Spotlight on... MacAngus Designs

MacAngus designsWelcome to the first instalment of our new blog and newsletter series called "Spotlight on...". We've been wanting to get this side project underway for so long so we are thrilled to finally launch it!
In each post, we'll be talking to one of our incredible friends about their work/business/life and celebrate their wins together. We are kicking off our new blog series with a chat with our friend Kate, the founder of MacAngus Designs. Kate and I (Mara) first met over 10 years ago when I started working at the college she was lecturing at. Since then, so much has happened for both of us: new jobs, house moves, starting businesses and many more experiences (some tough, some joyful) that have led us to where we are today.
We'll let Kate tell us more about her journey in the interview below, in the meantime, you can head over to her website and instagram to find out more about her dreamy jewellery. 
MacAngus design instagram


I was really lucky to attend a brilliant Art college where I did my Art Foundation (post A-levels). I always knew I wanted to do something creative, but I wasn’t sure what; up until this point I had only really worked in 2D, with painting and drawing. Therefore I naturally thought I would be an illustrator of some kind, however, my art foundation course opened me up to so many skills and disciplines. I was using clay, print making, 3D construction and then came metalwork and jewellery. It just instantly caught my attention!

We were literally playing with fire, and I am very much a pyromaniac, hammering metal, using power tools and then applying these creations to the body as embellishments.

It was just this magical juxtaposition of powerful danger, transforming into a wearable beauty and delicacy. Jewellery obviously then became my specialist area at college, and led me to attend the School of Jewellery in Birmingham (BCU), where I did a degree in Jewellery and Silversmithing (2005-2008).

and how did MacAngus design start?

MacAngus Designs didn’t ‘start’ until late 2015, but I’m sure the beast was inside me all along! Probably since I was a child, locked somewhere inside me, It just needed a series of experiences to bring it to the surface. Two things happened simultaneously, I was absolutely hating my teaching job at the time. I was a technology teacher at a comprehensive school, and the stress, sh*t pay, workload and lack of joy was really taking its toll. Alongside this my brother became ill with a tumour, which after a 16 month battle, he sadly lost his life in the May of 2014, aged 30. This of course completely destroyed me and derailed me in every aspect of my life.

During this blurry time, I was asked if I could make a pendant for someone’s birthday; after making this pendant around my teaching hours, I had a really clear awareness that I ‘needed’ to get back to the jewellery. This part of me had been sidelined for so long due to my teaching career, which pretty much started right  after university.

Slowly this ‘need’ started to build and grow and then the inevitable happened; I had the most stressful and unrewarding day ever.  I handed my notice in to the Headmistress there and at the last minute before the Easter holidays. I owed this move to my brother; I felt like I was living for two now, and being stuck in a job that I hated and was slowly destroying me had to go. To cut a long story short, the school offered me a part-time teaching role, which was actually a lifeline.

Even though I really wanted to leave there and then, I wasn’t in the position to go straight into working for myself; I had no capital, no idea of how to run a business and no tools. So, after doing part time teaching and slowly setting up the business for 2 academic years, I then left in 2017 and muddled through working for two other jewellery companies (these were also two small disasters that didn’t work out) until I finally went fully freelance in Winter 2018. I cannot stress how many mistakes I made in that time, but each of those moves helped me to get where I am today, so maybe they were worth it.

Gosh that’s so hard.

Personal (both working with me and the jewellery)

Feminine (which is funny as I think I am a bit of a tomboy)

FleetwoodMac (if I could capture a sound in my work it would be Dreams/Rhiannon/Gypsy) 

MacAngus Jewellery designs

80’s films have a lot to answer for. Labyrinth, Never Ending Story, Willow, The Goonies, Legend, The Lion the With and the Wardrobe, Wolves of Willoughby Chase and Wizard of Oz (1939) all totally captured my hunger for magic and the mystical. My mum was pretty laid back about what films I watched as a kid, and although some of these scared the bejesus out of me, I was also totally taken with the creatures, the talisman objects, the myth, legends and adventures these films would take the viewer on. I remember after watching The Never Ending Story I would walk around with a crystal necklace on my head/forehead and pretend I was a magical empress, or I would walk around with a shawl over my head like a poor street girl who then found a magical ring, and then her luck and life changed.

My pet name from my dad was ‘Dolly Daydream’ and I think for much of my childhood I had one foot in this fantasy land. My mum always joked that I would have gone home with ET. This aspect of fantasy and magic hasn’t left me, and it’s been really important for me to get back to this inner child part of my personality with returning to jewellery after taking a break during my teaching years. 

Another huge influence was of course my jewellery teacher Lucy Sylvester. Lucy’s work is beautiful, exciting and enchanting, and she was the most refreshing teacher I had ever had. She encouraged us to do big work, mixed media, experiment and find our own styles. This really helped me to produce a good portfolio for my university interviews, and opened me up to a whole range of jewellery and body adornments that were beyond the traditional styles. I was very lucky to have this influence at the early stages of my journey.

 What has been the most rewarding experience in your business so far?

Usually it will be an engagement ring. I really enjoy working with men, helping them along the design and production journey and the fact that the ring will be used to propose to their forever love really fills me with so much joy. That is truly rewarding! Eking out a unique design for a woman that I don’t know and yet making her her dream ring is really quite magical.


Your style incorporates crystals and gemstones rich in symbolism. How do they influence your design process?


It really depends on what I am creating. Sometimes it can be a word or emotion used by the customer which they want to incorporate into the jewellery, and therefore I will research and look into gems and styles which symbolise these emotions or ‘powers’. Other influences can come from my own spiritual journey, such as yoga, meditation, literature and the interesting people I seem to be collecting in my life.

For example; Citrine was often known as the merchants' stone, and therefore it's associated with wealth and abundance; for anyone wanting more luck and financial wealth in their life this would be one of my top gems.

I also give my customers choices of gemstones and designs where I can and even through a phone screen a customer will say to me, ‘that gem just spoke to me, I just love its colour, shape and sparkle’. It’s almost the gem chooses the customer rather than the other way round.


Instagram seems to be the powerhouse of social media, especially after 2020. One of my favourite ‘teachers’ in this area is Jen Macfarlane (@themoneymedium) who gives so much insight into so many different aspects of crystals and how they relate to the body, emotions and success.

Anyone can start their own research from simply googling a particular crystal, the most relatable will be peoples’ birthstones; these do vary slightly from America to the UK, but I think people love the idea that we have a gemstone for each of our months. I will often make pieces of jewellery for mothers who want their children represented via a gemstone and worn with them all day.

The wealth of history around gemstones and crystals is never ending, there is the most beautiful display in the V&A of jewellery and gemstones across history from round the world.

I’m doing a course this summer on gemstones and I know at the end of the course I will still have a never ending journey of knowledge to gain. Which is also part of the joy.


If you could only wear one piece of jewellery for the rest of your life, what piece would you choose and why?

It would be of course my wedding ring.

My wedding ring is actually really understated. The business was very much in its infancy and I wasn’t earning a lot working for another jewellery business, but I also wanted to have something that I could wear every day that wasn’t an issue being worn in the workshop.

We both had red gold, so they match in colour and finish. Mine has a 60% coverage of white diamonds and is only 2.3mm wide. Inside I have a small hand engraving of an anchor which is a nod to my husband who often works away at sea. Not to mention this piece of metal symbolises my commitment and love to my husband, a value that goes beyond any gold or gemstones.


What’s the dream commission?

Gosh this is an impossible question. It would always be cool to do a celebrity's jewellery. The kudos of seeing a famous person wear your jewels would be great, but saying that I often see people I don’t know wear my jewellery, and that gives me just as much pleasure and pride.

This isn’t exactly a commission but I would love to go gem hunting. That would be amazing. Combining travel and adventure.

I am also very lucky with my commissions, as I often get to do quite fun things with my designs. My reach on social media means I get all different commissions come forward, the most unusual recently was a bespoke Viking Mjolnir. Which was one of those pieces where you initially have no idea where to start and then suddenly you have a finished tangible item.  


If you were not doing what you are doing right now, what alternative career would you have embarked on?

I did always like drama at a school, and although I can’t sing for toffee, I did really enjoy the creativity of plays and theatre, so maybe something down that route would have been fun. Over the last year I registered with a film agency as I thought it would be a laugh to do extra work around the business, but I was always dropped at the last minute. I was actually looking forward to playing a ‘clubber’ in the new Batman movie, but alas it was not meant to be.  


What's next for you?Ha, if 2020 has taught me anything, it is to write your plans in pencil! I was going to massively commit to the bridal industry and bring out a line called Bridal Rocks and spend a year doing all the cool and alternative bridal fairs across the country. HOWEVER, I had to redirect my style to be more for the individual. Which has been great, I’m not saying I will never go back to pushing my bridal work, but I think at the moment, it’s important now that I don’t heavily market myself as weddings and bridal only.

With that in mind I’m hoping to do more big gem jewellery, particularly rings. My Luna Rings have absolutely flown over the last 12 months. I think customers love that they can select their gemstone from a lot, and then the ring is designed and made around that gem's shape and form, making each ring unique. Women seem to be so much more confident in buying themselves jewellery these days, and allowing them to select their own gems gives them an element of design influence. This has been a really fun way of working and I hope to do more of this with a bigger variety of gemstones.


luna ring
MacAngus design instagram

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