Designing a gem of a global jewellery business

Winning the British Designer of the year award was a pivotal moment in the career of Linda MacDonald.

  • Full feature in Issue No. 11

As the first person to receive such an honour in the 126 year history of the British Jewellers Association it was official recognition from her peers that the fledgling empire she built up from the backroom of a tiny village shop is now a universally recognsied brand.

Linda, who was raised in Cardross, on the banks of the Clyde, launched her hand-crafted jewellery business with her husband Matthew Scott in 1997 and since then her designs have found increasing popularity among collectors of all ages across the UK and beyond.

Although she initially wanted to be a book illustrator Linda changed direction after studying design at Glasgow School of Art. It was there she discovered a talent for making jewellery which, when combined with her imagination and passion for story telling, brought out a unique innate creativity.

Inspired by the legends, fairytales and romantic landscape of Loch Lomond and its West Coast of Scotland surroundings her work has become synonymous with style and quality.

“I have always been a creative person, even as a child. My father worked in a thread company and always had samples of tapestries he had brought home with him so I have always been quite hands on and like making things,” said Linda.

“I was fortunate to get into Glasgow School of Art and studied there. In my first year I wanted to be a book illustrator, which is quite different from jewellery. However, I found I enjoyed the process of building products from a sketch and so went on from there.”

Mainly fashioned in silver, with touches of gold, Linda’s handmade elegant necklaces, stunning, bracelets and distinctive rings are renowned for their sensual, fanciful and delicate qualities.

Linda, who works with a small team of skilled jewellers to assist with production at the family run business is proud of her roots and acknowledges some of her success comes from the landscape around her.

“I have spent most of my life in Cardross, apart from going away to study. I decided to come back here again as I find the area, particlulalry the countryside, a big inspiration for me. It is full of romantic imagery,” she said.

“A lot of our designs are around hearts and flowers, that’s what we have become quite well known for over the years. I feel vey lucky to have the shop here in the middle of the village.”

The Linda MacDonald label can now be found in numerous stores across the UK, including retail giant John Lewis, and she is working on expanding into foreign markets, particularly Germany, Austria and Holland.

Her collections, ‘Lily Pond’ and ‘Ever After’ especially have been critically acclaimed. The geometrically styled ‘Lily Pond’ illicits visions of lily pads in a secret moonlit garden while ‘Ever After’ draws on the notions of romance and love from childhood fairy stories.

“I think my desire to illustrate when I was younger probably comes through in the designs now,” said Linda.

“I like to tell a story so our designs over the years have all had a connecting element continuing a theme.”

Over the years Linda has won numerous awards for her talent and business accumen. As far back as 1998 Livewire magazine awarded her then one-year-old company the accolade for Best Business Plan (Scotland), and in 1999 her original design was selected for the Scottish gift of the year awards. In the same year she won the Achievement in Business Planning from the Small Firms Enterprise Development Initiative.

In 2002 Linda was honoured with the prized Scottish Gift of the Year award and in 2007 she reached the final five in the Charles and Colvard’s Design Competition.

However, it was her success in winning British Designer of the Year 2012 which helped propel her expansion into the overseas market. As the only Scottish label to be nominated for the shortlist of the British Jewellery Association’s Designer of the Year Award Linda was up against some of the best contemporary designers in the UK.

“Just being shortlisted for the award was really exciting for us,” she said. “We are still a small brand even though we are getting better known throughout the UK. It was a big step for us to be recognised by the industry.

“We can see a lot more growth for the business and have plans to expand with more stockists in the UK and abroad. All of our customers are telling us we are one of the better designers and we’re selling really well.”