Talking handmade jewellery with Kate from Factory floor jewels

A Q&A with Kate, founder of her very own bespoke jewellery brand Factory Floor Jewels!

With Christmas approaching really quickly, it is important to support independent brands and businesses over the festive period.

To keep this introduction short and sweet I want to introduce Kate, founder and designer of her own jewellery brand named Factory Floor Jewels, a handmade jewellery business from Liverpool.

I spoke to Kate to discuss why she started her business and what tips she would give aspiring jewellery designers, and how her business was affected by the UK lockdown.

Heres the Q&A…

where did your idea to start your own jewellery brand come from?

I always had a fascination with materials and with industrial architecture.

For years I’ve worked in the commercial design and architecture sector and for example whenever I went with colleagues to visit furniture manufacturers throughout the world, we would be being shown their showrooms and everyone would be oo-ing over the latest sofa or desk design and I would wander off to look round the factory!

My Dad was a packaging engineer and as a child I would sometimes go into work with him on a Saturday morning it felt like really special Dad and Daughter time and I loved walking through the factory when there were just a few people in and going up to his office.  It had a drawing board and lots of engineering and drawing tools.  

I think one day the light just went on for me when I was playing with some copper washers. I started making patterns with them and playing with them and starting photographing them – making mock ups of jewellery. 

I remember I was doing meetings in London and I just took myself off for a walk around the jewellery department at Liberty to do a bit of research and each of the displays had a statement about the brand – like an artists’ statement. That night was really the birth of Factory Floor Jewels. I was pretty excited about my new venture.  It felt important to me that it was about my Dad, he had died some years before and this felt like a way to celebrate our shared interest in random bits of metal!

So I started off making at home and selling in local markets. I was self taught but after a year or two I decided I wanted to up my skills and so I enrolled at the London Jewellery School to develop some of my skills. I’m really happy I did it that way round, as it meant I understood what I didn’t know and also what I wanted to achieve. 

where do you get your main inspirations from for your designs?

My main inspiration comes from thinking about the (mainly) women who wear my pieces. They are usually strong, independent women, leading busy lives and often multi-tasking – parenting, working, developing a side hustle, looking after the grandkids etc. They don’t want to look like everyone else and so they probably mix vintage and old favourites more than they buy fast fashion.  They buy well and buy a few pieces by designers and brands they believe in and know they can depend on.   

I still spend a lot of time in factories!  i have several engineering workshops and a boat yard that I visit on a regular basis (I hear people saying ‘it’s the crazy jewellery woman’ again!). Some places save me components they think I’ll like and sometimes they just leave me to rummage. 

As my business has developed and I’ve started to sell via retailers and galleries I’ve needed to develop more production lines rather than just one offs, so now not all my pieces use reclaimed materials – but all the designs started off that way. 

what are your biggest tips for someone starting out as a jewellery designer?

My personal view is that branding is really important.  I think it’s important to think about how your brand communicates throughout everything – packaging, literature, website etc

I set up a studio at home because I was lucky enough to have a spare bedroom.  It’s not the kind of business that you can tuck into a corner, you really do need a dedicated space for the tools, the dust, the heat and all the tiny components.

I have found being in a couple of online ‘communities’ really valuable, particularly when I was going to start doing trade fairs Sell Like An Artist Community | Facebook I think the maker community can be very supportive of each other and it’s important to find your tribe.

what are you most looking forward to with your jewellery brand?

I’m excited about a new range I’m working on – which is actually made from timber!  I’m involved in a social enterprise that manufactures using plywood and laminate and although they are super conscious about avoiding waste – maximising use of materials and burning small pieces in a workshop heater.  However the tiny slithers of laminated plywood that are left can’t be burnt and I’ve been taking them and playing with them. 

I’m also planning a new offer for my subscribers and Instagram followers – in the new year I’m going to be launching a monthly collection of one off pieces. So I will offer them to my subscribers for 24 hours before putting them on Instagram.  When they are gone they are gone.  

It’s my way of responding to the way I have seen some people want to own lots of my pieces, plus it means I’m not competing with my retailers and finally it allows me a bit more creative freedom than I have when I’m putting designs into production. 

How has the UK covid crisis affected your business?

Well, truthfully it’s been really tough!  As I said, I mainly sell to independent shops and galleries.  In April 2019 Tate Modern started stocking two of my collections Swarf Collection – Factory Floor Jewels and Nuts Collection – Factory Floor Jewels.  They quickly became one of their fastest selling range and they were restocking every month.  A lot of my other smaller retailers were also restocking several times a year.  Obviously the closure of galleries and non essential shops had an immediate effect on these small businesses and large spaces like Tate Modern and Tate Britain. Tate had just ordered two new collections from me as the first lockdown hit them in March/April and they had to put the order on hold.  They have since taken it and have put it on their online store.  

Some of my smaller retailers were more able to pivot to online faster and I have a couple who are doing really well – I’m in awe of their energy and willingness to throw themselves at new things like doing live selling events on social media.  I’m trying to come up with ways to support their businesses.

At the same time I have had to start trying to connect more to individual customers myself via social media and try driving them to my website.  This is all new to me, but it’s vital as I’m in the shielding category myself so I can’t foresee me doing face to face events at all in the next 6 months, which is really sad. 

You can check out Kate’s jewellery brand here and I would highly recommend it as she has some beautiful pieces that would make perfect gifts for any jewellery lover!

You can subscribe to Kate and her beautiful brand here:

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