These fab jewellery makers, Lärka and Suzanne Jewellery, have both refined their styles to be distinguishable, stylish and unique, and we just had to know more! They discussed with Pedddle the skills they learned to create their products, running a small business through a pandemic, and why it’s so important to continue to support our small business, now more than ever.
Read on to hear from the makers themselves in this Meet the Maker Q&A and learn a little bit more about their processes and love of making!
Pedddle: Where did you first become interested in producing your products, and how did you learn the skills you needed to produce them?
Suzanne Jewellery: I studied jewellery design and silversmithing at University. It wasn’t until a number of years later I came across an article in a magazine about Diana East, a lampworker. I was intrigued about this process and when I noted she was running courses instantly booked to go. Discovering lampworking changed my life, from one weekend course it opened my eyes to this fantastic medium, glass which I instantly fell in love with. It still amazes me every day how you go from a solid glass rod and by gently heating it within minutes you have this delicious treacle like medium which has such versatility. The rest, as you say, is history.
Lärka: Jewellery design and making is not a new thing for me, as I graduated from Manchester Metropolitan University in 1997 with a BA (Hons) in 3D Design, specialising in silversmithing and ceramics. However, I wasn’t ready to have my own business and worked in several low paid jobs until I fell into floristry. I worked as a florist for 5 years and really enjoyed it, but it was lacking the design and creative aspect I was craving. I managed to get work as an art department assistant on Hollyoaks, which then led to more work as a graphic designer in other television dramas. I’m still working as a freelance art director now, predominantly on Coronation Street, as I have a lovely work family there, but I decided to pursue my jewellery design once again in between jobs in 2018, then launched Lärka officially in March 2020.
Pedddle: We’d love to know more about your process and what inspires you!
Lärka: With only having a limited amount of space to work in at home and coming from a graphic design background, I’m currently exploring laser cut designs from wood and acrylic. I’m a very clean and precise worker, so not having a messy workshop is heaven to me and with my designs being quite precise and graphic based laser cutting is ideal. I love combining solid walnut and matt acrylic as it gives quite a retro feel to my designs which is great as I’m very much inspired by mid-century design.
Suzanne Jewellery: Lampworking is a technique that enables me to design and individually make beautiful beads with intricate detail that makes every one unique. Colour and design is what motivates my designs, from the brightest oranges to the coolest blues. The combinations evolve through experimentation reflected in nature, fabrics and fashion.
Designs begin by melting a rod of glass in the flame of a blow torch. By manipulating the molten glass into a variety of shapes and sizes I can create an array of bead styles. Surface decoration is applied, by adding detail such as dots, stripes and spiral trails with finer pieces of glass called stringers. This way, I’m able to build up the layers of both opaque and translucent colours, from which the combinations are endless. The finished beads are annealed in a kiln for approx 24 hours, making them very strong and durable.
Using my silversmithing skills and the glass beads I have made, I produce a range of jewellery which includes necklaces, bracelets, earrings and cufflinks.
Pedddle: What was your experience running a small business during a pandemic? Have you sold at any markets since they’ve opened up again?
Lärka: With only launching in 2020, online has been the only kind of selling I’ve experienced as a small business owner so far. I haven’t sold at any markets yet, but watch this space!
Suzanne Jewellery: All my events/workshops were cancelled overnight, they make up 80% of my revenue. I already had a website and Etsy shop, but I find people like to see, touch and try on my jewellery and so the majority of sales through those were from existing customers – thankfully they kept on supporting me. I invested time in social media learning to make promotion videos, Instagram and Facebook stories and experiment with new designs.
I love meeting the public who come to see the events and talking about my jewellery, the process and answering any question they may have. I have a demonstration booth that I take to as many events as I can so people can watch the process which starts many a conversation. I also think its a good way of getting feed back on new pieces, colour ways etc. I love seeing my market/fair family other exhibitors which you may only see once a year, its great to catch up as well as share ideas, advice etc
I have just finished a five week exhibition at RHS Harlow Carr with the Designer Makers Market, which was fabulous, and I have Art In The Pen, Skipton in August and Art In The Gardens, Sheffield in Sept. And so far, a couple of events at Christmas, fingers crossed!
Pedddle: What do you love about small businesses?
Lärka: Getting a unique product that has been made with love, and the environmental impact is so much more likely to be taken into consideration. Shopping small means you are also supporting other local business and families that are involved in the chain.
Suzanne Jewellery: If you shop small, you get a real person who cares, they want to make your shopping experience the best it can be and will usually go the extra mile. You will get products you can’t get anywhere else. By shopping small, you support your community. It’s amazing in a small village or town, where small businesses are run from garages, out buildings and spare rooms. I know it’s a thriving industry here in Barnard Castle, where I live.
Pedddle: What’s next for your business this year – anything you’re planning, looking forward to, are there any new products/ranges etc?
Suzanne Jewellery: I’m pushing my workshops I have had a steady flow of students as we have come out of lockdown, thankfully people seem to just want to get out and learn new skills/techniques. With the uncertainness of Christmas events, I’m working on different ideas for then and going to start promoting early to maximise on them. So I am looking into how to improve my email marketing, social media etc.
Lärka: I’m always excited to bring out new collections! I’m really excited to be attending as a seller at The Great Northern Contemporary Craft fair in Victoria Baths, Manchester in October.