The history of jewellery goes back thousands of years for good reason – it’s not just something that looks beautiful; it offers special memories, heirlooms and keepsakes too. This week’s Meet the Maker gets to know three Pedddle stallholders better; Jackie Vine Jewellery, Mijoux Creations & Lizzy Chambers.
Each of these makers creates gorgeous jewellery, and we wanted to know more about why they do what they do, where they get inspiration from, their top tips for markets and how their businesses have survived the pandemic. Let’s meet Jackie Vine Jewellery, Mijoux Creations & Lizzy Chambers…
Pedddle: What first inspired you to launch a creative business?
Jackie Vine Jewellery: I started making jewellery 4 years ago. It started as a hobby after seeing a ring that a friend of the family had made. Jewellery making and tool buying has been a little addictive! I’ve really enjoyed the process of learning new skills.
My first creative business was Jackie Vine Glass, which I set up in 2005. I have 4 children and the youngest, twin boys, started school that year. I wanted to start something I could fit around them and the school summer holidays. My husband worked long hours and often worked away during the week. That started as I did a stained glass evening class one night a week when the twins were 1 and the older two children were 3 and 5, but I progressed into jewellery.
Mijoux Creations: I’ve always worked in the jewellery industry, ever since I left Uni, so I’ve always been around what I love. I have been making jewellery as a hobby for most of my life. Then when I had children and moved out of London I thought it was time to sell some of it!
Naturally with small children this was easier said than done, but I’ve been working hard and as the time has gone on, my business has grown. I think having my children made me realise that I wanted them to see me doing something I was passionate about and that it shouldn’t just be about how much you earn but how much your job enables you to enjoy life.
Lizzy Chambers: I left work when I was pregnant with my first child, John. Nobody warns you about what a big change of life it’s going to be; the lack of adult contact was really difficult after having a fast paced job, but I wanted to be there for him and give him the time I knew my mum had given me. I started growing vegetables in the garden with John and then flowers, and we spent time being creative together. However I still had an itch to create something for myself. I originally started painting, as that was the thing that I loved, but art is so personal and unless you are willing to put your art onto homewares then it’s a hard slog and I didn’t feel confident to put my designs onto products and have real stock.
George (my second child) came along and we all took to the garden. The kids were growing up and loved being creative, they would pick things and bring them in to keep, which is when my current business started, with creating keepsakes inspired by my kids picking flowers in the garden.
I now work with flower farms, grow more flowers myself and dry them, creating botanical jewellery filled with real dried flowers.
Pedddle: It’s been such a tough year for everyone – this week marks a year since UK lockdown initially began. However, there has been positive news too – what’s been your highlight of 2021 so far?
Jackie Vine Jewellery: This is difficult to choose in the pandemic, so there is no one big thing but there has been small wins.
I’ve sorted out selling online a bit, it still needs a lot more work and I’m still learning, but I’m getting there. I’ve never needed to do it in the past as I’ve always sold at markets and in shops. I think the highlight of selling online is getting feedback from happy customers. It’s really lovely to have a message to say how much someone loves something you’ve made for them, or how much their sister or mum loved the gift. It’s uplifting to think of all the little highlights going on in everyone’s lives while we wait for normality to return.
Mijoux Creations: It certainly has been a strange start to the year! I think my main highlight so far has been a lovely commission where I had to make a signet ring and pendant using some lovely sea glass that had special meaning to the customer. Being in lockdown has meant I’ve missed talking to my customers and it was really lovely to work on this commission with the customer.
Lizzy Chambers: This year I’ve been part of the Design Trust’s Dream Plan Do, where I have an accountability group with 5 other designers and small shop owners. It’s been the best thing for me. We have a meeting every Monday and share what we are going to achieve this week and what we managed to do the previous week. It’s been so nice to share each other’s successes and knowledge to just support one another, and I think I might have done more these last 2-3 months than I did last year!
Pedddle: What do you have planned next for your business?
Jackie Vine Jewellery: Over the next couple of years I’m planning to work more with gold.
My immediate plans include selling my glass kiln and sorting out my studio. The glass kiln is massive, we’re having to take down part of the fence and lower the hedge to get it out of the studio! It’s sold, we’re just waiting for fewer Covid restrictions to finally move it and make some space.
Mijoux Creations: I have so many plans!!! I want to keep building up my business this year and I have some exciting new events that I will be exhibiting at, like the Bath & West Show. There will of course be new collections. I’m currently working on a collection for Autumn called ‘Skyline’, and expanding my range of bangles – because I love to stack up bangles!
Lizzy Chambers: I’m really excited for 2021. Last year I had great plans that had to be put on hold, but (all being well!) this June / July I will be opening up my studio space for the very first time with Harrow Open Studios. As part of the committee, we have been working on projects throughout the year to get everyone online and show their work in alternative ways, but hopefully we will get to open in person this year.
Later on in the year I will be joining the National Wedding Show in London, as I’m working on a bridal and wedding collection. I have some new pieces that I have created that will be launching in April, as I now like to create some one-off pieces that are released every few months, as well as my core pieces. It’s a great way for people to see my work, that would have gone to events in the last year.
Pedddle: What is your favourite product that you’ve ever produced and why?
Jackie Vine Jewellery: My favourite product is my flush set ring. It’s a really difficult setting style to learn, but I really persevered as I love the style and I’m proud of myself for not just giving up.
Mijoux Creations: That’s like asking me to choose between my children! One of my best selling ranges is my Boho collection. I love the pattern I use on these pieces as it is really detailed and pretty. The round stud Boho earrings are perfect for everyday wear and the gemstone pendants are really popular. I’ve just made myself one using a green sapphire, as my favourite colour is green.
I also really love my ‘One of a Kind Treasures’. These are mostly gem set pieces and each one is completely unique. These designs are often influenced by the stone itself and they allow me to really run free with my creativity.
Lizzy Chambers: My most favourite products are when I get to work with clients that have wedding flowers – they send me a lovely box of flowers from their special day and it’s like a little treat for me to work with these flowers that mean so much. I dry them, pick out my favourite parts and arrange them into my glass orbs to create something special that will last, and each piece is a one off. I feel like my job is to finish off the last piece of the puzzle for their special day.
Pedddle: What’s your best tip for selling at a market?
Jackie Vine Jewellery: Make sure your display is eye-catching, and ideally there needs to be height.
People can’t see your products if everything is just laid out on the table, they need to be able to see things from a distance so consider how to create different levels and give people something to look at.
Be present, say hi to everyone, and then you’ll sell more and make connections with people more than if you sit and read a book or chat to your friends or other stallholders.
I’m still learning about online selling – I’m trying to soak in all the tips from Pedddle!
Mijoux Creations: Smile! Most people at markets are there to enjoy the creative buzz and they love a good natter. A smile is the perfect way to say hello and allows people to feel relaxed to come up and look at your items.
Even if they are not in a position to buy from you that day, people will remember you for the future. Obviously, this is harder for online markets but the same principle applies – if you come across as friendly, people are more likely to stop and look at your work.
Lizzy Chambers: My top tips for selling at an in-person event are:
1. NEVER be on your phone, unless you don’t want to talk to your customers! Yes, it can be boring waiting for people to come to you, but this is part of the process.
2. Be HAPPY! Don’t moan to fellow traders even if you’re having a bad day or the weather is awful, the customers can still hear you and it sets a bad tone to the event! You want to create a happy market atmosphere and that will encourage people to buy things or remember you in future – even if it’s not a good day for you.
3. Say hello to your customers. You get a sense of whether they want to chat once you’ve broken the ice. You might want to ask them how they are or talk about the event to encourage conversation. Feed them product information as they pick things up, tell them about how you make the items, talk about your colours and textures as they use their senses to check out your stall, and it will help them remember you.
4. Listen to your customers! Just like you do (or used to) when you ear-wig at the table next to you in a pub or restaurant. Use what you have heard and help them pick the right thing, correct their mis-understanding of your work if it helps you to talk about your process, ask them about treating themselves or where the gift is going to.
5. Use props to sell your work. A vase looks better with a flower in it, it makes customers visualise what it would look like in their home.
6. Not everyone is there to buy your work. We are like Marmite – they will either love you or not. Don’t stress about that, they might be browsing and getting ideas for future presents. Don’t forget that sometimes markets aren’t about making sales – it’s about exposure so that people remember you in future and tell their friends. Make sure there is a way of them taking a business card, seeing your Pedddle board or zapping a QR code to keep you in mind for a later date – you never know if they will share it with a friend or pass it to their partner to buy for their next birthday! Or they might give you a mention on social media – it’s all an opportunity for you.
Pedddle: Do you have any markets coming up soon?
Jackie Vine Jewellery: I have The Handmade Showcase coming up at the end of April. I’m so lucky to be involved, there are only 20 of us and we all promote the event and each other. It’s a lovely community.
I’m also taking part in MK Handmade and Vintage in June, which is usually in March. It’s in Middleton Hall in Milton Keynes, and it will be my first outing since this time last year!
Mijoux Creations: Unfortunately, it looks like my April in-person fairs will be cancelled due to the current lockdown restrictions but I’ll be out there in May when we are allowed to do so.
I have some online fairs and showcases coming up at the end of March and at the beginning of April – the Shop Small Love Indie market, the Small Biz Virtual Market and the Handmade Hour Showcase. In May there will be lots more going on (fingers crossed), including the Wylye Valley Art Trail and fairs in Salisbury, Winchester and Trowbridge.
Lizzy Chambers: In May, Harrow Open Studios is creating an online event called The Celebration of Colour, showing off our work before hopefully opening our studios to people in June and July!