Well folks, this is the first of my ‘Behind the Scenes’ series of interviews for 2014 and I’m delighted to be kicking it off with London-based jewellery designer, Charlotte Bezzant. I honestly can’t recall how and when exactly I stumbled upon Charlotte’s work but I do know it was her Polar bear collar clip/brooch that I spotted early last year that got me following her on twitter and swooning over her stunning pieces of jeweller (those rings are to die for!). After graduating in fashion, Charlotte moved on to work with silver and semi-precious stones – first as a hobby, before taking it on as a full-time profession. There’s real honesty in her work and the attention to detail in her design process only further highlights the beauty in her craftsmanship. She often seeks inspiration from nature, her everyday surroundings and her travels; the most popular of them being her ‘Artic’ collection after her trip out there! What I admire most about Charlotte (and like many of the designers I’ve featured on MbM) is the ability to turn her passion into a viable business especially after a long stint in a non-creative and stifling industry….which only goes to show that if you believe in yourself and have courage, you can make anything work. It’s not an easy thing to do so which is why I find people like Charlotte, truly inspiring. So it’s been a pleasure interviewing her and here’s what she had to say!
- Tell us a little about yourself and what made you decide into wanting to become a designer? My name is Charlotte, and I am the designer and maker for my own little jewellery business Charlotte Bezzant Jewellery. My dad is an architect and my mum studied three-dimensional design, so creativity is in my blood and I always knew I would follow a creative path. When I left school, I studied for a degree in Fashion. I had no plans to be a jewellery designer.
- How did you come about setting up Charlotte Bezzant Jewellery? What made you decide on taking up jewellery making, specialising in silver jewellery? When I graduated, I was offered a non creative job in the fashion industry, so I started going to an evening class in jewellery making, just for fun. I did courses on and off for years. When I had my second child, I started going one morning a week, and had a very talented silversmith as my tutor. It was her encouragement that started me selling my work.
- What five words best describe you and your style of work? That’s tricky. I think… Simple, pretty and occasionally covetable? Does that count as five – lol.
- I think it was your polar bear collar clip from the ‘Arctic animals’ collection that first caught my eye. What’s the main source of inspiration behind your work? I was really lucky to go on an amazing trip to the Arctic to see the Northern lights. The scenery, the whiteness, the sparking snow and ice, had a deep impact on me. (Although I didn’t see any polar bears!) Other than that I get inspired by all sorts of things. I sometimes worry that I have varying sources of inspiration, and my work might not look cohesive, but I only design things which I love, and it all seems to hang together somehow.
- How would you describe your design process and what part of it do you like the most? I have a sketchbook, that I draw and write in. I might stick in pictures that inspire me. Sometimes I might not come back to an idea for months, but if it’s made it into the book, it will more often than not end up as a piece of jewellery one day. I also like to cast found items in solid silver. I have been an avid collector of all sorts of tiny things for years, so I think it’s an extension of that. I love the idea of immortalising something like a little shell or button in silver, so it becomes so precious.
- How long would it normally take to create your final product; from inception to completion? Sometimes months(!) but the process could be very quick. It just depends how inspired I am. I find it tricky when I am commissioned to make something that is not quite me, and can get a bit of artistic block. I plan to solve that one going forward, by only taking on things that feel just right.
- Is there any craft/art medium that you haven’t tried but want to? And why? I think like most makers, I love to try all different mediums, so there is not much that I haven’t had a play with, from crocheting to stone carving. One thing I haven’t tried is blacksmithing, but I have been seriously tempted to take a course.
- As a designer-maker, would you say it’s been difficult breaking through into what is a booming and competitive creative industry? If so, what are the kind of challenges you face/d? I think I have been immensely lucky, as I don’t feel it has been hard, but I feel I am only on the bottom rung of the ladder and there is a long way up left to go.
- What would be your ‘top three tips’ for like-minded individuals who would like to one day set up a business themselves in this creative field or want to switch career paths but afraid to do so? 1) If you wait until you’re ready, you could be waiting the rest of your life. 2) Nothing ventured nothing gained. 3) What’s the worst that can happen?
- What would you say is the best part part of your business? And is this a full-time 9-5 business or something you run on the side? Apart from bringing up two boys, it is my only job. It is full-time, but I fit it around school hours and school holidays. I love designing and making, so it makes me very happy. I’m often answering queries, or writing my blog into the small hours, but because I love it, it does not feel like work.
- Of your current range of work, what ‘piece’ or ‘collection’ would you pick out as your favourite? I think it would probably be my Arctic Twig bangle, as it takes me right back to picking the twig in the Arctic Circle at minus 28 degrees. Brrrrrr.
- When you’re not in a design mode, what else do you enjoy doing – any other hobbies or past time favourites? I love the great outdoors in any form, I have a veg plot and chickens that keep me busy in the garden, and boys that keep me busy the rest of the time. I run and have a few marathons under my belt. Oh, and I love a good rummage at a car boot sale!
- What are your favourite bedside book/s or blog/s at the moment? I love checking in to blog Attic24. It is the absolute opposite of my working day. It’s full of colour and green hills, plus intermittent cakes. Lucy’s style is relaxed and laid back, and I find it a very easy read with lots of lovely pictures.
- Name three things you just could not live without? My boys, my parents, food.
- Are there any illustrators, artists, designer-makers out there that you find inspirational or you think are ones to keep an eye out for – if so, who? I’m in love with Ruth Tomlinson’s jewellery, and if you asked me to swap my business with anyone else’s that would be the one. Her rings are utterly gorgeous. When I saw them in the flesh they were smaller and more delicate than I had imagined from the photos. Perhaps I better start saving up?
- And finally, what do you have in store for Charlotte Bezzant Jewellery this year? Are there any events we should take note of too? I haven’t made too many plans for the year ahead, applications for shows later in the year are only just going in, but I have been thinking of enlisting a graphic designer to help me with my branding. I also built my website myself, and I keep thinking it could do with looking a tad more professional. One step I have taken is to enrol on a course to improve my photography, and i would love to learn some new specialist stone setting skills this year. There’s always something to do. I’m looking forward to some new designs emerging, and generally I’m hoping for more steady growth this year. There is only one of me, and I don’t want to find that I am compromising on quality and personal service by expanding too fast, those last two things are very, very important to me.
Well there you have it folks. Aren’t her pieces stunning? That Aquamarine ring is probably going to have to go on my wish list too! Anyway, I just want to thank Charlotte for taking the time out to share her story with us on here, which I’m sure you’ll agree is truly inspirational, especially juggling work and family life. If you’d like to follow more of her work, you can find Charlotte on Facebook, Twitter, Etsy and on her blog. And she’s available for private commissions so drop her a line if you’re looking for something truly unique and special!! Perhaps, a ‘something blue’ for a wedding? Or a gift for a special milestone? ;)
Thanks again and remember to stay inspired! xx
[Image Credit: ©Charlotte Bezzant]