The youngest of six children, Stephen Colegate was born in 1947 in Somerset County, England. At school he was drawn to woodwork, technical drawing and art. ln 1963 his parents relocated for the second time to South Africa and sent him to the Pretoria Boys High School where he took art classes from Walter Batiss. He knew that he wanted to work with his hands, and fell upon the opportunity when almost by accident an acquaintance who sold a camera to Erich, arranged an interview with Erich for him. He was accepted in November 1964 for an apprenticeship with Erich Frey. The apprenticeship consisted of a formal training contract of five years, and from 1965 until 1970 he became Erich Frey’s sole apprentice, focusing on silver- and goldsmithing, the mounting and setting of precious stones and all types of repair work. Later, in 1970 he travelled around Europe for six months. Upon return, he was instated to the position of senior journeyman and workshop manager. He also assisted Erich with the training of apprentices.
(Erich Frey and associates :” A bold contribution to South African silver- and goldsmith design.”
Fred van Staden,Department of Psychology, University of South Africa .February 2010.)
Achievements, commissions and inspiration:
During the mid 1970’s Erich entrusted Stephen with the restoring of the mounting on a Faberge chalice and later a Faberge bowl and lid. lt was presented to the South African government by Csar Nicholas ll of Russia upon forming the Union of South Africa in May 1910. The mountings of an imperial Russian double headed eagle with a crown come loose and had to be repaired. The pieces were ornately decorated with under glazed motifs of flowers and eagles.
ln 1977 Stephen became co-director of the studio and continued to work as principal designer in the oeuvre Erich Frey. The following decade included high commendations at the De Beers Diamonds Today competitions (1979, 1984) along with a first prize in 1982 for neck pieces at the Intergold national
jewellery competition. In 1983 he was invited by the Chamber of Mines and lntergold to design jewellery competition.
(lnterview: Mr. T. Beyers, Goldsmith and son of Maia Holm. Pretoria, 2009-10-15.)
Ms. E. Smit, Erich Frey-25 years (Pretoria Art Museum. 3 I July -I 6 August 1985),
Interview: Mr. S. Colegate, goldsmith, Knysna 2009-11-23
To compliment the work of Anne de Frederikz for a fashion parade at the Rand Easter Show. Between 1985 and 1999 he exhibited his work nine times locally (in locations such as the Pretoria Art Museum, the Northern Transvaal Association of Arts and the Potchefstroom Art Museum), and held two exhibitions in Germany (the lnhorgenta exhibition in Munchen in 1985 and 1987), two exhibitions at The Art Workshop Ojai in California (1987 and 1999) and one at the Driftwood Gallery in Cornwall, England in 2006. His work was also included in the 1985 retrospective exhibition on Erich Frey’s legacy at the Pretoria Art Museum. ln addition he was commissioned to manufacture the symbolic key for the inauguration of the main Unisa Library in Mareh 1988. He was cited in 1986 as a noted goldsmith designer manufacturer in the European Goldschmiede Zeitung -a token of international recognition.
ln a number of letters, Erich commented as follows on Stephen’s work:
“…your work has always been very pleasing and your design will be much appreciated.. ..your artistic talent found the right outlet.. ..exhibition with some of your work are very interesting and very much to my liking.. ..I am very proud, that you so well understood the essentials of a good design, because you have the intuitive feeling for proportions and harmony (and of course fantasy).”
In 1985, Stephen expressed his design inspiration as follows:
“..to draw inspiration from the landscape, plant life and African art to create designs that are harmonious with our environment.”
Apprentices and maker’s mark:
Notable apprentices whilst still with the Erich Frey studio included Noelle Hellet, Colleen Schmulow (awarded joint winner for the Best Traditional Piece in the professional category at the 11th PlatAfrica 200g competition), Uwe Frey, Maurice Pitol, Lauren de Lange (who won third prize and two high commendations at the South African Jewellery Council’s S.A. Apprentice Talent competition in 1984 and 1985), lngrid Hahn and Shane Lategan.
Lauren de Lange became Stephen’s journeyman and later they got married. After 23 years in the Erich Frey studio, he and his wife left the studio in 1987. For a while they worked from home, but on 23 August 1988 they opened a showroom in the HatfieldPlaza in Pretoria called Stephen Colegate Jewellers with their workshop located in Sunnyside. From 1986 onwards Lauren participated as manufacturing goldsmith in her own right in all Stephen’s exhibitions. ln the early 1990’s his son as well as two of his cousins apprenticed under Stephen as goldsmiths.
From 1987 onwards he used the stamp SC (arial font capitals) on all the pieces he designed -also when he still worked for Erich Frey, he placed his mark alongside that of Erich’s when the design was his own.
ln 1993 Steven created for their showroom a large sculptural window display of swimming fish. The display attracted attention and he began creating more large scale sculptures made from steel. With his experience as a designing and manufacturing goldsmith in good stead, he expanded his repertoire to sculpting. He is one of very few goldsmiths that expanded from small scale jewellery design to large scale sculpting.
ln 1997 they sold the Hatfield business to his cousin Andrew Colegate and his wife Leanne Dickson- Colegate (both trained as goldsmiths under him) and moved to Knysna where they opened a new workshop gallery named Metalcraft Gallery where he concentrated on his sculpting work whilst the
jewellery line was separately registered under the name Stephen Colegate Jewellers at the Waterfront in Knysna. Similar to his use of semi-precious stones in his jewellery designs, he incorporates large semi-precious stones and coloured glass in his sculpting designs. He has often received international commissions for his sculptures, especially from Germany and as far away as Japan. the South African government commissioned a sculpture for the emperor of Japan. lt consisted of three mounted stainless steelfish with large blue agate settings. With his sculpturing work he has embraced the use of laser technology within the manufacturing process, which opened a range of new possibilities of design avenues.