Budding designer wins jewellery challenge

Orcadian student wins Scotland-wide competition, marking Scotland’s Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design


An Orcadian student is set to have her winning competition designs brought to life after wowing judges with her range of contemporary jewellery, inspired by one of Scotland’s Neolithic sites.


Historic Environment Scotland partnered with Orkney-based jewellery manufacturer, Ortak, to challenge students across the country to design a range of jewellery inspired by Maeshowe Chambered Cairn. Entrants were asked to draw on the different features of the 5,000 year old Orkney site, and its past, to help inspire their designs for the chance to have their creations manufactured and made available to purchase in gift shops and online.


Local Orcadian and Fine Art Textiles student, Norna Sinclair was named by judges as the overall winner. Representing the heritage and historical landscape of the site, her designed range – which includes a necklace, bracelet, ring and earrings – uses the circular bird’s eye view and archaeological field survey drawings of Maeshowe for its main inspiration. Sinclair drew on other aspects and features from the local surrounding landscape through the use of coloured enamels and was inspired by the Barnhouse Stone, incorporating this into her earring design as well as necklace and bracelet fastenings.


Judges, including Ortak Managing Director, Michael Gardens, Director of Scotland Re:Designed, Chris Hunt and Historic Environment Scotland’s Kari Coghill, also named Glasgow-based student Paula Hutchinson as runner up for her pendant design inspired by the Viking dragon stone carving within the tomb at Maeshowe.


Kari Coghill, Head of Business Development and Enterprise at Historic Environment Scotland and member of the competition judging panel, said: “The standard of design entries was incredibly high and it was fantastic to get a real insight into the emerging design talent within Scotland.


“Whilst judging wasn’t an easy task, we were particularly impressed with Norna’s innovative approach and it was great to see how she used an archaeological field survey drawing of Maeshowe to spark her creative process. Across the board the design submissions were so strong that we decided to select a runner up and chose Paula for her necklace design, based on the Maeshowe Viking dragon stone carving.


“These bespoke designs are sure to be popular and exciting additions to our existing jewellery collections, when they are made available to buy from early December. This exciting enterprise is made doubly special during Scotland’s Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design.”


These pieces form a unique collection that represents Maeshowe and Scotland’s historic environment in a contemporary and simplistic style. Currently being manufactured by Ortak, the jewellery will sit alongside other collections and be available to buy in gift shops at Skara Brae and Edinburgh Castle, as well as online from early next month.


Competition winner, Norna Sinclair, added: “Winning this design competition is a fantastic accolade and a very exciting time for me. Being an art student, you often have ideas that never reach fruition so it's a real privilege to see my design taken from sketches on paper through to final pieces of jewellery and manufactured by Ortak. It has been a wonderful experience and I'm looking forward seeing it go on sale.”


Helping to celebrate Scotland’s Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design, the competition was open to students studying art, design and creative industry related degrees. With the initiative attracting entries from aspiring designers from Glasgow and Edinburgh to the Highlands and Orkney.


The newly designed jewellery will be available to buy from early December in gift shops at Skara Brae and Edinburgh Castle, as well as through the Historic Scotland online shop.

  • Alison Firth

A bloggers highlights of International Jewellery London

Ortak had a successful few days exhibiting at IJL in London early in September, meeting new and existing customers and showcasing our latest designs.

We were delighted to be mentioned in the highlights of blogger 'The curious Crow in the Opal Moon'  to read what they had to say click here


  • Hazel Ortak

Poppies Weeping Window Visits Kirkwall

Here in Kirkwall where we make all the jewellery by hand, we are delighted to welcome the Poppies Weeping Window as part of the 14-18 Now project to our Cathedral until the 12th June. Installation took place last week and to mark the occasion, we have taken out our own range of poppy jewellery, with a donation from every sale going to charity.

This year sees a lot of events in Orkney, the visit of the Poppy Weeping Window co-insides with the commemoration of the Battle of Jutland, the most pivotal naval engagement of the First World War.

A service will be held in St Magnus Cathedral on the morning of 31 May 2016 and at the Lyness Royal Naval cemetery in the afternoon, which will run in conjunction with the service being held at sea at the Jutland Bank.


This is just one of many events in Orkney this year and we will keep you posted on other upcoming events on our blog.


  • Alison Firth

Hayley's Blog

" “Drag out your crayons!!!! Now is your chance to design your own unique piece of jewellery……….” - this is where the Tulip necklace began.

Ortak was holding a competition. All I had to do now was try to draw something that people would like, have it shortlisted into the top three designs, get the most public votes and hope it could be made into a lovely piece of jewellery.

I’m astonished to say that all of this did actually happen. A few days after receiving the necklace they made for me I began to think… Would it not be awesome if this could be made to sell for charity? One day I turned up at the Ortak Jewellery workshop and proposed the idea to Mike. I babbled for a bit about my idea and said if he agreed I would like it to go towards a multiple sclerosis charity. He did indeed agree. With the Orkney Islands having the highest prevalence on MS in the world, we all know somebody who has been diagnosed with MS.

I am disappointed to say that I only learned about the disease after being diagnosed myself when I was 21 years old. I had been feeling various symptoms since the summer of 2011 but when the possibility of MS was mentioned I decided not to look it up until I knew for sure. So, on 10th February 2012 after my neurologist phoned me at home out of the blue and gave me the diagnosis, I did what most folk would do these days; I simply typed “MS” into Google. The first search result was the Multiple Sclerosis Trust. The whole evening was spent lying in my bed reading EVERYTHING on the website. I felt shocked by what I was reading but also strangely relieved just to finally have a diagnosis.

The MS Trust is a UK charity, providing information for anyone affected by multiple sclerosis, education programmes for health professionals, funding for practical research and campaigning for specialist multiple sclerosis services.

For the next year I tried to understand MS and the way it affected me, often returning to the MS Trust for information. When 2013 arrived though I wanted to be able to help other people diagnosed with MS somehow and with the support of countless amazingly selfless people, some that I knew and some that I didn’t, the fundraising began. To fundraise over this period we gathered sponsorship for a Trek in Iceland and then a cycle from Vietnam to Cambodia, held events and asked celebrities to lend a hand too.

The Ortak Tulip necklace is the next fundraising venture. After Mike from Ortak agreed to make the necklace with 20% of all sales going to the MS Trust I turned up once again at the workshop, but this time with a box of caramel doughrings, and asked them very nicely if they could possibly remake the necklace more like what I had imagined. The staff were open to my caramel doughring coercion and that led to the beautiful Tulips collection you see today.

I would like to say a ginormous thank you to the MS Trust for helping me understand all things multiple sclerosis related and of course Ortak for making wonderful jewellery."

Hayley Budge - April 2016


  • Craig Gardens

Ortak to Visit Trade Shows early in 2016

It is all go once again at Ortak HQ.  Now the Christmas rush is over, our wholesale customers are getting ready for the new season including ourselves at Ortak.  The team at Ortak will be attending two trade shows at the start of the year.  

Our first is the Spring Fair in Glasgow, not only is this gift wear, it is also Scotland's Specialty Food Show. This event is held in the SECC Glasgow on 24-26 January 2016.  Ortak are at stand E69.

Our second event is the Jewellery and Watch Show at NEC Birmingham.  This event runs from Saturday, 7th February to the 11th February.  We are at stand 17Q42.  This is the first time we will visit this show as exhibitors and are really looking forward to it. 


We will be launching some new and exciting jewellery at these shows, these will be available on our website shortly for you all to see.

More news on the new designs to follow shortly.



  • Alison Firth

The Ortak Ring Size Finder

This ring size graph will help you get the correct size for your finger size before you purchase one of the lovely Ortak rings.

  • Alison Firth