New Studio in Walton on Thames

Mostly, this year I’ve been bruised, tired and covered in paint. After finishing a lot of long overdue decorating and DIY jobs at home by about mid July decided I never wanted to see a paintbrush again. I was looking forward to getting back to designing some new jewellery pieces, planning the new season and generally spending a lot more time working with my bum on a chair and not standing precariously on a ladder.

Then, one day I spotted that a unit in a location I’d always wanted to work became available. Only a few minutes from home, with gorgeous river view, it’s somewhere I walk past with my dog, Socks, most days and had often thought how it would make a great little studio.

The following week, I was in back with a paintbrush in hand, and paint in hair, on glasses and let’s face it,  I probably ate some.  The space had been used as an office and it needed brightening, adding some workspace, storage etc.

The ‘Before’
The ‘After’ – there’s even a comfy seat for his majesty.

I’m so pleased to have much more space to work and the best thing is, you can visit! I’ve set aside an area to showcase lots of finished jewellery pieces too so come and say hello. The studio is located on the towpath, next to The Anglers pub, and sandwiched between two other wonderful creatives, Hannah Martin Flowers and Creative Native. There is also the Riverhouse Barn Arts centre right behind who have a great community cafe and pretty courtyard.

It wasn’t going to stay tidy for long!

I’m looking forward to showing you what the river inspires.

Sophie

 

 

Forget me nots

These little flowers have been requested many a time. The beautiful, understated Forget-me-not is the most pretty of pastel blues and makes delicate and very special jewellery pieces. They may have stopped blooming in Europe for this year, but they doesn’t mean they need to be forgotten…

Sterling silver Forget me not drop earrings, with the tiniest charms yet!

To reflect the delicate nature of these tiny blooms themselves, I’ve made charms smaller than ever before, for these drop earrings and the matching studs, the charms are just 6mm in diameter!

Forget-me-not studs, pendant and bracelet

About the Forget-Me-Not
This pretty and popular little flower, commonly known as the Forget Me Not, has the scientific name Myosotis which comes from the Greek for mouse’s ear, a reference to the shape of the plant’s foliage.
They are widely found in temperate regions and can be pink, white, or yellow, though the blue variety is by far the most widely known.
As the name suggests, the flower is often used as symbol of remembrance and is also considered a lucky charm.

The mini collection
This collection has the signature 8mm pendant, as well as 6mm studs, new style drop earrings (top of page), silver plated hair grips, a dainty single charm chain bracelet which is available in three sizes and this branch necklace, of which each will be completely unique.

Forget-me-not silver branch necklace

Something that I have not done much of before is personalisation. This seemed the perfect collection to add a personalised item, however. As Forget-me-nots are often used as symbol of remembering why not add an initial of your choice alongside this mini 6mm Forget-me-not charm? Whether that is someone special who has passed away or someone far away. Maybe even to remember a special time or place. Whatever it is, add it to this sold 925 sterling silver disc to make a very special piece of jewellery.

Personalise this with the letter of your choice

See the full range here and don’t forget to sign up to the VIP list for a 15% discount (click here to get on it!)

Why I’m failing at going plastic free

via @Faire.Shop on Instagram

This quote has been doing the rounds on social media recently (I’m afraid I don’t know which is the original source). It made me feel a whole lot better about my own attempts at reducing my plastic consumption and being more environmentally friendly. Instagram is full of these accounts of people living entirely plastic free, eco concious lives and making it look easy. Of course it really should be. Sadly though, it’s not. It doesn’t mean it’s not worth doing anything.

BUSINESS PLASTIC SAVING SUCCESS
I touched on the fact I’m trying to get rid of plastic waste throughout the business in a previous blog post. I use card mailing boxes rather than jiffy bags, card gift boxes, biodegradable bags for greetings cards and paper bags for use at fairs.

BUSINESS PLASTIC SAVING FAILINGS
Any plastic that comes in deliveries of supplies I reuse. A few suppliers I’ve noticed, thankfully have ditched the plastic too. Let’s hope the rest follow. It’s a little frustrating when you put so much effort in, and the stack of card packaging you order arrives wrapped in plastic.

I’m waiting for the world to make a biodegradable self adhesive clear tape and I’ll be happy. I’ve switched to a paper tape for outside packaging and I’ve already enquired with a few suppliers  about clear tape and they say they are on it. I entered a debate about this on social media (something I really try not to do, on any subject) and the response I got from someone was a snide ‘Use string?’ The difficulty is, as a business and one that doesn’t make a necessity, but a luxury, I don’t want to compromise on the standards I’ve promised my customers and the plastic free swaps I make need to be of equal or better quality. I’m not going to gift wrap my items using ugly brown paper tape that completely jars with my style. I’ve perfected the art of wrapping most items now just with the aid of a paper sticker and some ribbon but some times for more complicated packages I just need a teensy bit of tape.

This is why the quote at the top really strikes a chord. The thing is, I don’t use much tape anyway. In the same way that I don’t really use plastic straws much, fly multiple times a year, or  have a daily takeaway coffee habit. Fixing these things then, is not the best place to start. What was my most wasteful area?

PLASTIC SAVING FAILINGS AT HOME
At home, the main thing I decided I needed to save on was shampoo bottles. I have loooong hair and use a lot of shampoo and conditioner. They are really thick plastic bottles with complex caps. There’s a loads of plastic in the packaging of these products and I was getting through quite a few of them. I switched to shampoo bars which are such a great idea -no plastic at all, great for travel, swim, gym (laughs, I don’t gym) and money saving too as they do last. I really really wanted to succeed with them  but failed. I tried several brands and all made my hair heavy and dirty feeling. Many manufacturers do say it can take a number of weeks for your hair to adjust. I went around with crappy feeling hair for months in the hope I’d adjust to them. I tried bicarb rinse, vinegar rinse, coconut milk – all the hints and tricks the internet provided me with. None worked. One day I got fed up of feeling yukky and picked up the shampoo bottle again. This isn’t to say don’t try them, please do and I hope they work for you.

The other biggest waste of plastic in my everyday life is food packaging. This one drives me crazy and when you live in a town with two, soon to be three, big supermarkets and no market, greengrocer etc it’s pretty hard to avoid.  I recently got an amazing haul of fruit and veg when passing through another town that cost a fraction of the shop prices and came with significantly less  – though still not zero – plastic. I wish we had a market in our town as driving somewhere in an attempt to be more eco friendly when everything I need is in walking distance is something I’m still weighing up.

Market stall fruit and veg – cheaper and less plastic waste than supermarkets

PLASTIC SAVING AT HOME SUCCESS
Back to the shampoo and happily it wasn’t all disaster in this department. The solid conditioner I’m using is brilliant even though I didn’t get on with the shampoo so I have cut my plastic in this area by 50%  Also, there are refill stations popping up all over the place where you can refill old bottles with shampoos, conditioners and other household products so this is the route I’ll be taking for these products from now on.

I’ve got into growing things recently and this is great for two reasons – of course growing your own saves on any sort of packaging vs buying it from the shops but secondly, you start you look at any vessel that might otherwise have gone in the bin at your latest quirky plant pot!

Beer Can Plant pots. Picture: Expert Home Tips via Pinterest

SHOULD WE DITCH THE TERM SINGLE-USE?
While on topic I must mention this pet hate of mine. The constant talk of single use plastics I don’t think is particularly helpful. The best thing we can do with this plastic packaging that already exists is use it again. My kitchen cupboard contains a collection of ‘single use’ plastic bottles that I’ve used over and over. I understand that the term is generally used to describe things that are intended to be thrown away but by describing them as single-use we are only emphasising to people that’s exactly what they are.

Thanks for reading. Please comment with any plastic reducing  and general tips you have for living more eco friendly. I’d love to hear them.

Spring Collection

I’ve taken 1000s of photographs of birds. I’ll never tire of the colours, textures and patterns of their gorgeous feathers.  Making a collection featuring just a handful of them was quite a task, though I think this is something I may have to come back to in the future! For now, here are 14 new pieces based on 6 species of beautiful bird – some you’ll know, some a little more obscure.

I have my own little feathery shadow in the form of an African Grey so I’d be in big trouble if I didn’t include this popular parrot species. Not the most complex of feather patterns, but the light grey with the flash of red on the tail is iconic of this cheeky bird and this pendant and earrings are a stylish and subtle way for grey enthusiasts to wear a little nod to their feathery friends without looking like a full on ‘crazy bird person.’

You’ll be forgiven if you’re not familiar with the Lady Amherst’s Pheasant but when you see the stunning feathers you’ll know why I had to photograph them. The deep teal, navy and white feathers edged with black are somewhere between bird and mermaid. The complexity of this pattern lent itself to much bigger pieces so everything has been scaled up with this design.

There are many different species of spectacular Macaw and a collection could be created on these parrots alone. This pendant and earrings are based on the Green Winged Macaw, which is mainly red across the head and body but with these vibrant green and blue feathers in the wings.

The Reeves Pheasant is native to China, and named after the British naturalist who brought the bird to Europe, however their amazing feathers I liken to Moroccan floor tiles! The black, copper, red, white and bronze tones in the image have been given a metallic finish by printing the photograph onto acetate rather than paper, allowing the silver to shine through. Again, the complexity of this pattern meant it was much better used in large statement pieces.

When I first posed the question ‘What is your favourite bird’ to people, several said the Lilac Breasted Roller. Yes, this small bird does have some lilac on it’s breast but it also has feathers in pink, light and dark blue, white, black, green and brown. A bit greedy if you ask me.

One of the most loved and recognisable birds of them all – the Toco Toucan. Simple but striking feather colours in black, white and orange with that slightly bonkers electric blue eyeshadow. Beautiful.

See the whole ‘Patterns of the Bird World’ collection on Etsy here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Art Shed moves on

I’m sitting here writing this on my last day manning The Art Shed. I joined this group of artists just over two years ago and it feels like it’s been a second home for my little business. It’s the day before we pack everything up and move on to other things. I’ve had a little while to get used to the  idea, but wandering around here on my last shift, it feels very sad.

It’s been a quiet day with a handful of very enthusiastic human visitors and one dog (always a highlight!) Our human visitors (and probably the dog too) are all very sad we are closing and have been such wonderful supporters of all the artists that have made up the Art Shed during the time it’s been open, even helping us win Muddy Stilettos awards year after year. I guess someone else can have a turn next time!!

Happily, this isn’t the end of the Art Shed, just of our time at The Medicine Garden. While I’ve grown hugely fond of this beautiful location, I’m excited to see where these changes take us. Please follow  The Art Shed on Facebook to hear where you might find us in the future.

Work by Oorla Morgan, Stephanie Wright, Pratima Kramer, Louisa Sullivan, Jojo Rowley, Sophie de Taranto, Claire Hardwick-Wilson, Sarah Simonds-Gooding, Joe Szabo and Naomi Beevers.

Finding Focus

You may have noticed that Shutter Jewellery has gone a bit leafy recently. 🌿 Here’s why.

I began making jewellery from my photographs nearly 3 and a half years ago now. I have been releasing designs as they are finished, some on a common theme, some completely randomly – images simply picked purely on their desirability and ability to work well on a tiny scale. Certain collections seemed to come together all by themselves and more often than not come from a natural rather than an urban habitat. With so much more of the natural world to explore it seems I’ve found my focus. Pun 100% intended.

What’s even better is how much you seem to love it too. My fern leaf design has been far and away my most popular as well as one of my most long lived, having first used it in costume pieces right at the beginning. This is why I’ve adopted it – or rather you lovely customers have – as the little flag for Shutter Jewellery’s new direction :

Last year’s Butterfly collection was a real eye opener at how much you value the sustainability of using a photograph and not a flower or a real butterfly while achieving the same effect. I spoke to many people who came by my stall at events last year. Many were attracted to my statement butterfly pieces and commented how beautiful they are, but with an air of caution… “They aren’t real butterflies are they?” Relieved when I explained they were not. I was amazed also that this even extended to the flower jewellery, some customers commenting that they were pleased I didn’t pick real flowers to use in my charms.*

It stands to reason that if I’m respecting nature as I am, plastic packaging is a no no. I’m so pleased that nearly every day I see an Instagram post from another business that has gone plastic free. This is no mean feat and they should be congratulated. It’s so sad that plastic is the norm and it now takes effort and cost to avoid it. For this reason it’s lot easier and quicker for small businesses to implement than large businesses but hopefully if we set the example, the big boys will follow suit and we might be able to save our natural world and give me a chance to photograph it all. 😍

I’m nearly there on the plastic free thing, I’m no longer buying plastic packaging but I recycle plastic packaging that has been used to send supplies to me. It seems the logical thing to reuse it rather that throw it away in disgust, so if you order something from me please reuse again – after all this stuff was designed to last forever. That doesn’t always have to be a problem.

My favourite bird, Rio. This is her ‘I’m a good parrot’ look. This is my ‘No you’re not’ look.

I’m currently working on a new collection based on another type of winged creature with an awesome palette of colours and patterns. You guessed it, an avian theme. I’ve been asking what your favourite feathered friends are so head over to Instagram or Facebook to join the discussion or comment below. I’ve already had some amazing suggestions.  Thank you! 💚

One more thing, I’ve recently opened my VIP mailing list, so if you want to be in the know about new items first, please do go ahead and join here. You can of course unsubscribe at any time.

 

*Of course, there are many jewellery makers who do use real butterfly wings and flowers in their work and, no, they do not go around killing butterflies and pulling up handfuls of wildflowers. I’m not trying to make a comment on anyone’s else’s work!

Eden Florists, Leatherhead

Surrey dwellers! Have you ever visited Eden Florists in Leatherhead?

Eden Florists opened in 2016 and is run by Joanna and her ‘head of security’ in the form of a West Highland Terrier. (Yes, I do seem to be drawn to places with a dog)
Located in Leatherhead High Street, it stocks a range of gifts and homewares in addition to all your floristry needs.


 

The shop sells work from local makers including prints, candles, jewellery and greetings cards and Shutter Jewellery joined them earlier this Summer. Naturally my floral range is available here, as well as a selection of butterfly pieces. Prices from £15

Not content with being a florist and gift shop, the first floor has recently opened as a tea room specialising in catering for vegan and coeliac diets, Tea at 43. (Follow them here for info, opening times and mouth watering cake photos)
If the smell of the floral displays and the scented candles doesn’t draw you in as you wander along the high street, then the window displays are sure to catch your eye. When I visited last week, there was a giant skull under construction. Hopefully, for the Halloween display…


Please do visit next time your in Leatherhead and more information on their floristry displays and services can be found at www.edenflorists.net

Eden Florists Leatherhead Facebook
Eden Florists Leatherhead Instagram
Shutter Jewellery Stockists and Events

How handmade items can be expensive, fairly priced and a complete bargain all at the same time.

People who shop small are generally nicer people
(probably a fact)

Whether in person or online, I get lots of positive comments on my jewellery. When sales are slow they help me keep on making and always brighten my day. When manning the Art Shed we get so many compliments on everyone’s work every single day.  People don’t have say anything, they just want to. (It really is a world away from the daily comments I got when I worked in the more mainstream retail world, but we won’t go there.) 

Just occasionally, the comments are not so nice. Constructive criticism from other makers and customers is always useful. Even a few people telling me they don’t like something or don’t ‘get it’ is fine, opinions differ. What bothered me recently is a group of people complaining about how expensive everything is, even to point of mocking. ‘Only £100? Oh I’ll take two then!’

It’s quite likely it took us almost as long to come up with that price as it did to make the thing…
Don’t be fooled if something looks simple either

I bet you anyone who sells their handmade work has agonised over their prices. The vast majority probably undervalued their work to begin with and has raised prices several times. The balance between making your work pay so you can keep on doing it while trying to offer value for your customers is a hard one and something we try so hard to get right.
Mocking the value we’ve put on our work hurts.

Expensive is not the same as overpriced.

I can’t really argue with the fact handmade work is expensive. Yes it costs more than mass produced items and if you take it literally, the cost of artwork contains many expenses. The problem I have is when many people use the word expensive, what they mean is overpriced.

Take a potter for example. They have done years of training to learn their craft. They’ve the cost of setting up their studio, the rent, lighting, heat. They’ve bought costly equipment and their raw materials. The pot you were gawping at the price of might have taken several days to make. This is their job. So that expensive price tag might actually be a very fair price.

Now imagine you wanted make a pot like that and forked out for the training, equipment, raw materials, bills. Even after all that you discovered you couldn’t make it quite the same anyway. Suddenly, it’s a bit of a bargain.

The other element to a handmade item of course is imagination and that is something very difficult to put a price on. As is that fact that one person can only make a finite amount of work and each piece will be slightly different. I don’t know about you, but owning an item that 500,000 other people also have just isn’t the same to me.

Why does it cost that much?

 

 

 

 

Why shopping small is so important to me

I’ve been a supporter of the ‘Just a Card’ campaign since hearing about it on Twitter a little while ago. The idea is to spread the word that even the smallest of purchases matter hugely to small businesses.  Whether it be a card, badge or other item that only cost a few pounds, those few pounds from everyone who walks in the door can be the difference from a shop staying open and closing forever.

R.I.P Purple & Black

Supporting of small shops is very close to my heart having built up and lost my own alternative gift shop in a very short space of time. The frustrating thing is I had a group of regular, really enthusiastic customers that completely loved what I was doing, but they didn’t act or spread the word quick enough.
A good few years on with the power of social media it’s so much easier to get the word out about great products and businesses, and, crucially, free. So if you love a shop, designer or even your local butcher, baker or candlestick maker – tell everyone and use them. Often! It might be easier for businesses to reach their customer than when I was doing it but with ever growing rent, rates and a billion other costs being thrown at them it’s tougher than ever. My partner now has a high street print and IT shop so once again, our household relies on two small businesses to keep ticking over. Will we ever learn? No. Because we love what we do.

I design and make my jewellery from my home studio and sell through a cooperative gallery, The Art Shed, online through Etsy and also through a handful of the most wonderful quirky independent shops and galleries run by amazing people. The prompt for this post came when I learned this week that one former stockist had recently closed it’s doors and another has been forced to close at the end of the month. This makes me truly sad. It makes me want to go into my local Tesco superstore and march all those people in that greeting card aisle out and down the road to their nearest independent instead!

Being part of a cooperative, I get the best of both worlds. It’s like having a little bit of my own shop again as well as an outlet to sell my work. We sell items costing £1 and items costing £1000. Sometimes I think people feel embarrassed spending just a pound or two but if I told you that some days, gift shops get through that day ONLY selling cards then you see the importance. I want to give every single customer a little hug, but don’t because that would surely guarantee I’d never see them again.

Here’s a few of the small businesses mentioned:
The Art Shed, The Medicine Garden, Cobham, Surrey.
Click, Save & Print, Walton on Thames, Surrey.

If you want to see all the amazing shops that sell Shutter Jewellery see here.
Check out the Just a Card campaign here.

And to prove this isn’t just for personal plugs, here are a few small businesses I have absolutely no affiliation with, but I’d be pretty devastated if they ceased to exist:
Pug and Puffin, Lyme Regis : Funky dog stuff
Juju, Brighton : Amazing quirky clothing
Sophie’s Chocolates, Chesham : Chocolate only for people called Sophie(!)
The Dough Shack, various locations : THE best pizza
Khao Sarn, Walton on Thames : THE best Thai
The Simon Drew Gallery, Dartmouth : My favourite illustrator, with the best puns
Pixxie Rose on Etsy : Handmade clothing in insane fabrics
RichardsonRichardson on Etsy : Acrylic jewellery (my best friend and I want about 70% of their collection between us) 
Littlehampton Exotics : Great reptile shop, of which so many have closed in the last few years
Pampered Pets, Hersham : Where my mutt gets his hair chopped.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Art Shed at The Medicine Garden

In January 2017, I joined a cooperative of 15 artists who together run The Art Shed at The Medicine Garden in Cobham, Surrey. The garden is a stunning location and perfect for such a group as there is much inspiration to be found in the grounds and surrounding countryside, which is reflected in many of the artists’ work.

There is a varied mix of work at The Art Shed, with disciplines including glasswork, photography, painting, sculpture, ceramics and textiles. Below are some of my favourite pieces.

Above : Naomi Beevers (mixed media), Joe Szabo (glass/ ceramics), Oorla Morgan (jewellery), Su Rogers (ceramics), Pratima Kramer (ceramics / mixed media), Terri Smart (ceramics), Louisa Sullivan (glass) Below: Jojo Rowley (ceramics)

The gallery is open from 10am, seven days a week, each day manned by an artist who displays their work here. You might even see some work in progress. Below: Photography by Sue Roche with ceramics and glass works by Jojo Rowley, Su Rogers and Louisa Sullivan.

Above : Linda Walsh (textiles),  Pratima Kramer,  Naomi Beevers, Stephanie Wright (ceramics),  Clare Hardwick Wilson (Painting / contemporary art) and Pratima Kramer, Jojo Rowley, Jo Mabbutt (Lace / Decorative Art ) Below: Oorla Morgan, Sophie de Taranto (Jewellery)

For more information on the Art Shed visit here. We hope to see you soon!

Above: Joe Szabo