Kate Hamilton-Hunter began her working life at the age of 19, surrounded by fabrics and pins as a seamstress. For nine years Kate stitched, designed and created everything from curtains to silk bridal gowns. At this point she felt that she needed more skills in textiles and embroidery, and went to college part-time for four years, and explored the design process, printing techniques, machine embroidery, ceramics, glass, wood and metal. This education also led to training to teach in FE colleges and she then taught Textiles & Design in Llandrillo and Chester for five years.
At the end of her time in college, a new medium had taken over from cloth and stitch as Kate had discovered her favourite material, METAL!! Experimentation in all types of metals (aluminium, brass, copper, even baked bean tins!), techniques and products began, and a day workshop at Ruthin Craft Centre in the year 2000 with tin artist and sculptor Lucy Casson introduced a new material to Kate as Lucy makes all her sculptures from old tins. Kate made an angel from a Golden Syrup tin and left for home, inspired!
The colourful biscuit tins added a new dimension to her work. The next phase of development was to design commercial products using all of her skills learned so far on her journey and Kate successfully sold many of her framed pictures, wall hangings, mini sculptures, greetings cards, stationery and jewellery made from paper, wire and metal and she opened a shop in Bodnant Gardens, Conwy Valley in March 2004 and also employed her first two jewellery-makers.
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Kate joined forces with one of her ex-student, Nia Roberts in 2005 and firstly made art canvases and framed originals and prints. They then developed a new, exciting range of products using all recycled materials. Nia & Kate scoured charity shops and created new gift and home products from their finds. The collection was called Tilly Mint and comprised pretty cake-stands and candle-holders, flamboyant corsages, colourful clocks and covered notebooks and these sold well to gift shops and boutiques.
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Kate and Nia parted company in 2008 and Kate returned to her favourite medium and product, recycled biscuit tins made into her pretty jewellery! Attending five trade shows per year, she has slowly built up a loyal following with gift shop owners and customers, many of whom now collect Kate's jewellery. Kate has gradually built a team of amazing staff around her, training all her jewellery-makers to make this unique jewellery just as Kate would make it herself and taking on admin staff, trained to give the best customer service possible.
So, here we are in the year 2013 and Kate now employs 12 people in sunny North Wales. The studio supplies hand-made jewellery made from upcycled biscuit, sweet and toffee tins to nearly 500 shops, galleries and boutiques, and many happy online customers. The company has surfed the waves of recession and survived due the determination of the whole team to consistently produce high quality, beautifully designed and packaged jewellery that has a heart and a message. Hand-made in the UK and Kate believes in keeping it that way for years to come.
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Kate has won herself a name for innovation with this unusal material and has a knack for searching out the loveliest of tins from all sorts of places! The result is a delicate, unique and totally desirable jewellery collection comprising necklaces, earrings, bracelets, anklets and brooches. Kate still loves to work with aluminium as it is so light and delicate, so pieces are available in plain aluminium as well. Recently, she has also trained in silversmithing and has created a collection of silver jewellery that uses 100% recycled siver, manufactured in the UK.
Kate is really proud of her team at KateHH HQ. Now in her 10th year of business, Kate and her team have received The Investors In People Award in recognition of just how hard each member of staff has worked to run this unique design business efficiently and with integrity in these trying economic times.