Community Spotlight: Stephanie Graham
Hello Stephanie! When did you first become interested in making jewellery – have you studied it before?
I wasn’t interested in Jewellery until the 4th year of my Jewellery and Metal Design Course at Duncan of Jordanstone. I studied textiles originally and my college tutor suggested I move to Jewellery when I entered university level of studies – Originally, I wanted to be a fine artist. I’m glad I took her advice. I became more engaged with Jewellery in 4th year when I realised how much Jewellery plays a role in shaping our identity not only as individuals, but as a society. I realised that because of Jewellery’s associations with status and sentiment, that Jewellery has the potential to be a vehicle for social reform. Jewellery has the ability to connect and travel through all planes of human existence; through time, space, distance, in this life and in the next. Jewellery is not merely and object of adornment, pieces of Jewellery are artefacts containing stories and memories that reveal vital information about the identity of the wearer, maker and time period in which the jewellery existed. Humans have been making and wearing Jewellery to communicate identity and connect since the days of our ancestors, filling the psychosocial human need to emotionally connect and communicate with each other. I truly believe that Jewellery has the power to heal generational trauma through emotional connection and memory sharing. For all of the above reasons, I fell in love with the expressive medium of Jewellery.
What’s behind the name Natla Jewellery?
I didn’t want my name attached to my business, I wanted to be able to create and remain as objective as I could in everything I made – it also meant less attachment to the ego in my work. I’ve been asked if Natla is my actual name a lot. It’s not – it’s the name of the main antagonist in the Tombraider games. She was one of the 3 rulers of Atlantis and she rebelled and betrayed her 2 brothers who ruled with her.
Tell us about Dundee Community Craft, what happens here and who do you help? How do you manage running both Natla Jewellery and Dundee Community Craft?
I’ve worked in partnership with community centres, the DVVA and We Are With You just to get things off the ground. I try and specifically target people who are in recovery from social isolation, poor mental health and substance misuse. Last year, I made Christmas cards and I tried Jewellery making with a small group of people and then I took the work we made to stalls and markets. I took members of my group with me so that they got the experience of working at a stall or in a shop. Everyone at my community craft groups have their own unique stories and reasons for being there, how they got there isn’t important to me. We make and share stories and we laugh a lot of the time. That’s the best medicine – laughter. At Dundee Community Craft, people have 2 hours a week to make, to share, to be seen, to feel heard and to feel like their part of something. I have my limits as a maker, but I know the importance of being seen and feeling heard – especially when it comes to poor mental health and substance misuse. It tells you that you’re important, and that you have value, and that your worth investment and that you’re worthy of love and respect. Crafts not just making, it’s connecting, creating and empowerment.
I run both businesses alongside each-other but I usually spend Sundays and Mondays making for Natla – that’s my weekend and chill time. Making for Natla helps me manage my own mental health and recovery, it quiets my mind and helps me shut off from the external world. Tuesday through Friday I put all of my energy into Dundee Community Craft. I enjoy being busy. It keeps the demons at bay.
What are your main aims and goals behind the work you do? Where would you like to see Natla Jewellery and the Dundee Community Craft in 5 years?
With both of my Businesses, I am on a mission to make Dundee the Recovery Capital of Europe through the good spirit of Design, Craft and Business. I am more than profit which means that I aim to make a profit at the same time as creating a positive social impact – the more profit I make, the more I am able to reinvest into recovering communities. In terms of social objectives – I want to see the people I work with realise that they’re worthy of love, dignity and respect. In doing so, I hope they realise they are worthy of a second chance at life and are worthy of recovery and become active participants in their recovery. I want to see people realise that no matter what their path has been until now, that they can learn new skills, that they can be creative and that they can accomplish great things on their recovery journey. I’m hoping that by empowering people through creativity, making and selling that I can make people realise their own worth. The end goal is to have community groups running craft groups and stalls themselves and I’ll take a step back, but I’ll still be there.
To get in touch with Stephanie to learn more about Natla and the Dundee Community Craft, please visit here!