Growing up I loved jewellery, this is something I picked up from my mum. She always wore very glamours jewellery and looked amazing. I’m not sure what age I started to wear jewellery or get it bought to me but there are some pieces that definitely stick out in my mind. Like my First Holy Communion and Confirmation necklaces. A silver ring with a black heart onyx in the middle, I purchased this by saving my chore money over lent which my grandad doubled (he made a deal with me that if I went off sweets and kept it, plus didn’t spend my chore money during this time he would double it, great incentive – I now do this with my kids). There were lots of other pieces during my childhood which Santa brought, or I got as Christmas/birthday gifts. But the next piece that really stands out is a piece I designed myself to hold a pearl which my sister bought me from her first cruise contract in the Caribbean. As you can tell, I just loved jewellery. However, growing up it never occurred to me that I could be a jewellery maker/designer/teacher. I went down the science route.
I would never call myself an academic, but I think others might as I have a degree, post graduate certificate and a master’s in biomedical science. I followed this route as I love science and at the time medical science really pulled me in. So, I entered the world of work in the hospital laboratories. At first, I did really enjoy my job, I met my future husband there. We got engaged then married (2008) and moved from Northern Ireland to England. We moved to Birmingham where we both worked, I went back into the laboratories in the hospital. I loved Birmingham; it was great to start married life in a new country it was like a double adventure and I met some amazing friends.
Here I discovered the jewellery quarter and lots of jewellery courses. This was it, this was the turning point for me (as much as I loved my job, I just got more out of creating jewellery, I could lose myself for hours in the process and feel so much calm plus I felt so proud of what I created). I couldn’t get enough of jewellery, beads in particular at the start. I took over the dinner table and we had to eat sitting on the ground using the coffee table to hold our plates. My husband was a good sport and never complained. I can remember my younger brother visiting and being super impressed by a jewellery set I made. I know you may think this is normal support from a sibling, but in my family they are just super honest and do not sugar coat their opinions, so I knew he really meant it and so I knew that the pride I was feeling was deserved. As I continued to make more and more pieces, I started getting commissions from friends. This gave me a major confidence boost and from there I started doing more jewellery courses in both silver clay and silver smithing. It really made me wonder why these classes were not offered in Belfast as day classes. At this stage I started to build a website and think about making my hobby into a business.
Along comes a spanner in the works in the form of a baby ;). After lots of discussions we decided it was time to move home to be closer to family. My husband was going to get a more family friendly job and I was going to give up work to look after our new addition (it would be hard to go for job interviews with a pregnant belly). He suggested that we build a studio in our garden (replace our ramshackle garage) and I could teach jewellery classes to fill that gap in the market. I was super excited about this. We contacted a building firm to start planning as we also needed to build an extension onto our house in Belfast if we wanted to extend our family.
We moved back in June (due date was November) and my husband needed to train with his new company for three months in London (ultimately, he was going to be working from home). Anyway, I worked on the house extension right up to and after the birth of Mollie, as you can imagine I had not much time at all for jewellery. But I did manage to attend a free course which is available by the government called ‘go for it’, this helped keep my dream alive during this stage.
Soon after Mollie was born, we got pregnant with baby number two and started planning the building of the studio which would also hold an office for my husband. This was more of a drawn-out process as I had the two kids to think about and by this stage we had spent a lot of our budget on the house so money was a bit thin (also looking after two kids and builders was tough). I can’t actually remember when I got the studio finished but both girls were young, and I had put them into a nursery one day a week so I could focus on my business that day. I was exhausted and soon realised that I was a bit deluded. I had stupidly imagined that I would be able to work on my business during the day while, the kids were having their naps then go full throttle on their full day in Nursery. Now this is where I need to give myself a break. I did manage to set up a FB page @belfastschoolofjewellery and a website www.belfastschoolofjewellery.com. I didn’t actually do any advertising, so I basically got all my clients through people googling jewellery classes in Belfast and word of mouth. This means I wasn’t inundated with students, but I did have enough to keep my skills up and meet likeminded people, which was really important at this stage, as it helped keep my interest alive and gave me a much needed break from family life (It helped me remember who I am).
As the kids got older they got more demanding, which I wasn’t prepared for, lots of afterschool classes plus homework, so this took a while to get used to and I feel set me back a bit longer. However once Mollie got into p5 I noticed a change within myself, I was ready to start spending more time on me and what I wanted to do. The next step for me on this jewellery journey was to sell my creations, as I was and still am running my classes. While I was doing the jewellery classes when the kids were younger I was also doing a few commissions, mostly wedding pieces, and I realised that I really do love seeing people wear my designs, especially when they are so happy with them. I loved getting the feedback from clients and I can’t describe how honoured I feel that people choose to wear my designs.
I am now one and a half years into selling my jewellery and boy has it been a journey. One with many ups and downs. I didn’t understand fully before how much work there is for a one person business (which sounds silly since I do the jewellery classes, but remember I don’t really do any marketing), not only am I making all the jewellery, I’m doing all my social media (IG, FB, Pinterest), I also do a weekly blog and newsletter, I do all the photography except when I model it – then a friend takes the photos, but I still edit them. Then there is the website, I did really try to do the website, I had one live for the first year but decided I needed a better one, so I paid someone to do it. However, I’ve now taken it over and I do all the maintenance which involves adding my new pieces and upgrading the photos. Then there is all the bookkeeping, let’s just say that is definitely a work in progress. Ok I’m not sure if I need to take a Valium after listing everything I do lol or give myself a pat on the back, I’m gonna go with the later as it’s better for my confidence and self-esteem.
I know my business is no where near it’s full potential and that it takes a few years to get a new business established but I really have to be honest with you all, I thought I would be further ahead than what I am. But it’s ok, I still have more plans in the pipeline to help focus my business and I’m present every week as much as I can be (on social media and through emailing). They say this is what makes your business (I suppose it depends who you are listening to, and I’ve listened to a lot of business people, but for now this is what I’m grasping onto) , people seeing you and building up a relationship with you and feeling like they know and trust you. I have to say, I love this part, it’s great meeting new people this way – this is probably why I’m grasping onto to this piece of advice over lots of other pieces lol.
But I do love every moment of it, I’m glad my husband suggested we build that studio and for me to chase my dream of having a jewellery business. I have grown so much in this time. My husband and friends are super impressed with all that I do and it has given them a new respect for handmade businesses and all the hard work that we do. I have met some amazing friends on IG, they are encouraging and help pick me up if I’m having an unsure day. I like to think I do the same for them. My family and friends are also super supportive and remember to ask how it’s going, they turn up at my open nights (none this year due to Covid) and always compliment my jewellery (they are keepers). Every time I get an order I am actually doing that dance you hear about…you know every time a small business gets an order then do a private dance, only mine isn’t so private I make sure I tell the kids and dance with them. It’s been great to share this journey with them as school is so focused on getting good grades that I want them to see that doing your best in school is important but so too is continuing with what your passionate about. Doing your best is key and the rest will follow.
If you have managed to stick around through all my waffling, then thanks and well done you :). I hope you learned something new about me. If you are at a crossroads in your life (maybe due to Coronavirus) and are thinking of starting a new business, has this encouraged you or put you off (hopefully the former)? I would love to know. If you have any questions with regards starting your own business and think I might be able to help, then please do get in touch. I am more than happy to try and help or steer you in the right direction if I can. I would really love to support you. Also, if you have had a similar journey I would love to hear about it and maybe learn from you too.
If you would like to keep up to date with new collections/classes or any offers (I will be doing lots of offers coming close to Christmas) then sign up to my newsletter, you also get 10%off when you sign up. If you would like to keep in contact and see what I’m up to daily then please follow me on IG and lets become closer friends.
That’s all for this week. Chat to you all again next week. Until then stay safe and keep sparkling.