Four Decades of Jewellery Design

Smart Works Charity logoSmart Works Charity logo


Insights from Katie Nickell
Co-Founder & Creative Director of Kit Heath Ltd

As part of our 40th anniversary celebrations, we recently interviewed our creative director, Katie Nickell, to learn the ins and outs of jewellery design. Having stood at the helm alongside her brother since Kit Heath’s inception in the 1980s, we were intrigued to learn the inner workings of the creative mind behind the jewellery brand.


How would you describe yourself in three words?
If I had to sum myself up in three words, I’d say I’m unconventional, imaginative, and tenacious.


Where is home for you?
Home for me is nestled in a North Devon valley on a trout farm with my husband, three children (when they’re not away at university), three dogs, visiting Otters (we live in ‘Tarka the Otter’ country) and a few thousand trout!



What did you want to be when you were younger?
As a child, I dreamed of being a ballet dancer but was always captivated by the power of good design and the emotion it can evoke in people; it fascinated me and still does today. Ultimately, I studied Geography (I love travel), Art and Design, and Business, all of which enabled me to continue my passion for design without formal training. 


What is your favourite film?
My favourite film must be Amelie. I love the whimsical cinematography and heart-warming storyline.  


What is your favourite dish to cook?
I don’t have a signature dish, but I love improvising and can whisk up something out of nothing, which tends to always impress my children.


Where would you go if you could travel anywhere in the world right now?
My role has taken me far and wide, but I need to look more at what’s on my doorstep. So I’d choose the Outer Hebrides. I haven’t been there, and its rich history and breath-taking landscapes sound and look fantastic! 


What is your favourite industry event?
Vicenzaoro holds a special place in my heart. I'm drawn to its abundance of design, global appeal, and intimate atmosphere.


What is the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
That would have to be from a friend who introduced me to "Who Moved My Cheese" by Spencer Johnson. Its message about embracing change, seizing opportunities, and creating our luck has stuck with me ever since.


Fun Fact
While travelling in my 20s, I was a Jillaroo and worked at a cattle station called Bullo River in the Australian outback. The resilience and tenacity of the station’s owner, Sara Henderson, who later became a renowned author, left a lasting impression on me.


What is on your most listened-to playlist?
I listen to a mix of things, from Radio 4 in the morning to my ‘Happy’ playlist and my kids’ playlists, which feature many of the songs I listened to when I was younger!


What has been the most rewarding project in your career and why?
The most rewarding project of my career has been revitalising our business over the past decade, leading up to our 40th anniversary this year. After taking time out of the company to focus on my family, I returned to find the business adrift. Steering it back on course, we’ve navigated challenges and rediscovered our identity, positioning ourselves proudly for the future.


Coffee or tea?
Tea, then coffee, then tea! (I need a caffeine boost in the middle of the day)!


Early bird or night owl?
I can be either, but my preference is for a night owl.


What is your favourite thing about the industry you work in?
I love the design element of the industry and feel fortunate to do what I love daily!
From designing our latest collections and bringing them to life to working with our wonderful Retail Partners (many of whom we have worked with for 40 years) to talking to our loyal customers. It is so varied and rewarding. The creativity it brings is constantly reinventing and stimulating. 



What are you most looking forward to in 2024? 
I feel grateful for my privileged position, which has allowed me to spend quality time with my children and run a successful business. 2024 is significant for my brother (and co-founder) Kit and me, as it marks major personal and professional milestones. We both have our 25th wedding anniversary; I will be turning 60, and it is the 40th anniversary of the Kit Heath brand, so we are looking forward to the celebrations!