Nicolson Russell is a South African cutlery business that was started in 2007 by Emma Russell from Johannesburg. They design, manufacturer and import designer cutlery from around the world. The name originates from the surnames of her two families, Russell on her father’s side and Nicolson on her mother’s. Nicolson Russell has four factories overseas. The design work and packaging is all done locally out of their head-office in Sandton, Johannesburg. Emma Russell is the owner and head designer:
“I am impulsive. I often act and then think but I believe it’s my spontaneous nature that has got me where I am today. I studied Finance at Wits and before long found myself working for a big corporate, stressed and unhappy. I quit my job and headed to Dubai to work as an air hostess for Emirates.
What followed was 4 incredible years that opened my eyes to a new and completely different culture, plus I travelled the world. Dubai is very entrepreneurial, people are not afraid to take risks and are encouraged to take the leap. This completely contradicted the conservative South African mindset that I was used to.
While my flight was grounded in Thailand for a few days, some colleagues and I hired a car and drove to the south. Ayutthaya was once the capital of Siam and this legacy can been seen in its breath taking palaces and monuments. The area is rural and sandy roads are lined with forests and small houses inhabited by locals hard at work making beautiful crafts.
I am like a magpie, always attracted to shiny things and I was drawn to a house where a family were crafting handmade cutlery. It was intricate and gorgeous and I bought two sets, one of which I gave to my sister for her wedding present.
I returned to Johannesburg and worked for a top hotel in Sandton. I was happy to be home and continued in my position as PR manager for a while. But when my sister had a dinner party with my cutlery, the events that happened couldn’t have come sooner. The financial director of a larger retail outlet loved the cutlery and mentioned they were looking for something just like it for the stores.
It was the push I needed; I left my job and flew to Thailand immediately. After locating the family, I spent time learning the craft. I started importing the Ayutthaya range and business soared. 10 years later and I supply some of the largest retail outlets in South Africa and I design and manufacture cutlery for private lodges, event companies and hotels. I love what I do and believe my passion is reflected in the cutlery that we design.”
Emma Jane Russell – Owner and Head Designer/Cutler at Nicolson Russell