FK talks to Melbourne based Liz Jones about her eco-friendly jewellery range, Betty Jo Designs.
Introduce us to your label, Betty Jo Designs.
Betty Jo Designs is a unique and colourful range of jewellery and clocks. All the pieces are hand made by me (Liz Jones) in my Brunswick studio and are crafted from predominately recycled materials. I source vintage linoleum, unwanted scraps of laminex, pre-loved buttons and buckles and embroidered linen and doilies and transform these unwanted pieces of domestic bric-a-brac into intricately layered brooches, pendants and decorative clocks… all with the memories lovingly attached. No two pieces ever turn out the same, so when you own a Betty Jo designs piece, you know you won’t see one like yours anywhere else.
Whats your background and how did you end up with your own business?
My background is in teaching and retail but in each of these there was a strong element of creativity and a jewellery design focus. I had been making and selling jewellery since Uni in a part time capacity, but decided in 2006 to focus entirely on Betty Jo Designs. This was a great leap. It involved a lot of traipsing around Melbourne with my goodies showing them to shops and galleries, building up an online presence and evolving my products to suit customer tastes and the market trends. I was fortunate to come across many very supportive retailers who were willing to sell my early work such as Pussycat Black and Scally & Trombone. Having my products for sale on Georgie Love was (and still is) a great way to market and sell my work, and in 2007 I joined a fledgling agency that helped me promote my products interstate and overseas.
Where do you go to find your materials?
I source my materials from all over Melbourne. I salvage old Linoleum from house renovations which often means grabbing it from a skip, hard rubbish collections and inside old kitchen cupboards. I only use the safe stuff with no nasties added! I have built up an amazing network of lino spotters around town and further afield. Rarely a month goes by that I am not notified about some old linoleum sitting forlorn on a nature strip, or sent pieces in packages from interstate.
The rest of my materials are gleaned from many other sources. Markets, fetes, op-shops, junk shops and sometimes on etsy. I spend a lot of time out and about sourcing pre-loved stuff to use in my work, but hey, there could be worse things to be doing. I buy findings and other jewellery bits and pieces from a local supplier, and regularly visit hardware stores for wood and adhesive. There are times I wish I could just pop down to the local craft shop to get my materials, but I guess that would take the fun out of discovering some fantastic vintage lino and saving it from heading to land fill.
What advice would you give others following a similar career path?
I would advise anyone wanting to start their own jewellery business to firstly have a product that has a point of difference in this somewhat crafty saturated fashion environment. If you are able to capture the customers imagination with a unique spin on a fairly common fashion accessory, you then have more of a chance of getting it into the market. Also test your products on places like Etsy, Big Cartel and at a few of the numerous craft markets around at the moment. Don’t give up the day job until you are sure you can generate enough income from your business to make it viable. If you don’t have any experience, enrol in a short Business course that will give you skills in the less creative side of running a business. Book work and accounting are not my cup of tea, but it helps to know some basics when you are a sole trader and Tax time rolls around!
How does your surroundings in Melbourne influence your work?
Melbourne, and particularly the inner north has such a creative vibe. It’s not hard to get inspired when you are surrounded by such talented and innovative craftspeople. That said, some of the city and surrounds can be quite drab and industrial, so I am focused on creating colourful work that will brighten up my space, and hopefully the spaces of others. And in a city of black wearing hipsters, a splash of colour on a lapel does wonders! The trend for craft seems to be amplified in Melbourne, and this works well for businesses like mine who have a handmade aesthetic. And the recycling/repurposing mentality of our generation allowed me to jump on the eco-friendly bandwagon. This is demonstrated fantastically by enterprises like the Eco-Innovators showcase in the CBD.
In the inner suburbs of Melbourne, home renovations are prolific, so I am able to rescue a lot of vintage lino and save it from ending up at the tip. And I suppose I can’t mention Melbourne with out mentioning the op-shops, cool second hand emporiums and the awesome Camberwell market. All these places contribute to the little enterprise that is Betty Jo Designs (but maybe not the profit side of things!)
What are your plans for the future for Betty Jo Designs?
In the future I hope to continue doing what I’m doing. That is, working for myself and making everything totally by hand. I am planning on expanding the range for next year, and I would love to get a making buddy, but that may be a little way off yet. I hope to secure some overseas stockists (I have some in NZ) and maybe travel. I also plan on getting a little more tech savvy and continue improving my photography skills. The future will definitely involve taking my business to the next level, which for Betty Jo Designs, could mean more sophisticated promotion and marketing, expansion into new retail outlets and diversifying my products while maintaining my signature style. I’m sure new opportunities will pop up – they always seem to.