V&A Dundee

Natla Jewellery Studio: Stephanie Graham

We caught up with founder of social enterprise Natla Jewellery Studio, Stephanie Graham, to chat more about her work, how design has impacted her practice and more. Read to find out more.

As both a jeweller and student, I am interested the role jewellery and craft can play as a method of healing. I’ve studied past events where jewellery has been used by social reform movements or had helped to bring about changes to the law. I have also studied identity politics within social and economic recovery, which is something I have brought into the mental health and well-being services I run.

A photo of a woman with her brown hair in a bun, wearing a yellow jumper.
Stephanie Graham

Throughout my studies, I feel I’ve identified a number of gaps in how the public sector mental health and substance use services operate. They are often based on the assumption that service users can effectively communicate their needs verbally, or that they understand the full extent of what their needs are, which unfortunately is often not the case, as a high percentage of service users suffer from related trauma, which prevents this from happening. This was where I had the idea for a new trauma-informed service in which people can express themselves non-verbally using craft – a service that would allow people a safe space to find their voice again.

Craft as a method for improving mental health and well-being is a well-researched concept within the craft and design community –I’ve personally prototyped and refined my services over the last year and a half, making several iterations and adjustments throughout. By delivering my services in partnership with local authorities I can ensure I am delivering a multi-agency service and have also teamed up with Just Bee Productions, the Parish Church nurses, the team at St Marys Community Centre and Hillcrest Futures too. I wouldn’t be where I am without them.

In the last year, thanks to the support of The Circle in Dundee, I have founded two social enterprises, Natla Jewellery Studio and Dundee Community Craft CIC, both of which have the social mission of making Dundee the recovery capital of Europe. I’m trying to bring a trade to Dundee which create a shared identity of social and economic recovery in the city, and am aiming to get accreditation, so that the people who use my services can get accreditation for learning a trade.

Following a summer Parliamentary internship with Michael Marra MSP, I became interested in understanding how policies and laws were made, and I’m now investigating ways in which craft could be used a method for co-designing policies to ensure that those living through some of Dundee’s most complex problems are at the heart of transforming government policy. In the next few years, I’m going to go on and do my PhD, so I have all the knowledge and tools I need to be an effective policy designer.

A silver necklace with a pendant of old mills.
A silver necklace with a pendant of old mills.
  • William Hallie Ltd Jute Mill, Dundee Memento Mori Pendant necklace

  • William Hallie Ltd Jute Mill, Dundee Memento Mori Pendant necklace

Design changed my life because it taught me how to problem solve and how to see the world differently. My first positive experience with design was playing Tomb Raider in the 90s. Then the Jewellery and Metal Design workshop in 2016 at Duncan of Jordanstone changed my life, because I saw a world I had never seen before. During my Masters in Product Design, I learned about building business models and the power of branding and that changed how I saw the world too. When I started to apply design to some of the problems I’m trying to help solve in Dundee, it helped me frame and re-frame how I saw the problem in the first place.

I believe design has a role to play in beginning to help solve Dundee’s substance use and mental health crisis. Design is the process of re-imagining, conceptualizing, and innovating new ideas and methods to improve products, services, and policies more efficiently where they are failing.

I have tried and attempted to imagine what the future of mental health care could look like through what I am doing, and while I’m aware that I offer no drastic, immediate or rapid fix to Dundee - because I’m not entirely sure that there is one, what I do believe is that through continuous research and through the generation of new knowledge, the city, through design, will begin to come up with new and innovative solutions that will lead to gradual positive change over time.

Stephanie will be hosting more workshops in December you can get involved in, find out more here.