Earlier this year, while Covid restrictions kept my boutique closed and London was as quiet as I had ever known, I was fortunate to be immersed in teaching work. In a wonderful alignment of past consultancy projects, a perfect assignment was suggested to me by Elizabeth Fischer from HEAD (Haute Ecole d’Art et de Design in Geneva).  Annually, the second year students of HEAD work on a Design Project sponsored with Piaget. This year Piaget brought together HEAD students with the latest school set up by Turquoise Mountain in AlUla Saudi Arabia. Having worked for many years with both institutions I was delighted to be involved! 



The Piaget Design Competition is an initiative created to support and invest in the artisanal talent of Saudi Arabia’s next generation of creatives. For the past nine years, Piaget has worked with HEAD – Genève on initiatives recognizing and fostering the creativity of students from around the world. In 2021, the Piaget Design Competition took place to Madrasat Addeera in AlUla with the objective of reviving design principles rooted in heritage through mentoring and fostering of local talent.

'Each student involved in the program received ongoing mentoring from professors from HEAD – Genève, as well as being paired with students from HEAD – Genève, who provided additional mentoring throughout the design process to help take their skills and designs to the next level. In addition, the students received mentoring from jewellery designer Vicki Sarge, whose artistry has been celebrated by designers and collectors the world over. Sarge spent time with each of the students one-on-one, providing feedback, insights and mentoring to help their talent shine, and to guide them in refining and elevating their design concepts, bringing to the program her decades of experience and rich understanding of craftsmanship in jewellery. Following this mentoring, in mid-May each of the twelve students presented their work to a panel of judges, with the first, second and third place winners set to receive special awards from Piaget, in recognition of their outstanding work. The judging panel comprised representatives from each of the four organizations involved in supporting the initiative; Piaget, HEAD – Genève, RCU and Turquoise Mountain –the latter, a Prince of Wales Foundation sustainable crafts initiative engaged by RCU to run the programs at Madrasat Addeera'. 
Piaget Official Press Release. 



AlUla is an UNESCO site with an ancient historical walled city which was part of the ancient incense route. The surrounding area has incredible natural rock formations and with architecture carved into the rocks, the Nabatean tombs were created. The students of HEAD were asked to create a piece of ‘High’ jewellery inspired by this breathtaking landscape. Due to the restrictions this year, we held our interviews and mentoring sessions via Zoom. I worked alongside Tiffany Baehler who was working with the students in Geneva and responsible for the project for HEAD. I was surprised how well I was still able to connect with the students, despite the lack of face to face teaching and to see such a successful outcome with beautiful designs.



This was then followed by a presentation to the students in AlUla. The school is sponsored by the The Royal Commission for AlUla (RCU) and run by The Turquoise Mountain team. I had worked with Harriet Stiles previously in Saudi Arabia and she worked alongside the inspiring Issraa Alrayess. Both are highly competent in their fields and it was such a pleasure to be part of their team. 



This was the first year the school has been running and I wasn’t sure what to expect. I was surprised how engaged the Saudi students were and how quickly they were able to interpret their personal love for this area, which I believe is part of their souls. 



The highlight of the project was to have the AlUla students present their work to the Geneva students for mentoring before their final presentation to the Jury. I enjoyed every minute of this work. The students were all so talented and enthusiastic. The teams I worked alongside are an inspiration. It had so much feel good factor and made the final part of my lockdown magnificent.

All images via Piaget. 
June 30, 2021 — Vicki Sarge