Edinburgh is a cultural blend of old meets new; from ancient festivals to next-generation student parties, from the shadows of volcanoes rise new and exciting urban eateries, bars shops and hotspots. The stoic skyline of the Royal Mile oversees a city that is ever-evolving; each generation making its mark, adding their own stamp on the city they love.
As Edinburgh continues to develop, so too do the establishments that originate here. The juxtaposition of architecture at the University of Edinburgh’s Bristo Square combines the majestic McEwan Hall with a beautifully-modern accessible student hub, designed to fit the surrounding architecture but helping to provide a practical solution for the 21st century. The imperial landmark of the National Bank of Scotland has been given a new lease of life by the opening of The Edinburgh Grand, a magnificent hub of apartments, bars and acclaimed restaurant. The design incorporates an intricate nod to past eras; from the Lady Libertine speakeasy to the carefully restored original features within the Lateral City apartments.
This common theme of old meets new is not limited to architecture, however. Hamilton & Inches first opened its doors on Princes Street on the 28th May 1866 and since then, has placed strict importance on not only the education of our next generation but a reliance on their input, style and creativity to influence designs and craftsmanship.
Our craft team comprises a wonderful blend of twenty to sixty-somethings; all learning from each other and integrating seamlessly.
One of our youngest members of the team, our trainee silversmith Ruth Page, joined the Hamilton & Inches team in 2019 following a 3-month placement as part of her BA (Hons) Degree in Jewellery and Silversmithing at the Edinburgh College of Art. At 22 years old, Ruth is not your typical silversmith (if there is such a thing). A force of positive energy, she brings not only passion and talent to the team but also her own unique design inspirations.
Whilst some of the team are inspired by nature or techniques of old, Ruth cites the urban landscape as her main design influence; from the rail tracks to concrete blocks to graffiti – her unique perspective of the city produces spectacular creations. Her exceptional skill set brings a welcome modern perception to a timeless craft and adds a beautiful layer of knowledge and inspiration to the team.
Ruth shares her H&I story with us.
I have always been a creative person and was encouraged, from a young age, to explore my talent. That encouragement gave me a head start and throughout high school. I honed my passion for graphic and product design, with a focus on jewellery. I have never been in any doubt that a creative career was for me, but when I joined the Edinburgh College of Art, I still didn’t know what kind of workplace would need my skillset. Luckily, ECA students are offered placements within the workshops at Hamilton & Inches and as soon as I set foot in the George Street workshops, I knew it was the perfect place for me. Following my initial placement, I was offered the opportunity to join the team as a trainee silversmith and jumped at the chance.
Since joining the silversmith team, my skills and creativity have grown tremendously. Not only have I learned so much, but the whole team take an active interest in my opinions and design creations. So much so, I was commissioned internally to design and produce an intricate installation for an exciting future project.
In addition, I have loved contributing towards three of our new jewellery collections: The Luna Collection and the Ginkgo Collection which will be launching later this year. I have been involved at each stage, from design through to creation, allowing me to carry on developing my skill set.
As a designer-maker, you can be asked to create all sorts of wild and wonderful ideas which is great. Special commissions and one-off pieces allow us to challenge and excel in certain aspects of our craft, bringing the customers’ design to life. In most cases, you must create the perfect synergy between the customer’s design ideas but also fulfil their needs so the piece is practical and functional too. It is an intricate balance, but I thoroughly enjoy the whole process.
To excel in this type of role, you should naturally have a keen attitude towards learning and an urge to better yourself, especially in a practical craft. Even our master craftspeople including David, Chay, Panos and Ruaridh – remind us that they never stop learning every day. Everything we do requires a lot of attention, training, repetition and practice to perfect our skills, but the rewards are worth it. What you put into your craft you definitely get back out.
There are challenges, of course. I am keen that not only my body of work be something I am proud of but is unique. My interpretation of the world and the elements I am drawn to are not typical design inspirations… the team at Hamilton & Inches allow me to develop technically and that helps my creative brain to evolve.
I realise how fortunate I am to work at Hamilton & Inches. Not many establishments nowadays have a fully functioning workshop on their premises, particularly one with such a rich history attached to it. I am part of that history now, learning from our master craftspeople; doing my bit to pass on the ancient skills of jewellery making and silversmithing is such an honour. Of course, being a Royal Warrant Holder makes us pretty unique too – I think that is something particularly special to shout about.
My aim is to not only create collections of jewellery that I am proud of but, in the future, pass on my knowledge and educate the next generation. Although I am at the beginning of my career, I am inspired daily by my current teachers – David, Panos, Chay and Ruaridh. Their passion, dedication and talent are exceptional. I hope one day I can play my part in furthering the future of craft in Scotland.