A chat with Harriet Kelsall03 Dec 2017
1. What is the most meaningful piece of jewellery you own / have made / commissioned and why?
I can’t really choose one as there have been so very many. With Harriet Kelsall Bespoke Jewellery, everything we do is full of meaning. For us it’s never just about the jewellery; the story and inspirations behind a bespoke design are just as important. We love getting to know our customers, hearing their stories and using elements of their narrative to make jewellery that they will love for the rest of their lives.
Perhaps the hardest commission we have ever worked on was for a father who had been involved in a car accident in which both of his children died. Devastatingly the accident was his fault. He and his wife split up soon after and he wanted to make them both a piece of jewellery as a friendship symbol. It was such a desperately horrible situation. He was in a place where everything seemed so black and I had to try to convert him from this darkness towards making something positive to remember their beautiful children by. It was so hard but we managed to celebrate many positive memories with the jewellery.
The most meaningful piece I own is my wedding ring because my dad was involved in making it. He taught me to make jewellery and I made my first ring with him when I was four years old. When I got married I drew some wire to the right cross section and asked him to join up and make the band for us which he did, even though he was struggling to work so much with his hands. It is wonderful and this felt like his blessing. Sadly he died at Christmas so it is even more meaningful to carry this with me.
2. How are you inspired?
I am inspired by the individual stories that we celebrate with bespoke jewellery. I don’t have just one stream of inspiration but rather I tap into what makes people ‘tick’ and then gain a sense of how to express their style. I just love it and it never gets boring!
3. What has been the defining moment of your career?
In some ways it was taking the plunge and starting a business. Even though there was no such thing as proper bespoke design on the high street I felt clear that this could and should happen and happily I was right. But since then, perhaps helping to launch Fairtrade gold in 2011 was also a defining moment. We put so much work into it (we along with a very small handful of other jewellers) and it was so wonderful! Last year we also had the pleasure of welcoming a Peruvian gold miner to our studio who mines the Fairtrade gold that we use. Roger Arcos Ponte, from Macdesa mine, told us about the difference Fairtrade production standards have delivered for his fellow miners and their families. In turn we got to show him how we tell his story and how we’re supporting Fairtrade. It was very emotional!
I was also very proud to be made a Freeman of the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths and to be asked to become the Chairman of the National Association of Jewellers.
4. What has influenced you the most?
- My dad in terms of making and designing jewellery.
- My team in terms of keeping things as good and inspiring as they can be.
- The thought of people at the bottom of the supply and how what we all do at the consumer end has such an impact on their lives.
- The drive to try to make things in our industry better and better.
- The motivation to improve the ethics and responsibility in our industry.
5. What is your creative process?
Too long to write here! I have ideas all of the time and inspiration is everywhere. When I finally get pen to paper, I fill up pages very fast with hand drawn sketches and gradually work these into concepts and then develop these concepts into designs.There is more to it but that is the first part of the creative process.
6. What is the most enjoyable part of your work?
Helping to unlock the potential in my team members and helping them to be the best they can be.Sharing the same values with the whole team is really exciting and means that we all move forward together and it isn’t just me who drives this but the whole team.
I also never tire of delivering finished jewellery to the customers who are so very happy and often teary (in a good way) when they collect their pieces – this is just wonderful.It is a privilege to be chosen to be the jewellery designer and to be a part of somebody’s life for ever.
7. Where do your magical moments come from?
All sorts of things.Speaking to inspiring customers and unlocking ideas and inspirations together.Chatting with my team about designs and coming up with great ideas collaboratively.Seeing our wonderful craftspeople making the most stunning jewellery.Getting lost in beautiful gemstones ( it is hard not to over-buy!), helping my team (in whatever role) being the best they can be and watching and helping them grow.
8. What excites you most about the future of the industry?
Millennials are really interested in providence and authenticity, be they customers or future jewellers.They believe that they can make a difference to the world and this is very exciting.Gone are the days of old fashioned jewellers saying they can’t be bothered about ethics – the future is responsible.