Meet Melodie, a talented jewellery maker with an interesting background in the great world of shoes. She’s resourceful and ambitious, creating necklaces and earrings from leather cast-offs, working with designers on special collections and running (along with two other brilliant Etsy members) the London Local team which launched this year to bring together a community of crafty, business-savvy Londoners who meet regularly and share opportunities.
LO: Tell us a bit about yourself.
MT: Hi there. I’m Melodie. I’m originally from Paris, but I moved to London in 2008. After moving around London quite a bit, I have been living in Islington (North London) for three years and couldn’t be happier.
I studied Psychology at university and worked as a User Experience Designer at a French software company for a few years. I wasn’t very happy with my job so I decide to move to London to pursue a more creative career. I took several short courses in shoemaking, fashion drawing and fashion business. My first idea was to become a shoe designer as I am completely obsessed with shoes. I did several work placements and worked for a British shoemaker for a few years.
Apart from shoes (and fashion in general), I love cats (especially my beautiful ginger boy, Fudge), going for walks around London and food (whether I’m the one that cooks it or not). I also enjoy DIY and crafts and I’m keen to learn how many skills as I can.
LO: You’re a full time entrepreneur now, making and selling your own jewellery. How did you get started?
MT: When I was working for a shoe designer, I was in charge of cutting all the leather parts. Working from full size leather skins, you always end-up with leather cast-offs that are not usable in the footwear industry. They just go to waste. I always thought that was such a shame as this was great quality, expensive leather and after a few months working there, I just couldn’t bear it anymore. So I searched my brain for ideas of what I could make from those unwanted bits. That’s when I started making jewellery, just as a hobby at first.
I quickly saw the business potential in it and the reaction I got from people around me pushed me to jump the fence and start my own brand. At the time, I wasn’t paid very well, so I thought I might as well work for myself. I’m also very lucky that my boyfriend could support the both of us financially while I was getting started.
LO: What’s the story behind the name of your Etsy shop, Slinky Links Jewellery?
MT: When I worked in the footwear industry, I worked for a fetish shoe company. I get most of my leather from them and I do use a lot of patent leather in my designs. Leather is a very sensual material and I want my product to reflect that aspect, the sexiness within any of my customers. That’s where the “Slinky” part comes in.
I also wanted people to understand what I’m selling without looking at the product. SlinkyLinks is easy to say and, when you say it, you can almost hear the chains ringing.
LO: Can you tell us a little bit more about your process?
MT: I make costume jewellery from pieces of leather. My process is sustainable and eco-friendly because I only work from leather cast-offs, issued from the leather goods industry. I started by using leftovers from by job in the footwear industry (and I still have a lot of it left). Now I contact other shoemakers and bag-makers in the UK and ask if I can get any of their cast-offs they are not using. Most of them don’t have the space to store them or any use for them and they are happy to let me have them.
What I like about this process is that each batch of re-claimed leather I get is ready to be turned into a new collection. It also creates opportunities for collaboration. I recently created a capsule collection for a designer in exchange for some colorful leather.
Working for small bits is sometime a challenge, but it also makes you smart. All my designs have to start from the leather. And each piece is a new exciting opportunity.
To complement the leather, I use good quality metals such as sterling silver, 14k gold-filled, stainless steel and brass. I pay a lot of attention to using allergy-free, non-tarnish materials so my customers can enjoy wearing my jewellery over and over again.
I design, cut and assemble all the pieces myself from my flat in London. I make sure that the jewellery I create is the best it can be.
LO: Share a typical day in your life, from your morning routine through to the last thing you do before bed.
MT: In my work, I stick to a routine. I find that is the only way I can make progress while working from my home.
I wake up around 8am. I turn on my phone, see if I have any urgent messages or orders. Then I have breakfast with my boyfriend. I take a shower and get dressed and I start to work around 9.30pm.
In the morning, I usually sort out emails and then I work on my social media. I take a 45 minutes lunch break around 12.30 when I unwind by watching one episode of a TV show I’m following at the time. After that, I work on my orders or start working on new designs. I take photos if I have something new that needs photographing. I take a short break around 4pm. I often get out of my flat to get myself a soy latte from this coffee shop I love. I sometime go into my garden with a cup of tea and my cat and talk to my neighbour. After 15 to 30 minutes, I go back to work and depending on what I’ve planned on doing that day, I get on with it (marketing, contacting bloggers or shops, etc…).
I work until my boyfriend gets home from work, which is around 7.30 or 8pm. We then cook (I mean him, because I have to be honest he is the one that cooks most of the time) and have dinner together. We often watch a movie before going to bed. I always have to read a book before falling asleep. I usually turn off the light around midnight.
This is typical day for me but I have to confess that, spending most of my time at home, there’re days when going out just for a drink or a walk after work is essential for my sanity.
LO: What’s something you’re most proud of having accomplished as a small business owner?
MT: I’m very proud to have worked in collaboration with stylist and fashion designers: some of my designs were featured by stylist Christabel Saul in a collaboration with designer Ramil Makinano last year (lookbook).
I’m really proud of having built something from nothing and to have stuck with my business even in bad times.
I’m also very proud to have started, with two other sellers, a London-based community of Etsy sellers called London Local, where we can help each other grow and become even better at what we do.
LO: What are your goals for your business in 2016?
MT: For 2016, I want to update my website and start selling wholesale in London. I’d like to be featured in a big fashion magazine and work and collaborate more with other designers. And of course I want to sell more on Etsy! 🙂
LO: If you could share one piece of advice with budding entrepreneurs or etsy sellers just starting out, what would that be?
MT: Starting your own business is a lot of work. When you are starting out, you are usually very excited and that can be a great motivator for your business but alas, this feeling fades after a while and you need to be prepared for that. The best way is to put good foundations in place for your business, clear goals for where you want to brand to go, a budget plan to make sure that your business is sound and can bring you a proper income. Know what you are good at and what you need help with (and seek the help).
Also, working alone can be a little disheartening at time. You shouldn’t be ashamed to ask for help. It is always available. If you are an Etsy seller, join one of the local teams where you can exchange and meet with other creatives and small business owners. If you are not on Etsy, look locally, with your council or online. There are so many communities out there.
The last thing I would say is don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. You really have nothing to loose and there is so much you will learn from it.
LO: You’re one of three Etsy captains for the London Local Team. Tell us a bit about what this is and how people can join in.
MT: Along with Becky Lupton (PJMamma) and Emma Barnes (WildFawn Jewellery), I started the London Local team in March 2015. London Local is a community of London-based Etsy sellers. We organised events and opportunities such as markets, workshops and craft parties. We organise meetings once month when members can come to meet other creatives, chat about the problems they encounter in their business and learn about the opportunities the team is offering.
To join, you have to be an Etsy seller and live or work in London. We currently have over 550 members.
LO: It’s a volunteer role; why was it important to you to be involved? What have you gained so far from this experience?
MT: Yes, all the work we do for London Local is volunteer work. What I love the most about the team is that I can to meet lots of other creative people in London and share experiences with them. Working from home on my own, I used to feel really lonely, but since I started the team I really feel like I’m part of a community. I now have people to turn to if I need advice for my business. I also really enjoy helping others with their business: giving advice, organising events, finding ways to help them better themselves. It’s a very rewarding role.
By creating the team, we also got to work closely with Etsy UK, getting to know the Etsy admins based in London and helping them organise their main seller’s event of this year Etsy Made Local. This is also a great source of opportunities to present to our members.
A SLINKY LINKS JEWELLERY GIVEAWAY!
Like Melodie’s work? She’s generously offered to give away one of her lovely necklaces worth £35. The giveaway will run for one week and is open worldwide. The lucky winner will receive this purple strand necklace in patent leather.
To enter through the Rafflecopter links below, like Melodie on Instagram and the rest are bonus entries!