I realised that there was much more potential to grow with the jewellery side of the business, launching new collections regularly and building an identity for the brand, so I decided to go for it full time.
Jen is a designer and the founder of Nylon Sky, a jewellery brand currently based in London. I met Jen ten years ago when we were both students in Bristol, we sat down to talk about design education, inspiration, Barcelona and what's up next for Nylon Sky.
You're from Stroud, in the South West, what was it like growing up there?
We lived in small village in Gloucestershire, the scenery is extremely green, with rolling fields and Cotswold stone houses. I had a lot of fun growing up there, riding bikes around and playing outside all the time. But as a teenager all I wanted to do was move to the city, I think at that age it’s easy to get bored in the country and take your surroundings for granted, however beautiful they may be. Now when I go back to visit, having lived away in big cities, I have a whole new appreciation for the landscape.
Were you interested in making things / being creative from an early age?
Definitely! I was always happiest when making things. I think my imagination was pretty wild. As a child I really didn’t need much to keep me entertained. Give me a newspaper and a cardboard box and I would be making outfits and wigs for me and my sister. Creativity was really encouraged in our house, we were always making, painting or baking something.
What was your degree course like? Has it shaped your practice today?
I studied Interdisciplinary Textile Design, which provided a good overview of a wide range of processes and techniques, under the umbrella of contemporary design. It touched on everything from screen-printing to woodwork, laser cutting to motors and electronics. For the most part though, the course was heavily concept driven with lots of research and contextual analysis, which I really enjoyed, but I think in a way it prevented us from getting to grips with the practical skills. Having a broad scope for different processes was good but unfortunately there wasn’t enough focus on any particular area, which left many on the course feeling misguided. Although, it definitely fed my fascination with materials, which remains with me today.
With all the debt and some courses not modernizing, do you think traditional education still has a place in preparing people for creative careers?
It’s a shame that University has become inaccessible to many in the UK over the last few years, with the rise in tuition fees. I do think it’s an important factor in feeding our creativity and giving us the freedom to shape our individual style and direction. Of course there are practical elements and skills that can be learned by taking evening classes etc, but I think the experience as a whole is invaluable. I can’t really imagine what my life would be like if I had gone straight from school to work. In a way Uni gave me a sense of independence and the confidence to start my own business.
What advice would you give to young designers, who are trying to work out the right path to take?
Do plenty of research into the areas that interest you the most and then try to set up some work placements, this should give more of an insight into how the job and industry works.
How did you end up starting your own business, was it out of a desire to work on your own things, for yourself?
It started out after finishing Uni as a way of making some extra money, but there soon proved to be a demand for the designs. At the time I was also running a vintage clothing shop online and trading at vintage fairs. Around a year and half later I realised that there was much more potential to grow with the jewellery side of the business, launching new collections regularly and building an identity for the brand, so I decided to go for it full time. Shortly after launching the website for the jewellery, I received wholesale requests and started stocking in independent boutiques and gallery shops. Over the years there have been ups and downs, but essentially, the freedom and independence that comes with having my own business is something I value hugely.
What led you to Barcelona?
I had been there on holiday a couple of times with friends and fell in love with the city, so decided to live and work there for a while. Culturally there is lot going on, not to mention the amazing food, better weather and beautiful coastline. I’m currently based in the U.K, although I’m spending more and more time in Barcelona and now considering moving there permanently.
Is it a good city to run a small business from?
The design and music scene’s are thriving over there, so it’s easy to feel inspired and there is always something going on. But as a designer there are definitely pro’s and con’s. The economy in Spain has been at a low for some time, which has had an affect on local spending, although the massive influx of tourists every year in Barcelona I know is a major support to the local independent boutiques and designers.
The experience of travelling is so important to me as a creative, it makes me appreciate small details often overlooked in day to day life.
I see a lot of geometric patterns in your work, what are some of your biggest influences?
Architecture is a major influence to my work, I see many patterns and details in architectural forms, which seem to translate into my jewellery designs on a miniature scale. Travelling is another constant source of inspiration, discovering different cultures and exploring unknown territory. The experience of travelling is so important to me as a creative, it makes me appreciate small details often overlooked in day to day life.
For me, food and music are huge parts of my life (lol), what are you eating and listening to at the moment?
At the moment I’m loving anything tropical from cumbia to 70’s afrobeat! Stuff that makes me want to dance instantly. I also listen to a lot of house, especially when I’m on jewellery production, I find a repetitive beat helps me work. Today in the studio I’ve been listening to the Panama 3 album, Mulatu Astatke and a boiler room set from Young Marco.
Food wise I am lucky to live with someone who is super creative in the kitchen. So it varies hugely from day to day but we eat mostly Colombian, Spanish or South East Asian dishes. Breakfast is my favourite meal of the day and sushi is my ultimate treat!
Spain’s economy has been going through some pretty hard times over the past few years, for people visiting cities like Barcelona, they probably don’t get to see the affects of this, is it pretty evident to you day-to-day?
Barcelona is in a tourist bubble, so the majority of businesses related with hospitality are doing well. But unfortunately, as in the rest of Spain, there is high un-employment and low salaries compared with the U.K. So many businesses, like the independent boutiques and designers are reliant on the busy tourist period during the summer to boost sales.
When’s the next collection out?
I recently launched a new collection at the Design Festival in London, using maple wood and frosted Perspex, with shapes referencing the Memphis design movement. I’m also working on future collections for which I’m exploring new materials, normally used in interior architecture.
Are you working on any other projects outside of Nylon Sky?
I would love to explore interior design and furniture, although it’s a bit difficult finding time to pursue all my other interests at the moment. I have dreams to open my own design store selling homewares and accessories, which I like to think, may become a reality in the not too distant future!
Check out Nylon Sky's latest collection: www.nylon-sky.com