For this week’s Meet the Maker blog, we chatted to makers who create their own jewellery and accessories. In this Q&A, we spoke to Kayleigh of Cyndra Arts & Alison of Alice Made. Read on to find out how they both created and launched their businesses, the process to creating their products and the journey’s they have gone on throughout.
Pedddle: Tell us a bit about your business and how it started – e.g. where did you first become interested in producing your products/learn the skills it takes to produce them?
Cyndra Arts: I started Cyndra Arts while I was in uni, but once I graduated, moved and got a job, it took a back seat for a few years. Then, at the end of 2019, I slowly started bringing it back to life. In 2020, I launched my first two ranges of project bag and it’s grown from there! My original, double sectioned yarn bag is the product of an idea that formed when I was on a plane and trying to keep my two yarns from getting tangled. The idea kept growing and eventually I turned it into a fully formed bag that is now perfect for knitting/crocheting with two colours at once, or even just keeping two projects in. From there, ideas kept forming and now I have a whole range of project bags and accessories designed especially for knitters and crocheters. If you’d have told me 10 years ago that I design, make and sell bags, I would’ve laughed and said no way because I hated my sewing machine back then! The key to getting on with your sewing machine is being patient and talking to it nicely.
Alice Made: Hi, I’m Alice Gardiner and I grew up fascinated by the beautiful treasures within my Mum’s jewellery box and would while away many hours searching through my Grandma’s button tin as a child. A lifelong love of crafting (a doll can never have too many knitted scarfs) became obsessively focussed on jewellery after attending a workshop organised by a local Arts Festival. This initially involved glass beads but then I really felt the pull and draw of gemstones, and Alice Made was born.
Pedddle: Following on from the first question, we’d love to know more about your process, the materials you use and what you’re inspired by.
Cyndra Arts: I do everything from creating the design and pattern (with the occasional mathematical input from my husband!) to cutting and ironing the fabric ready for sewing, before I then finally sew the bags. It still surprises me how much prep there is in sewing! I am inspired by colour. Bold patterns and beautiful colours are my jam. One of my favourite parts of Cyndra Arts is choosing new fabrics. I get lost down rabbit holes of beautiful patterns and stunning colours, always looking for the perfect new addition to my fabrics.
Alice Made: At the centre of my jewellery are the ethically sourced gemstones, beautiful little treasures from far flung lands. These are my inspiration and I pair them with sterling silver, plated wires, copper and silk to make wearable jewellery that showcases the stones themselves. I use a range of techniques: wire wrapping, pearl knotting, hammering, silver clay, soldering… there’s always something new to try. I am particularly drawn to the gemstones for the properties they possess, I keep a nugget of citrine in my purse to protect my pennies, and I love lepidolite for the calming energy which it has in spades.
Pedddle: Do you remember your first selling experience?
Cyndra Arts: Yes – in the first iteration of Cyndra Arts, I remember attending an outdoor craft fair. It was windy and the gazebo almost took off. Nightmare! I also had people tell me they wouldn’t pay anywhere near what I was asking for my items (and looking back, my prices were ridiculously cheap) but I was too young and nice to stand up for myself. Since restarting Cyndra Arts, I have gained more confidence in myself and my prices and know that what I offer represents good value and very high quality workmanship. Selling now is much more fun!
Alice Made: I think I should have draped myself in red jasper for focus during my first selling experience as I was so engrossed in making the market stall look right, I forgot to put the price on anything. Self-employment is a steep learning curve, there’s always lots to do! And that is one of the things I love about running Alice Made, there are always new techniques, new gemstones, new meanings to discover… never a dull day. It’s so rewarding when someone loves something you have created.
Pedddle: What challenges did you face when you first launched your business?
Cyndra Arts: Thinking about when I restarted Cyndra Arts, I had the challenge of lockdown. I started selling again just as covid hit. I was no longer able to go out to shops to source my fabrics, and I did end up with a lot of duds from ordering online! But things like that happen when you’re starting out, and you just have to take it on the chin and go on to the next option. I also had the challenge of social media. Instagram has been a blessing and a curse – you think you’re getting somewhere and then suddenly it all drops off again and you have to rethink and not become disheartened. Which is really difficult! But once you get into a flow, it becomes less stressful – thank goodness!
Alice Made: I first launched Alice Made when I was at a crossroads in my life. After years of working behind a desk I faced redundancy and although pretty confused at the time it was a now or never opportunity for me to become self-employed. There were many challenges, I went from doing one role in a large organisation to doing dozens in my own. Suddenly I was the maker, designer, accountant, salesperson, stock taker, purchaser, packer, driver… the list goes on. It would have been easy to get overwhelmed by the ‘what if it all goes wrong’ voice but with a piece of turquoise in my pocket for luck I assumed the best, ‘but what if it all goes right?’! Seven years on and still standing.
Pedddle: What’s next for your business this year – anything you’re planning, looking forward to, are there any new products/ranges etc.
Cyndra Arts: Ooh this is a very exciting question because I JUST launched a new product! I missed any autumn releases this year due to moving house, so I’ve skipped merrily into the festive season instead. I’ve just launched my Christmas Eve Boxes! These are honestly the best way for a yarn lover to treat themselves this winter. I’m offering two themes – ‘I’m Dreaming of a Bright Christmas’ which is inspired by the whole spectrum of colour, and ‘Underneath the Northern Lights’ which is inspired by the beautiful blues and purples of the Aurora Borealis. In the box, you will receive a beautifully luxurious project bag, a completely gorgeous co-ordinating skein of hand-dyed yarn, AND a little extra (non edible!) something special just for you. The boxes will arrive mid-December, wrapped up and ready for you to put under your tree and open on Christmas Eve (or whenever you fancy a festive treat!). These are such a good way to treat yourself, and although you’ll know the theme, you’ll still get that surprising ‘Oooooh!’ Moment when you unwrap your box. If you can’t tell – I’m super excited about these because they are going to be SO BEAUTIFUL.
Alice Made: I’m currently busy getting ready for the lovely Christmas Markets that take place at this time of year and restocking ready for the festive shopping spree. I’m also planning my website and I’ve recently started working on mala necklaces which are calming and relaxing to make. I’m always excited to source new gemstones, they fill me with ideas, it’s parting with them that is the difficult thing! Now what would be a good gemstone to prevent hoarding!