We talk shop with jeweller Jenny Gilbert and find out how she is trying to make her work as ethical as possible, why she chooses to keep her product photography simple and hear how she finds Twitter “a bit baffling”…
When did you start selling your jewellery, and what kind of things did you think about before choosing to open your Folksy shop?
I started selling my jewellery in 2011. I had just done the Prince’s Trust Young Entrepreneurs course and left my job in order to concentrate on my jewellery business. Before opening my shop I tried to find ways to make my jewellery ethical and sustainable. The precious metal and stone mining workers often work in dangerous conditions and are drastically underpaid. In the future I would like to use fair trade metals in my work, but in the mean time I’ve chosen to make all my jewellery with recycled silver. It’s the exact same quality as other silver you can buy but isn’t detrimental to the environment. I also oxidise my work using eggs to achieve the black finish on the silver, as liver of sulphur is highly toxic and harmful to the environment. The use of ethical materials is very important to me.
Are you a full-time designer/maker?
Not yet, but I certainly plan to be in the future. The next year is all about building business up after my Nepal trip, putting myself out there and getting sales up!
How do you sell your work?
Currently I’m just online and at markets but I’m looking to break in to galleries and wholesale in the future. This will be an important step towards being full time. I get a lot of email requests for bespoke pieces which I love doing. I always get such interesting stories and ideas from clients and sometimes they even send me pictures of the jewellery being worn, which always makes my day!
Can you tell us a bit about your prototyping process?
I like to prototype in brass or copper. It’s time consuming but highlights any issues I may have with the construction. It also provides the most accurate idea of what the finished piece will look like.
How do you calculate your prices?
It’s basically the same as any other product. I work out the costs of materials, how long the piece takes to make, add on my overheads and that gives me the wholesale price.
Do you think carefully about how your style and photograph your work?
I really like simple photography for jewellery. I think the items should speak for themselves. For my current collection I felt the designs are so simple and clean that it made sense for the images to reflect that. I’m going to do some model shots soon as I think it’s important for the consumer to see how the item will look on the body.
How do you promote your work?
I do a lot on Facebook, and dabble with Twitter – although this still baffles me slightly! I also have business cards that I give out at markets and I get a lot of business from word of mouth. I’ve also done some competitions, which are always great for exposure.
Aside from being a bit baffled by Twitter, how do you feel about social media? Which channel is your favourite and why?
I think social media is great. It makes it so easy to interact and share images and news with customers. The best thing is that it works both ways and they can share images with me too. I find Facebook the easiest to use and to reach people on. I think Twitter is great for making industry contacts, but not so much for reaching potential consumers. I love Pinterest – I think it’s a great platform to collect inspiration and for people to see first hand what is inspiring your work. I am going to start using Instagram now I have just purchased my first smart phone – if I can ever figure out how it works! I’m a bit of a technophobe, it seems!
Have you had any press coverage? If so, how has that come about and has it had an effect on sales?
I haven’t had any coverage from big magazines or anything like that, but I have been featured on quite a few blogs. This has just come about from people finding my work online and deciding to write a feature about it. I’m incredibly grateful that people take the time to do this! I certainly see a boost in my page views when this happens, and I guess that must lead to some of the sales I get. Once my new collection is complete I’ll be writing some press releases to fashion and jewellery magazines/websites too.