I met Amanda from Bijou Junkie after we both attended Spitalfields Vintage Wedding Fair hosted by the lovely Kelly from Belles Events. I made a beeline for her stall after doing a bit of research online and discovering her treasure trove of a shop!
She’s an absolutely lovely lady and I knew immediately I had to have her on my blog, so I set about picking her brains to bring you the skinny…
Hello Amanda! Its lovely to have you here. You told me when we met that you got started on your jewellery business after taking a career break. Was that the first time you started experimenting with jewellery making?
Yes. I took a career break from what had become a very stressful job. I lost my mum and when you lose someone so close to you and so suddenly it really makes you evaluate what’s important in life. So I did! I decided I just had to follow my dream of owning my own business. I spent my career break thinking hard about what I wanted to do next. I knew I had to step back into my creative shoes but didn’t know in what area. It kind of happened by accident. I spent lots of time at the beach (well it was a career break, I had to relax you know!), with friends and family and it sounds cliche but I just freed my mind of everything as much as I could and hoped I would have a Eureka moment. Then I did.
I was going through my inherited jewellery, it was under the bed in a big box, collecting dust. I thought, what a shame this is just sat here, no one sees it, and it’s so beautiful its supposed to be seen. Most of it was brooches and old watches and chains etc. I’m not really into brooches so I started to experiment a bit with how I could wear them. I put them on hats, scarves, jackets in clusters, you name it I tried it but it just wasn’t me. I LOVE jewellery and accessories so I thought it could look really different if I changed its purpose. So I started to join some brooches together. I didn’t really have a clue how to do it properly and was frustrated as I could see what I wanted it to look like but didn’t know how. So I took a course that showed me how.
I made myself a little range from all the stuff I had. Friends commented and people seemed to really like it. I made some for friends and family. I made my cousins bridal jewellery for her and her bridesmaids to start and included some of our families inherited pieces. It was so sentimental and suited her vintage dress down to the ground. We all cried, then laughed remembering the good times and I thought, if I could do this for other people that would be something special. The rest as they say……… Blah Blah more cliche’s ha ha!
So your next step was to do some training in jewellery making but you obviously have a natural artistic ability; do you have any art skills or design training in your background?
I have always been creative and loved art and design growing up. I went to art college on leaving school and then onto a Textile degree at Loughborough College of Art and Design. I did woven textiles. My one regret in life is that I didn’t carry it on when I graduated. However, if I had I might not be doing what I am doing now which I LOVE!
What inspires your designs and does it take you long to go from idea to finished project?
It depends what I am working on. If it is a bridal commission piece then the bride, her story, her wedding theme etc inspire the design. If it is a piece to add to my collection I am inspired by the jewellery itself. I imagine a story behind it, where it has come from, it takes on it’s own character and I give each piece a name which relates to it’s character.
A commission piece can take quite some time to complete, mainly because I want the client to be involved throughout, so we design it together in a way. That way it is really personal and they are 100% in love with it at the end.
Sometimes the pieces of bijou I use just shout a design to me and they don’t take too long.
With your bridal collection could a bride-to-be bring you a sentimental piece of jewellery for you to work into a piece?
Yes, that’s my favourite way of working. It’s so personal. Always a tear jerker when they see the finished piece. My motto is ‘I turn Granny’s jewellery into your unique ‘something old’!’
Do you prefer working on your own designs or do you relish the challenge of a bespoke piece?
I love both but I really do relish the challenge of a bespoke piece. It is always challenging (in a good way), I always learn something new from it, there’s a deadline (always good), there are normally a few changes along the way so it grows in it’s creativity and character. And of course the end result is always so so satisfying.
A few or your necklaces seem to have a ‘Victoriana’ style influence, is that fair? Is this an era that holds interest for you and do you create pieces pertaining to certain eras?
I guess you could say they are quite Victorian in style, especially my bridal range. I think subconsciously I love the opulence of this era but I have to be honest and say I am not consciously influenced by a specific era when I create a piece unless I am asked to do so by a bride who is having a 50’s style wedding for example.
Is there a specific material or interesting piece that you prefer working with?
I love working with brooches and pearls for my bridal pieces. I love how they work together and give a really luxurious finish but with a unique edge.
How would you describe your design style?
Hmmmmm. Unique, Contemporary, Versatile…Gosh they’re a bit boring/normal! How about Gutsy, Vintage inspired, ‘Now’, Nostalgic!
I see that you offer a Hen Party package on your website, what do you offer and what does it entail?
I have just launched my hen parties. I am hoping to offer an alternative to the brides and their friends who don’t want the cliche ‘L’ plate and ‘deely bopper’ hen party. I want to share the experience of creating something sentimental yet ‘now’ and so there are options for the party to either create from their own treasures or mine, and to create something for themselves and the bride. Keepsakes of a special time.