Alyssa Smith spends her days crafting beautiful silver jewellery out of her studio in Hertfordshire and in the last couple of years has built up a serious following – including many a famous face. But it hasn’t always been glitz and glamour – she started her business in her bedroom, with her jewellery bench at the end of her bed. Here’s her story.
Buttons and beads
“I’ve been making jewellery since I was five. My mum used to collect old buttons, the ones that come spare in your clothes, and put them into tubs for me. I used to line them up and put them in colour order, size order, line up my favourites and my least favourites. Then she gave me some elastic and I started making my own jewellery and then she gave me some old beads and I started giving people really ugly jewellery.”
“Making jewellery and owning my own business and being able to create people’s dreams, has always been my dream. I would always tell my mum that my jewellery would be on the TV one day. I didn’t want to go to school, all I wanted to do was run home and sit on my bedroom floor and make jewellery. I didn’t really have a back-up plan, so there was no option but for this to succeed. I think mum and dad were quite worried but they were always so supportive, and would just say work hard, believe in your dreams. They always encouraged me to live my dreams.”
“The Tweetie Bird has to be the most popular piece. I can’t even tell you how popular it’s become, it’s been the making of the business. Most jewellers are influenced by nature and organic forms but for me starting out with no money at all and leaving university £20,000 in debt, I had to think out of the box.
“I put myself on Twitter and realised how popular it was. I thought the bluebird was cute so changed it quite a lot and made a necklace and everyone wanted it. I managed to get a few celebrities to wear it by tweeting them. They wore it on the TV and then it exploded.
“I soon realised that launching my collections wasn’t about me or what I wanted to make. It was about what people were asking for, so now I find that out then launch a collection. People were asking for squirrels and deer so I launched my Fairy Tale Collection.
“My personal favourite is my new gingerbread man bracelet. It looks and feels like a real gingerbread man, it’s all grainy and textured and has little buttons down the front.”
Dreams can come true
“I’ve been really lucky, the business hasn’t really been going for even two years properly but I’ve been lucky enough to get celebrities wearing my jewellery. My proudest moment is still the first time I saw my jewellery on the TV. Suzi Perry from the Gadget Show wore one and I was just screaming at the TV.
“I was so excited. I was actually physically sick I was that excited, we had to keep pausing the TV and taking photos of the screen.”
“Chris O’Dowd from Bridesmaids and the IT Crowd commissioned me to make a piece of jewellery for his new niece. She was called Eala, which means swan, so I made a beautiful swan with its head nestling in its wing, with the name engraved on the back and a blue sapphire in the eye. It was her birthstone, but he was also out of the country at the time working on a new film called The Sapphires. It was a really, really special piece with lots of meaning.”
Back to business
“It’s not easy at all. I’ve been something. It’s a really lonely path sometimes. When I first started I didn’t have anyone to talk to. Now I have two part time members of staff. One’s a student and one’s my mum. It’s nice to keep it in the family.
“You never know if you’re doing the right thing. It’s just about persevering. If you don’t make a racket about yourself and tell people you’re there, they’re not going to find you. Money is very tight, so advertising on social media is amazing, free and you can reach anyone in the world.”
“You don’t have to go to university. Although I did go to uni, I pretty much taught myself everything I know. You can teach yourself from books. I specialised in knitting and felt-making in my first two years at university because the jewellery design workshop was full, but I didn’t really want to do it. Then in the third year, there was a space so I had five months to teach myself. I’d never even used a saw blade before.
“If you do want to start cutting with a saw blade, invest in some beeswax. It lubricates the blade and makes cutting easier.”
If you want to have a go at making your own jewellery in time for all those Christmas parties, make sure you get a copy of issue 23 of Simply Homemade. We’ve got lots of great tutorials for accessories using wire and beads.