For my first ever Feature Friday I've chosen Kerri Roberts from The Antoinette Collection. Kerri designs unique jewellery, specialising in the use of genuine Swarovski crystal beads.
When did you start making jewellery and what made you decide that was the craft you were going to do?
I started making jewellery soon after being diagnosed with thyroid cancer in November 2009. It was around this time that I had a lot of time spent at my parents house as I was "on the bench" with work, meaning that you're employed but there is no projects for you to go out on. I decided instead of sitting in bed all day feeling sorry for myself I would pop down to Hobby Craft and find myself something to fill my time and get me off the laptop. After walking up and down the aisles I picked up a leaflet on jewellery making and bought myself some tools. I made a few items, mostly earrings and gave them to my Mum or wore them. In June 2010, I was made redundant from my then full-time job and quickly found another which meant moving to London. I had a break from jewellery making, but in October 2010 I was given the all-clear by the hospital so decided to get back into my hobby again to once again get me off the machine in the evenings and also away from the pubs. I started buying Swarovksi crystal beads and also bought a book on how to make more intricate designs. In Christmas 2010 my manager of my new job commissioned me to make his wife some jewellery for a present, I brought in my crystal design book and he chose the most intricate bracelet I have ever made. It took me about 5 attempts to get it right, but I was so pleased with what I'd made that I decided I should start looking into ways to sell more like it.
Do you make anything else besides jewellery?
I also decorate boxes using polymer clay, as well as creating polymer clay beads. However, I tend to use the beads myself and give the boxes to friends and relatives as gifts. I've recently started making ACEO's using pencil and marker pen, but this is still something I'm improving on.
Do you make a particular style of jewellery and what makes your pieces different to other jewellery makers?
My style of jewellery is mostly beadwoven items, although to be able to fill my shop I also make more delicate single stranded pieces that I try to list in between making the more intricate beadwoven items. My intricate items take me anywhere from 2 hours to a few days to create. I always use aorora borealis Swarovski crystals if possible and source my beads from a local supplier in Kentish town.
I think my items are different because I try to keep my costs as low as possible and they're mostly delicate items. The majority of beadwoven items I've seen on Folksy have been "charm" style, which are more clunky.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
My inspiration for my pieces firstly started from looking in books for designs, but now it's from doing market research and finding what colours are in season as well as what is currently selling on the high street. My theory is that if it's selling on the high street, then my item will always be a better option as noone else will have the same.
Would you like to make a living out of jewellery?
Jewellery making is my hobby first and foremost. During the day I'm sat in front of a computer as an IT consultant working on databases, so when I get home I want to be able to unwind and I find my hobby to be the best way to do so. I think if I were to make it into a way of making a living I wouldn't enjoy it so much. I like to take pride and care in the items that I make, so producing enough to fund my way of life might well lose some aspects of that.
Where do you make your jewellery?
Most of the time sat on my bedroom floor. I rent a room in a house in North London, it's about 20ft square with a huge dining table (we don't have a lounge), so all my work is done in my bedroom. Sometimes if I'm really getting into my designs I'll put the radio on freeview and sit there beadweaving for hours in the evening. I have told myself off so many times for going to bed stupidly late because I've been wanting to upload my items onto Folksy.
Where do you sell your pieces and how do you market yourself?
I sell my items on my Folksy page www.antoinettecollection.folksy.com but I also have an account on Etsy. I've sold items to friends and family, also to colleagues that have commissioned me work but it's all still early days. I market myself via twitter, forums, craftjuice, my blog (www.theantoinettecollection.wordpress.com), and my facebook page (www.facebook.com/antoinettecollection). The promotion of my work is something I'm still trying to get my head around. I've started blogging a featured seller each monday, a weekly listing update on wednesdays and I try to include a useful tips blog once a week to help fellow crafters to market their work. I also believe in helping other crafters promote themselves, so every Friday I try to list a "folksy friday" blog whereby I choose 6 items under a theme and list them in a featured post.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?
In 5 years time I'm hoping to have an established group of followers and a small customer base. I want to remain making bespoke items at affordable prices, but it would be lovely if my sales figures were steady. I give 10% of the cost price to Poole Hospital and have a JustGiving page setup to keep track of my charity giving. If I could make over £1000 in 5 years time for that charity, I would be extremely happy. It's just a small way of showing my gratitude for them treating me for my cancer and their on-going aftercare.
Do you have any advice for people out there who might be interested in making jewellery?
The market is saturated but if you can find a different angle to come at it for selling them all the better. Don't lose sight of the fact that it is a hobby and hobbies should be fun. So many sellers get down on the fact they aren't making many sales but the handcrafted market is only becoming mainstream. Buy a decent pair of pliers and some 6lb fireline with interesting beads and you'll be having fun. The best thing about making jewellery is you get to wear it, and if people like it they will always tell you. The feeling of someone else appreciating your hard graft is the best you will get from this hobby.