Gifted jeweller gets her first gold star
Grit and steely determination have propelled Donna Maria Lynn from recluse to celebrated designer whose natural talent has caught the eye of Stephen Goldsmith, both pictured above, who is a gold and silver polisher to the stars.
On a recent visit to the North-East he gave Donna a masterclass and, thanks to him encouraging her to apply, her certificate has just arrived confirming that she is now a member of the prestigious Institute of Professional Goldsmiths (IPG) which has fewer than 150 members worldwide.
Her achievements are remarkable but made even more so because she left secondary without a single qualification. She wells up at the memory of school where she was regularly hit with a strap and her dyslexia went undiagnosed.
“When I was little all I wanted to be was an artist but I hated school, I felt everything I did there was wrong and I was made to feel that I would never get a job,” she said.
For the next 20 years she worked as a hairdresser, rarely venturing far from the east Durham mining community where she’d grown up, until unbearable back and hip pain turned her into a hermit and her life spiralled into anxiety and depression.
“The turning point was when my partner, Paul, begged me to go to a wedding,” she explained. “I took some costume jewellery apart and made something new to go with my outfit and I remember thinking “how do I get into jewellery?” So I researched it, which was hard because I did not really know about computers but I found one in Derbyshire.
“I had never been on a train on my own in my life and I was 37. I remember sitting at Durham station, my legs were like jelly and Paul had to push me onboard.”
She was so thrilled after her four-day metal smithing course she signed up for more. “I have no qualifications whatsoever and I’ve never been to jewellery school. I would love to go to art college and do a part time course, I would love to get a qualification in anything,” said Donna who believes her family is related to the Art Nouveau jeweller, Charles Horner, who was best known for his ‘Dorcas’ thimbles.
Five years ago she launched her business, Pretty Wild, a reference to her lively rock’n’roll childhood and the rugged coastline next to her workshop in Easington Colliery where she has honed her design, stone-setting, forming, polishing, carving and gold-plating skills.
From the initial chunky statement necklaces she has refined her style to produce more delicate and dainty pieces in sterling silver, gold and precious metals inset with gem stones and diamonds and dreams of seeing her creations – big and small – modelled on a cawalk one day. “I think my jewellery looks as good with a leather jacket as it does with a ballgown,” said Donna, 42.
Alongside her extensive designer range she also takes on commissions and enjoys reinventing old pieces of jewellery and turning them into something new for clients. She will be taking four show-stopping collections to the BCTF trade fair in Harrogate in April and is determined to have a stand at the exclusive IJL show at Olympia in London next year which attracts buyers from around the world.
Her website has wowed customers from as far afield as America, New Zealand and Australia but she is keen to find retailers to stock her works of art in the UK.
“I admire Shaun Leane who made pieces for Alexander McQueen for more than a decade and the celebrity jeweller, Theo Fennell, but my biggest inspiration is Stephen Goldsmith, a master polisher with 40 years jewellery experience who has worked with the crown jewellers, Asprey & Garrard, as well as polishing and restoring may silverware pieces including the Americas Cup, Wimbledon Cup and the Premier League Cup,” she said.
He gave her a lesson in polishing during his recent visit to the Noth-East and, days later, she is still giddy from meeting her idol. While he has achieved the highest accolade of being a fellow of the IPG, which champions creativity and skill, Donna could reach the same dizzy heights if she can show her work has improved in four years time.
“Becoming a member of the Institute of Professional Goldsmiths has given me such a boost, it has been unbelievably uplifting,” she added. “They have believed in me and seen what my teachers at school couldn’t – that I have passion and talent and it’s given me a real fire in my belly.”
Pretty Wild Jewellery- website www.prettywildjewellery.co.uk Twitter @PrettyWildDML