Meet Natalia McIntosh – jewellery designer and silversmith
Natalia McIntosh is a silversmith and contemporary jeweller based in Hertfordshire who creates one-of-a-kind jewellery, made to last a lifetime. Her pieces are handmade from recycled sterling silver and gold, using traditional methods. Natalia graduated from Central St Martins before training in Hatton Garden, London’s famous jewellery quarter, and her first collection was purchased by Selfridges fashion department and sold across their UK stores. With that early success under her belt, Natalia took a break from jewellery making to raise her family, but she is now back with her own eponymous range of statement jewellery.
Here she talks to fellow Folksy maker Polly Benson from This Thing Is String about her perfectionism, juggling a career and family, and the joy of artistic freedom…
Enjoy 15% OFF with code FOLKSYMAKER15 until Sun 25th September 2022
I go where my artistic spirit takes me.Natalia McIntosh
Hey Natalia! Can you introduce yourself and tell us what you do?
Hi Polly, nice to meet you and can I just say I love your string creations. My name is Natalia McIntosh and I am a designer silversmith and contemporary jeweller.
My style is influenced by contemporary fashion with strong graphic as well as organic elements – I enjoy making pieces that are individual in their design and make a statement.
I strongly believe in respecting people and the planet. It’s therefore very important to me that my business is both environmentally and socially conscious. All my jewellery is designed and made to last a lifetime; there is no wastage, harmful processes are eliminated, and the materials used are responsibly sourced and environmentally friendly.
You originally studied graphic design at Central Saint Martins in London. How did the leap from being a St Martins graduate to a Hatton Garden jewellery disciple come about?
While working on one of my graphic design projects at St Martin’s I visited the jewellery department there and absolutely loved it. The silversmithing was all physical, using wonderful tools and machinery and working with metal… radically different from graphic design, which most of the time involved sitting in front of a computer screen.
This is where it all started. I caught the bug and, when a jeweller friend of mine was setting up her workshop in Hatton Garden, I became one of her pupils.
You quite clearly have many different silversmithing techniques under your belt, some of which seem quite unique to your practice. Which is currently your favourite and how did you learn your skills?
There’s no end to all the silversmithing techniques out there and the special tools required for each one of them. This is why many jewellers specialise in just one or two things they do. It takes time to master something completely and ‘practice makes perfect’ definitely applies here. I’m a perfectionist, which is why I really never feel I fully master anything, but looking back at what I used to do and what I’m doing now I must have mastered something!
One of my favourite new techniques right now is vitreous enamelling. This is the traditional enamelling technique that has been used by jewellers for hundreds of years, where fine powdered glass is fused to metal by firing at high temperature. It’s applied in several layers, each layer fired separately. The beauty of all the individually enamelled pieces is that each comes out different.
Is there such a thing as a typical day in the life of Natalia McIntosh? If so, what does it look like? And if not, what would you want it to look like?
I love this question, because my days require juggling family and career and my career has never been straightforward. The first time around, I had to give up jewellery making at the exact time when my brand was becoming successful. As a self-employed person there was no way I could be a mum and run a rapidly growing one-person business on my own, so I had to make a choice.
The first time around, I had to give up jewellery making at the exact time when my brand was becoming successful. There was no way I could be a mum and run a rapidly growing one-person business on my ownNatalia McIntosh
When I got back to it a few years later my days didn’t look the same as before! It’s much more chaotic now. Ideally, I would love to be able to devote luxuriously long hours to tinkering with jewels without being interrupted… I am hopeful it will happen!
Your Folksy shop shows real diversity of style in your pieces. What would you say unites them?
That’s a very good question. In the past my job was to design entire collections, each with its own look. These days I create bespoke pieces over which I have total autonomy and artistic freedom. Unless I’m restricted by the requirements of a particular commission, I will go where my artistic spirit takes me.
I’m naturally drawn to variety and experimentation and I’m easily bored. I also don’t believe in having to stick to a particular look or style in everything I do. Hence, I will often create a piece that doesn’t look like anything else I’ve ever produced before. That’s me all over. But there must be something of ‘me’ in every piece I make, so perhaps ‘me’ is what unites it all.
Which do you prefer: bringing a design to life or perfecting a technique?
Perfecting a technique can be quite relaxing, while bringing a design to life is very exciting. A combination of the two is what makes a perfect day for me.
It was incredible for my brand to be stocked by such a famous department store as Selfridges. I worked extremely hard to get to that point, so when it finally happened I really couldn’t believe it.Natalia McIntosh
In your bio you mention that Selfridges have stocked your work in the past. That must have been incredibly validating.
Yes, it was incredible for my brand to be stocked by such a famous department store. I worked extremely hard to get to that point, knocked on many doors, so when it finally happened I really couldn’t believe it. Working for them was fantastic: extremely exciting and a steep learning curve.
I worked flat out for a couple of years until I decided to start a family. I realised then I would have to work differently in the future if I wanted to keep the right balance between career and family life, as there isn’t much support out there for independent self-employed designers.
Finally, if you were to be gifted a piece of jewellery, what would be the three most important features of it be?
Designed and handmade just for me.
15% off Natalia McIntosh with code FOLKSYMAKER15 – valid until Sunday 25 September 2022
The maker asking the questions this week is Polly Benson from This Thing Is String, who makes homeware, décor and oddities from humble household string.