DCA Shop Designer Q&A: Natla Jewellery Studio


27 May 2022

We're excited to introduce you to a new Dundee Made jewellery designer now stocked in our shop. Natla Jewellery Studio was started by Stephanie Graham with the aim of using craft to help with emotional healing by providing free jewellery workshops to those on low-income suffering from substance misuse or poor mental health. To help fund this aim, she designed and handcrafted a collection of silver jewelley. We caught up with Stephanie to find out more about the big ideas behind Natla...

Hi Stephanie. It's a pleasure to be stocking Natla jewellery in DCA Shop. Tell us about yourself and how you got into jewellery.
Hello! I originally did textiles at Dundee and Angus College at NQ and HND level, but I found I didn’t enjoy working on a big scale so my tutor suggested I apply to do jewellery at higher education level and I trusted her judgement. I was going to apply to do Fine Art but I ended up doing Jewellery and Metal Design at Duncan of Jordanstone.

Natla Jewellery Studio was founded in 2021 as a response to mental health and substance misuse issues you saw in the city. Where did the idea come from and how did you go about getting started?
I did a Design for Healthcare module during my Masters in Product Design and I started researching and developing the concept of socially-prescribed craft. During this module, I sort of just mashed everything I knew together. I knew the therapeutic benefits of crafting, I knew the kind of service I was trying to deliver, and I knew there was a need for the service I was trying to deliver based on my own lived experience.

"...I knew there was a need for the service I was trying to deliver based on my own lived experience."

The inspiration came from my own struggles with my mental health and my issues with drugs and alcohol – I battled both while I was at university and I knew I got through the other side because I had access to the university’s jewellery workshop. The rest was just problem solving - I just needed to work out how to recreate the university’s workshop out in the community and make it accessible. I did The Circle Academy and learned about a more-than-profit business model and different legal structures for businesses. I made a leaflet promoting what I wanted to do and trying to communicate my vision, then I just started emailing and spreading the leaflet everywhere I went. I’ve had amazing support from so many people and different organisations. I started in Lochee, then St Mary’s, then Whitfield, then at Just Bee Productions. I started as a sole trader under my brand and I’ve recently registered my community interest company for the work I’m doing in the community.

Natla uses crafting as a form of emotional healing. What are the benefits of crafting?
Craft as a therapeutic approach to improving over all mental well-being isn’t an entirely new concept in itself, it’s a well-researched area in the craft and design community but in my own experience, I’d say crafting is an escape and an alternative state of consciousness. It’s uses a different area of your mind. It teaches you focus; it teaches you to be persistent and it teaches you to discipline your mind and concentrate. You have to be fully engrossed in what you’re making to make a good job. It teaches you resilience because of how long it takes to learn and perfect a skill. Above all, to me craft is healing because of the way you can track your progress.

"...I’d say crafting is an escape and an alternative state of consciousness."

Your first collection is called 'From Brussels with Love'. What was the inspiration behind this?
I was at an international school called the British School of Brussels before I came to Dundee aged 9. I’m hoping that one day, Natla will reach galleries in Belgium because that’s my home, and I want to go back. Even if I go back as jewellery.

You also offer jewellery making classes from your mobile studio. How can people get involved with these and what will they learn?
Just now I have a few venues in Dundee that I work with and I usually post on my social media when I’ll be running classes (so follow me on Instagram and Facebook!). I offer a make your own Talisman course and I’ll be announcing times, dates and locations really soon. Most recently I ran my course out of Re-Boutique on Castle Street. In this course, people learn saw piercing, soldering, enamelling and polishing.

What are your plans for the future?
Just now I’m working on branding for my community interest company. The business model I have is scalable and unfortunately, it is needed in more locations than what I’m currently in. I’m expanding my Dundee collection and I hope other cities see what I can do for them too (Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen galleries and shops, email me!). I have a pop-up exhibition at the V&A Dundee on the 18th and 19th of June, showcasing all of the community jewellery and I’ll be running free workshops which you can book on V&A Dundee website. I’m going to visit Belgium. I’ll go back to university one day and do my PhD. I’m going to be happy.

Thanks Stephanie! You can find the 'From Brussels with Love' collection in store at DCA Shop now. Each purchase of these pieces helps to support the wider work of Natla Jewellery Studio. 

Photos by Lydia Smith

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