Making Memories: Jewellery Designer Lorna Gilbey
Jewellery Designer Lorna Gilbey talked to Utelier about her journey and her business. We believe that everyone has a story and when they are willing to share that, it can inspire great things.
We met Lorna Gilbey, of handmade, fine silver jewellery brand Love Lily Rose at the International Jewellery London 2015 exhibition, and were stunned at her beautiful designs and the story behind her jewellery brand. She spoke to us about what it is like to start a business from home with a new baby to look after and a new skill to learn!
Why did you start your own business?
It was sort of by accident, to be honest. I was researching ‘working from home’ whilst on maternity leave with my second daughter, and a fingerprint jewellery franchise popped up. I’d never heard of it before so I was intrigued. After lots of research, I realised that I could do this on my own and bring something different to the market.
I fell in love with the idea of creating personal jewellery and keepsakes for people to treasure, so with my daughters Lily-Mae and Sophia Rose (Olivia hadn’t arrived yet) as my main focus and inspiration, Love Lily Rose was born. It was around the time that personalised jewellery was really becoming popular so I got a great response when I launched in 2012.
What had you been doing before you started Love Lily Rose?
I was the manager of a boarding kennel and cattery, so I was from a completely different world.
Were you always creative?
I did study Photography and Art at college, and I love the practical side of things. So I suppose I have always been creative.
How did you come across metal clay?
When researching handprint jewellery I came across a local lady who taught silver clay courses so I enrolled in an intensive one-day course. The rest I have picked up and self-taught along the way. There are various types/manufacturers of metal clay; I use Art Clay Silver as this was the brand I was taught with.
As it was the medium that I learnt with, I am attached to it, and I also love its workability and the various stages involved in creating a piece. There are different types too. For example, I used syringe clay, which is exactly as it sounds – paste in a syringe – to create the Dreamcatcher charm. It was a labour of love as I had to build up layers, sand and file back repeatedly to get the desired finish, but there is a real sense of achievement when the piece is complete.
How has your brand grown over the years?
The brand has continued to evolve and is now launching a new retail collection of sterling silver and gold plated jewellery. Communicating the brand’s values is important to me, so my latest collection, Essentia, is a luxury fashion-led collection that holds the core belief that jewellery can and should be inspirational, thought-provoking and meaningful. That is the heart and soul of the Love Lily Rose brand.
How do you plan to stay ‘timeless’ and relevant?
By staying true to the core values of my brand and my own beliefs, whilst keeping up with trends and what’s going on in the fashion industry. It’s also key to know what people think, so getting feedback from customers is always invaluable.
Who are your customers?
For the keepsake jewellery, my primary customers are mums and dads aged 30 and over, who are buying gifts for themselves and family members. Some of the personalised items such as the Message Ring Bracelets attract younger buyers because they are more affordable, and make unique gifts for friends and loved ones.
The Essential Collection allows customers to curate and grow their own collection to evoke memories that have significance to them, and therefore attracts fashion-conscious women in their 30s and 40s who are shopping for themselves.
Do you employ other people at times?
With the launch of the new collection, I have enlisted more help due to the change in direction and style of the jewellery. For instance, I have a good friend who put in a lot of time to help me with the lookbook, branding and launch of the collection, and we are both incredibly proud of how it turned out.
Tell us something that we wouldn’t know about the management of your business
It really is just me! The design, making the products, the photography and the Love Lily Rose website was all done by me, and I am really proud of that.
As I am an online business, customers have to rely solely on my photography and descriptions. This makes how the product is displayed even more of a challenge, as getting the right background and lighting is important. I actually studied A Level Photography so that helped. Model shots help but this isn’t always feasible when just starting out, due to the costs involved.
I do a lot of research online and have good friends in various sectors that I can lean on for guidance, which is a major help.
When I first started the business I used online business forums quite a bit. Mainly because it was nice to know that there were other people out there in the same situation as me, and I wasn’t completely alone! Building a network helps as you can offer each other advice and I found it quite a confidence booster.
How do you manage a good work/life balance, running the business alongside family life as a wife and mother of three?
It can be difficult, especially as I work from home. I have to be really strict about ‘switching off’, otherwise work can just take over.
Luckily the whole family are very supportive and understanding, and we seem to have fallen into a routine that works around school-runs and family time. This does tend to go out the window at Christmas time, but we juggle everything and manage somehow!
Do you take up a lot of space working from home?
I literally started at the kitchen table and have since taken over a small room downstairs, but as the business continues to grow so does the need for space. We are in the process of building a workshop in the garden and that will be amazing. It will allow me to have an office space indoors, and a separate space for the practical side of things.
I have a kiln and polisher that take up the most space at the moment. The workshop will allow me to invest in more machinery that will also help streamline the process, which is exciting.
Talk us through the creative process for your silver jewellery
To be honest, the process varies. Sometimes I will have a theme in mind so I’ll start with sketches and go from there. At other times there can be a single design that I work from and grow into a collection. The idea for my latest collection came from a feather necklace that I made for myself which my friends and family loved. My research into feathers led me to Native Americans and dreamcatchers. I’m fascinated with the symbolism surrounding the Native American culture and how personal and inspirational it can be to different people.
It is important to me that my designs will work within the market, so I have to take into account current trends and styles. This can influence the final outcome of a design.
Then finally, I handcraft all of the masters for my sterling silver jewellery in silver clay before being sent off to be cast in .925 silver.
Where do you source your materials?
I do try and support fellow UK companies: my silver clay is brought in from a local company, I use a family-run casting company in Birmingham and a plating company in London. It’s also nice to build up good working relationships with reliable and quality suppliers, and it’s easier to do that when you can pop in and see them on a fairly regular basis.
What has been your most memorable order?
I don’t think I have just one. Due to the nature of the keepsake jewellery side of the business, a lot of those orders are in memoriam. To be able to create something so special and meaningful for people that I know will always be treasured is always memorable.
What has been your biggest business-related success?
I won the Gold Award for Online Business at the Essex Digital Awards in 2014, and also took home Silver for the Social Media category. Being recognised for my small business is always a massive confidence boost.
Which skills or talents do you need to be a jewellery designer?
There are many different techniques and processes for making and designing jewellery, but the following are the most important skills that you need in my opinion:
- A great eye for detail
- Patience (the more the better)
- Passion for your designs and ideas.
You can contact Lorna Gilbey via her website.
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