A HUGE thank you to the team at Love Somerset Online for featuring Design Vaults in their June online magazine! Love Somerset Online was set up by Kate, a journalist, editor and broadcaster with 20 years experience in the industry. Kate has lived in Somerset for most of her life and set up the online site in 2016 – the site celebrates Somerset’s people, places & businesses.
If you didn’t get a chance to see it, here’s the article…
Marie Curtis freely admits that after 11 years specialising in big brand marketing, her decision to retrain as a jeweller wasn’t an easy one. However after moving back to Bath after living in Hong Kong – followed by a wedding and then children – she decided to “take a gamble” and start her own business. She has now created five beautiful collections of handmade jewellery, each with a story to tell.
Marie: “With two small children and my husband, Gary, commuting to London every day, I decided to find work locally that meant I could still be there for my children before and after school, whilst doing something for me – and importantly to me, use my work skills and experience and in doing so, inspire my children to achieve. It quickly became apparent that the few suitable positions I could find were based in London or Bristol on a full-time basis, or the salary for the very few part-time roles available locally would just about cover childcare costs! All I wanted was job satisfaction and to be there for my children at the end of the school day. I decided to take a gamble and invest my time and energy in creating my own handmade jewellery – something I’d been interested in for years but not had the confidence or opportunity to do anything about.”
Marie enrolled in a silversmithing course in Chew Magna and very quickly developed a clear idea of the core piece that she wanted to create: a shallow and quite large dome pendant, with a mirror edge finish on the front to showcase hand illustrated images of Bath’s iconic landmarks. She then set about finding a way to make it.
Marie: “I worked with Jo, then a member of the GB Decathlon team, who in his spare time had built his own 3D printer for Bath University. Together we made a 3D printed template which I then used to push silver through in a traditional press, then saw, file and finish into the perfect dome pendant. I deliberately sought out a local young artist to draw the images of Bath and in Alice, then a 15-year-old secondary school student, found the perfect artist. I’ve used local printers, graphic designers, photographers and web developers – throughout this process it was important to me to keep my product truly local and support my local business community.”
From conception to completion, It has taken Marie just over a year to create the Moments Collection of pendants and earrings – it launched in March 2017 at Bath’s Holburne Museum. She hopes the pieces will enable women to remember and cherish their time in Bath through a handmade and unique range of jewellery. All of her work is inspired by her worldwide travels, love of colour, and of course the architecture of her home city.
Marie: “Recently, I’ve developed and made my second range of handmade jewellery (the Moonstruck Collection) that includes for the first time, a range of rose gold jewellery. The inspiration for this range were bold, abstract colours and, again, creating something that the wearer truly cannot get anywhere else. I love individuality and the latest collection reflects this with gold, silver and copper leaf set against hot pinks, bold turquoise blues and gorgeous greens.”
Marie hopes to grow her Moments Collection in the future to include other famous city landmarks – London and New York are her next targets – and she admits that the last few months have been a bit of a whirlwind.
Marie: “Not knowing what you ‘don’t know’ until your in the midst of creating it has proved challenging but also hugely rewarding. Keeping myself motivated when there’s no line manager or colleague to test an idea or concept with has at times been frustrating, but the girls in the Chew Magna studio have been a constant sounding board and support. If I was to do it all again, the one thing I’d do differently is to get funding – trying to design, make, support, launch, promote and sell has proved timely and costly. I’d highly recommend anyone thinking of starting their own business to get funding to help them get their product to market as quickly and effectively as possible. Over the last year-and-a-half I’ve learnt so many new skills – silversmithing, casting, packaging, retail pricing strategies, photography, how to resin… the list goes on! My children now understand that whilst I’m always there for them, I also have a job that I love and am learning from all the time. They’re very proud of telling their friends “mummy made that”.”
The city of Bath, travel, and nature all heavily influence Marie’s designs. The core element of her collections – the dome, reflects the contrasting rolling countryside around her.
Marie: “Most of all, I am inspired by where I live. The colours when walking in and around Bath, be it the Georgian architecture or the shadows and contrasts created when walking through a bridge on the canal path, inspiration isn’t hard to find. I genuinely love the Design Vaults Collections – my motivation has hit highs and lows over the last year but I now feel prepared and excited to see the range in more local retail outlets whilst continuing to evolve the collections.”
Marie’s love of her home city of Bath is clear, but why does she love Somerset?
Marie: “To me, Somerset has the best of everything – be it a wild swim at one of the country’s last river swimming clubs in Farleigh Hungerford, a two-day (or longer!) hike on the Mendip Trail, a trip to the Theatre Royal in Bath, or a good old-fashioned family pub lunch at our local, the Ring O Bells in Widcombe. Somerset has it all.”
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