Designer Spotlight : Sarah Drew

Sarah Drew is a designer that makes jewellery and vintage headdresses from found objects (such as driftwood, sea plastic, sea glass and slate pebbles) with bright stones, pearls, antique brooches and vintage beads, linked together with chunky hammered silver chains, delicate crocheted fine silver and fused silver focal pieces. She loves spending time outdoors in the fresh air on Cornwall’s gorgeous beaches and in the woods, collecting curious things, and its clear that this influences her designs.

Here, Sarah spent some time with us at House of Coco to tell us more…

When did you launch the brand and what was the reason behind it?
Launched it in 2000 when I returned from travelling: it was something I’d always wanted to do and had been making jewellery for years since I was 14. I’d had some success selling jewellery to boutiques in Sydney so I thought it was worth a try when I came back to the UK.

Whats your background?
Degree in Communication Studies at Sheffield, worked after as a retail manager at Selfridges: interested in fashion and art but also loved language and reading and politics. Always made things and started selling jewellery at school with my mate Ben when I was 14: taught myself new skills and went to evening class in York (where I’m from) to learn silver smithing.

How many people are involved in the company and what are their roles?
Just me: don’t mean to be a control freak but I probably am! My husband helps me with my website. I still really enjoy making each piece of jewellery by hand.

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If you could start over with the business, would you do anything differently?
Oh yes probably, hindsight’s a lovely thing! I’d probably not bother borrowing money to set up; but to be fair with Etsy and Folksy now it’s easier to just start selling things you’ve made. When I set up you had to go to expensive trade shows and so on. The internet has revolutionized the world of small creative businesses. I’d probably make fewer lines too and just concentrate on what I like making, what I can make well and not get snowed under with too many different directions. Got to that point now, but it’s taken a while!

What is the hardest challenge you have faced since you started the company?
I think like most small businesses it would have to be managing cash flow: running your own business is pretty much like gambling. Gambling on which shows will pay off, which sales trips are worth making, guessing if time spent on creating something will pay off. So hand in hand with that gambling, is trying to make the right decisions when to spend money and on what. On the flip side though, when cash flow’s been tight I’ve probably made more creative and profitable collections, and more sensible business decisions. Necessity is the mother of invention!

Tell us one fact about you that people wouldn’t know?
I like playing hockey. I used to play for my county when I was younger and I’ve just got back into training with my local team now, and I still love it! Much more fun than the gym.
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2016 is here, where do you plan on taking the brand?
Really enjoying setting the boulder opals from Queensland into big statement rings so going to develop dramatic cuffs and possibly mixed media necklaces to go with those. I’m looking into other fair trade stones too to use and I’ve been making claw-set pieces using Cornish amethyst and aquamarine found near Plymouth.

I always love colour in jewellery so I’m going to make more enamelled silver pendants and rings. And I love working with eco-gold so I’m designing quite an organic range based on rock formations so quite natural and rough, ancient-looking rings, necklaces and earrings ☺

To date, what has been the highlight since launching?
Difficult: there have been things like my book launches that you’d expect would be highlights and I was very proud of those. But then they’ve been simpler events like my big sea-plastic necklaces been chosen to be stocked in Petronilla Silver’s gallery in Cornwall that I was really chuffed about. Or when customers come and see me at a show and tell me they’ve been collecting my one-off mixed media necklaces that are very gratifying.

Which city do you feel most at home in, London, Paris or New York?
Definitely London. Too many fashion rules in Paris and not quite comfortable with all that romance! New York is a bit severe and work obsessed. London is still the most streetwise, accepting, original city.
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Three beauty products you can’t leave the house without?
Rework gum to stop my messy hair being too fluffy, Estee Lauder black mascara and Prada amber perfume: a grown-up, relaxed scent.

Style means….?
Not caring: wearing something because you like it, it makes you feel good for whatever reason to the extent you really don’t care what other people think.

Best thing about London to you?
The fabulous free museums and art galleries, lovely old parks and Liberty.

Statement shoe or statement bag?
Would have to be shoes: expensive bags annoy me a lot. And the shoe would have to not have a heel: I like to walk fast in good leather brogues and Chelsea boots that last for years 😉

If you had to, what piece of clothing from your wardrobe would you wear everyday?
My turquoise cashmere jumper: it’s bright and cheerful and feels like a hug.

Favourite love song?
Anything by Billie Holiday Or Otis Reading; Them there Eyes and These Arms of Mine are my favourites.

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Best place for a coffee?
In London, the gorgeous tiled café in the V&A; in Cornwall, the terrace at The Scarlet hotel watching the Atlantic bash onto Mawgan Porth beach below.

Most memorable piece of advice given to you?
‘Don’t lose your sense of humour’ by my Mum: everything is more bearable if you can laugh at it. And I think it’s probably a good idea not to take yourself too seriously either.

Guilty pleasure?
Watching The Voice and mojitos.

If you could spent 24 hours in anywhere in the world, where would it be?
Tamarama beach in Sydney, enjoying a fresh strawberry smoothie and anzac cookie after a bracing swim in the sea.

In future, how do you plan on expanding the company?
I’m looking for a few more London and national stockists; planning going to more national and international shows to let people try on my collections; I’ve got collaborations with other eco-designers in the pipeline and I’m constantly trying to develop my online sales as I think this is the direction shopping is going for a lot of companies.

Where can people find out more?
My online shop is available at www.sarahdrew.com, I use facebook a lot as a blog really: my page is: I love handmade things. I’m on Instagram every day at ‘sarahdrewjewellery’ and on twitter I’m sparkledrew.

Photo credit : Lucy Turnbull Photography

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