IONIC ORCADIAN JEWELLERY BRAND ORTAK CELEBRATES HALF CENTURY
Iconic Orcadian jewellery brand Ortak is marking its 50th anniversary by releasing five special commemorative pieces – one for each decade – throughout 2017.
Choosing the designs to mark this milestone in the brand’s history has been a company wide effort.
“For our 50th anniversary, we thought it would be good to give our staff the chance to review our entire historical catalogue of designs – we’ve got around 14,000 in all - and choose key pieces that could be updated or adapted,” explained Ortak managing director, Michael Gardens. “It’s not something most of the staff ever get to do, so it’s been a good way of involving the whole company in this important celebration of the brand.”
Each of the Ortak designs used for the Anniversary Collection pieces has been given a refresh, along with gold accenting. Releases are also being timed to coincide with special dates or occasions throughout 2017 - the first Anniversary Collection pieces tied in with Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day.
“We were keen to make 2017 a whole year of celebration, rather than have one single anniversary event,” said Michael, who is staying tight-lipped about forthcoming releases in the series. “In addition to the Anniversary Collection pieces, we’re also running a number of special promotions throughout the next few months to say thanks to our loyal customers.”
Ortak has come a long way since its humble beginnings in a garden shed, 50 years ago.
Founded by local man Malcolm Gray, who originally took up silvercraft as a hobby, Ortak grew to become one of the UK’s leading jewellery manufacturers, before running into financial difficulties in 2014.
Unable to turn around its fortunes, the business went into administration in March of that year. Dozens of jobs were lost as the company’s Kirkwall workshops fell silent and its UK network of shops closed.
At the time, the demise of this once famous Orkney brand sent shockwaves through the island community.
It was far from the end, however. In May of 2014 the Ortak brand - including the intellectual property rights and original designs and patterns of the jewellery moulds and drawings - was bought over by a group of investors who formed a new company, Ortak Ltd, backed by a £136,400 grant from development agency Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE).
“It’s a much more streamlined and focused operation these days and we’re steadily regaining our share of the UK jewellery market,” said Michael. “Retail is particularly strong, with trade sales in Scotland more or less back to where they were before. It’s great to see former clients returning to the Ortak brand.”
The firm – which employs 16 staff at its Kirkwall workshop, and gallery in the town’s Albert Street - is currently working closely with Signet Jewellers, using the group’s UK network of retail outlets as a test bed for Ortak products. Ortak is also making inroads into the international jewellery trade, with a well-established foothold in Japan and a growing customer base in the USA.
Orkney has a very high concentration of quality craft jewellers, with each designer bringing something unique to the marketplace. Ortak was once famed for designs that drew inspiration from Orkney’s history and landscape, but there’s a more contemporary approach in evidence now.
“Orkney will always be an inspiration to us, but we’re also enjoying expanding our horizons and exploring fresh new designs to create more modern pieces for a wide range of customers,” said Michael. “We have a very collaborative approach these days too, working closely with suppliers, creating pieces for other designers who don’t have workshop facilities and offering bespoke services for all our customers.
“Throughout it all, quality and workmanship remain our top priorities. That never changes. At Ortak, we’re always acutely aware we’re representing Orkney and that pride in our homeland is hopefully reflected throughout all our work, and our relationships beyond the islands.”
Michael added: I’ll be retired in 50 years, but I certainly hope we’ll still be going strong in 2067!”
Ortak is featured this month on Orkney.com at http://www.orkney.com/products/business-focus/ortak
- Alison Firth
Adding a personal touch to a very special day!
To celebrate a special anniversary, we exchanged a bangle and a ring, both made by Ortak. We would like to thank Magnus for his extra creativity in working with us to design and produce a beautiful and meaningful bangle, based on one already in production, but incorporating additional features and an inscription which includes words in an unfamiliar language. Along the way he emailed illustrations for comment and approval. The result is an item that is unique and very special. The ring is also engraved with a personal message.
Thanks to all the staff for their help, courtesy, and discretion – managing to keep each item secret until the Big Day - and especially to Magnus for putting an extra sparkle on the day. Treasure indeed was produced!
Alison and Martin.
- Hazel Ortak
Primary School Project
Children at the St Margaret's Hope School, in Orkney, have taken part in a unique collaboration with a local business.
In response to the Year of Innovation, Design and Architecture in 2016 and children at the Hope School spent time exploring the themes of design and architecture including the work of Charles Rennie Mackintosh.
As part of their homework they designed a piece of jewellery. Impressed by their work, Morag Ewing developed their ideas in art and, as Charles Rennie Mackintosh had done, used natural forms as inspiration.
Ortak, managing director, Michael Gardens, offered to come and talk to the children about how a piece of jewellery would be developed from an idea into a real necklace; from a paper sketch to computer aided drawing to the manufacturing process.
Uniquely, Michael offered to create one of the children’s designs into a real necklace, making the design process come alive.
All the children’s sketches went to the Ortak professional designers and they selected Carly’s necklace to create.
This process has ensured that the children have a good understanding of the design and can see that these skills are relevant to working and living in Orkney. The piece has been created purely for educational purposes to help the children understand the process.
It seems that Orkney’s established jewellery industry will continue to grow and flourish with this kind of collaboration - ensuring an enthusiastic future generation of designers.
A big thank you to Michael Gardens and his team for investing time and resources into this project.
- Magnus Rendall
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