BLOG

POPULAR

Taking a leap: going out on your own

CWC_2016-01-21_BLOG_insta-graphic_template

by Christina Lowry

I always wanted to be an artist. As a teenager, I had romantic notions of living in a studio surrounded by canvases, paint, red wine, and cigarettes while I suffered for my art. I lived this dream for a while when I moved out of home and undertook a Fine Art/Visual Arts degree straight out of high school. I rushed through my early foundation classes in sculpture and silver-smithing, awaiting my longed-for painting instruction. Alas, after undertaking my foundation course in painting I realised that my love of arts and passion for creating weren’t enough. I was surrounded by amazing artists, I was invisible to my lecturer, and my work was far below my expectations. I hadn’t learnt yet that comparison is the death of joy. I didn’t know not to compare my “chapter one” to someone else’s chapter twenty. I just felt a sense of failure and fear. And as a seventeen-year-old living in a world of adults, I assumed the answer was to drop out.

I’m so pleased that a friend and fellow student talked me out of such ideas, so pleased that I stuck it out. I fell in love with and majored in my next foundation area: intermedia (a mixed-media approach to fine art). Here I learnt how to become an artist: how to question, see, experiment. I was given free rein over photography equipment and a darkroom. I learnt early Photoshop and built a website, created sculptures and installations, journaled, and exhibited my work. I still didn’t know what I was going to “do” when I grew up, but I trusted that I would work it out.

To complete my degree, I needed to tick off two final classes. My financial situation had changed by this point, and studying silver-smithing became a viable option. It seemed like an enjoyable way to meet the requirements of the degree. After three years at Uni, these last two classes actually decided my future, for it was here that I found my medium and decided to become a jeweller. I fell in love with the rigidity and flexibility of metal. I was enthralled with the techniques and history of the practice. It was sculpture in miniature, designed to be worn. It was craft, art, and a trade. The day after I graduated I started applying for jewellery apprenticeships. I wanted to be a “real” jeweller, with a secure, guaranteed income as I learnt the craft, and the ability to create work and exhibit in my own time.

188_copy

Styling the jewellery

Finding an apprenticeship is no easy task. I spent the next several years working in jewellery stores as a sales assistant, getting whatever time and training I could at the jewellery bench and learning anything else I could in the process—from pearl threading to Diamond grading, gem identification to antique hall marks. I learnt sales strategies, stocktake, and stock and package ordering. I met suppliers and went to industry launches and trade fairs. I took a twelve-month jeweller vocation course at the Goldsmith school. I worked with several jewellers and finally started an apprenticeship, only to lose it when the business ran out of capital. After all this time, effort, and learning, I still wasn’t a real jeweller.

By the time I took maternity leave with my first child, I was so burnt out on the jewellery industry that I settled in to being a stay-at-home mum and didn’t touch the tools in my workshop for more than eighteen months. Eventually, I made a silver pendant as a gift for a friend. Then I made my sister a pair of earrings. Online sales platforms like Etsy and Madeit were taking off and friends suggested I sell my jewellery online. So I did, as a hobby.

With hindsight, I can join the dots, but at the time I couldn’t see the forest for the trees. The thought of starting my own business hadn’t occurred to me. I thought I would return to the workforce as a jewellery sales assistant and keep trying to get an apprenticeship, chasing the elusive dream of becoming a “jeweller.” I thought receiving my apprentice certificate would remove the imposture syndrome I felt. But as I kept making and selling my jewellery, I realised that the certificate was only important to me. When people brought my pieces, they didn’t ask if I was a “real” jeweller, self-taught, or a bit of both.

073_copy

Christina behind the scenes

Change came rushing in after listening to Clare Bowditch speak at a Big-hearted Business morning tea. I had begun tossing up the possibility of selling my wares at a local craft market in a school hall, still with a hobby mindset. Clare encouraged us to get out pens and paper and write down where we wanted to be in five years’ time. For the first time, it clicked that in five years’ time I could still have a hobby—or I could own my own business. I decided to apply for that craft market! After the event I chatted with creative business owners and shared my revelation. They were pleased, but offered another revelation: don’t aim small. Find the best market around for what you want to sell, and apply for it. That day, a fire was lit inside me that still hasn’t gone out.

My hobby became a business the moment I decided to treat it like a business. I had to embrace fear and question my belief that I wasn’t the sort of person who could own a business. I applied for the Brisbane Finders Keepers market and spent the next couple months making stock and learning everything I could about business. I launched Christina Lowry Designs in November 2013 at Finder Keepers.

177_copy

Collaborating with creatives

Now in my fourth year in business, I consider myself not only a “jeweller,” but a designer, mentor, and businesswoman. Everything I have learnt, from my fine arts degree to my sales work, has been incorporated into Christina Lowry Designs. I define my own work life balance. My family is my priority. My passion and drive continues. I believe in lifelong learning. I read, listen to podcasts, collaborate with other creatives, and take courses. And every day, I am so glad I took the leap and went out on my own.

Photos by Trudi Le Brese Photography for Christina Lowry Designs

Christina Lowry is a designer and jeweller who makes fine jewellery for creatives. Her work is featured in several Australian galleries, as well as in her online store. Christina fell in love with jewellery making while studying a Bachelor of Fine Art/Visual Art. Each piece is lovingly made by hand in her Brisbane workshop, incorporating precious metals and gemstones, using traditional metalworking techniques.

Interview: Julia Denes of Woodfolk

By Andrea McArthur

Woodfolk Accessories

For my final interview of 2013, I am delighted to reveal the story behind a creative new accessories label, Woodfolk.

I discovered Woodfolk at the Finders Keepers Market held recently in Sydney, but it was not long before this that Woodfolk was officially launched at Life Instyle Melbourne. Despite its infancy, word of this stylish label is certainly spreading fast.

Julia Denes is the founder and jewellery designer behind Woodfolk. Julia created the label as a break from the fast moving modern world in which we live, with the aim to bring you down to earth. Woodfolk achieves this through simple design, a gentle colour palette and by using only natural materials and fabric.

All Woodfolk products are Australian designed and proudly made by Nepali artisans, throughout local and remote areas of Nepal. The Nepali artisans use their master skills to create beautiful and quality accessories through traditional carving, natural dying, knitting and weaving techniques.

Julia Denes

What led you down your current path?

I originally studied a Bachelor of Fine Arts at COFA majoring in Photography, before taking off around the world on a two-year travel adventure that took me to 21 different countries. After spending the last six months of my trip in Central America stringing seeds and shells on banana tree vines, I knew jewellery was my calling.

When I got home I straight away enrolled at Enmore Design Centre, got myself an apprenticeship and began learning to hand-make fine jewellery. Over the years I worked for some of Sydney’s most prominent jewellers both designing and making. In 2009 I started my first business Julia Denes Jewellery that specialised in custom one-off pieces.

Starting Woodfolk felt like a very natural progression. The idea was born after feeling the need to work with more earthy materials and all things natural, combined with my love of travel. I worked on the business for about a year before I launched it at Life Instyle Melbourne a few months ago. It’s got such heart to it, I absolutely love working on it and love the response I’ve been getting from stores and customers.

Who do you admire in Australian accessories design?

I have a lot of admiration for natural, authentic, down to earth businesses like Elk, Nancybird and Ink and Spindle, just to name a few. I find it very inspiring the way they run their businesses. I also love and appreciate all the (much needed) real life, motivational work Clare Bowditch is doing.

What has been your greatest career achievement to-date?

Starting my new business Woodfolk has been my greatest and proudest achievement so far. One of the obstacles I faced in the earlier stages was finding the right people to work with overseas to make the wooden components of my jewellery. I knew I could have gone somewhere like China or India and work with a factory, however that seemed to defeat the purpose of my business. So after lots of research and time spent in Nepal, I found the most lovely, talented family to work with and I’m so happy to be supporting them. I already have my eyes set on a couple of other countries for new product ranges as well.

img-woodfolk-braclet

Describe a typical day at work…

I don’t really have a typical day as I’m running two businesses at the moment and wearing many hats. However, mornings generally start with emails and lots of cups of tea. Days can be filled with stringing and finishing all the wood jewellery; making the ceramic jewellery; getting Woodfolk orders ready and sent; preparing for different design markets and trade shows; liaising with stockists and contacting new stores; creating custom jewellery pieces; developing new ideas to build on the Woodfolk range; all the usual business stuff; and the list goes on. I do like to finish my day with some yoga, pilates or a walk to clear my head – otherwise I start to become a crazy person!

What future plans do you have for Woodfolk?

I have a lot of plans for Woodfolk and see a lot of potential. I’m planning to expand the jewellery line to include more ceramic pieces which have had a great response. A new line of natural style market bags and hand-dyed cotton scarves are already in progress, and I’m considering including some homewares to the range for next year. I’m in no rush though, so I’ll let the nature of this business take its course rather than try and do everything at once.

img-woodfolk-necklace

5 Questions in 5 minutes – Getting Personal:

Studio Sounds, what’s playing?

Always something chilled like Ray LaMontagne or Birdy.

What are you currently reading?

Daring Greatly by Brene Brown.

What are you looking forward to?

My upcoming (and much needed) holiday to Vietnam with my husband.

Can you share your go to resource for inspiration?

Blogs like The Design Files, Design Sponge, Books Kinokuniya on George St in Sydney (such a great book store) and I’m a total Pinterest addict (find my page at pinterest.com/woodfolknatural)

What is your local area’s best kept secret?

There aren’t many secrets left unfortunately in Sydney but I can share some favourite spots: Bondi Beach Farmer’s Markets every Saturday; Breakfast at Bread and Circus in Alexandria; and afternoon/evening walks in Centennial Park.

—–

If you’ve fallen in love with Woodfolk like I have, enquiries can be directed via Julia’s website, Facebook or follow her on her blog.

Andrea McArthur has a passion for all things visual and works as a freelance Graphic Designer. Type is her true love and goes weak at the knees over beautiful design. You’ll find her sharing design related musings via @andyjane_mc

Interview: Fran Mether of Mooku

By Andrea McArthur

Fran Mether

 

For as long as I can remember I have been in love with statement jewellery pieces, pieces that ‘speak’ to you. Fran Mether of the Melbourne based accessories label Mooku designs and crafts such pieces. All Mooku pieces are handmade from quality materials including: resin, bamboo and sterling silver. Each piece a statement in itself.

It’s Fran’s love of simple clean lines, modern design and colour that guides the flow of inspiration for each piece. In working closely with local and international craftspeople, Fran’s unique jewellery range stays both contemporary and original.

fran-img-sketch

What led you down your current path?

I studied Industrial Design at University of Canberra and then went on to work in packaging and homewares design. Trend and colour forecasting became a major part of each role I had, and now I utilise these skills and my love of colour to build collections and stories through Mooku’s jewellery.

Working for some of Australia’s major retailers was an excellent training ground for me as a designer and helped me develop a specific set of skills. Through Mooku I now love the fact that I can design my own ideas and use sources of inspiration that aren’t necessarily part of any commercial trend.

Where do you feel most inspired?

My mind is ticking all day long with new ideas – admiring a shade of colour, a typeface on the side of the bus, or a cool silhouette of a 1970’s lamp shade. But at the end of each day I need a calm corner or a cosy bed to sit back and reflect on the things I’ve seen during the day. One inspired form can ignite many pages of drawing in my sketch book.

Who do you admire?

I am constantly attracted to some amazing independent local designers, producing their pieces and being able to make a living from it. Labels such as Ella SandersSiskenStudio Antic and NancyBird.

Mooku

What has been your most favourite project in recent years?

Designing my latest range. Whilst not due out until August, ‘Cabin Retreat’ will bring to life some new exciting pieces I have been working on for the last six months.

During the first two years of my business I worked with a number of suppliers and crafts people. Today I have now established great relationships with many of them and am able to explore new techniques and materials with them and my new range highlights this important evolution.

What does a typical day at work involve for you?

First thing in the morning my husband and I take turns at getting up with the kids whilst the other sleeps in – both of us are night owls so our mornings are typically very slow.

A few days a week I get to concentrate solely on Mooku. My day usually consists of coffee (an absolute necessity in the morning), emails, printing out new orders, then I knuckle down to work on big projects for the week – this may be updating my website, developing new packaging artwork, preparing for a market or designing my next range… the list goes on!

My working hours often continue well into the evenings after the kids are in bed and I’m usually emailing suppliers, packing orders or working on the accounts (or I ask my husband to!).

What future plans do you have for your creative business?

The next big plan is to launch my new range at this years Melbourne Life In Style. At Life In Style I am aiming to meet some amazing independent retailers that I can introduce my label to. The event will be a huge learning curve for me but I am really excited.

Mooku Rings

5 Questions in 5 minutes

Getting Personal

Studio Sounds, what’s playing?
For me – The Audrey’s
For the kids – Justine Clarke

What are you currently reading?
‘The Whole-Brain Child’, by Daniel J Siegel & Tina Payne Bryson. I’m trying to make sense of my three-and-a-half year old!

I am also reading a series of recently discovered letters my Finnish Grandfather wrote to his own father. The letters date from 1919 when he was not yet 16 as a Finnish soldier and they continue on through his life when he moved to Australia. There are over one hundred letters in total.

Can you share a few of your go to inspiration resources?

  • Gems
  • Pinterest
  • And a whole bookcase of historical design and interior books I have collected over the years.

What is your local areas best kept secret?
Nearly three years ago we moved the family out to the leafy suburb of Montmorency (in the north-east of Melbourne, west of Eltham). It seems like a country town at times and we absolutely love the local shopping village on Were Street. Some of the best coffee in Melbourne can be found at The Were Street Food Store or Espresso 3094.

You can contact Fran through the following channels:
Email Fran: fran@mooku.com.au
See Mooku’s range: www.mooku.com.au

 Andrea McArthur has a passion for all things visual. Type is her true love and goes weak at the knees over beautiful design. Andrea works as a freelance graphic designer in Brisbane by day and lectures in graphic design by night. You will find her sharing design related goodness via @andyjane_mc