Meet the Maker: Gracie Flo Jewellery
Kate Harvey is the designer and maker behind Gracie Flo Jewellery. She creates jewellery inspired by nature, casting objects in silver (and soon gold) that she finds on walks through the woods, along the river or by the sea. Dragonfly wing necklaces, honeycomb cast in silver and acorn cup earrings are just some of the beautiful pieces you can find in her shop. We talk to Kate to find out more about her handmade jewellery, take a peek behind the scenes and discover why nature plays such an important role in her life and work…
Can you introduce yourself and describe what you do?
I’m Kate Harvey and I’m jewellery designer-maker living in south-west London but originally from Bristol. I make jewellery mainly using the lost wax method, working in silver and soon in gold. I’m also a mum to the original Gracie Flo (my 10-year-old daughter is called Grace Flora), dog owner and therapist.
I started Gracie Flo as an experiment, opened a Folksy shop and added a few simple items. These sold quickly and I soon saw my name on the bestsellers list, which was amazing. It was a light bulb moment!
Can you tell us a bit about your background? When did you start making jewellery and how did Gracie Flo Jewellery start?
I used to make jewellery as a teen – long-beaded necklaces and earrings, mainly. I was a bit of a hippy! As part of an art project at school we had to make ceramic beads and I made leaf-shaped beads that I constructed into a necklace. I remember thinking at this point that I’d love to be a professional jewellery designer, but instead I followed my love for nature and studied zoology at University.
After graduating I worked in offices, a little lost for direction, then I had my daughter and retrained as a counsellor and psychotherapist, which was life changing. I was working as a therapist privately and wanted to balance this work with something creative: an outlet to support me when the work is tough, which it inevitably can be. I wanted to do something just for me and I remembered jewellery making. I started Gracie Flo as an experiment, opened a Folksy shop and added a few simple items. These sold quickly and I soon saw my name on the bestsellers list, which was amazing. It was a light bulb moment!
My jewellery is nature inspired. As our world becomes more urbanised and commercialised it’s easy to lose sight of our natural selves and that we are part of nature too.
How did your style of jewellery develop?
I started out doing simple beading and wire wrapping but as I heard little stories from customers about why they were buying something, I started to want to create something deeper and more unique. The symbolism and unique expression of something of the wearer or receiver of the gift can be profound and often very private (as well as giving pleasure and beauty). So I went to the London Jewellery School to do courses in the lost wax technique and silversmithing to expand my skill set.
It all seems to balance quite well. I like having different aspects to my life – it makes me feel whole.
How do you fit in your jewellery making with being a therapeutic counsellor and a mother?
I see my counselling clients two days a week, and after getting my daughter off to school I’m free for making, designing and photography until she’s home. The holidays can be tricky, so I always take a week off counselling and make to order as and when. If we’re visiting family I’ll close my shop. It all seems to balance quite well. I like having different aspects to my life – it makes me feel whole.
I need to be in nature every day and I love that my pieces encapsulate a piece of nature forever.
Where do you look for inspiration?
My jewellery is nature inspired. I have pieces cast from objects I find on my walks through the woods here, along the river or by the sea. I’m constantly on the look out for beautiful things that catch my eye or ideas I want to replicate in a wax model to be cast. As our world becomes more urbanised and commercialised it’s easy to lose sight of our natural selves and that we are part of nature too. By engaging with and celebrating nature, we can stay connected to it and appreciate its beauty and inherent wisdom. Jewellery has been an important part of humankind forever (the ancient Greeks, Romans and Egyptians were buried with their jewellery), as has identifying with nature as symbolic of something meaningful to us in sometimes universal and sometimes unique, personal ways.
I need to be in nature every day (it’s great having a dog) and I love that my pieces encapsulate a piece of nature forever. Many people buy ‘just because’ but it’s often deeper, and it’s such an honour to make a piece that people wear daily or give to their favourite people. Most people who like my jewellery are nature lovers too.
I use the lost wax method which has been around for thousands of years. So when something catches my eye, I fortify it with wax so it’s thick enough to make a mould from and then the process starts.
How do you start a piece? Can you talk us through your making process?
I use the lost wax method which has been around for thousands of years. A wax piece is encased in (something like) plaster of Paris, heated to melt the wax and molten metal is then poured in the space. So when something catches my eye – a sycamore seed, a leaf, a shell – I fortify it with wax so it’s thick enough to make a mould from and then the process starts. Alternatively I make a wax model, carved from hard wax or moulded from soft wax – like a bird, lily or bell flower – and the mould is made from this, or for a one-off commission it can be cast directly from the wax. I don’t have space for the investment casting equipment, so I take the little object to have the mould and casts made in Hatton Garden and the metal replicas are returned to me for finishing. It’s a little messy, sawing off the sprue (a metal post that is an inevitable as part of the casting process), filing, sanding, soldering on a jump ring so it can hang, polishing (maybe oxidising for a dark finish) and then assembling, packaging and posting.
The photography is another creative process of its own.
I love the way you photograph your jewellery. Do you consider how you will style and photograph a piece when you make it?
I don’t consider it at all, perhaps I should! I’m interested in the piece itself and cross that bridge when I come to it. I try to photograph with similar things – it’s good to show the acorn cap with a real acorn cap, for example – so people can see the origin of the piece. I love photography and put a lot of thought into photos for my Instagram account. The photography is another creative process of its own.
My studio is in my garden. It contains all my equipment and has pictures of botanical and other natural beautiful things all over the walls, some plants and objects that inspire me that I’ve foraged.
Tell us about your studio. Where is it, what does it look like and what’s your favourite thing in it?
My studio is in my garden. It contains all my equipment and has pictures of botanical and other natural beautiful things all over the walls, some plants and objects that inspire me that I’ve foraged. I have a whole lot of apple crates stacked up as storage shelves. I can be pretty messy when I’m making, especially at busy times like in December. My favourite thing in it? Maybe the botanical paintings on the wall – they always catch my eye. I’m starting a botanical illustration course soon, so maybe I’ll add one of my own. I also love my soldering torch. I enjoy watching the fire melt the metal – it makes me feel like a master of the universe, although that’s fleeting! There’s something so basic about watching the solder melt and join the metal that I love – the metal glows bright red.
I love my soldering torch. I enjoy watching the fire melt the metal – it makes me feel like a master of the universe, although that’s fleeting!
Have you ever been stuck in a creative rut? What do you do if that happens?
Oh yes, it’s a difficult place to be and can be an issue when I am responding to a commission as they always takes longer than the pieces I’ve already designed. I usually just let myself go and do something else, as the creativity returns when it’s ready. I don’t think you can push it. Buddhists say: “Don’t push the river.” It will come when it comes. A walk along the river with my dog can also be the answer, plus I have a lot of nature books that I like flicking through. I also ask my following what they would like. I’ve been asked for a feather many times. This is the trickiest because it’s so fine but I’m persevering. If I can cast a dragonfly wing, I can cast a feather!
I’ve been asked for a feather many times. This is the trickiest because it’s so fine but I’m persevering. If I can cast a dragonfly wing, I can cast a feather!
What does craft mean to you?
I’m not sure what I would do if I didn’t do this. I expect I would be very unhappy. Craft is the creation of something from something else, into something useful or beautiful or meaningful. There is something so wonderful about our innate ability to do this. I loved seeing those chimps making tools from sticks to get water from a tree stump. Everyone can craft. I recently attended a brush lettering workshop and now write beautiful(ish) little messages all the time, I’m finding that very therapeutic.
Who are your heroes of craft?
Oh many! I love Deborah Jones Jewellery. She’s a jeweller working in a different way. I love her rustic style, it’s so creative and beautiful. I also love the inspirational quotes embroidery of Pixiecraft handmade. Katie Robbins Ceramics has a gorgeous Instagram account too.
What’s been your proudest achievement so far?
Bringing up a lovely daughter, being a good therapist. Jewellery-wise, being asked to do this :)
To celebrate being our featured maker, Kate is offering 20% off all Gracie Flo Jewellery in her Folksy shop – just use the code ‘inspire’ when you check out. Only valid for a very limited time.
Kate is giving away a necklace on Instagram this week too! Head over to Gracie Flo Jewellery on Instagram @gracieflojewellery for your chance to win!