/SVQs are available in some areas.
  • Uses hand or machine tools to engrave letters, patterns and other designs on jewellery and stoneware;
  • Constructs and covers wire frames for lampshades;
  • Makes wigs, beards and other artificial hairpieces from human hair or synthetic materials;
  • Interweaves canes of willow, withy, bamboo, rattan or similar material to make baskets and other pieces of wickerwork;
  • Charges fireworks, cartridges and other munitions with explosive material;
  • Makes childrens toys, dolls, models, candles, artificial flowers and other fancy goods;
  • Makes, maintains and adapts surgical and orthopaedic appliances;
  • Makes patterns for moulds, fits metal castings, pours plaster, fills plaster mould with resin and smoothes surface;
  • Makes musical instruments, makes and assembles parts for musical instruments, and tunes to improve pitch, tone and volume;
  • Makes and repairs jewellery and decorative precious metal ware, sets, cuts and polishes gemstones and makes master patterns for articles of jewellery.
Employment by region
Top 10 industries for this job
Other manufacturing 6070
Retail trade 3358
Specialised construction 2473
Sale of motor vehicles 2469
Civil engineering 2389
Metal products 2159
Architectural & related 1773
Rubber & plastic 1431
Accommodation 1398
Other trans. equipment 1260
Employment status

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