Q&A WITH ABBY SEYMOUR – JEWELLER
What inspired you to start your business? How did you go about it?
I have always been driven to achieve and work to a high standard and grow as an artisan. After working for a few other businesses, teaching in the field and forming a working partnership, I realised that I could ultimately push myself further than anyone else could and I was looking to implement and tailor my own working ethics and principles. My main focus to building my business was to specialise in trade skills and make a living from what I love doing and believe in. I also was very adamant to work to a different structure, try to set a better example and build upon industry standards. My trained background is in printmaking, art and bookbinding but I have always been drawn to process and small details, so naturally I loved the idea of adapting my skill sets to jewellery as a medium. I also loved the idea that jewellery was in a sense wearable art, and the end result could be appreciated every day. There are so many possibilities, techniques and specialties in the field as a jeweller that I imagine it would be little overwhelming to find a starting point. I was able to organically work my way up to the skill sets I have now, one project or skill at a time based on a need to know to get from A to B.
I’m a bit of a bookworm and love researching how things work and processes, so when I first started I was always reading technical manuals and then practicing. Little by little I built up enough of a repertoire in the area I wanted to move forward to then officially start my jewellery label under my own name. Whilst I don’t often get the time to practice all that I have studied – including my printmaking and bookbinding training – there is definitely a strong influence from to the ways in which I work and create today. This dialogue is one that I have been able to hold on to and build into the story as a maker of all that I create now. This has helped to set me apart and consolidate what I am now known for. Even though my work is diverse in medium and form, the designs entail detailed and intricate hand-formed marks paired with bold, hard edge geometry, together reflecting a restrained and quiet simplicity. I think that creates continuity in my work and a cohesive brand identity that is recognisable. My detailed print illustrations clearly speak to the carved features of my jewellery, further reflected in the surface detailing, imprinted and carved on my porcelain objects.
Was there a turning point when you knew you were onto a good thing?
After a few years honing my practice and getting my designs out into the world I realised that my jewellery filled a niche between the somewhat unattainable, high-end jewellery market and that of a lower end, mass-produced jewellery market. Building upon my learned trades and arts background also strengthened this positioning. I was able to draw upon my distinctive style to connect with my customers on an aesthetic level. It was at this stage that I realised I needed a strong triangle of elements to develop a successful brand and business. To accompany the design I also needed an attainable price point for my interested customers, which needed to be backed up by quality craftsmanship. Combined with consistency, these elements have gained the continued trust of my customers. This position in the market and an understanding of my offering, strengths, product qualities (and that of my competitors), along with always prioritising my customers wants, meant that I was able to really thrive in what is now a very competitive and over saturated marketplace.
What do you find to be the most rewarding part of your business?
Getting to make things. There is nothing more satisfying and rewarding to me than creating a wearable form of art: initially conceiving the design, employing my principles, crafting every detail with my very own hands, overcoming limitations with inventive solutions and then completing an item that will be cherished on a daily basis. Of course this all sounds very idyllic and it’s absolutely not what a typical day looks like for me. As many would know, in order to make any business successful a huge effort must go into the planning, analysis, prototyping, logistics, administration, PR and marketing – the list goes on. The proportion of time that I get to spend doing the designing and making is far less than the other seemingly medial tasks, but it still doesn’t overshadow how rewarding it is to make with my hands and be able to stand by my principles to bring something of the highest possible quality into an already mass consumed culture.
What sort of person buys your products?
Mid-20s to mid-50s, female and ethically conscious. My customers look for and value my design aesthetic, unique offering, personal touch and craftsmanship. I always try to come up with a variety of designs that can cater for a broader appeal both price point and occasion wise. But I hope that my signature style is one that will be timeless and loved in all occasions. That’s why I try to steer away from trend- and fashion-based designs – instead I strive for quality and longevity.
What makes your product different? Why do you think it has succeeded?
The biggest difference is my unique style. It’s hard to pin point if my products have done well due more to one thing over another, but I have always conceived the designs as an artwork in their own merit and as the priority before any product function and monetary value comes into play. I guess having a strong primary aesthetic vision over a commercial drive strengthens my brand and style. I'm still not sure if this is the most successful way to run a business financially, in fact I'm sure it's not but that’s where my products are different. I think that most people can pick up on genuine connections rather than more diluted attempts to cash in on trends. The personal element that is inscribed into each and every piece is so important. The reality is that we are all living in a grossly mass-consumed environment and people are slowly reverting back to more minimal and meaningful purchases. I am building my business and brand for the future, not for today, it is a long road with a more conscious impact chosen over short-term instant rewards.
Have you identified any design and/or business trends you have had to address in the last year?
The arts and creative business sector is growing at the highest rate of any other business sector in Australia and Victoria. Over saturation of the arts, crafts and design has become a growing concern for the industry and as a result the competition is fiercer than ever. I have had to re-think what my personal aesthetic strengths are and what my product offering should be, coming back to what my core style and brand values are. This has forced me to become focused on the unique elements that I can and do offer. Fulfilling needs that are larger than just myself has always been a motivating factor to running my own business, with a mission of paving a better way forward. With this in mind I got to a point in re-evaluating my operations and projected direction where it became clear that trying to scale up meant I would be loosing those integral elements to my brand. Competing with larger companies is a very hard and unfruitful undertaking, much like chasing trends, and it is only ever short lived in my experience.
I guess my takeaway point would be that being aware of what is taking place in your industry is a good thing, knowing what is on trend and who your competitors are is also very important, but choosing to strengthen your unique offering and doing the things that other larger companies can't do is a better move. Unless of course you are fortunate enough that the trend of the moment is in alignment with your style, otherwise you could actually be taking a side step from your original and main focus. My view is quality over quantity, slow over fast.