Meet The Team - Kirsty Smith

Friday 29th April 2022

How did you first get into engraving?

I took a jewellery and silversmithing course at Guildhall University in 2000. We had to choose a subject we wanted to study- enamelling, diamond setting and engraving, amongst others. An inspirational Japanese engraver showed us engraving techniques with hammer and chisel. I remember it like it was yesterday - beautiful work! So I took engraving and silversmithing. It never crossed my mind that engraving would become my job one day.

When and how did you start working at Holland & Holland?

I was a year into my subjects at Guildhall when my engraving tutor handed me a number for Holland & Holland. I went for a chat with the manager and Foreman of the engraving shop with only a piece of copper sheet work to show them, but that was enough. They gave me a six month trial, which started in June 2001. It took me a few years before I was let loose on a gun. In May 2019 I became Forewoman of the engraving shop.

Do you have a most memorable gun you have engraved?

The most memorable gun has to be the ‘London Gun’.  We were given the opportunity to design whatever we wanted to be engraved on the gun, with a few ground rules!  Lots of tears and upset words came with the London gun but also fun and a load of enthusiasm, so it would be pretty hard for me to forget.  The client who owns the ‘London Gun’ wants another one, but designed and engraved for his own country so it could be endless!

Can you explain the process of engraving from inception to completion and do you get to work directly with clients?

We get a chance to meet some of the clients face to face. We can create something a lot more personal for them, instead of taking a picture out of the engraving book. Some clients have some very interesting ideas!

Once the action has been polished (stripped) for engraving, we hand draw the pattern onto the action with pencil, copying smoke prints from previous guns. Some of the prints are very old, which keeps the Holland & Holland iconic patterns alive and uniformed through the decades. Some patterns we have drawn up ourselves. Once the pattern is on, and we are happy with it, we scribe the drawing and then cut. The engraving is cut in stages, layer by layer, until complete. It then gets quality checked and handed back to the finishers.

Roughly how long does each engraving take?

The times differ on each action. A ‘Royal Scroll’ SxS takes 150 - 220 hours for a double rifle. Acanthus, SxS. 220 -  290 hours for a double rifle.

For the floral designs and games scenes, you are looking at 400 - 500 hours.

What are the advantages of hand engraving over laser engraving? 

A hand engraved piece will always be superior to laser, but then I would say that, wouldn’t I? It’s unique and has a personality like it’s someone’s handwriting and there won’t be another like it. Laser does have a place as well. It’s quick, clean and precise. 

As Forewoman of engraving at Holland & Holland, what have been the most challenging and rewarding aspects of your journey to get to this point in your career?

When I started my job I was the only female craftsperson in the factory, being 19 years old it was quite awkward. I was very shy so perhaps that made it more of a challenge for me. I didn’t really come out of shell until my Foreman left, and I took the role of Forewomen. There have been a few female engravers at the factory in the past, I’m not sure if there’s been a Forewoman though. I took what I learnt from my Foreman, I like to think I’ve put a feminine touch to it and I have found training Journeyman Elleni Faucher to be incredibly rewarding. Some clients are still surprised today to see young ladies engraving, they are used to seeing more mature men doing the job!

Do you shoot and what would be your Holland & Holland gun of choice?

I’ve been to the range a few times and I would say I’m not a bad shot but I would like to shoot more.
My gun of choice would be a Royal SxS .410 shotgun with classic Acanthus. Brush bright....please!