[Behind the Scenes]: Meet Pauline of BENU Jewellery

MBM_PAULINE-BENU_MainHey hey hey! How’s it going folks? I’m sorry I’ve been quiet all week last week but I’m back with a bang with this month’s ‘Behind the Scenes’ Interview. I’m really REALLY pleased to introduce to you this talented lady and her awesome work. Pauline Hagan, a London-based designer, is the face behind BENU who creates these funky, electric and colourful leather jewellery. I first came across her geometric necklaces at the We Make London pop-up shop last summer and it was only later that year was I finally able to put a face to these amazing designs when I was introduced to Pauline by both Viktorija and Sabine at one of our rendezvous over sushi, bento boxes and plum wine! ;) It’s comes as no surprise to you all at how much I LOVE my statement necklaces particularly with a soft spot for leather and geometry, so her jewellery are right up my street……and her strikingly beautiful pieces are all designed, hand cut and put together by Pauline herself! Anyway, I shall quit rambling and let you in on the interview I had with Pauline so that you get to see how fabulous she is yourself!

  1. Tell us a little about yourself, and what made you decide into wanting to become a designer? I’m Pauline, I’m half French, half British and currently living in London. I started designing leather jewellery about two years ago, when I realised that my day job wasn’t exciting or creative enough. I knew I wanted to start a project of my own – so began experimenting with different crafts, materials and techniques
  2. How did you come about setting up? What made you take up jewellery making, specialising in leather jewellery and accessories? And is there a story behind the name? I happened to spot a few leather jewellery tutorials online and came across a market trader selling beautiful, thick leather offcuts in all possible colours (including a lovely gold with a perfect shine). I brought a bag full of offcuts home and it all stems from there. Leather is very easy to manipulate and perfect for those who are particularly impatient – a little idea can go a long way and is easy and quick to materialise.The name BENU is a product of my other half’s imagination. He’s from Prague, and Czechs are renowned for coming up with diminutives and little nicknames for their family and friends. It won’t mean much to the outside world, but it’s short, simple and, hopefully, memorable!MBM_PAULINE-BENU_11
  3. What five words best describe you and your style of work? Eye-catching, fun, bright, creative, colourful.
  4. It was your geometric bib necklace in blue and gold that first caught my eye at the We Make London Pop Up Boutique. In fact, I absolutely love your geometric range (I cannot wait to purchase!) What’s the main source of inspiration behind your work? Thanks for your kind words! I find my inspiration all over the place – the colour of a flower or the shape of a building might spark an idea. I try to observe and inspect what surrounds me and think about what I can repurpose, how I can recycle an idea – could I use the way bricks slot together as a pattern? Could I cut petals out of leather? The ideas come to me when I’m walking around, just about to go to sleep, when I’m at work or whilst I’m in the midst of creating another piece of jewellery. 885699_476343669081930_1517067540_o
  5. How would you describe your design process and what part of it do you like the most? It’s difficult for me to imagine a finished necklace or pair of earrings, so I’ll start with a focus, something that’s inspired me and will then take it from there. It could be a particular shape (triangles for example), two colours that marry well (gold & electric blue) or a particular material or shape (yarn or embroidery thread). I do a lot of experimenting and embark on a mini creative journey – the results of which usually pleasantly surprise me! The part I enjoy the most is the satisfaction, once I’ve finished the journey, of having a finished piece – and seeing how I can develop it further. For example this multicoloured petals necklace lead me to create this tiny pink petals necklace and this colourful drops necklace. One little idea can go a long way!
  6. How long would it normally take to create your final product; from inception to completion? It would really depend on the piece. At times the process can be very fast, if I’m particularly excited about an idea of have something quite specific in mind – a couple of hours perhaps. Sometimes ideas take a lot longer to evolve and I’ll work on them for hours or days. Although I have noticed that the longer I spend on a piece, the less likely I am to be happy with it. In terms of actually making a necklace or pair of earrings once they’ve already been designed, it’ll usually take me 1-2 hours. MBM_PAULINE-BENU_4 MBM_PAULINE-BENU_3 MBM_PAULINE-BENU_2
  7. Is there any craft/art medium that you haven’t tried but want to? And why? One of my resolutions this year is to try out new crafts, techniques and mediums – you never really know what you’re capable of so I think it’s always important to continue digging and exploring. If there’s a craft out that’s going to make me happy (and they usually do!), I want to discover it! I’ve started calligraphy and have been experimenting with watercolours – which has been very exciting and has pushed me to think out of the box. Next on the list are testing watery silk paints, painting on glass, screen-printing and linocut.
  8. 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? It can’t say I found it difficult to break into the creative industry, but I think the toughest part was the build up to the launch of BENU (Etsy shop and social media) – and not knowing what the response might be. When you’ve been preparing something for so long and have no clue how it’s likely to be received, it can be worrying. However it was all a lot easier than I’d anticipated. Hard work really pays off and shines through – and I got so much support at the beginning from family and friends, which gave me a wonderful boost. The craft community is also extremely friendly and supportive and it really helps to bump into people who are going through similar experiences and challenges.
  9. 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? Firstly, if you haven’t yet found your ‘niche’, experiment. Get inspiration via Pinterest, craft blogs and tutorials, and give it a shot. In my case, I very rarely get a light bulb moment, it’s always a process I go through, starting with just one focus point (technique, material, colour, shape). The best bit is that it can go so many ways – you never know where your creativity will take you. Secondly, just go for it. It’s all tremendously daunting but try to bounce your ideas off friends/ family, build up your confidence and determination and get it out there.You won’t regret it! Lastly, do a lot of research and always keep an eye on other successful creatives and designers: how they’re making their products, how they’re photographing them, expanding their range of products, through what mediums or channels they’re selling them, how they’re doing their own marketing, etc.
  10. MBM_PAULINE-BENU_6MBM_PAULINE-BENU_5MBM_PAULINE-BENU_8MBM_PAULINE-BENU_9What would you say is the best part of your business? And is this a full-time 9-5 business or something you run on the side?I work full-time in a design agency as a project manager and run BENU on the side, in my spare time. The very best bit of it is the sheer personal satisfaction you get out of it – it’s my own little project, I make all the decisions, I can take it wherever I want to take it, and it makes me very excited about the future. The other side of it is the lovely feedback I get from my customers. 
  11. Of your current range of work, what ‘piece’ or ‘collection’ would you pick out as your favourite? I think that my favourite pieces will always be the first set I designed, with the very first gold & electric blue leather offcuts I bought – this necklace, this other necklace and these earrings. These designs are what triggered everything else.
  12. When you’re not in a design mode, what else do you enjoy doing – any other hobbies or past time favourites? When I’m not designing jewellery I love experimenting with other crafts and techniques. Other than that, I love the theatre and music, and am planning to get back to my guitar & singing (which I left to one side to get all dusty & rusty whilst I concentrated on my jewellery!). MBM_PAULINE-BENU_cover
  13. What are your favourite bedside book/s or blog/s at the moment? I always have a few books on the go at the one time, which is frustrating but I can’t seem to discipline myself – Catch 22 (Joseph Heller) and If nobody speaks of remarkable things (Jon McGregor) at the moment. My favourite blogs are designlovefest and A Pair and a Spare, both run by incredibly creative, crafty and business-minded women. I get a lot of inspiration from both.
  14. Name three things you just could not live without? Definitely the people in my life, the place(s) I call home & all of my craft supplies and materials.  MBM_PAULINE-BENU_quote_2WEB
  15. 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? As always – the lovely Viktorija from And Smile and Sabine from S-Gerth Design – who are both so creative, determined and brilliant at what they do. A few other creatives I admire: Jonna Saarinen, Floti, DDSLL, SketchInc, leahgoren, Butterscotch Beesting, An Astrid Endeavor, amongst many others!
  16. And finally, what do you have in store for BENU this year? Are there any events we should take note of too? Last year was very intense as I’d decided to try out as many things as possible – online selling, markets, new stockists, cooperating with bloggers, etc. As fun as it was, it was a little too stressful with a busy full-time job to go to as well. I’ve decided this year that I’ll focus on the made to order side of things (online selling) as well as exploring and designing new pieces (hopefully in a more organised and collection-based way than previously). That means no events or markets this year (yet!) but stay tuned for some exciting new designs! MBM_PAULINE-BENU_13MBM_PAULINE-BENU_packaging

Thank you ever so much Pauline for taking the time out to be interviewed and for the amazing photos you provided too! I’m sure all my readers will now see what all the rage is about and agree with me when I say that I can’t wait to see what else is in store for BENU. But firstly, I must get round to treating myself to one of your necklaces soon! :D All the best and I look forward to catching up real soon…..hopefully sushi and plum wine again! ;)

So there you have it folks……if you’d like to follow all of Pauline’s beautiful creations, you can find her on FacebookTwitter and Instagram….and of course, if you’re looking to purchase any of her pieces you can find them on her Etsy store. Happy window shopping!!! :D xx

 

[Image credit: ©Benu Jewellery]

[Behind the Scenes]: Meet Charlotte Bezzant

Charlotte-Bezzant_01-WebWell 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!

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Charlotte-Bezzant_04-WebCharlotte-Bezzant_05-WebCharlotte-Bezzant_07-WebHow 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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. 
  8. 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.
  9. 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? Charlotte-Bezzant_14-Web
  10. 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.
  11. 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.Charlotte-Bezzant_06-WebCharlotte-Bezzant_03-WebCharlotte-Bezzant_02-Web
  12. 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!
  13. 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.
  14. Name three things you just could not live without? My boys, my parents, food. Charlotte-Bezzant_Quote-Web
  15. 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?
  16. 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]

My recent little treat from Oh My Clumsy Heart!

OMCH_1a_webI’m so delighted with my recent little purchase (which arrived this morning) that I felt the need to share it! :) I’ve been eyeing up this beautiful gold and silver nested triangles by Oh My Clumsy Heart for quiet a while now – that and her ‘Grace’ necklace! I even signed up to the birthday giveaway competition Michelle of My Creative Photography offered to try my luck at winning it – unfortunately I wasn’t too lucky! And then this weekend when I found that they were on display at the Cut & Paste Pop Up shop in Camden last weekend I thought maybe this may be the time to get it but unfortunately it only came on a silver chain as oppose to the gold chain I wanted (yep I am picky!) So I came home determined to jump off that fence I’ve sat on for however many months and take the plunge! And so I did!

The necklace arrived ever so quickly in the post and I can’t tell you how happy I was opening up the wee parcel. After months of mulling over it, I’m FINALLY the new and super-chuffed owner of this beauty! I’m normally all about big and bold statement necklaces but this does make a statement in its own way. I love the simplicity, the geometry, the symmetry, the purity in the materials and they beauty behind how one sits ‘nested’ within the other…….. it’s so minimalist, unpretentious, elegant and architectural that it really has my name stamped all over it! Maybe I sound a bit obsessed but surely you can agree a tad bit? ;) Anyway, a huge thank you  to Sophie for making my day! If you’d like to see more of Sophie’s handmade jewellery then have a browse through her online collections which range from classic designs to geometric to geological. They’re all pretty stunning! OMCH_2_web OMCH_3_web