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News > Alumnae Interviews > Belinda Hitchens (Class of 1990) - Starting a new career

Belinda Hitchens (Class of 1990) - Starting a new career

Belinda demonstrates that it's never too late to start new adventures and that you don't have to limit yourself to the decisions made when completing school!
a beautiful silver wedding bangle designed and created by Belinda's Toadstool Creations
a beautiful silver wedding bangle designed and created by Belinda's Toadstool Creations

I left SWPS in 1990 uncertain as to what I wanted to do with my life! I had completed Physics, Chemistry and Biology A levels but had always felt I was “arty”. I took a gap year and did various jobs and during that time stumbled upon Occupational Therapy. I arranged work experience for myself at The Abraham Cowley Unit within the O.T. department and following this knew it was what I wanted to do. The ability to be able to use art and craft therapeutically in a mental health setting really appealed to me and I felt it made use of my science background as well as my artistic abilities. I began my three-year training in 1991 and qualified in 1994.

During my 25-year career as an OT I worked across many areas, both in a hospital setting and in the community: medical and surgical, orthopaedics, elderly care, acute mental health, community mental health, memory clinic, addictions treatment and palliative care. Much of my career was working within a community mental health team for older adults and then for a hospice. I love Occupational Therapy but unfortunately the landscape of the NHS changed, and, in the end, I felt I was not doing the job I had initially trained to do.

I have always been creative and made things. I have used many materials and techniques; mosaics, glass, mirror and ceramic painting, pottery, polymer clay, painting, salt dough (I used to make mirrors with salt dough!). I have also always sold my wares at markets and craft fairs. A few years ago, I ventured into silversmithing, something I had always wanted to do. I bought some basic equipment and taught myself to solder and there was no turning back! Once I had run out of space on my own body to wear what I was making I began to sell my jewellery and started to do quite well. I created a Facebook Page Toadstool Creations UK  and more recently a website

By pure chance, a new degree was brought to my attention at The University for the Creative Arts in Farnham - BA (Hons) in Jewellery and Silversmithing. I investigated funding and since my OT training was a diploma (I was the last year of the diploma before it became a degree) I was eligible for student funding. As my jewellery business was starting to take off and I was getting less satisfaction from my job as an OT I realised now was the time to make a leap.

I haven’t looked back. I realise it has mid-life crisis written all over it, but I love it. I’m sadly halfway through the course now and of course COVID has meant that a large part of it has needed to be delivered online but the course leader has done a fantastic job with this.

It’s important to realise that you can change direction and the decisions you make after your A levels don’t have to be forever.

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