Here at ToolFreak, we understand that Safety Eyewear is worn by a vast range of people in a number of different industries! Whether you’re a construction worker, a landscape gardener, a doctor, or a Jewellery maker, the need for safety eyewear is paramount!
In today’s post, we are joined by the brilliant and bespoke Artisan Jeweller, Kelly Twigg, from Hampshire, who just so happens to be an avid ToolFreak customer! At the beginning of 2019, Kelly started learning to silversmith and in a matter of months, this newly acquired skill transformed into a business venture. Today, Kelly, who is the proud owner of Willow & Twigg, has teamed up with ToolFreak to tell us all about her self-employed adventure!
So, if you would like to find out more about Artisan Jewellery; or perhaps would like greater insight into the world of self employment, be sure to keep on reading this Q&A style blog post!
Hello Kelly! Let’s kickstart this piece by finding out why you decided to pursue a career in creating Artisan Jewellery?
“I joined the Royal Navy as an officer when I was just eighteen, and served for almost fifteen years before leaving to raise my family and accompany my husband on an overseas posting to the USA. I have no degree or transferable professional qualifications, and didn’t want to continue with the stressful pressures of Air Traffic Control, which was my specialisation in the military.
As my girls approached school age I longed for a new career and occupation, and decided that given the difficulties of juggling family life and still having three small children to take care of, self-employment and working from home seemed the most sensible and practical choice.
I’ve always been a creative person and have been making beaded gemstone jewellery for many years, so I decided to take that up again and develop my skills further by learning to metalsmith and work with silver. I then put the organisational and management skills I learned in the Navy to good use and set up my own business”.
Wow, that is extremely interesting! How did you break into the industry?
“I am largely self-taught, but started off with a few short, day-long courses to learn the basics of metalsmithing; and to find out more about the tools I would need. I then spent a lot of time practicing and further developing and honing my skills; and making sure I knew how to work with silver and other metals safely and professionally.
I put together an initial collection of jewellery items and designs, whilst at the same time working on a business plan and producing my own branding style, logo, a website and social media profiles. I set up a shop on Etsy and later added a second one on The British Craft House to sell my creations. Then everything has gradually built up from there”.
How do you start a typical day at work as a self employed Artisan Jewellery Maker?
“My days usually start with admin tasks, as I find it best to get those out the way first. This includes updating any accounting (I do it daily so nothing gets forgotten and it’s automatically taken care of and the data is ready to be used when it comes to tax returns!) plus making up and sending out any orders from the day before. Then I order any supplies that might be running low, check my messages and reply to any queries and finally I can then sit down and start creating jewellery knowing that all other tasks have been done”.
How do you stay safe on the job? Do you wear Safety Glasses?
"Safety is a huge consideration for making jewellery! The most simple things are wearing practical clothes and an apron, tying back my long hair and keeping my workspace ordered and tidy. I solder my silver jewellery using gas torches and have a dedicated soldering station with heat resistant blocks and metal storage boxes. I also take care to always do that part of the job standing up so I can move away quickly if I need to!
I also use saws and files to cut and shape metal, as well as a pendant motor drill for grinding and polishing. I also have a filtered mask for protection from soldering fumes.
Above all the most important safety item I use though are my Spoggles and Safety Glasses which I wear for almost every stage – even using pliers to open and close tiny jump rings can cause them to fly off and into your face. I have different kinds of eye protection depending on the nature of the task I’m doing and whether I’m at risk from flying components or small dust particles; ToolFreak’s close-fitting Spoggles with the elastic head band are ideal for sanding and grinding tasks and fit comfortably over my facemask, whereas the Rip-Out Safety Glasses are perfect for every other job where I need something quick and easy to take on and off that won’t interfere with my vision".
Safety is serious! We admire your hard work Kelly! It sounds like you have to complete a variety of roles yourself and take your safety very seriously! We would love to know more about the specific roles you complete on a regular basis…
“Yes, I do everything! As I mentioned before, the jewellery is designed and made by me; but I also run the actual business myself and that includes website design and updating, shop listings, social media, accounting, graphic design, photography, communications, logistics and promotion. I even model some of the creations myself”!
Hats off to you Kelly, that sounds super busy! What roles do you enjoy completing the most?
“I enjoy the raw processes of sawing and soldering the silver most I think – taking a flat metal sheet and wire and turning it into a totally different shape. Seeing jewellery evolve that way is always satisfying – when it goes right”!
That sounds cool! It must be an amazing feeling seeing the finished product, especially after all that hard work! Do you do commissioned pieces?
Commissions are one of my most favourite projects and some of the most rewarding things I have produced. As well as people asking me to create specific items for them with sea glass they have chosen themselves from pieces within my collection, I have had people send me their own special finds to preserve in silver – quite often there is a poignant or sentimental story behind such treasures, and there’s a huge sense of honour in being asked and trusted to make such transformations. Knowing that those pieces I create will also become special heirloom pieces too is incredibly humbling!
That sounds amazing! Where do you personally find your inspiration?
“My inspiration comes mainly from nature and is often inspired by the sea as well as plants, flowers and trees. Plus a lot of the time unique jewellery pieces are inspired by the actual gemstones and glass I use, as every single one of the larger pieces are different and quite often just looking at the shape and colour of the material can inspire a particular design to evolve”.
We love the idea of evolving! On that note, where would you like to see yourself in 5 years?
“I would love to see my business grow to such an extent that I can have and manage sales directly from my own website as well as through marketplace platforms, and I would love to be able to sell in person at craft fairs and markets too”.
Following on, what about in 10 years time, where would you like to be then?
“My ultimate goal is to one day have my own shop and studio workshop in a little seaside town, so people can come and see my jewellery being created and watch their creations unfold, and perhaps I could even run classes and teach others to do the same”.
We are positive you will achieve your goals! What advice would you give to other people out there considering kick starting their very own business?
“I’d advise anyone to go for it – but do your research and get a plan first with at least the essentials in place before you launch. It’s easy to get carried away with exciting new ideas, but don’t be tempted to rush in! You can always go back and revise and update things like branding and websites later, but having the foundations down first will mean you’re not always behind the drag curve and can focus on moving forwards and not playing catch-up.
I spent a good six months preparing everything and doing my homework before officially launching my business and am so glad I did, as it not only helped my confidence but reduced a lot of the pressure and stress, as well as making everything look more streamlined and professional from the start. And don’t ever forget things like safety - and insurance”!
That is so insightful and interesting! Thank you Kelly, we hope many will take inspiration and find motivation in your hard work! We wish you every success and we can’t wait to see what the future holds for you and your business!
Check out Kelly's Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/willowandtwigg/
Check out Kelly's Website: https://willowandtwigg.com/
Check out Kelly’s Etsy Store: https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/willowandtwigg
Check out Kelly's The British Craft House Store: https://thebritishcrafthouse.co.uk/shop/willowandtwigg/
If you have any questions, please do leave a comment below and we will get back to you as soon as possible.
Have a great day!
The ToolFreak Team!