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CROWNING GLORY

Weddings often involve lots of clichés about fairytales and

feeling like a princess, but one Sutton Coldfield woman

does quite literally crown brides for their big day.

Words Jenny Amphlett Pictures Caroline Strange

Katy creates tiaras and

WEDDINGS | Journal Journal | WEDDINGS

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Katy Stewart specialises in hand-made and often one-off tiaras, fascinators and beaded wedding hair flowers. A former hairdresser and London College of Fashion student, Katy set up her business last year after demand for the hair decorations she made for friends and hairdressing clients began to grow. She hand makes every single piece she sells, creating her own designs using Swarovski crystals, beads and carefully dissected antique jewellery. “I went to the London College of Fashion to study hair and make-up for the performing arts,” she explained. “I’ve always been very creative and made things. When I became a hairdresser and started working for Lisa Shepherd Sutton Coldfield, I was soon made the wedding hair specialist. “My college course had involved wigs, so it gave me a really good foundation for constructing designs with hair and creating dramatic up-dos. It helped me to progress quickly. “People would bring in their tiaras and fascinators to the salon and I’d often look at the piece and think that I could make it myself. “I started off by making hair clips which I’d sell. At the salon, I styled hair for lots and lots of women who were going out to balls or special occasions, so I’d find myself making beaded flowers to go in their hair and match their outfits. They’d often text me a picture of their dress and then I’d go out and find just the right shade of bead. “Sometimes, when you’re putting hair up, it needs a little extra something to finish it off, and it’s even better if it’s been made just for you. “It grew and grew until it got to the point where it was taking over the hairdressing side of things for me. I knew I had to create a website so that I could get things up and running properly and be able to sell across the country.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Midlands-born Katy, aged 35, and her husband Alex moved to Sutton Coldfield 10 years ago after deciding to leave London. She now works from an office in their comfortable home on the outskirts of town.

Katy’s own personal preference is for fascinators,which she feels are more modern that tiaras, but she concedes that many brides want tradition for their special day and so the tiara market is huge.

“There are a lot of tiaras on the market, but a lot of them are very similar. I like to do something a little bit different to everyone else, and offer the chance for my pieces to be personalised.” She says around half of her clients order directly from what they see on her website, but others ask for little tweaks to make the piece their own –

perhaps changing the colour or the number of beads in the width of a flower petal. “Some brides-to-be are incredibly specific. They know exactly what they want for their wedding, and if that is flower petals that are exactly seven beads wide, then so be it,” she said. “It doesn’t make life difficult for me at all, in fact it’s more exciting to work on bespoke orders.”

Other brides leave ordering until very late, and have been known to contact Katy just 10 days before their wedding – but she always tries to help when she can.

In addition to brides, the bespoke element also appeals to mothers of the bride, who can ensure their colour scheme matches their daughter’s, and that their unique hair ornament won’t be worn by anyone else that day.

Flower and butterfly clips are popular for bridesmaids or children attending special occasions.

Katy has two sons, Charlie, nine, and Alfie, four, who, while they can’t really wear hair accessories themselves, are more than happy to get creative with beads. And young daughters of her friends are spellbound by the tiaras when they come to visit, she says.

Running her own business has helped Katy to be more flexible for her boys, and enables her to fit her working hours around the school run. She says she does much of her work in the evenings, after the boys have gone to bed, as she finds it relaxing. It’s not unusual for her to still be working at 10pm if she has an urgent order to complete, but similarly she is able to leave her work for a few days if needs be. Katy is happy to make jewellery to match her fascinators, and says she sometimes inadvertently finds herself making pieces for several different guests attending the same wedding – only finding out when she has several requests for the same colours in a close geographical area. Some of Katy’s pieces are one-offs, as she scours second-hand shops and the internet for vintage jewellery she can carefully take apart, clean and breathe new life into. “It has to be really good-quality jewellery, I can’t just use anything, and it has to involve lots of linking pieces that I can take apart. Then before I

do anything else with it, I have to give it a good clean and polish,” she explained. “I team the old jewellery with new crystals and new wire, and can put in a blue crystal if desired, so there’s old, new and blue in one item. Having to pay quite a bit for the jewellery can put up the price of the finished piece, but what people end up with is a tiara that is truly one of a kind.” Cleverly, some of her designs are created in such a way that the tiara can he used as a necklace afterwards, giving a third life to something that was once tired and unloved. This works particularly well with the silver marcasite pieces she is fond of using. When it comes to creating new designs, Katy

scours the internet for the latest wedding dress collections, looking out especially for patterns and colour themes.

She is particularly pleased when colourful wedding dresses are in vogue, as it gives her the opportunity to move away from traditional white, silver and gold. It is not unusual for her to be e-mailed photographs of an outfit, to ensure the tiara or fascinator will match perfectly. “One recent lady was attending a wedding and e-mailed me eight pictures of her dress and three of her shoes, so that I could tie everything together and ensure the design suited everything else. It’s really helpful to have that sort of detail.”

Katy is happy to make home visits to people living in the Sutton Coldfield area, so that they can try on a range of designs and discover what works best for them. She has also been known to visit salons for wedding hair rehearsals, so that different pieces can be tried with the chosen hairstyle.

Katy’s best-selling piece is the flower garden fascinator, which comprises three flowers on a band and takes her up to four hours to make, but simpler flower clips, which are less labour intensive and consequently a little cheaper, are also very popular. She herself married without a tiara, fascinator or beaded flower in her hair, opting instead for a simple real bloom. “We had a very simple wedding in Canada,” she said. “I got married in red and was never really a traditional bride myself. Maybe that’s why I prefer fascinators to tiaras, because they’re that little bit different.” When it comes to future plans, Katy says it could be tricky to expand too much – as part of her

ethos is that every single thing is hand made by her. However she is planning to set up a dedicated fascinators’ website, selling both her own work and branded pieces made by other jewellery designers.

• For more information about Katy Stewart’s work, visit her website at www.katystewart.co.uk