How I Got My Job: Chloe Townsend, Jewellery Designer
Fancy yourself as a creative type? Then a career in jewellery might be the one for you. Chloe Townsend, of Willow & Clo, tells us how she made it.
Following a childhood spent painting and creating, Chloe Townsend knew she’d end up in a creative field. Jewellery design was what eventually drew her following an initial foray into make-up artistry. So how did she parlay her love for pretty pieces into a job that pays the bills? She explains all. Read on.
From: Howth, Co. Dublin
Owns: Willow & Clo, founded in October 2012
Studied: The Scuala D’Oro, Rome, for goldsmithing and lost wax method training and the Gemological Institute of America, London
Facebook: Willow & Clo
How did Willow & Clo come about?
It started with my training to be a goldsmith in Rome. The whole process of creating jewellery, everything from design, working with metals and choosing the stones is so exciting. When I returned to Dublin, I knew it was going to take a while to acquire the equipment needed to start making my own pieces, so I started working in a beautiful jewellery boutique. On a buying trip to New York, I met my jewellery idol Alexis Bittar. Talking to him made me realise how much I wanted to start making my own collections, and the passion behind Willow & Clo was well and truly ignited. I’d a bit more studying to do, so I went to London to the Gemological Institute of America and I was inspired by the beautiful gemstones to go to India to study and source stones. I was lucky to find a wonderful stone source. All the parts had fallen into place, and Willow & Clo began.
Did you always want to work in this area?
I always wanted to work in a creative field; I was the kid who painted and made friendship bracelets all the time. Jewellery was always a huge part of the memories I have of my mom and it was the sentimentality and self-expression that resonated most with me, so that’s how I ended up falling in love with it and wanting to make it for a living.
Did your previous experience help you?
I studied make-up artistry before, which, although not having any direct correlation with jewellery, is still very much a creative field. It fuelled my passion for creativity, and kept that part within me alive.
What does a typical day look like in your job?
No two days are the same. Some are very exciting with photoshoots, look-books to be designed and making new collection prototypes. Then there are days where I’m sitting in front of my laptop overseeing accounts, responding to emails; the not-as-fun, general admin-related things. The most typical day involves contacting retailers and conducting online business in the morning, and then I spend my evening being creative – designing new collections or thinking up something new for the website or the studio.
What challenges have you experienced?
The business and technical elements are the biggest challenge. I suppose I was quite naive when I started – I thought I’d be designing and creating exciting jewellery all the time! I never realised how much work goes into running your own business; you’ve to become a jack-of-all-trades. I quickly discovered my strengths and weaknesses. I was never the best at computers, but I had to learn how to create and manage a website. Figures and numbers were never something I was terribly comfortable with either, so definitely the biggest challenge for me was to deal with the parts of the business I wasn’t naturally good at.
How have you dealt with challenges?
The best thing you can do when faced with an area that’s not your strong point is to just admit that you’re not a tech whizz; you’re not an accountant! Then you find the people who are. If I found that I couldn’t afford to hire someone to do a particular job, I would ask a friend or someone who’s really good in that area to help me learn about it so I could deal with it in some capacity. Never be ashamed to ask for help.
Never be ashamed to ask for help.
What have been some career highlights?
A huge highlight was being awarded Best Accessories Designer at Kerry Fashion Week 2014. Receiving that recognition from some of Ireland’s most renowned and respected women in fashion was an incredible moment, and it really made me believe in my capabilities as a designer. Another standout moment was having Willow & Clo stocked in Brown Thomas. That’d a been a big dream of mine since day one; every designer hopes to have their brand stocked in a store like that, so for it to become a reality was an incredibly special moment.
What’s the best bit about your job?
Stories! I’m so lucky to have such wonderful customers, I get the most gorgeous emails and cards from customers who’ve bought a piece to mark an occasion or to give as a gift. Being told how much it meant to them reminds me why I do what I do. The sentiment behind jewellery is my favourite thing about it.
And the drawbacks?
Working every hour I have! When it’s your own business you never really relax. Willow & Clo is always on my mind, so that can be really tough sometimes when you just want to switch off for a bit.
What’s been the key to your success?
Being stubborn! If I wasn’t so focused and determined to make Willow & Clo work I probably could’ve walked away a number of times, but I just really wanted to succeed. All I’ve ever wanted for myself was to be able to make things and be creative so I never want to give up on that dream.
What advice would you give anyone looking to follow in your footsteps?
No one ever really tells you how hard it is to set up on your own until you’ve made the leap, so my one piece of advice is make sure you love that dream so much that nothing will make you stop aiming for it. Don’t let anyone tell you that it’s not possible; it is. But know there’ll be knock-backs on the way for sure. but if it’s all you’ve ever dreamed of, it’ll be worth it.
What’s the earning potential?
Setting up can be really tough for the first few years, so don’t expect to make much more than just above minimum wage, (€8.65 per hour) but if it works out, and you get to a certain stage in your business, then you could earn a very good living from it.
What sort of career progression is there?
It’s endless, that’s what I love about it. I’ve lots of plans and ambitions for the future and you only get out what you put in, so I’ve my work cut out for me. It’s exciting to know the sky is limitless and there are so many areas to expand into, whether it be retailers around the world or my own retail. The only limit is the willingness for it.
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