interview with artisan jeweler kenneth scott

Portrait of Kenneth Scott with his Tuscano Walking Cane, by Nick Alm
Portrait of Kenneth Scott with his Tuscano Walking Cane, by Nick Alm

Kenneth Scott has lived and worked in Florence for more than 14 years. Originally from New Zealand, he was invited to Italy on a 6-month contract to take up the position of designer/model-maker in the design and development department of a major jewelry manufacturer in Florence, a position he held eventually for 5 years.

In 2000 Kenneth initiated his own jewelry manufacturing business. This fully equipped professional studio continues to operate from an important craft academy in Florence, Art Studio Fuji where he both teaches and creates collections and commissioned pieces for private customers. Kenneth’s 35-year experience in the craft field of jewelry and art history also led to invitations from various Florentine universities to instruct Advanced Jewelry Techniques and Design courses, which he continues to this day.

As a young boy, Kenneth acquired an interest in collecting and polishing stones and eventually served as jewelry apprentice under one of New Zealand’s foremost master craftsman. He also continued his interest in fine art and art history, studying sculpture and bronze casting methods. This training and study period led him to open his first jewelry studio which he operated for 15 years, distributing his collections throughout New Zealand, Australia, and the Pacific Basin. Both his jewelry and sculpture have been featured in many group exhibitions, trade shows, and solo gallery exhibitions. Kenneth now lives in the city that gave us some of the most important Renaissance sculptors, goldsmiths, artists, and architects such as Lorenzo GhibertiBenvenuto CelliniFilippo Brunelleschi, and Donatello, to name only a few. Florence is now his adopted creative home, but he remains aware that the beauty of his home-land and culture has guided his hand and eye.

Kenneth Scott: Jewelry Designer in Florence, Italy
Kenneth Scott: Jewelry Designer in Florence, Italy

Below in an interview with Ken where we recently discussed his experience in the field and with Italian craft in general:

How did your career in jewelry design begin?

As a young teenager, I started to collect semi-precious stones from various locations in my native country of New Zealand, and learned to cut and polish them. This extended into cutting precious opals for a gem dealer in my home town of Auckland. As he had a lot of contacts in the jewelry trade  he asked one of his clients, the leading jewelry designer in New Zealand at the time, if he would take me on as an apprentice. I was at the time doing my BFA studies specializing in metal sculpture, but by an arrangement with the Jewellers Guild in London, I was able to continue my studies as well as embark on an apprenticeship. I received my MFA with honors while completing my apprenticeship in the same year. In addition, I received a BA in Art History. After my apprenticeship experience, I worked as a journeyman with various jewelry design studios and took my Art History studies through to the PhD level–a degree that I have never really utilized, but it deemed to be very informative and gave me a strong creative base.

Ken Scott working in his studioDo you usually work independently or with assistants/apprentices?

In the past I have always worked in collaboration with others and when I became self-employed I surrounded myself with master-craftspeople as well as continued training other apprentices. Now I teach jewelry techniques to both private students as well as enrolled students at Art Studio Fuji in Florence. I do operate solely on fulfilling commissions as well as developing my own signature collection. I do enjoy collaborating with other jewelry designers and craftspeople.

Nephrite ringWhat are the strongest features of your creations? What types of materials do you use?

I would think my strongest feature is my fascination with natural forms and textures which are evident in my designs. Because of my sculptural background, I lean towards strong displacement of space and conversely the design that the displaced space provides. I have an affection for silver as a metal. Silver will not be forced — you have to “seduce” it to your suggestions and when you do succeed, you are amply rewarded. Of late I am exploring the use of various woods, bone, shell, and other natural materials — those historically used in jewelry making. But I still have a keen fascination for natural gemstones — I find any synthetics such as PMC, polymer clays, and Faux products of any kind a contradiction to jewelry in the traditional sense and I stay far away from these materials. My opinion is that if your skills require you to compromise your product, it is better you work for Ikea.

frutti di bosco ringWho is your typical client? Do you work with commission projects, and is there a high demand for personalized creations?

I deal mainly with personal clients who have been collecting my work for some time. There is not a high demand, as I am relatively unknown in a city that is bedecked with jewelers — Florence — and has a strong tradition of artisans working in gold such as those seen on the Ponte Vecchio.

What kind of relationship do you have with young jewelry designers?

I would like to think I have a great rapport with young jewelry designers, as some of the results of my past students will attest to. I never question their design direction — my only criterion is that their work is well-made with integrity.

the jewelry studioDo you think that educational projects can have a specific role in promoting and supporting Italian and specifically Florentine craftsmanship?

Absolutely, there is a wealth of traditional craftsmanship to be found in Florence, in fact there should be a more concerted effort ideally supported by the local government (the Comune di Firenze) to preserve these skills that will be lost in the near future. Not being Florentine, I am not conversant with these particular skills, but I would fully back any endeavor to preserve them.

As an instructor/tutor, what type of instructional projects to you give to your students? 

As an instructor, I try to teach not how to make jewelry, but my goal is to teach how to be a jeweler — there is a world of difference. The projects I give to my students are a series of design and construction principles. I then encourage them to take these principles and apply them to their own design interpretations and new directions.

18ct yellow gold ring with green and pink tourmaline, aqua & diamondsHow do you think Florentine and Italian artisan craftsmanship has changed over the last few years?

The major change is not only applicable to Florence but on a global level, causing the demise of the apprenticeship system and the rise of “Art School” conceptual jewelry. Neither direction has added anything to the tradition of jewelry and craftsmanship. There are a few notable exceptions here in Italy and they are all formally trained.

As a foreigner working in Italy, does the “Made in Italy” romanticism for hand-crafted quality and design help promote your sales on an international level?

“Made in Italy” would sell fence-posts anywhere, so it is a definite asset for me to market my product as “made and designed in Italy” even though I am not Italian. Perhaps the lure of Florence is one of the leading attractions for the jewelry courses and classes I give here, I will admit, even though the quality of training of both myself and my assistants are of the highest standards.

ice ring cast in sterling silverIn this time of global economic crisis, experts speak about the possibility of recovering high quality artistic crafts and the desire for the hand-made. What is your opinion? Do you agree?

I do believe that in these times of economic crises there is a turn to searching for quality and “hand-made” will ultimately benefit by it. People will tend to spend their money on carefully selected and personalized items. There will be, of course, those who will continue to be seduced by designer fashion labels, but I am of the opinion that the craftsman/artist is on a thresh-hold of a comeback. My only fear is that there are not enough people trained in these skills and the last Master craftspeople are fading from the scene.

For more information, see Ken’s website:

Ken's jewelry work bench

Florens 2012
This type of cultural subject matter could be discussed during Cultural and Environmental Heritage Week (November 3 – 11, 2012) in Florence, Italy, during the Florens Foundation event which will be focusing on the theme: From the Grand Tour to the Global Tour. Find out more about the Florens 2012 international forum here.

This post is a submission to be part of Team Florens as a theme/topic that will potentially be debated at Florens 2012. Comments and discussions on this posting are encouraged.

One thought on “interview with artisan jeweler kenneth scott

  1. Really interesting! I love learning about the work that goes into making handcrafted products. Especially now that so much of what we purchase is mass-produced, it’s cool knowing that a product has a story behind it and had a lot of love and care put into its production. Thanks for sharing the interview.

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