I’m Kate, the creative behind Kate Conaghan Design. I make unique jewellery and design pieces that are inspired by the natural world and vintage treasures.
I have been creative and crafty my whole life, and have been making things for as long as I can remember. I started out making jewellery and accessories as a child, and carried on – I couldn’t ever find jewellery how I dreamed I wanted it, so I made it. It started out just for me, or for gifts, or requests for friends, and it grew from there. My business was born in Manchester last year, after a chance meeting with an incredible artist who informed me that I really, really, should be selling my necklaces.
I mainly work with laser cut wood, along with porcelain pieces, vintage charms and metal work, gemstones, glass beads, salvaged vintage items, and other quirky components. I also make illustrations and drawings, and salvage vintage illustrations and prints.
I get quite excited about beautiful things, and I love the feeling of seeing a new piece and thinking ‘yay!’. This, more than anything, is what I would like to invoke with my work.
Alongside quality, I also consider the environment to be incredibly important. All of my wood is ethically and sustainably sourced, the bulk of my laser cutting is done with renewable energy, and almost all of my packaging is made from recycled materials. I strive to be ethical in all that I do, from shopping small and fair, to treating people well.
We are currently relocating part of our lives back to beautiful Suffolk, where I am originally from, so natural inspiration is in plentiful supply. I have written a bit more about my inspirations below.
It’s lovely hear from people, so feel free to drop me a line.
Inspirations behind my work
I have two big inspirations for my work – ‘nature’ and ‘vintage’.
I grew up in the wilds of Suffolk, with nature on the doorstep, so it’s no surprise it’s a regular feature in my pieces. I think the natural world is exciting and beautiful, birds, animals, insects, plants and flowers… all of it. Many of my pieces centre around a bird or a beastie, and I love to give them stories. I had more animal friends than human friends as a child, and I guess this has found it’s way into my work. I walk the dogs in the countryside every day, and I am forever coming home with feathers, colourful leaves, photos of animal footprints or hideyholes…
As for vintage, well, when I was growing up whenever we popped into town, my mum would always take me for a look round the charity shops, or antique shops (she watched a Lot of Lovejoy). To this day I find it hard to walk past a charity or second hand shop without popping in. I love the items I find because they have stories, maybe reminiscent of the old books I grew up reading, or the mystery and sonder of people I haven’t known. I like to collect ‘treasure’ pieces from vintage jewellery, whether it’s vintage glass beads or charms, or intricate metalwork pieces, and I like to incorporate them into pieces where I can. I also like that things are getting a second life.
As well as a treasure hunter, Mum was a librarian and artist, so we always had tonnes of vintage books, William Morris prints and the like, and art catalogues hanging around. That’s all seeped in as inspiration!
I don’t have a set process with my work, it depends on what I find. It’s quite an organic process – I tend to just pick up pieces and they feel ‘right’ together. Most of my pieces are one of a kind – partly because I like to create unique jewellery and stories, but also because I may only have one of the piece! The animal characters may reappear, as they are sourced from vintage illustrations and reproduced, but the setting and components are hardly ever the same. (I love to work with people to make custom pieces too).
I will be sharing more about my everyday work and insiparion in my blog section.