Emma Thomson, 39, has always been a creative person. She was born in Orkney and grew up there while developing her passion for jewellery. Emma tells Natasha Mckim about starting her new business, Hestia Jewellery, while living in Orkney with her husband Robbie
Where does the name Hestia come from?
Our home is named Hestakelday, an old Orkney name for Horse Spring, as horses were originally kept on the land as far back as the 18th century.
I came across Hestia, the goddess of hearth and family life, and instantly felt this was the right name for us. Hestia Jewellery was born and in the near future we will be introducing Hestia Design, which will incorporate Robbie’s interior products, furniture and lighting designs which adopt similar re-purposed materials.
How long have you been making jewellery for?
At school I enrolled yearly in the silverwork evening class, then I went on to study 3D design at Gray’s School of Art in Aberdeen. I started designing for Aurora Orkney Jewellery in 1997 while at college and continue to do this.
After graduating I worked for the Ringmaker in Edinburgh, providing bespoke design consultations for clients. The experience I had gained was invaluable. I really enjoyed the intimacy of designing one to one with clients, creating unique and personal designs that were then made into something precious to them.
Why did you move back to Orkney?
In 2003 I moved back to Orkney to marry my best pal and fellow Orcadian art graduate Robbie, allowing him to take over his family building business.
We spent the following years renovating a B-listed ruined property, turning it into our home and workspace. It’s been an adventure, including two years in a caravan during long dark Orkney winters, but the journey has been hugely rewarding and the building has now become part of our story. We have brought life back into its walls, had two children along the way, and are now beginning to focus on our own ideas as designer-makers.
Our next plan is to renovate a nearby old kiln building to become a gallery space to showcase new works and where we can welcome visitors and clients and become part of the Orkney Craft Trail.
What materials do you use for creating jewellery?
I currently work with a combination of wood off-cuts, beach stones, industrial hardware and polymer clay. With each material, I have experimented with the finish and carefully thought of ways to manipulate and construct new forms. I revel in the freedom of the process and like that every piece will be slightly different and quirky, which keeps me inspired.
I enjoy using colour by applying patterns to wood and enamel on metal hardware and I drill and polish stones that the kids help me collect from a favourite beach of ours. My favourite designs so far are my link bracelets with their combination of links, textures and colours.
How did you first think of using such day-to-day materials?
As soon as both my children were attending school I found myself back at my workbench playing around with ideas using materials accessible to me. This included all manner of wood off-cuts and hardware from Robbie’s workshop.
I enjoyed the freedom of this and became inspired by sourcing items suitable for developing into wearable jewellery. I loved the idea of transforming offbeat materials into more precious objects of value.
Was it difficult to start up your own business?
Orkney has proved to be a great support in helping me start up by myself. Through our local Business Gateway workshops at the start of the year I secured a start-up grant which enabled me to purchase all the necessary tools I required, pliers, peen hammers, saws, sander, drills and a polisher. This allowed me to finally launch my business.
Does the landscape where you live help to inspire you?
Living in a place like Orkney, it’s hard not to be inspired by your surroundings. I was conscious of the well established jewellery companies and designer-makers already in Orkney and was keen to find my own niche and identity. I wanted to create a unique business personal to me.
Spending years renovating our home ourselves, we’ve become very aware of the importance of re-purposing materials, and the waste that can be saved by carefully considering the design. Many elements of our home have been created from off-cuts or otherwise unwanted materials and I wanted to incorporate this concept into my jewellery.
A good friend once told me “you’re only ever as good as your last idea”. This always stuck with me and I aim to embrace the challenge of continually striving to discover my next successful design and look forward to growing my new peedie business.