Interview: CJ Jewellery

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Ciara Jenkins runs her jewellery business called CJ Jewellery. Her love for design and art is showcased throughout her jewellery. I was lucky enough to interview Ciara about her work and business. 

Hello! Thank you so much for letting me interview you. How are you?

Very well thank you! 

Tell us a little bit about your background.

So I was born and bred in London, but moved to Bristol for university. I’ve just finished my Liberal Arts degree at the University of Bristol. 

I adore your business. What made you decide to set up CJ Jewellery?

It actually wasn’t really a conscious decision to turn my hobby into a business. After finishing my first year of univeristy I felt like I was really missing my creative outlet, so one weekend when my brother was visiting I asked him to bring down some of my Jewellery tools. Shortly after, my housemate popped into my room with her laptop to show me an over-priced choker she was about to buy. I immediately threw my hands in the air and exclaimed that I could make her the same for a fraction of the price and one she would like even more - so I did. CJ jewellery then just snowballed and I was getting orders from so many of my friends that I decided to set up an Instagram where they could see what I was making for everyone else. 

What does your shop sell?

My shop sells handmade, high quality and low cost necklaces, earrings and bracelets. I only work with Gold Filled (which is a type of gold plated metal) and Sterling Silver. Mostly I make beaded choker chains as they tend to be most in demand by my target demographic who are looking to achieve the in-vouge layered necklace effect!

Why did you call your shop CJ Jewellery?

I have a very small ‘3’ tattoo on my wrist in an American typewriter font. Three is my lucky number and when placed on its side it shows my initials - CJ. using 'CJ’ in my brand name It means I can use my tattoo as my logo which I love as each piece I make is truly a little piece of me. 

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How has your creative process changed since the start?

I certainly have changed a lot over the last two years. Mainly I have decided to only use really good quality materials as I want peoples necklaces to worn everyday without having to take them off for the shower and things, unlike some of the cheaper stuff you buy on the high street that discolours quickly. I have also become much more bespoke recently, as customers will approach me with a very specific idea. I work with them to then create pieces that work uniquely with their  collection - whether that is colour or length! I rarely make two of the same things!

How did you manage to learn and hone your craft?

I have had almost next to no training. When I was about 7 I did a jewellery after school club in Primary School. I would like to believe I had a real affinity for it, as when my teacher moved back to South Africa she left me with a crate of her unwanted beading supplies. Since then I have really been teaching myself and using those basic skills to perfect my craftsmanship. Now I have finished my academic studies I am planning on taking a few courses in stone setting and metal work so I can really begin to develop my designs. 

Have you always been into design and craft?

Always! I was very close to doing a design degree instead of an academic one but as it happens I’ve been able to keep on designing while at Bristol. 

Why has social media been an important platform for you to use?

Incredibly. At the moment I only sell via Instagram. If I am honest, I know I’m not the best social media user but I notice such an increase in sales when I increase my social media activity. We live in such a technological age we may as well use it to our advantage to get our brands out there!

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Who inspires your shop?

Undoubtedly my Mum. Her jewellery collection has always been second to none and I have always been caught rifling through her jewellery boxes looking for things I can take and rework into something new. 

Do you have any favourite pieces from your shop that you adore at the moment?

At the moment I am really obsessed with my earrings, particularly the lightening bolts with blue sapphires. 

What do we hope to see in this up and coming year for your Instagram page?

I’m planning on posting more pictures of how to wear my jewellery. As I mentioned, Instagram is how I sell most of my pieces so I’m often preoccupied with taking professional pictures of the pieces rather than showing my followers how to wear and layer them with everyday outfits. So yes, definitely more pics that show how they look on and how to style! 

What’s your typical working day?

Well, as I've said, I have just finished my degree. So recently my typical day has been a long haul in the library frantically finishing my dissertation then making orders after dinner and sending them in the morning! But as I get more focused on building the brand I will spend much more time looking for new materials and designs in the pages of my favourite fashion magazines.

What’s been the biggest struggle in getting your business off the ground?

Definitely reaching a wider audience. Up to date I haven’t been too concerned with building Instagram followers as I tend to get enough orders from Bristol students to keep me more than busy. However, now I am moving on I want to seriously increase my following and then build a website. 

Do you have any exciting plans for this year?

Building a website is one! And also moving back to London is a really exciting prospect as the market/fashion scene is much more bustling. 

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What advice would you give to people looking to define their own style?

Take inspiration from everywhere but never be a copy cat! Trends are great but I always look to the trend then see how I can rework that into my own style. For instance, I know hoops are so popular at the moment so I found a way of making a hoop that wasn’t like the ones on ASOS, but instead are much more delicate and fun! 

Do you have any advice for anyone starting their own shop?

Know exactly who your audience is and always ask yourself, ‘why should they buy this’. I find that the pieces that sell best are the ones I have made because I can find them anywhere else! 

What’s next for CJ Jewellery? 

Brand building, getting myself out there and hopefully connecting with some boutique shops who can sell some of my collections!!  

What's the best piece of creative advice you've ever been given?

Someone once told me that you are at your most creative just before you go to sleep. As a result I try to keep a notepad and pen near my bed because thats where I think up some of my best designs, including a super sparkly star necklace I have just made to wear at a fancy dress party. 

You can find all her wonderful designs and jewellery on Instagram 'https://www.instagram.com/cj.jewellery/'.