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21 Jun 2024

Meet the Makers: Jenni from Jenni Douglas Designs

A woman with black hair and a black top stands in a glasshouse
Jenni from Jenni Douglas Designs
The Trust has teamed up with five talented local makers to produce the Pink Castle collection of products in celebration of the re-opening of Craigievar Castle

Please introduce yourself and your business:

My name is Jenni, and I am an artist and designer.

Where are you based?

I work from a studio on the outskirts of Musselburgh, and I recently moved to rural East Lothian, near Haddington. I’m originally from Edinburgh’s Old Town.

When and how did your business start?

I started my business back in 2011 while I was having a health-related break from my previous job as a Data Analyst. I had become unwell due to stress, and I signed up for a local printmaking class once a week as part of my recovery plans. I immediately fell in love with the process of creating linocuts and screen prints, and it became something I spent a lot of time practicing and learning about. It encouraged me to visit exhibitions and markets, meet other artists and start to develop my own style.

I created hand-printed linocut greeting cards from home, which I sold online through a website I built and at local markets.

As things got busier and I grew in confidence, I started to develop ideas for new products and gradually learned about all the aspects of running and growing a business.

I now supply my wide range of home and gift products to independent shops and galleries around the world and have had the pleasure of working on some amazing commission projects like this one for the Trust. I also teach printmaking workshops across Scotland, emphasising confidence-building and working with complete beginners, like I was.

What products do you make/design/create?

The range of gifts I design and make in my workshop includes greeting cards, art prints and canvases, original paintings, printed textiles including tea towels and scarves, mugs, coasters, table mats and hand-printed jewellery. My style is inspired by the shapes, colours and textures of Midcentury Modern design, blended with my love of storytelling and everyday surroundings, whether that’s in nature or in the city.

What makes your business unique?

One aspect of my business that stands out is that I’ve always been the pair of eyes and hands responsible for my products' entire design and manufacturing process. I have also chosen to make smaller batches of products in a wide range of designs directly from my workshop rather than outsourcing and mass-producing. Growing my business this way has taken time, but keeping hands-on has allowed me to make sure important things like colour consistency and product quality are always taken care of.

Hands holding a sketch book with colourful threads on the left hand page and coloured splodges on the right.
Choosing colours for the Pink Castle jewellery range

Development of the Pink Castle range

How did you approach the design of the collection?

The designs came about after I looked through images of the new tartan, specifically a photo I’d been sent of some fibres, which had been colour matched to the paint colour of the castle exterior.

I thought it would be interesting to focus on the idea of individual threads being woven together, like the building blocks of the cloth, rather than directly referencing the finished tartan design. I chose the six main colours from the tartan and started drawing lines to represent the threads, and the designs started to take shape from there.

Were there any specific design challenges you encountered, and how did you overcome them?

One of my main challenges was to ensure that the designs I created would be recognisable as part of the Pink Castle product family while having their own distinct design identity. The concept of referencing the coloured threads using the main base colours from the tartan worked well for this and allowed me to create my own style of contemporary line and shape-based designs within the tartan scheme.

Hands holding an open sketch book with colourful tartan designs and coloured splodges on the left hand page and jewellery sketches on the right.
Sketching out different designs for the Pink Castel jewellery range

Production of the Pink Castle range

Can you walk us through the journey of taking the designs from concept to finished product?

The designs were originally hand-drawn. This was important to me because I wanted each ‘thread' line to have a natural and slightly uneven look rather than a digitally created perfectly straight line. For the colours, I digitally sampled them from photographs of the finished tartan and the Craigievar Castle exterior paint colour.

The designs were then individually printed onto each aluminium jewellery base piece using special pigment inks and a heat press.

What materials are used in the collection? How much work is involved in the finishing process?

The main body of the jewellery pieces is made from aluminium, which I chose because it’s lightweight and hypoallergenic. The chains and earring hooks are made from sterling silver. Once each piece has been hand-printed and checked for colour consistency, the edges are smoothed, and any final shaping required takes place. It’s then carefully placed within its gift box along with a small information card and colourful sticker.

The finishing process can often take longer than printing the jewellery pieces themselves, but it’s worth the time to ensure that the finished product looks as beautiful and consistent as possible.

Can you detail any eco-friendly initiatives or practices implemented during production?

I’m passionate about using as many recycled and biodegradable materials as possible. My usual production processes involve reusing as much studio wastepaper and cardboard as possible for packaging and display materials, for example. For this bespoke collection, I sourced jewellery boxes made from 100% recycled cardboard, which is completely compostable. The information cards inside each box and the product labels are also made from 100% recycled and compostable materials.

Working with the Trust

How did your collaboration with the National Trust for Scotland unfold whilst creating the collection?

The collaboration process on this project was extremely smooth and felt very natural. My initial chat with Gemma about the project brief gave me a really good idea of what the Trust was looking for while encouraging me to have the freedom to go my own way with the designs. I immediately had lots of ideas and came up with an initial design concept, which was positively received and ended up being the collection I created!

Do you enjoy working with the Trust?

I have thoroughly enjoyed working with the Trust, from the initial design brief and discussions about finessing the finished pieces to taking part in my Meet the Maker video at Newhailes in Musselburgh. What has come across in each interaction I’ve had is a great sense of care in the Trust’s work and an enthusiasm to work with artists and designers to create new and exciting products.

How did you feel about being approached to be involved in the Pink Castle project?

It was a lovely surprise and very exciting to hear all about the new tartan and castle re-opening. As a member of the Trust and someone who has previously bought gifts through its gift shops and online shop, I was very excited about the prospect of my own work being on display amongst so many other lovely things.

I felt slightly nervous about creating something that struck a good balance between the Pink Castle tartan design and my own style, but it was genuinely a joy to work on from start to finish.

Three open jewellery boxes sit on a table in front of two black jewellery display stands each with a necklace, in front of a pink building and grass.
The full Pink Castle jewellery range

The finished Pink Castle range

Can you share any highlights of working on the project and what you found most inspiring?

There have honestly been lots of highlights on this project, from being asked to create and send off the first set of sample pieces to spending a very happy couple of weeks with a friend’s help in the studio creating and packaging each piece by hand. Visiting the gift shop at Newhailes during my Meet the Maker video was also a huge highlight because it was the first time I’d seen the finished pieces on display and on sale. This really was a joy of a project to have worked on, and I’m grateful to have been asked.

Can you talk us through the finished range of products?

I’ve created a collection of five hand-printed jewellery pieces, including necklaces, earrings and a cuff bracelet. Each piece is made from a different combination of the six ‘thread’ colours and tartan block shapes, which come together as a complementary rather than a matching set.


The Jenni Douglas Pink Castle range is available at selected properties and online.

Meet the Maker: Jenni from Jenni Douglas Designs

Transcript

My name is Jenni Douglas and I'm an artist and designer from Edinburgh, now based in East Lothian.


When I was approached to be involved in the Pink Castle project, I was so excited!


I had actually just been reading about Craigievar Castle and the refurbishment works, and how it was reopening in spring. I already knew a little bit about the history of it.


My brain started running into all different directions with colours, with the history ... it really was just a lovely surprise to be asked.


To approach the design of the collection, I was interested in looking at the fibres of the new Pink Castle tartan.


I initially got some images of the tartan, looked at the different sort of threads that were going into the weave, sampled the colours and then looked at how I could interpret that in a design sense. in quite a minimal, modern, colourful way.


I handmake everything in my workshop in East Lothian.


When I actually made the first batch to send to the National Trust for Scotland to have a look at, and I could feel them, see the colours, hold them in my hands, try them on and wear them — that was a real highlight for me.


The finished range of products I've designed is a modern statement jewellery collection.


There are five pieces in total and I've deliberately designed each piece to be slightly different, so it's not a matching collection.


Each piece has a slightly different arrangement of the six main colours of the tartan so they are a complementary rather than matching set.

Pink Castle collection

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