Although the global pandemic has had a devastating impact on a number of brands and small businesses, not all hope is lost. As Covid-19 was spreading across the globe and country after country went into lockdown, local makers and designers started picking up their tools. For some, new launches had been in the works for quite some time, for others, a change in circumstances (job losses, relocating) meant they were able to switch their focus and start something new. What quickly became clear to these new brands was that they would have to pivot quickly to survive – an online presence would be key, and social media would have to be greatly utilised to create brand awareness in an over-crowded and difficult marketplace.
It’s always nerve-wracking launching something new and sending it out into the world. Add in a global pandemic and it can be downright terrifying. But the brands outlined in this series have started something new worth talking about. They have found their niche, listened to their audience, and are producing products that they feel people need right now, whether that’s a tie-dye loungewear set or comfortable yet stylish and efficient work from home clothes, or beautifully crafted jewellery pieces.
Here we speak to Cork-based couple Izabella Balikoti and Andrew O’Ciardubháin who launched their jewellery brand, The Silver Loom, earlier this year, about good design, their experiences in fashion and architecture and why their aim is to create pieces with an inherent sense of permanence, that will be just as interesting and wearable in 20 years time.
Why did you decide to launch The Silver Loom?
We have both always wanted to work for ourselves, after spending some years after university working for other companies and developing our skills and interests we decided to take the plunge. Jewellery design is something that both of us were interested in pursuing further and an area we were able to collaborate in. Izabella has been developing her practical skills for the past few years and it felt like the time to push it forward to the next level.
What were some difficulties or challenges you faced due to launching during a pandemic?
Apart from some delays with deliveries of materials, we had some difficulty around organising a photoshoot with the bare minimum number of people involved and trying to keep it safe for everyone. The biggest challenge for us was the idea of launching a new business in this social and economic climate. Launching a business at any point can be risky and nerve wracking but during the pandemic and such uncertain times it really wasn’t something we could have foreseen or planned for. We even questioned whether it was appropriate to launch at all. In a way because this is our first business venture and we have nothing to compare with we have just been taking it in our stride and working with the conditions we have around us. So far our communications and announcements have been purely digital, through our social media and website. It would be nice to have a physical launching event at some point, there are limitations to how well a photograph can describe the excitement you want to convey for a physical piece of jewellery!
How did your backgrounds in fashion design and architecture prepare you for launching your own brand?
Andrew: Good design transcends the stipulations of a given discipline, be it architecture, fashion design or indeed designing and making jewellery. While functional aspects and technical complexity obviously vary, certain principles remain the same. In architecture the more ethereal palette of materials such as light, sound and touch hold immense power when it comes to defining the atmosphere of a space. These same qualities are what we explore in our jewellery. The light, shadow and texture of a piece all come together to essentially create an atmosphere which can elevate a piece of jewellery beyond something with purely aesthetic qualities. This for me is an important consideration in all fields of design; and particularly important in architecture.
Izabella: The time in college allowed me to immerse myself in design and art, explore new influences and define my own taste and how I like to work, which I have been nurturing and developing since. My experiences working in fashion design had left me feeling like something wasn’t quite right. I enjoy learning technical skills about a design’s functionality as well as the different properties of materials, but the scale of production in the fashion industry coupled with the pace of changing trends is dizzying. In jewellery design there is an inherent sense of permanence, I love wearing jewellery my grandmother wore, the weight of time and the stories that become entangled in a piece. I felt much more comfortable with the idea of creating something precious in a traceable, recyclable and enduring way. We both agreed from the beginning that this was going to be integral to the design direction of The Silver Loom. We want to create work that feels current and relevant but, working with precious metals, we are trying to create pieces that will be just as interesting and wearable in 20 years time.
Do you produce each piece by hand? Which roles do you each take on and how have you found navigating a business as a couple?
Our hands are in every piece we put out, we both take on the design process, starting with conversations and sketches where we develop the direction and ideas. A process of model making and carving usually follows where we both explore the intentions behind the piece. Generally this is a back and forth process at this stage before we move to more advanced methods of prototyping which can involve the use of 3D applications. This allows us to explore some pieces further and with less waste. We cast a large portion of our work as the highly complex forms would be impossible to achieve by bending or shaping the metal. The final stages see Izabella soldering any additional functional elements or detailing before finishing each piece by hand.
See the full collection from The Silver Loom at thesilverloom.jewelry
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