Becoming a design assistant here at Harriet Kelsall has been an exciting new challenge in lots of ways. Having a degree in Furniture design and craftsmanship meant that I had strong three dimensional visualisation skills and a good knowledge of wood and chisels, precious metals and gemstones are a completely different ballgame! I had absolutely no idea of how vast these subjects were and once you begin to understand how and where these things are formed and mined you then have to be ever aware of the properties, uses and restrictions in making fine jewellery with these materials. The learning will never end but the training we have received so far is a really good base and my confidence is certainly building.
After working hard and learning constantly, one of the best rewards was to see my name in the cabinets alongside the more experienced designers here in the Cambridge studio, I suddenly feel very proud! In order to build up the jewellery collection displayed next to my new name badge, all of the designers (and they do include design assistants in this) have been asked to design and create two suites of dress jewellery and three engagement style rings. The idea behind this project is to nurture and encourage our design talent and showcase the individual styles of the twelve designers and assistants in the company.
OK, so I have just got to grips with the basics, I can read a hallmark and spot a good diamond from a less good diamond but this is a massive project to me! In order to make this work and see my designs come to life I have to consider budget (if only diamonds grew on trees!), target markets (who is this for?), trends and how this will actually be made, (pretty pictures do not, a solid ring make!) all at the same time as showing off my style and inspirations. Once I actually get started and (and get over the fear), I love it. I start with going through the wonderful selection of gemstones that have been sourced from all over the world, it’s a tough job but someone’s got to do it. I want to base my ideas around bright, randomly mixed colours and shapes. There is a fine line between creating a stunning melee of stones and discovering you have made a complete mess! I also have to remember that people need to want to wear these designs so although I want to combine different colours, the owner will still need to be able to wear this piece every day for a very long time. After a week of working through the thousands of options, coming up with designs that I hate and designs that I love, we present our ideas to Harriet and our Head of Design. These are two people that know jewellery, gemstones and what our customers love and can spot a winning design miles off!
I am really pleased to be doing this project, there are, obviously, some tweaks to be made to some parts of my designs but that only helps me to learn how everything works and gives me a good chance to re-think some parts of the jewellery suites that I had not completely convinced myself about!
The culmination of all of this work will be making its way through our workshop. Once I have completely finalised my designs, I will be hand drawing the instructions to send to our goldsmiths. I will then follow these rings through every stage that they go through, checking and re-checking everything. This ensures that we all understand exactly how our pieces are made and that we can all ask each other any questions at any stage of the making process. The final prize will be to see my collection of pieces showcased in our display cabinets throughout the autumn. Each of us will have our own display, allowing us to show who we are and the inspirations behind our designs. So keep an eye out across both of our studios for the new and exciting designers showcase that will unfold with new pieces throughout the next 6 months, I can’t wait!