Assistant Designer at Harriet Kelsall Bespoke Jewellery
"I think sometimes patience is key. I wanted to hold out for a job that sat well with me and eventually was lucky enough to get one, but it meant keeping up a part-time job I was not fond of to keep income regular whilst I figured things out and ran my business on the side."
By Alexandria Dale, Intern
22nd August 2017
A-Levels: Art, Biology, Chemistry & Physics
Degree: BA (Hons) Fine Art, Lancaster University - 1st
As the brains behind AgBg, how did your jewellery company first come to be?
I started very small scale, happy doing commissions through word of mouth after taking a few workshops back home last summer, feeling compelled to keep learning after university and make sure I kept bettering myself regardless of expectations to get a conventional grad-job. I started to do a bit more research and had a chance encounter with a stranger looking for jewellery to make herself feel more confident after having a tough time looking for jobs. This moved me and made me think about how to try to get involved in jewellery that had a social and ethical focus, I decided to actually work on promoting these aspects in a brand and online.
What was your main goal in creating and running AgBg?
My main goal was to keep learning, to not give up on my creativity when it felt like there was not a place for it in the working world after university. I wanted to be able to create things but to keep raising awareness and money for social causes as I had done in my art at university. I was never worried about the brand being a sensation, but more of a means to keep doing all the things I was passionate about and supporting others while making sure I made a living too.
How did your time at University help prepare you?
University gave me more confidence and knowledge. I met people who inspired me, got involved in organising exhibitions and generally learnt that being someone who was creative would be tough when I got to the other side but that it was my passion so I could never do anything else. As a student, alongside sculpture and installation, social practice was a key part of my work, this set off the interest in ethics and generally meant that I saw possibilities in mediums beyond painting or other conventional art forms as relevant tools for life and employment.
What made you decide to apply for the role of Assistant Designer at Harriet Kelsall Bespoke Jewellery?
I think I had got to the point of knowing that the only way I could learn more was by getting a job in the industry and surrounding myself with people who had years of experience. Sitting at home designing, then making got quite lonely in the end! The job is quite an intense training role, so you work assisting a senior designer, working and sponging up as much information as possible. The company is very much on my wavelength ethically; it has a strong focus on traceability, pioneering fair-trade gold and working to people’s budgets to design something perfect for them. They do a lot of education events and generally are involved in some great things so it was worth the intense process to become part of it.
What has been the greatest moment so far in your journey as a jewellery designer?
I am proud that I managed to set up a small business and come out in the green, but more importantly, actually having been able to get involved in charitable causes like The Homeless Period Project, and supporting small groups and charities closer to home is really what I wanted to never compromise on. That experience led on to me being able to get this new job. It is great to be able to go to work, love what I do and know you haven’t compromised the things that really mean something to you.
You’ve talked a lot about how important having a social and ethical focus is to you, is there a certain venture or charitable project you worked on that you particularly enjoyed and meant a lot?
Probably working with The Homeless Period Project. I tried to design items to raise money for the charity but that would also bring about discussion, so I designed some abstract vagina designs inspired by Georgia O'Keefe’s flower paintings. It was also female empowerment month and people were still simmering down from Trump taking office, so I decided to use the fist symbol for female empowerment (quite hotly used by Hillary Clinton followers and anti-Trump parties) and those all went into the auction and raised money for the charity which was great! I really enjoyed the design process as I actually had a theme that I could be playful with and not worry about producing a top quality product, but more something affordable that had a statement behind it. Everything else I’ve been involved with has been jewellery donations or making sure that the business was "green and low impact" sourcing from the right place packaging etc!
What have you learned so far from your venture into starting your own business and working in a creative industry?
I have learnt that you can never learn too much and happiness at work is a balance. As part of taking in this new role I gave up the AgBg brand, it was a little sad but actually to be given the opportunity to work and train at the same time, surrounded by industry experts whilst on a steady salary, tipped the scales. Working for yourself is great in many ways but I used to feel stressed that I should constantly be working and that becomes very intense. What I do now is on a completely different scale and requires a different level of expertise so it’s a jump up.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years time?
I would love to be designing jewellery as a senior designer and be continuing to explore ways of supporting charities, creative education and ethics in the industry and through creativity in general. I would like to get back into making socially engaged art on the side, keeping up the wackier side of myself - I don’t seem to have time for it much at the moment but it is something I always think about.
What advice would you give to young women, career-wise or general life advice?
I think sometimes patience is key. I wanted to hold out for a job that sat well with me and eventually was lucky enough to get one, but it meant keeping up a part-time job I was not fond of to keep income regular whilst I figured things out and ran my business on the side. Out of university I looked at all sorts of things before sitting back and just thinking, what do I really want? I couldn’t see anything at that point and so I decided to just learn as much as possible about the industry I wanted to work in, and setting up a small business really helped me do that in a practical targeted way.