I came across Kate Smith’s beautiful designs on a visit to her studio during Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter Open Studios two years ago.
She was so enthusiastic, warm and welcoming and was clearly passionate about designing and creating jewellery for her lucky customers. I’m delighted that she’s the first designer to be featured on The Jewellery Spot and I hope you enjoy her story.
How would you describe your jewellery?
Precious, organic and nature inspired.
What materials do you use?
Gold, silver, diamonds and various gemstones.
Where do you create your jewellery?
I’ve been based in Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter since 2001 and have a lovely workshop that is tucked away on the main street.
What’s the favourite piece in your jewellery collection?
I really love the combination of the rose gold sitting alongside the spotty, oxidised patterning of the silver ring – I think it’s just a lovely combination of colour and pattern!
What’s your design process?
By spotting tiny details in nature and using them as a starting point for a design, I like to abstract these details to feature in a piece of jewellery. I usually draw ideas out on paper but quickly go into making samples in metal to test out these ideas. I very rarely think, “I want to make a necklace and matching earrings, what design can I come up with?” It’s always the motifs/shapes/patterns that come first then I will think, “Oh, that could be used in a necklace!”
How important is jewellery design to you?
Well, I couldn’t imagine not doing it…so that probably answers that question! If I wasn’t a jeweller, then floristry has always attracted me, but I still don’t think I would be fully satisfied because I hadn’t personally created the finished piece!
What do you love about jewellery?
I guess the endless possibilities that are there! And the fact you can combine different precious gemstones with various metals and get to indulge your inner magpie.
What’s the piece you’re most proud of creating?
An 18ct gold and diamond neck piece that was commissioned by the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths to be held in the Contemporary Jewellery Collection. It looks quite a simple piece upon first glance, but technically it was a real challenge, as there’s a discreet hinge and catch on the underside that opens up half of the necklace so the wearer can get it on and off.
How did you start creating jewellery?
Well, my first foray with jewellery was making brooches out of Fimo aged 12 at school and selling them to my friends! Fast forward five years, I was studying 3-D design at college and was introduced to contemporary jewellery on a trip to the School of Jewellery in Birmingham and just thought, “I need to be doing that!”
Why did you fall in love with jewellery design?
I think the visual variations of finishes, textures and colours of metals is fascinating to me. I guess the results are quite immediate too, in comparison with pottery or glass work for example, and you can see the finished result fairly quickly.
What are your aspirations for your business?
To keep creating work that’s both unique and wearable.
Where do you feel most inspired?
When I’m outdoors, in nature… it’s where I feel at my calmest too
Who else inspires you?
Other female entrepreneurs such as Amy Porterfield and Jenna Kutcher – they have nothing to do with the world of jewellery, but I love their positivity and general attitude toward connecting with others, as well as running successful businesses.
What inspires you?
Anything I see that I think, “Oh, that’s different!” It makes me strive to be unique as well.
How do you juggle all the different aspects of the job?
I’m still working that one out, even after 19 years! But I have two assistants that work with me and it’s all about delegation. There’ll always be areas only I can be in charge of and there never seems to be enough time, especially with a young family too. However, I enjoy the different aspects of running a business and the autonomy it gives you.
What advice would you give to people looking to buy jewellery from independent makers, but who don’t know where to look or how to go about it?
Steer clear of the high street and hit Pinterest! Most independent designers will have a website that should give you a good feel for their work. You will most often be able to buy online. I found that a very strange concept years ago, but a good website should give you confidence to buy in this way, and actually a high percentage of what we sell to clients are purchased through our website now.
Many jewellers will offer you the opportunity to visit their workshop to see and feel the pieces up close too before buying (which we do, by appointment.) Also, keep an eye out for independent shops and galleries that showcase work by independent makers that you just won’t find on the high street.
As makers, I know we aren’t exactly saving lives, but there is a really important place in life for experiences and things can simply make a person feel good, and that’s something that should never be underestimated!