[5 MINUTE READ]
Happy Friday everyone! I hope you are all enjoying this lazy first morning of the bank holiday weekend. What better way to start off the weekend than with a Friday Founder interview?
This week, we chatted to the delightful Clio Saskia Thomas, the Founder of Clio Saskia Jewellery, a fine jewellery brand formed around the idea that the things we choose to wear become part of our identities.
Good morning Clio! Welcome to CAROLINA GMX! Could you start by telling me a bit about your childhood and how you feel it has influenced you today?
Morning! I was brought up in the Netherlands, in a household where curiosity and exploration were fully encouraged. No question was stupid, no observation was a waste of time. As the child of a scientist, it is no surprise I developed a keen investigative mind, spending entire summers immersed in forests and rock pools. Without a doubt, my upbringing had a long-lasting influence on my design process, helped me to develop an acute sense of observation and encouraged me to expand my practical skills in the arts.
It sounds like the creative seeds were planted at a young age then! How did you get started in the jewellery industry specifically?
I studied contemporary sculpture at the University of the Arts in London. For my degree show, I created traditional Grecian busts which I adorned with modern clothing, hair and jewellery. I ended up spending the same amount of time making the jewellery as I did on the entire piece and that was the start of my journey into jewellery. After that, I took a couple of short courses such as silver ring making and traditional stone setting, which really clarified that I had the right skill set to do this for a living.
That must have been such an exciting time for you! So, when did you decide to start up Clio Saskia Jewellery and why? Was the timing important?
I started Clio Saskia Jewellery after a pretty depressing few months of applying for bench jobs and finding that employers were not looking for someone with a creative background, they wanted formally trained jewellers. One day, my boyfriend sat me down and told me he could see that I had such a clear creative vision. He told me that it would be a wasted opportunity if I were to work for somebody else. He said, “Why do it for someone else if you can do it yourself?” This conversation took place just before the applications for The Setting Out Program at The Goldsmiths' Centre were due to close, so I threw caution to the wind and stayed up until the early hours of the morning in order to send in my application. I was offered a place and that has honestly been the biggest springboard for me - they offer structured guidance for business planning, ask all the questions you do not want to ask yourself, and then let you get on with the creative side of things. It has been amazing for my confidence, and the timing just happened to work out perfectly.
What an incredible opportunity! And how does sustainability factor into Clio Saskia Jewellery?
From the moment I set up Clio Saskia Jewellery, sustainability and ethical practices have been huge factors in my decision-making. I began exclusively using recycled gold and 100% traceable, ethically sourced gemstones. Almost all of my packaging and display materials are either recycled, organic or green materials, and I have set clear goals for improving the carbon footprint and overall ecological impact of the company.
It seems like you have got a very clear ethical strategy in place! Do you think people are more conscious of the materials in their jewellery nowadays? If so, why?
Absolutely, we have definitely left the era of fast fashion and ‘more is more’. Nowadays, people prefer to save up and spend their money on something they really love; investing in a piece that brings more sentimental or emotional value to them. Therefore, the materials used and their providence are incredibly important. The supply chain for gold and gemstones used to be very secretive and pretty questionable as far as ecological and ethical values, but with traceability becoming so important we are starting to see enormous improvements in this area.
What were your biggest challenges in starting up Clio Saskia Jewellery?
I have always been confident in my creative abilities, but I did not have a good grasp of what others liked about my work. This is probably what I found the most challenging to research and understand because it is enormously complex, and everyone has their own motivations. Now, I find it one of the most fascinating aspects of my business. Similarly, I had an abysmal grasp of things like cash flow and how to actually make a living from creating jewellery, but I took a few courses and found visual ways of understanding things which have helped me a lot.
You seem incredibly self-motivated! What strategies do you think have been key to the success of Clio Saskia Jewellery?
Asking skilled and knowledgeable friends for help has been essential to running the business. People often really enjoy being asked for their opinion if it is something they know a lot about, so ask all the questions and return the favour when they need help with something.
That is great advice! And on a personal level, what is your favourite thing about your job?
I have two favourite aspects - the first is selfish, and that is being able to sit at my jewellery bench from early morning to late at night creating amazing, adorable and beautiful pieces from my imagination. The second is meeting people from all walks of life who are looking for a piece of jewellery to reflect and proudly represent who they are. To be entrusted with creating something so personal, which will accompany them on their adventures for many years, is a real honour.
It really is a special job! Which is your favourite piece that you’ve ever created for Clio Saskia Jewellery?
Ah! It is like being asked to choose your favourite child... I can't! It depends on my mood and the occasion, but for sheer 'oomph' I love the Chameleon Ring with its tongue licking up a delicious sapphire. My favourite pieces to wear are probably the Seaweed Sway Earrings, which are incredibly flattering and just beautifully romantic, sparkling with sapphires.
Those are absolutely beautiful! What do you think makes your Clio Saskia Jewellery stand out?
Clio Saskia Jewellery is unlike anything else I have seen in fine jewellery. The weird and wonderful animals I choose to create are incredible as they are, so I try to translate their features as truthfully as possible when creating a piece of jewellery. I want to celebrate the character and spirit of these animals, which is why I love to choose those with interesting habits, flirtations, or unusual physical features.
"My work defies many conventions of traditional jewellery design and perfects a uniquely detailed and playful aesthetic."
It is honestly such a unique concept! Could you describe your biggest “pinch-me” moment since starting Clio Saskia Jewellery?
Launching my first collection last November was a huge moment for me because it was the culmination of a full year of soul-searching and determination. I am so proud to have pushed through this incredibly strange year and to have come out the other end with an ambitious, playful, and eye-catching collection.
I love hearing inspiring stories like this. What inspires you?
Our wild, weird and wonderful natural world inspires me. I think my work defies many conventions of traditional jewellery design and perfects a uniquely detailed and playful aesthetic. I am joining an age-old tradition of representing the natural world in adornment, which is full of inspiration, but I am passionate about sharing new discoveries from nature too. Wildness should not be tamed, so I like to imagine how a real animal would interact with us if we picked it up. In this way, a lot of my pieces actively wind their way around fingers, ears and clothes, gleaming with movement, textures and gemstones.
How interesting! I had noticed that in your collection. Moving on to your day-to-day, what might an average day at Clio Saskia Jewellery look like for you?
First and foremost, I run a jewellery making and designing business. So, I tend to sit down at the start of the day with a cup of tea and a little to-do list. I try to organise the items on the list by what is most important or time-sensitive, such as a project for a client who has a certain deadline. If I get those tasks finished in the morning and if I don’t have anything urgent to do, I’ll pull out my massive folder of pictures and annotated ideas, which is full of weird, random stuff and have a look through them. If I have an idea but I’m not quite sure how to realise it yet, I’ll put it in the folder and come back to it in a few weeks or months. By that time I might see a wire fixture or hinge that would be perfect for it, or I might just be feeling more inspired or ready to approach it. Running a business involves a lot of logistical and administrative stuff, like replying to emails, so my time on the bench is probably around two days each week. I try to make as much time for it as possible, as it is my favourite part.
Your day sounds jam-packed but very rewarding! Do you think you have a work/life balance?
Definitely! When I am at work I give it my full attention so that when I am at home I can switch off from work and enjoy the downtime. I spent a few years making jewellery part-time at a bench in my bedroom and it was not very good for my mental health. For me, the separation of my work life and home life is very important because it allows me to appreciate both parts of my life.
It is great to hear that you have found balance! What words do you live by?
“Of all the billions and billions of atoms in the universe, some of them have been lucky enough to combine and create the living being that is you.” There are amazing things in this world, and I am ecstatic to be able to present some of them to you.
That is wonderful! Finally, what’s coming up next for Clio Saskia Jewellery?
I have some ambitious and exciting new pieces which I will be finishing over the coming year. They will be big, bold and beautiful, and I can't wait to share them!