A S A little girl, Kathrine Pelosi had the kind of sweetie shop most grown-up girls can only dream of. Sparkling diamonds. Glistening trinket boxes. A menagerie of silver animals and gilded bowls. But Pelosi wasn't some pampered princess showered with priceless gifts every time she threatened to throw a tantrum.
Her father is Paul, the electrician who keeps all the lighting shining in the display cabinets at Edinburgh's Hamilton & Inches – showing off all those beautiful things that seem like treasure to any seven-year-old brought up on a staple diet of fairy tales. “I've been going in and out from when I was a really young child," she says. “I remember all the things would sparkle. For me, it was my sweetie shop.”
Wasn’t she intimidated; a little nervous, perhaps, of breaking something valuable? “No, not really. I found it very exciting. I just wanted to try everything on. I never found it scary or daunting.”
A few of her favourite things were, not surprisingly perhaps, the diamonds and rings. “Even just the sparkles and the colours and the different combinations appealed to me,” she says. “I think people forget it's not just a jewellery shop. You have the wee trinket boxes. And not long ago my little sister bought the wee frog for my Christmas, and it was just beautiful. It's like an Aladdin's cave.”
Now aged 19 and in her second year of a product design degree at Edinburgh College of Art, the former George Heriots pupil is about to see some of her own designs on those shining glass shelves, thanks to a little bit of initiative and a lot of natural talent.
But she was inspired to follow her chosen career path not because of years spent gazing into the display cabinets at the George Street store, but an experience altogether more prosaic. “I discovered I wanted to do design when I worked for Nevis design company in Edinburgh. I was 15 years old and I liked art, but when I worked there for a week, that's when I really worked out it was what I wanted to do.”
The company works on branding and digital media for clients as diverse as the Royal Botanic Garden and Glen Garioch distillery. “That really boosted my confidence,” says Pelosi, “because they gave me a brief and the company liked it and went ahead with it. That was like, ‘Oh, maybe I'm good at design and should follow it through.’”
But, like any good designer, she is always busy sketching, and casually handed some drawings into the jeweller to find out what her old friends thought of them. “They loved them,” says Pelosi, “and wanted some more. It never really sunk in. I just thought, ‘Oh my goodness!’
“There was me and my family sitting in the kitchen talking about it, and we all just screamed at once and danced about. It was so exciting, and it still hasn't sunk in. ‘Is this really happening? Or is it someone else's life?’”
Three necklaces and a bracelet have now been put into production and will be in store at the end of this month. “They’re like nuggets,” explains Pelosi, “very tactile. It's a battered piece of jewellery made from solid silver, and it's nice just to play with, to run your fingers along. It's like adding beauty to roughness – there's a balance there.
“It's quite interesting as well because I'm not studying jewellery, but you're still selling a product and it has been great to work with different teams and seeing how a company actually works. It has helped my work hugely – just to have experience working with other people has been so useful.”
She has even been modelling her own prototype for the last couple of months. “The first time I went to see the jewellery, they said, ‘Would you like to take it home?' and I said ...” and here her voice excitedly goes up a couple of octaves ... “‘Yes please!' I'm wearing the bracelet at the moment.”
Her friends can't quite believe it, though she says they’re all after one of their own, while her parents are justifiably proud. “Even my little sister – she's 12,” says Pelosi. “They've been hugely supportive and we're all really excited.”
She’d like to work on more jewellery – “I always have lots of designs going on in my head” – but in the meantime it’s a case of keeping her head down and studying for the next two years. And after that? “
I really don't know. I mean, I never saw Hamilton & Inches coming. I don't think you can ever really plan the future. I'll just see what comes.”
• Kathrine Pelosi’s designs will cost from around £200, Hamilton & Inches, Edinburgh (www.hamiltonandinches.com)