Scottish Jewellery Design: Beauty and Balance

We take a look at jewellery by designers who fit the Local Heroes criteria of outstanding design that is emblematic of contemporary Scotland’s design language

Feature by Stacey Hunter | 12 Dec 2017

A design language can be understood as not only an aesthetic characteristic but as a mood, attitude, perspective or process. The eclectic designers selected here all belong to Scotland’s flourishing independent jewellery design scene. In their own highly individual way, each brings a refreshingly inventive spirit, lightness of touch or social commentary to modern jewellery.

‏Freya Alder uses brass, a relatively inexpensive metal for jewellery which gives her the freedom to communicate her ideas with an immediacy and expressiveness that working in precious metals can often limit. Alder’s recurring subject – the nude woman – is fraught with conflict, as the Glasgow designer explains: “The female form is often reductively objectified and generally devalued. I want my work to have a humour and an informality that isn't often afforded to the subject of the naked woman or indeed the discipline of jewellery.”

Akvile Su is a designer and activist who makes minimalist jewellery using recycled EcoSilver. The Lithuanian-born designer, who is based in Edinburgh, notes that jewellery is one of the most gendered of everyday items “so it's important to challenge those gender norms through what we create and wear. I think it is a very dated idea to separate adornments into either 'masculine' or 'feminine'. Gender neutral equates to 'free' and 'modern' to me. I feel like a change is coming soon and there is a global conversation happening already. One I am keen through my work to contribute to.” The way the designer oversees her photoshoots including casting, make-up and styling is indicative of the new wave of Scottish designers who are also art directors of their own brand.

‏Kate Trouw is a Fife-based jeweller who uses Polymer clay, sand and sterling silver in her enigmatic designs. The designer has recently moved from London to her new Scottish studio, a converted Art Deco cinema which sits on a cliff above the sea. The forms and colours of her latest collection are influenced by items washed up on the beach that reflect an industrial heritage – “shards of pottery; swirling patterns of black sand (made of coal) and rusted metal.” Trouw has a nuanced approach to form that combines organic and manmade looking shapes together in a way that feels new, loose and free.

Glasgow’s Soizig Carey creates what might be termed modern-mystical artefacts using silver and gold. Her current collection, Estética, explores geometric formulas, rotating movements and, principally, the circle. The designer describes her work as drawing heavily from publications by artist, designer and inventor, Bruno Munari, and by mathematician and philosopher, Matila Ghyka. “They each explore geometry in art and nature and create visual case studies of shapes.”

Cecilia Stamp's Populuxe collection channels futuristic late 50s and early 60s style and consumer culture, mixing precious metals with pastel colours in resin. She studied printed textiles and surface design as well as jewellery, and is also a musician. Stamp believes that all of these forms of expression feed into her current practice. Her work is wearable, feminine, playful and refined. Stamp enjoys being part of the design community in Glasgow. She says, “There is such a strong community of artists, designers and musicians here, and this has definitely aided and fed into my work.”

Heather Woof is an Edinburgh-based designer who makes minimalism fun. Her new collection reframes the classic teardrop shape balancing minimalist geometries with refined elegance and simplicity. Her Ripple collection is inspired by pattern and rhythm and features softer geometries, – movement causes light to play across the facets, highlighting clean lines and subtle textures.

Jennifer Gray’s work occupies a unique place somewhere between sculpture, research, storytelling and metalsmithing. From her Utopia range – which featured a set of surface tiles rendered in Jesmonite, and a condiment set created with solid brass spheres – to her Dolly The Sheep Clone Bracelets in sterling silver for the National Museum of Scotland – Gray is constantly experimenting. Her style is eclectic, irreverent and romantic making her one of the most interesting designers working in Scotland today.

Lynne MacLachlan’s work is characterised by her innovative processes. Her Glasgow studio tests the limits of materials and techniques to produce lightweight structures designed for the body. Using electric colour palettes MacLachlan hand dyes each piece creating shimmering Moiré interference patterns. She is best known for using 3D printed nylon, a durable, light material that has a tactile matt textured surface. More recently the designer has reproduced her innovative forms in precious metal with buyers given the option to choose an internal yellow or rose gold plating for a subtle flash of colour.

Look out for the January issue of The Skinny, where we'll present even more outstanding jewellery designers including Stacey Bentley, Ruth Leslie, Kirsten Manzi, Heather McDermott, Euan McWhirter and Tom Pigeon.