Lucy Quartermaine, designer
Lucy set up her designer silver jewellery company, Lucy Q Designs, after a degree in jewellery design. She now sells her pieces to stockists in the UK and hosts a show on The Jewellery Channel.
I'm from Chester, where I am still based.
What job do you do?
I'm the creative designer of my silver designer jewellery brand, Lucy Q Designs.
I used to make everything I designed myself, but these days we get it made overseas. I still make about 10 per cent of things from time to time – it depends what orders come in.
I also sell my jewellery on a TV shopping channel, the Jewellery Channel. I go on once a month for a four hour show, which I co-host with the presenter. We show off my designs, and viewers can order things.
How did you get started in jewellery?
In my teens, I designed and made jewellery for my A level in Design and Technology. I had the opportunity to learn a bit of basic silversmithing, which my tutor taught me, so I started off working with silver very early on.
I’ve never done beadwork or anything like that – it's always been about silversmithing. What I made in a year back then, I could make in a day now.
After that, I did a foundation art and design year. I tried out different aspects of design, but found I was always coming back to jewellery.
"If an idea I've had sells well, it's a brilliant feeling."
I went to Sheffield Hallam University and did a degree in Jewellery Design and Metalwork.
Then I worked for silversmith for a year to build my skills. I ended up quitting as the working relationships there weren't great. Although I enjoyed the work, I found it really difficult.
Having left the silversmithing job, I got a job in a bank. Then I found out I was pregnant, and I realised then that I really wanted to carry on pursuing my love of design.
In a way, finding that out gave me determination and focus. In the end, I only worked at the bank for six months. I had my baby, and started my business.
As I was looking after a baby at the same time, the business was a kind of part-time job. It built up very slowly. When you start a business, you can't just go full-time straight away. You have to build up your customers.
What qualifications do you have?
Just my foundation course and degree.
What do you do at work?
All my designs are hand-sketched. It would be good to learn computer design techniques at some point, but at the moment I prefer to design by hand.
When I'm not designing, I spend a lot of time in front of a computer, networking and marketing the brand.
"University alone won't teach you. Get some experience, and learn the skills."
I also work out prices using spreadsheets.
I also phone any customers who need phoning, and see how my stockists are doing, and whether they need any new pieces.
Finally, there's my show on the Jewellery Channel. Going on TV was scary to begin with, but I’m more used to it now.
You see the sales you've made during the programme, when you’re there. So if you’re not doing well, it can be disheartening, but doing it definitely has an impact on sales. You can do things like sell exclusive ranges on the channel.
What's the best thing about your job?
Good customer feedback. It's lovely when someone sends a letter or calls to say how much they love what they've bought.
I love designing and selling my work. I rarely do bespoke work, because I love getting excited about my own ideas – if an idea sells well, it's a brilliant feeling.
Occasionally I might alter an original design a bit for a customer, but I don't enjoy making completely bespoke work. It's very time-consuming, and I don’t just run the business – I'm a mum as well.
And the worst thing about the job?
I work mainly by myself, so sometimes I struggle with decisions. It can be lonely running a business.
How do I get into jewellery?
If your aim is to launch your own jewellery business, all of these things strike me as important:
- Build your skills
University alone won't teach you how to produce jewellery properly. Get some experience with a silversmith, and learn the proper skills.
- Build a marketable collection
Most jewellery designers release their pieces in collections. Aim to make a nice range: it should show something of who you are, but also be commercially viable.
Design something that will sell easily.
- Get help for your business
Find an organisation that will help you with the business side, like the Prince’s Trust. When I was starting out they gave me a loan. A good loan is really important, so you can afford to get yourself properly set up.
- Go to trade shows
This is how I got where I am today. Trade shows and fairs are really important. Get yourself a nice collection and just go straight into the trade shows.
The Jewellery Channel found me at a trade show. They really are the best way to build your business. I used to do them monthly, but now I only need to do about three per year.
A good one to start with would be the British Craft Trade Fair (BCTF). It's held every April in Harrogate. It’s relatively cheap to attend, and all the smaller jewellers go there. There’s a newcomers section, so it’s great for new starters.
The waiting list for the jewellery part of the fair is quite big, so get on it as soon as you can.
- Always have a plan
Even if you're still working out what you want your career to be like, try to plan. When you start working as a designer, you need to plan your calendar so you don't miss trade shows and opportunities to promote yourself.
You should make sure you have a goal that you want to achieve with each passing year.