Shelley Stannard, MA Furniture Conservation, Restoration and Decorative Arts student, pictured with the 1937-38 Isokon moulded birch plywood lounge chair which she restored.

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Rather than simply advising their alumni on how to apply for jobs, the university has set up a company to provide them with work.

Called Bucks Conservation, the enterprise will channel commercial conservation and restoration projects to recent alumni from their BA (Hons) and MA Furniture Conservation, Restoration and Decorative Arts courses to help them make the transition from education to employment within the conservation sector.

The new company was officially launched at Fernandez & Wells, Somerset House, London, on Monday, October 8.

The initiative is an extension of the university's commercial restoration programme. It has undertaken furniture conservation work and private commissions for over 20 years, working with prestigious clients such as The Royal Collection, the V&A, National Trust and Lord Rothschild.

Meanwhile private collectors and custodians from the heritage sector have supported the students by providing projects for them to work on. They have also provided locations for 'live projects' where the students work on site, undertaking live restoration and conservation projects as part of the degree course. Students work with historical and often priceless pieces, as well as more modern 20th century items.

Commercial Environment

Now, under the guidance of the university's furniture conservation experts, graduates will gain valuable experience in a commercial environment, where they will be employed for 12 to 18 months developing their conservation skills and expertise as well as sharpening their business skills.

Selection to join the new company will be by interview and a portfolio review.

The university believe that it is the first alumni business model of its kind in the UK. "The launch of Bucks Conservation is a unique opportunity to support our most talented graduates and extend our expertise to a wider client base," says Dr Campbell Norman-Smith, course leader of the MA Furniture Conservation, Restoration and Decorative Arts.

"We have developed an outstanding reputation over the years and often have an oversupply of commissions. This meets supply and demand and provides our graduates with exceptional commercial experience which will give them an edge when looking for employment in the conservation and restoration professions."

Recent projects undertaken by the Department of Furniture at Bucks include the restoration of a 1937-38 Isokon moulded birch plywood lounge chair owned by Isokon Plus, conservation of a George II console table from Wilton House, owned by the Earl of Pembroke, cleaning of a gilt frame surrounding a painting by Sir Joshua Reynolds from the Courtauld Institute of Art, and restoration of an original Panton Vitra chair.