Jewellery isn’t something I have had much interest in until recently. Even before I had started my sustainable journey, I just didn’t see the point in spending money on poorly made, mass produced pieces with no story or meaning behind them. Once I started looking at sustainable brands, I was really surprised by the fantastic selection of sustainable jewellery available. My first purchase was from Smoke and Ash. Read on to find out all about this fantastic British brand.
Tell us a little bit about Smoke and Ash, how and when did you start, and what can we expect to find?
Smoke and Ash was started around about a year ago after taking a short silversmithing course at City Lit in London. I began practicing making rings and small earrings and quickly my friends started to buy pieces off me. I’d always been interested in starting my own business but hadn’t quite yet found anything that really grabbed my attention. When my friends started to buy pieces from me I started to think that this could actually be it, I wasn’t growing bored like I usually did when starting a new project, in fact I was becoming more and more interested and engrossed in what I was doing.
I’ve always loved jewellery and making things, as a kid I had loads of beading kits and made lots of friendship bracelets out of any loose thread I could find. As I’ve grown older my taste has I guess matured away from beading kits and friendship bracelets and I noticed that there was a market for ethically made and sustainably produced jewellery. A lot of the brands I followed and aspired to own pieces of jewellery from where always slightly out of my price range as well so I decided that when starting Smoke and Ash I would cater for people just like myself; people who wanted to support small business’s and sustainable brands but couldn’t quite afford the pieces on the market at the moment.
Living by the coast I’ve always had a passion for the sea and oceans. I try and incorporate my love for the sea in a lot of my designs, especially my ocean inspired collection. I’m also all about understated beauty so most of my pieces are small and simple but can also be layered up for more of an impact.
You use eco-friendly silver as your material, how do you source this and what makes it eco-friendly?
The bullion supplier I use supplies me with eco silver. They are based in England which is great too. Silver in itself in pretty eco friendly as its a by product of mining other precious metals like Gold and it is never thrown away, it can always be melted back down and re-made into something else. I buy eco-silver as it cuts out the mining part and only uses silver that has already been recycled. Who knows maybe one of my rings was once a set of earrings..?!
How long does it take you to make a piece, and do you do the whole process yourself from design to finished piece?
It really depends on what I’m making, my dream catcher’s are the most time consuming as there’s lots of forming of the metal first and soldering of all the little jump rings for the feathers, it can take as much as about 4 hours started to finish to make a set of earrings from them. But then the little studs take no time at all as once I’ve had the castings back all I need to do is tidy them up attach the studs and give them a polish.
Most of the time consuming parts come from making the wax moulds ready for casting. I’m currently working on a bee which has already taken around 3 hours to get the basic shape but needs probably another two hours on it tidying up and adding in the details I’d like.
Some of the items on your site have charity donations to MCS and have an ocean theme. Why is this your chosen charity and what draws you to the sea?
As I’ve mentioned before I love the sea. I’ve grown up on the coast spending most of my childhood sailing and on family trips to Cornwall to go surfing, and as a teenager I spent 3 years working abroad on super yachts. During my time working abroad I saw first hand the destruction that man had had on our oceans and coastlines and really wanted to do something about it. I also spent some time in Bali living with some local fisherman and learning about the ways that they had changed their fishing practises to become more sustainable which was incredibly inspiring. Back in England when starting Smoke and Ash I wanted to be able to give back to a charity that I thought would have the biggest impact on humanity, plastic pollution is currently big news and it well known now that the way were going can’t continue as we’re taking more from the oceans than we give back. The Marine Conservation Society work to change our political, social and cultural behaviours in regards to our seas. One of their biggest campaigns at the moment is stopping single use plastics .
Can you make custom designs if someone has ideas of their own?
Yes, I have just finished working on 3 custom designs, and have just received another request for a custom design. I love making custom pieces as they are so special to the person who buys them and are really personal.
I quite like arts and crafts myself, you mention on the site you like a course or two, what other crafts have you had a go at? What made you stick with the jewellery?
At school I studied textiles, and still sew when ever I get the chance, recently I made a hot water bottle cover for my Nanny and my next project will be making some curtains for our newly decorated bedroom. I also love cooking and baking and for a while I helped a family friend with her small artisan chocolate business- that was great fun playing with chocolate all day. At one point as well I decided that I could make candles for a living, however I never quite mastered the technique of getting them to set flat. If I could incorporate all the crafts I’ve tried in to one business I would but I don’t think it would be humanly possible.
I tend to get bored fairly easy and my mind is always busy designing and thinking of new ideas for pieces, I found with the chocolate makings that once you had a recipe the making of the product became very repetitive and then stunted my creative thinking. The same with candles, after I’d come up with all the different scent combinations I could think of and different ranges, the making of the candle was very much the same.
Sewing I’ve always loved as a past time and wouldn’t want to make a business out of it, however if I could branch in to textile and fashion design one day in the future I will but it might take some saving to get there.
With jewellery there seems to be no end of possibilities, there’s different medias I can learn to use and then there’s the marketing and the styling of the jewellery as well. My days are never very repetitive, unless I have loads of studs to make but even then the silver never reacts completely the same to the last piece so it keeps me on my toes.
Is there anything new and exciting coming up at Smoke and Ash that you can tell us about?
I’d really love to grow Smoke and Ash next year and am looking at participating in a trade show in February 2019. Its a huge thing to start preparing for as all the buyers from the big named shops will be there and lots of other designers so I’ll need to stand out from the crowd some how. I’m currently designing a new range that I will release just before Christmas as will take with me to the trade fair, I’m also looking at producing a range of gold pieces as well which I’m very excited about!
Thank you so much to Sarah for speaking to me, go check the site out.
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