[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] And Interview with S-Gerth Designs

S-Gerth-Designs_Web-01I have been really fortunate to have cross paths with some amazingly talented people within the creative community in London this year, and many (if not all!) of whom I find are genuinely wonderful and really inspiring! So, on that note, I’m delighted to introduce you to this month’s featured designer and small business, the lovely Sabine of S¯Gerth Designs! I first met Sabine, through Viktorija (of And Smile), at the Crafty Fox talks held at the Collective Hub in Camden back in August and within minutes of chatting, I learnt that she was the creative genius behind the beautiful handmade leather coin purse I had been drooling over since spotting Viktorija with it earlier in the year! Like the rest of her products, what I love about this purse, is the sheer simplicity in its design – driven by clean lines and geometry – and the way in which it is beautifully and cleverly constructed….oh and that hint of colour along the edges…..a reflection of quality craftsmanship, really! What I also find appealing about her high quality leather products is that they are all made from off cuts, sourced from suppliers in London, that would normally have gone to waste – an ecological approach to design making each piece even more unique! Fabulous, isn’t it? She’s definitely one to look out for!! Well, I shall quit rambling on and let you read my recent interview with Sabine on the story behind her business:

Hello Sabine! Tell us a little about yourself and what made you decide into wanting to become a designer? I was born in Hamburg / Germany. My school career wasn’t extremely successful but I always loved making things. So after my Abitur (equivalent to A-Levels) I went on to study Communications Design with a focus on Graphic & Typography, but once completing my degree in that I decided to follow my dream in Fashion and did a Masters Degree in Fashion Design in Berlin. After graduating, I did a few internships and worked as an Accessories Designer for 3.5 years.

How did you come about setting up S¯Gerth? And what determined the brand name and range? To have my own label just happened, I never really planned it. But I guess it started with a bit of a shock as my dad died 2.5 years ago and I had to go to Germany quit a bit to sort everything out, which eventually made me take a year off from everything. When I finally got back to London I needed a creative project so my partner and I came up with a gallery project which we held in the bin shed that was in front of our flat and called it “limited space”. As most of it was Darren’s work, I felt the need to create something of my own work to showcase so started making a little range of things like few croched necklaces and small leather coin purses to put on display. I got really good feedback and took this as a push to open an Etsy shop and sell at a few markets. The name is obviously my own family name and Initial.

What five words best describe you and your style of work? Simplicity, practicality, colourplay, accentuated, geometric

S-Gerth-Designs_Web-04I absolutely LOVE your products since I first set eyes on your leather coin purse with the pink edges! What’s the main source of inspiration behind your work? What made you decide in making these lush leather products? I take inspiration from everything I see; I especially love vintage things and all sorts of graphics. For instance, the coin purse you so kindly praised (Thank you!) is based on origami folding and an old purse I once saw! Once you are able to develop the idea, the more and more ideas pop up and you end up with a range of products!

How would you describe your design process and what part of it do you like the most? Normally I scribble ideas down on little scraps of paper (unfortunately these get everywhere – should be a bit more German and organize them better, ha-ha!). I revisit the ones that I still like, after looking at them a few times will develop into a pattern and a toile and then change and change until I am happy with it! The nicest thing of the whole process is to hold a finished product in your hands and then, of course, the very nice comments and reactions from my customers!

How long would it normally take to create your final product; from inception to completion? Oh that is very difficult to say as it completely differs each time…can take a day, a week or moths to develop, some ideas get lost!S-Gerth-Designs_Web-02 S-Gerth-Designs_Web-03S-Gerth-Designs_Web-07

Is there any craft/art medium that you haven’t tried but want to? And why? There are hundreds of things I like to try, but there is a knitting machine waiting for me at my partner’s Dad’s place for when we might have a little more space…..I get absolutely excited at the thought of trying it out someday!

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 have faced? Yes, it is quite difficult – I don’t think I have had a full break-through yet myself, but it is very rewarding so far. Surviving the first year was a big challenge, but I did it and feel a bit more confident now. Promoting my work and approaching new shops is always a bit daunting, but once you have done it you feel great about it!

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? Not sure I am the right person to ask for advice as I am still in baby shoes myself, but what I can say based on my experience so far, is that being persistent and positive about what you are doing, as well as being open towards any opportunity, helps a lot! S-Gerth-Designs_Web-05

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? The best part is being my own boss and making my own schedule, so I can decide myself when to take an hour off or even a day. It is my full time profession since a bit more than 1 year. It is difficult to stop working, so it is very rarely a 9-5 job! Very often I work quite late in the evening, but the workload varies, really. With Christmas round the corner, it gets quite crazy but I like that though.

S-Gerth-Designs_Web-08Of your current range of work, what ‘piece’ or ‘collection’ would you pick out as your favourite? I use almost all of my products and obviously like them all, but I recently picked out a new wallet in black with teal edges and love it to bits!

When you’re not in a design mode, what else do you enjoy doing – any other hobbies or past time favourites? One of my favorite things is going to car boot sales and charity shops. I am a passionate bargain hunter, if I may say so myself! ;) Otherwise I do love cycling. If find it the most convenient transport around London but that may depend on the distance though as I have an old bike with no gears!! Oh and before this became my full time job, I had started learning tap dance, which was brilliant! Right now, it’s hard to find the time and the money for that but so hope to get back into it again soon!

S-Gerth-Designs_Web-QUOTEWhat are your favourite bedside book/s or blog/s at the moment? First and foremost I wish I would read more, as I really enjoy it but these days, I’m not sure where the time disappears to!! I love Margaret Atwoods books; my two favourite ones are ‘Oryx and Crake’ and ‘The Year of the Flood’ – the last one of this trilogy just came out which is on my Christmas wish list so hopefully it will end up on my bedside table!

Name three things you just could not live without? I believe I could live without most things but the tree things that make my life much better are: my bike, chocolate and kissing ;)

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? Oh, I met and know a lot of very talented people; a lot of them are friends from the markets, so now I have to pick a few? Well, there is the lovely Viktorija from And Smile, Helen from Mr.Peebles, Jonty and Sascha from Hampsonwoods and Jane Sarre but I could list so many more!!

S-Gerth-Designs_Web-06What would we expect from S¯Gerth in the future? You have been busy with a few craft fairs recently like Broadway Market, Thames Festival and Crafty Fox…..are there any more this year, that we should know of? I hope that S¯Gerth will grow to produce a wider range of items. I am planning to make a few bigger bags in addition to the small accessories and extending the unisex and mens range. If you would like to visit me, I have a stall at the Broadway Market in Hackney every Saturday. Also, for this winter season, I will be showcasing at the Dalston Christmas market on the 1st of December and the Crafty fox on the 8th of December. And in addition to that…..(biggest and most exciting news) I will also be participating in the Handmade in Britain Christmas Arcade at Somerset house, starting from mid November! So hopefully see you at one or more of these events!

Wowee – that is one busy lady! Aren’t her products amazing? (I totally forgot to mention my other favourite piece; the nifty little key holder!!) Anyway, a big THANK YOU to Sabine for taking the time out to share your story and for providing all the fabulous photos – I think it’s wonderful for folk to see how much heart, soul, effort and hard graft goes into each and every bespoke product that is beautifully made! Good luck with all your future endeavours but I think you have a very promising future, If I may say so myself! :) So folks, please do check out her lovely Etsy shop for a more handmade leather accessories….and if you’re based in London (or visiting this season) then I cannot recommend highly enough to drop by at any of those aforementioned markets and events, even to say ‘hello’ (she really is so lovely!). With Christmas round the corner, what better excuse!! Otherwise, you can follow her on Twitter and Instagram to keep in the loop of her whereabouts and creations! ;)

[Image credit: Sabine Gerth and Cara Bermighmam]