Scottish Jewellery Design: 6 more great designers

In part two of our spotlight on jewellery design in Scotland we explore the work of six exceptional designers.

Feature by Stacey Hunter | 10 Jan 2018

The non-essential nature of jewellery is perhaps what makes it even more desirable to own. Other small luxuries such as knitwear or ceramics can be passed off as ‘practical,’ but when we buy jewellery we are making a statement about ourselves (or on behalf of a loved one) that can be quite thrilling. In Scotland, the strength and breadth of the contemporary jewellery field demonstrates both the commitment of our designers – and our buyers. 

Stacey Bentley’s work effortlessly moves between the gallery and everyday wear. “Each piece of jewellery originates from a photograph, drawing, or memory of a place I’ve travelled to. It may be an angle from a temple in Japan, a colour from a beach house in Los Angeles, or the shape of a stained glass window in Egypt. I often look to ancient African and Asian jewellery techniques to find alternative ways connecting individual elements that make up each piece of jewellery.” Her Edinburgh workshop was just featured on Channel 4’s Kirstie's Handmade Christmas where the designer was filmed creating her distinctive, refined jewellery using vitreous enamel, oxidised silver and gold leaf.

Tom Pigeon make jewellery that you can confidently buy for a graphic designer and know they’ll be delighted. This design studio – based on the east coast of Fife – also work across print, textiles and homewares, selling to galleries and design stores around the world. The studio has grown in recent years to embrace a more multi-disciplinary approach – jewellery colours and shapes are reinterpreted as flat graphic prints (and vice versa). Tom Pigeon’s jewellery is handcrafted in-house by “a small but amazing team of jewellers who are all graduates of Duncan of Jordanstone,” and the studio have collaborated extensively to create exclusive collections for places like the Barbican, Tate Modern, the V&A, Whitechapel Gallery and Selfridges.

Ruth Leslie is a recent graduate whose work incorporates movement and sound. She finely twists precious wire by hand – with wire wrapped around frames to create tactile, refined forms – “like dangling architecture.” Her delicately engineered kinetic pieces bring together refined finishes and playful sculptural forms. Mainly working in metal, including silver, gold and titanium, the Edinburgh-based designer is inspired by unusual details such as the irregularities within fabrics and the structural forms found in textile machinery.

Dundee-based Kirsten Manzi designs jewellery using a restrained palette of geometric shapes distilled from forms found in architectural structures. “Growing up with a paintbrush in my hand and an easel in the back garden I always knew I wanted to lead a creative life. However, my love of working in metal began at Duncan of Jordanstone in Dundee. I loved the process of making and getting lost in a design, I was fascinated with turning an idea into something tangible.”

Glasgow-based Heather McDermott takes inspiration from the ever-changing shoreline and landscape of her native Skye. Her collections have titles like Tidal Surge and Drift, where objects discarded from the urban environment and deposited by the powerful sea swell are translated into precious jewellery. “Rope, wood and plastic forms take on a more subtle identity as the wind and waves shape and re-shape them.” Stainless steel and silver wire is hand formed by the designer into soft geometric shapes mimicking fishing nets and lobster pots while palettes draw on the icy colours of the Hebridean sea.

Euan McWhirter creates high impact design shot through with glamour and has become the well-established choice for maximalists who think nothing of pairing a metallic Rowan Joy dress with a Karen Mabon silk scarf. Taking inspiration from strong female characters in history, mythology and pop culture, his pieces can be confections of romance and whimsy as seen in his beautifully coloured crystal drop earrings, or laced with a trace of malice as seen in his Lucky Bitches ring series. The Glasgow-based designer has created a brand that reflects his own unique vision of what luxury looks like and paired it with innovative techniques for making.

If you want to get hands-on with jewellery design and making, The Vanilla Ink Jewellery School and Carve workshops are great places to begin.