Emily Parkes talks to Anne Arkle of Jaspersparkle and find out about her truly unique jewellery business. Anne explains the amazing history behind her craft, how this inspires her and gives us some key tips for anyone starting their own business.
What do you do and how did you start?
I handcraft solid silver spoons into jewellery, ie spoon rings and spoon pendants, and also make silver sugar tong bangles. Using only solid silver (not plated) I use teaspoons, coffee spoons, salt, mustard, jam and anointing spoons. To make these, I only use hand-tools and shape the spoons; none of the jewellery is soldered or melted down. I enjoy searching for unique spoons with ornate designs and hallmarks, to make amazing pieces of historic jewellery.
When did you realise what you wanted to do?
It all began as a hobby in 2010; I had seen a silver spoon ring and decided to attempt to make one for myself, so I researched into how to work with silver, the techniques and tools needed. After making a few for myself, my friends asked me to make some, then people in my local village asked, so I was actually commissioning rings for people.
I then began selling some on ebay as a market research exercise, selling to people in Germany, USA as well as the UK, then I began selling my “Spoon Wear” at local produce markets around my area and received amazing feedback and sales! So it was time to take the “plunge” and try to make a living out of it. So I approached my local Business Support Manager at Menter Mon who gave me advice and support on how to make a go of the business, I even made some sales in the Menter Mon office after the meeting! It is very exciting. I’m 44 years of age and starting up my own business, something I never thought I would ever do. For 15 years, I had been employed as a “Service Manager” managing teams of staff and resources to support people with learning difficulties to live in the community in their own homes, a rewarding job but very stressful with deadlines to meet and cut in funding pressures, so I left to seek pastures new.
What has been inspiring you lately?
I was inspired by the history of the spoon ring. In the 16th century servants who could not afford wedding rings made from precious metals, would steal spoons from the manor house and have these made into wedding rings. For some time, apparently, people could tell who they worked for because of the family crests on their rings!! The servants who were caught were charged with larceny and sent to Tasmania. I really love the looks of astonishment of people’s faces when they realise that the ring they are trying on was actually a spoon. That for me is the important factor; I shape these beautiful silver spoons with oodles of history into a piece of jewellery, not always immediately obvious to people is what makes it all worthwhile, and a major talking point for people.
My main inspiration is my grandfather Alfred Arkle. He was a hobby artist with an amazing talent and skill in watercolours and sketches. Sadly I was very young when he passed away but I have a beautiful watercolour which he painted for me when I was born, a woodland scene with little animals of the woodland riding bikes, driving cars, going fishing all in a Beatrix Potter style. I have this proudly hanging in my workshop above my work bench where I can look at it and absorb my grandfather’s creativity and artistry.
What are your tools of the trade and which is your favourite?
My tools are a steel mandrel, nylon and rawhide hammers, needle files, various grades of metal working sandpaper, burnishing tools, hacksaw and various blades, wooden cocktails sticks for cleaning intricate hallmarks, a mandrel cradle which my fiancée fashioned for me, tree stumps as work bases, silver polishing liquid and cloths, a mini blow torch (so cute and to warm the silver in the winter as it tends to be much less malleable in colder weather) and a grinding machine with polishing/buffing pads to clean the really grubby silver. My favourite tool would have to be my pink tipped nylon hammer, without this I wouldn’t be able to shape the silver without damaging it ... and it’s PINK!!
How do you get the word out about your work?
To promote my work, my partner Ray has designed unique business cards and display cards for when I attend craft fairs. I have also contacted local newspapers asking if they would feature my work as a local business on the Isle of Anglesey in North Wales. I also try to send emails to various newspapers and magazines hoping that they might feature my work as it is quite quirky and different. Ray has worked hard in building a website for me which is now up and running. But wow, what a headache to get it set up, weeks of work and perseverance but really worth it. There's also livery on my car, with a quirky touch “Los Angeles, Milan, Llandegfan” with Llandegfan being the name of the village in which I live! I'm also advertising in local magazines, word of mouth and attending as many events/craft fairs as possible to get my name out there.
Where do you see yourself in the next 5 years?
In 5 years time, I hope to have a successful website which is accessed by people from all over the world not just the UK. To continue making the rings, pendants and bangles as I just love making them, not sure that I would want to supply wholesale but hey, who knows!!
What advice would you give someone starting a creative business?
My advice to anyone starting a creative business it to pay attention to detail, try to think of unique and quirky ways to promote your business, to make it stand out from the rest. Market research, check out this area before putting all your eggs in one basket, see if there is a demand for your work, who will your customers be? How will you make your products accessible to people? Good packaging is also important to make your products unique and appealing. Keep positive and optimistic even when there are slow days when things just aren’t going your way.
How did you come up with your company name?
The company name Jaspersparkle began as my email and ebay name, Jasper was a cat that Ray and I loved who sadly isn’t with us any more, and Sparkle was my nickname at school! As my surname is Arkle, so Jaspersparkle was born.
What's the ethos behind your work?
To preserve the history and beauty of these beautiful pieces of silver flatware, by making them into stunning pieces of jewellery for everyone to see and share. From something which would only have sat in a drawer as a utensil, I can transform them into unique silver adornments.
What's your favourite thing to do when you're not working?
My favourite thing to do when I’m not working is to go metal detecting, I am absolutely and totally hooked on it, and my ideal day out seriously would be a sunny day, a beautifully ploughed field, picnic, good company and my Minelab Sovereign XS-2 Pro machine. I have found some amazing items over the years, from Roman silver denarius coins to a piece of Romano British gold, a Viking traders weight with enamel inlay and silver medieval coins, all of which have been recorded with the Portable Antiquities Scheme. I even metal detect for archaeologists which is great for the hobby. I have always loved history and enjoy researching my finds when I get home; Jaspersparkle is no different really, researching the hallmarks on the spoons and their history.