In the first of our series of ethical journey case studies we speak to Musselburgh based maker, Hannah Louise Lamb. Through this series of posts we aim to highlight that ethical making isn’t an all or nothing approach, more often than not, the process is a journey. We ask makers to share their experience of this journey to ethical making.
Hannah Louise Lamb in her workshop. Image by Ailsa Leonard
Tell us about your work and approach.
I specialise in creating bespoke jewellery pieces that reflect life’s personal stories, cutting intricate depictions of coastlines and landscapes near and far. My designing is intuitive, informed by a continued appreciation for the world around me at home on the coast of East Lothian or from my childhood in Cornwall.
Inspired by the rugged beauty of nature and the idea that jewellery can encapsulate the cherished moments of our lives, my pieces reflect coastlines, skylines and landscapes of special significance to each of us.
A graduate of Glasgow School of Art and The Royal College of Art, I have completed commissions for The Bodleian Library, The Scottish Government and Scottish Opera as well as taking part in international residencies and workshops.
I currently sell my work through galleries and shops across the UK and the USA, designing heirloom-worthy jewellery to be passed on for generations to come.
Coast Rings by Hannah Louise Lamb
When did you start thinking about taking steps to be more ethical in your business, was there a key moment?
I’d been trying to find out ways of making my business more ethical, and started doing research into materials, but found what was available quite restrictive so shelved it for a couple of years, and then when Ian from PMW posted on social media about his event Goldflair, I messaged him for advice on using Fairmined metals, and he was so helpful I decided there and then to try again to source ethical metal. It’s much easier now to source what I need than it was a few years ago. Another big turning point was the 2019 symposium run by the Incorporation of Goldsmiths, Making Impact, where we were asked to make an Ethical Pledge, which was a fantastic ask, and has made me commit to some of the ideas I had been floating!
Image credit: James Robertson
What steps have you taken on your ethical journey?
I’m now a Fairmined Licensee, which means I can use Fairmined silver and gold for my designs, and they get hallmarked with the Fairmined mark at Edinburgh Assay Office. I’m also a registered jeweller under the Goldsmith’s scheme, which means I can buy Fairtrade metal. Where Fairmined or Fairtrade isn’t available, I offer 100% recycled metal as standard and I source my gemstones from ethical companies. I’m also recycling and re-purposing customer’s existing gold and gemstones into new pieces for them, which is a lovely thing to do for sentimental reasons, but also from an ethical perspective.
At my home and workshop I use Ecotricity, so all my business energy use is from green sources. I’ve changed all my packaging to sustainable mulberry leaf paper boxes and FSC certified cardboard jewellery boxes, and now post out orders in fully recyclable cardboard boxes. Every piece is hand made by myself and my assistants here in the UK.
Image credit: James Robertson
Tell me about your experience of making these steps?
Registering as a Fairmined Licensee was an easy process, Fairtrade was trickier but there had been an ongoing problem with their registration which is now fixed.
Why do you think it is important to take these steps, make these changes?
All these changes have increased my business costs, but i think it’s a price worth paying to know that, for example with the Fairmined metal, that miners and communities are being paid and treated fairly, and that with the packaging changes that I’m not adding to plastic waste when I send out an order. My business is paying towards the cost of the switch to Fairmined, but I offer it as an option to buyers, for a small increase in cost, which I cover some of. I like giving my customers the option.
One of Hannah’s Coast Rings back from Hallmarking, with the additional Fairmined mark.
Image Credit: James Robertson
What challenges have you faced in regards to Ethical making and what areas do you think need improved to support your ethical making journey?
It would be great if more metal products were available in ethical materials, such as silver tubing, chain, cufflink fixings, earring backs etc, but I’m hoping in time these will be readily available. Also with pricing, these cost so much more, many times the price for silver, which is hard to factor into my costings when making jewellery from these materials.
What are your ethical making plans for the future?
I would love to reach a point where all my designs can be made in ethical materials, but at the moment it’s just where the right material is available to me. The world is changing and as more of us ask for ethical supplies, the more we can find and use.
Thank you Hannah for sharing your ethical journey with us.
For more information about Hannah Louise Lamb: