Ethical Journey Case Study: Sally Grant

As part of our maker case study series, we speak to Burntisland based maker Sally Grant about her ethical making approach. 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.

Sally Grant in her workshop. Image by James Robertson
Describe your journey of becoming a maker?

My love of design and craftsmanship has informed my work from the very beginning. I studied 3 Dimensional Design at Grays School of Art in Aberdeen. Following graduation I worked in a number of creative environments while establishing my jewellery business. These included marketing and creative direction with a design consultancy, gallery assistant and florist. During this period I undertook a two year apprenticeship with a renowned jeweller and Goldsmith, Tony Thomson in Oxford. It was here I learned the practical skills of making in precious metals, gold, silver and platinum and was properly introduced to the world of gemstones. Tony’s workshop was filled with a lifelong collection of unusual fossils and stones gathered from all over the world. This experience still informs my work today.

A selection of Sally’s tools. Image by James Robertson

 

Tell us about your work and approach.

I create jewellery predominately to commission, incorporating precious metals and gemstones. I have a limited edition and one-off piece collection available for sale through exhibitions and by appointment at my studio. I have exhibited my jewellery in galleries and exhibitions in the UK, Europe and America.

Exploring and re-interpreting the imagery and patterns found in natural landscapes using photography, hand carving and texturing techniques are central to my jewellery collections. The technique of photo-etching allows me to translate images into textural designs on precious metals.

I am also drawn to gemstones with unusual inclusions and formations that resonate with the images I collect. These stones are natural and unique and when combined with an etched pattern or a simple setting, they compliment each other.

My creative process is inherently linked to the skills and craft of making each piece and my commitment to honest, clear design principles and craftsmanship informs every piece that I make.

Making a hand carved wax gemstone setting. Image by James Robertson
Etching process. Image by James Robertson
Etching detail. Image by James Robertson
Photoetching can create intricate and detailed patterns. Image by James Robertson
Photoetching can create intricate and detailed patterns. Image by James Robertson
When did you start thinking about taking steps to be more ethical in your business, was there a key moment?

Research early in my career informed me of the challenges faced by both the gemstone trade and gold mining. I have been following the pioneering work of Bario Neal Jewellery, industry leader in ethical sourcing in the USA since their launch in 2008.  I began to question my work practice and I realised that we have a responsibility to know where the materials we use are from. That evidence seemed lacking in my early career. My work is about truth to materials and nature and I’ve made a point of tracking down materials that have the same truth and provenance, materials that are reflective of the values I apply to my designs.  Sourcing ethical precious metals and gemstones is hugely important to me as it is the only way to guarantee the products that I am buying have come from a fully traceable and sustainable supply chain.

A selection of jewellery on permanent display in Sally’s workshop. Image by James Robertson

 

What steps have you taken on your ethical journey?

I am a member of the Fair-trade Goldsmiths scheme and I am committed to buying Fair-trade golds. The overall objective of the Fair-trade standard for gold is to create opportunities for artisanal and small-scale miners and their communities, empowering them to bring about change through trade, and delivering economic, social and environmental transformation and restoration. I am keen to buy gemstones which have been sourced with the same approach.

Tell us about your experience of making these steps.

As a small business, offering Fair-trade precious metals to my customers when it first became available was expensive as choices were limited and suppliers offered the metals with minimum order conditions. Today, Fair-trade golds are much more readily available. I have refined my work practice to utilise the materials available. In recent years, Fair-trade and ethically sourced diamonds and gemstones have become more accessible to jewellers in the UK and I now regularly use them in my work.

Rock texture detail for a hand carved textural ring design. Image by James Robertson

 

Why do you think it is important to take these steps, make these changes?

It is absolutely necessary for all makers to understand the importance of ethics and sustainability in their work. I would encourage all makers to follow the UN Sustainable Development Goals to understand the need for change and to learn of ways that they can apply changes to their practice. It is important to remember that small changes can make a huge impact.

What challenges have you faced in regards to ethical making and what areas do you think need improved to support your ethical making journey?

The diamond and gemstone industry requires significant improvement and more transparency in the supply chain.

What are your ethical making plans for the future?

I will continue to offer Fair-trade golds to my customers.

I recently made a ring for Elements Festival incorporating a MOYO gemstone.  The stone was sourced via a pilot scheme introduced in Tanzania to empower women miners to work safely, mine better, improve financial security and create stable, equitable markets for trade.  An an estimated 30% of artisanal and small-scale miners are women. Tanzania, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Ethiopia, Malawi, Madagascar, and Ghana have particularly high numbers of women miners.  At the heart of the pilot project are the Tanzania Women Miners Association (TAWOMA) supported by the Gemological Institute of America (GIA), the international development agency PACT alongside Anza Gems and Nineteen48 Gemstones. I think it’s very important that these women are supported and they are given a voice and an equal platform from which to work and trade. The organisation also helps with education and this is also a key factor in providing equality for them.

Sally Grant 18ct Fairtrade Gold ring featuring a MOYO garnet. Image by James Robertson

The MOYO gemstones have only recently become available to purchase, the gemstone I have bought is from this first collection. I know that the pilot has been a huge success – the future of the programme relies on this continued support.  I plan to create a collection of pieces inspired by the miners story to give my customers the opportunity to have a deeper connection with the places and the people living and working where the jewellery supply chains begin.

Thank you Sally for sharing your ethical journey with us.

For more information about Sally Grant:

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Ethical Journey Case Study: Hannah Louise Lamb

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:

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