When Emma Keating was young she was that child that was surrounded by colouring pencils, filling books and books with pictures of every sort of animal. As a young adult, this passion led her to fall in love with the inspirational jewellery of Lexi Dick (dragons, elephants, etc.) – which she still collects today.
After a career which began in Engineering Design (helicopters!), she has now returned to her early passions and has developed her own range of silver jewellery themed in the natural world.
Here, she chats to us at House of Coco and tells us more…
When did you launch the brand and what was the reason behind it?
Since my early 20’s, I have dreamt of making animal themed silver jewellery, after falling in love with the wonderful creations by Lexi Dick. Were it not for an unknown robber who visited us in 2014, taking with them my collection of Lexi’s pieces, I would probably still be dreaming of making animal jewellery. The robbery led to me spending a few days in her workshop in Islington and the creation of my Red-Eyed Tree Frog pendant (a.k.a. Quasimodo). The rest, as they say, is history.
Whats your background?
I was born and brought up in an oasthouse in the Kent countryside and as a child had a huge passion for all things art and animal. However, I didn’t follow these passions into adulthood and instead began working life as a helicopter design engineer. This led to me moving to Brussels where I spent 12 very happy years, working hard and playing even harder (mainly rugby!) – but still dreaming of my jewellery. It was only on returning to the UK that things really began to happen: firstly following evening classes in silversmithing, where I learnt the basics of soldering and polishing; and then moving into lost wax casting.
How many people are involved in the company and what are their roles?
Officially it’s just me. However I am very fortunate to be surrounded by brilliant people who together support me in graphic design (my best friend Ann, www.vann.be), web design (www.webmonkeystudio.com) and photography (www.corrineweaver.com). And more recently Cathy Smith, a great friend to whom I have given the unenviable task of trying to whip me into shape for marketing & PR (it’s definitely not my forte!).
If you could start over with the business, would you do anything differently?
You learn something with every step that you take when running a business and I have deliberately built the business slowly and carefully – and as a result it has largely self-funded itself. The only thing that I might have changed would be to spend more time at the beginning learning my craft before announcing it to the world. I do however often wonder what would have happened had I followed my dream when I was back in my 20’s.
What is the hardest challenge you have faced since you started the company?
Keeping all of the balls up in the air at once. As soon as you decide to transform something from a hobby to a business, you suddenly have an immensely long To Do List – none of which has anything to do with actually making! And fitting this in with young children, my husband’s business and renovating a 300 year old house has been a real challenge.
Tell us one fact about you that people wouldn’t know?
I once played rugby for Belgium (loose head prop)
2017 is here, where do you plan on taking the brand?
Each year the business takes a natural step up: this year has been about bringing a new level of professionalism to the business and building the brand. So I’ve had my first set of professionally modelled photos done, the website has undergone a major rebuild, and I’m starting to participate in bigger and more prestigious arts & crafts events nationwide. Building my on-line presence is a real priority now – but this really is my Achilles heel – so I’m gathering support!
To date, what has been the highlight since launching?
I’ve always been a huge fan of David Attenborough so I sent him a silver stag beetle ornament to say thank you for the amazing contribution that he’s made to conserving the natural world. He wrote back the same day he received it, thanking me and telling me that it is now proudly displayed on his desk.
Which city do you feel most at home in, London, Paris or New York?
I’m a bit of a country girl – but, if you’d added Brussels to the list, that would be mine: small and very friendly. Plus my daughter was born there, so I’m naturally biased.
Three beauty products you can’t leave the house without?
I’m going to cheat a little bit with this answer as I’ve never been good on the make-up and beauty front. So (1) hand cream as silversmithing gives you old ladies hands and stubby nails; (2) hair dye – OK not the dye itself but I’m a dedicated fake redhead (- well orange actually); (3) jewellery of course – even if just popping to the supermarket!
Being brave enough to be yourself.
Best thing about London to you?
Looking down the river at night time – it gives me the kid in a sweet shop feeling as you wonder and imagine what’s going on beyond the lights.
Statement shoe or statement bag?
I’ve always loved boots – and usually the bigger the better. However, as well as being a brilliant graphic designer, my very clever friend Ann designs handbags. So now I have my own range of handmade bags featuring my frog logo and I am immensely proud of them (and my friend).
If you had to, what piece of clothing from your wardrobe would you wear everyday?
It’s not very exciting but I have an olive green tunic with trees silhouetted on it and I’ve worn it so much that even the repairs have worn out! I still wear it but only when I’m working at my bench and no one can see me.
Favourite love song?
Mayonnaise by Smashing Pumpkins. Not really a love song but…
Best place for a coffee?
Steep Street Café in the old Folkestone High Street… and mine’s a tea, please.
Most memorable piece of advice given to you?
Don’t believe everything you think.
Ooh too many to list – Eton Mess is definitely near the top.
If you could spent 24 hours in anywhere in the world, where would it be?
Somewhere like the Galapagos or a tropical rainforest – basically anywhere with stunning wildlife.
In future, how do you plan on expanding the company?
It sounds a bit daft but I’ve never really wanted to run my own business – at least not alone. I’m a bit of a team player and love the creative energy that comes from working with others. So it is exciting for me that I am now starting to bring people into the business, with the aim of transforming my role from a one-man-band to a spider in the web – allowing me more creative space to develop new collections and driving the business forward.
Find out more…
From the website or the Facebook page, you can sign up to a little newsletter which I send every couple of months, letting people know what I’m working on and any exciting things which are happening.