Caroline Bruce creates exotic accessories at home in Parkhill
After spending a couple of years working in Jamaica, Caroline Bruce decided home is where her heart was. The 28-year old recently launched Tweak jewelry (http://www.tweakboutiqueonline.com/), her line of unique hand-crafted accessories made from semi-precious stones, metals and woods.
As told to Casey Lessard
Photo by Casey Lessard for Casey365.com
The biggest compliment is when someone sees what I make, falls in love with it, and can’t resist wearing it three days in a row.
I make necklaces, rings, earrings, and bracelets. I want to be sure I’m making things people couldn’t just go out and buy at the mall. If it doesn’t make sense to be hand making it, I don’t. The collection is pretty narrow, but it’s stronger because more time has been put into the composition and base design of the pieces.
I’ve been making jewelry for about seven years as a hobby. Then I started selling things so I could buy more beads. People liked it and I liked it even more, so it grew from there.
I grew up in Parkhill and went to school in Toronto for human biology. I decided that wasn’t for me, and did a degree in interior design. I spent a couple of years in Jamaica doing interior design and decided I wanted to be back at home with my parents. I couldn’t think of anything that I wanted to do more than turn something that had been a hobby into a business. My bills are reduced, and I don’t have any other commitments, so I thought, go for it.
I had seen before that it was possible to preserve orchids in resin, and I was enamored by it. I bought a few brooches and things, but they were gilded with metals like gold or silver. I thought it would be better to see the entire flower. One day, I found exactly what I was looking for on the internet. I eventually found someone who would do the colours and sizes I wanted. The process is complicated and because orchids aren’t native to Canada, I get them from overseas and they do exactly what I want.
The challenge of starting out
It’s easy to waste your time and not to realize that your time is your money when you’re trying to make a business out of something you’re doing personally. Since I’ve narrowed down my collection, I can be more productive in purchasing my materials, in the design time, in the time to put things together. I don’t create things I don’t like.
It’s not profitable for creative people to make what everyone else is making. You need to set yourself apart. Quality raw materials are a big thing. I’ve learned to find out exactly what the stone is and whether or not it’s been colour enhanced so you can tell the truth about your raw materials. Know as much as you can about it. You also have to learn what your niche is and how to portray your company. You want people to know something about you when they look at your advertising materials.
Advice to other creatives
Take to heart what people are saying about what you’re making. You’re making it and you love it, but other people have to love it, too. It can’t be all in your head. If you’ve given people things, listen to how it’s working for them. Don’t get caught in trends or fashions, and don’t compromise your dream for what you see out there.
Home is the best place to be when you’re starting out. You know everyone, you have family and friends to help you, you can ask advice from people who you know are experts. Businesses are smaller, so the wait time is less. Even running errands takes less time because it’s close. Living with my parents has made this all possible. They’ve helped me in so many ways.
I’ve done private shows, which are put on by myself for friends and family. I find them productive because everyone who comes wants to see your work. I’ve done craft shows and clothing shows, but the sales are proportionally less because people didn’t come specifically to see you.
I’ve realized I have to broaden my base by creating a website (http://www.tweakboutiqueonline.com/) that can showcase the work and where people can buy it. E-commerce is the way to go right now, and is probably the best bet for me.
My dream customer is anyone who loves unique accessories; anyone who’s going to love their piece is a customer I want.
To learn more, visit http://www.tweakboutiqueonline.com/