Victoria Mason used to try to save perfect pencil shavings. They looked so beautiful, she’d try to keep them whole for as long as she could, but they never lasted for very long. Now she make ones that do keep. And you can even wear them around your neck.
Victoria’s jewellery collection is unique. It’s feminine but it’s kooky. Her aesthetic is one that doesn’t grab attention, but each piece seems to tell a story – like the cute miniature silver washing line… or the dangling pair of converse runners hanging from a silver chain. Each delicate, tiny object has a history of its own. Her gorgeous pencil sharpening necklace is my favourite I think, but there are so many goodies… I also love the tiny little silver speech bubble and tea cup earrings. In Melbourne you can find her things at Fat, Meet me at Mikes and Kids in Berlin (check her website for addresses and for other stockists).
Victoria has been running her own business since 2005. She designs and makes all the pieces herself in her studio in the CBD, and she also does all the day-to-day business-woman stuff like running a website, doing the sales and the paperwork, and having the odd exhibition. I always find it inspiring to learn about successful start-up design businesses… so I asked if Victoria would answer some of my nosey interview questions, and she accepted! Read on to find out about the challenges she has faced in setting up her business, the excitement she still gets from turning her ideas into perfect, delicate shapes of silver… and make sure you read the last few questions to find out about her favourite Melbourne places.
Tell me a little about your background – what did you study and what path led you to what you’re doing now?
I started making jewellery in my first year out of high school and haven’t ever stopped. I studied jewellery design at uni then trade school, worked at the bench for a couple of jewellers then started on this path about 6 years ago. It’s actually all I’ve ever wanted to do so I think I’m pretty lucky that I get to design and make exactly what I like every day.
What were the major challenges in setting up your own business? Did you have any assistance – from experienced mentors in your field, or from government schemes (ie the government’s New Incentive Scheme?)
Deciding to start this business was a really gradual process and it was just the next logical step. I have worked in the industry since I was 18 and as I increased my range of jewellery and stockists I reduced the hours I spent working for someone else. I haven’t had a mentor nor any grants but I have learnt a huge amount just from the different businesses I’ve worked for.
How long have you been running your business?
I’ve been working for myself since 2005.
Do you work alone or do you have helpers/collaborators?
I work on my own at the moment but I think that I’m close to having too much work for one person. Sometimes I get this image in my head of that circus act with the lady and the spinning plates…
Are there any particular designers you look up to or are inspired by?
The artist Howard Arkley is one of my favourites at the moment. His bright airbrushed paintings let you see the suburbs through his eyes and it’s just beautiful. He has such affection for the ordinary surroundings of his childhood and it’s totally inspiring.
What does a typical day at work involve for you?
I spend a few hours each morning on the computer, answering emails and doing paperwork, then I spend as many hours as I can at the bench (which is my favorite time).
What are you most proud of professionally?
The best professional decision I’ve made so far is to move back to Melbourne. Even though I’m from here originally, I did all of my training in Sydney and decided to return in 2003. Melbourne is a great place for designers because it’s really open to new ideas and there are lots of businesses that support small producers.
Where do you find inspiration?
Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about what kind of objects can be really calming and beautiful and then I tried to work out ways that I could make them work as jewellery. The result was a (growing) collection of household objects. Some I made in miniature, like the peg, spoon and teacup earrings and others, like the pencil sharpening pendant, I made in true-life scale. I wanted to celebrate those beautiful details you can only appreciate when you slow down enough to notice little things, like the pleasure of eating or sharpening all of your pencils and ending up with a beautiful pile of colour and wood.
What’s the best thing about your job?
I have a lot of freedom in that I can spend days designing and making the sort of jewellery that I love.
And the worst?
I spend a lot of time on my own so when I go out after work I’ve been known to get a little bit ‘Chatty Patty’.
What would be your dream project?
I would really love to collaborate with an Australian fashion label and while I’ve got the wish list out (and wow, there are plenty that I love on the list), it includes Lover, Gorman, Obus.
Where do you see your business in 5 years time?
In 2013? Gee, I wish I hadn’t thought of it that way! Wherever I am I’ll still be making jewellery.
What are you looking forward to – professionally or personally?
I’m really looking forward to going into work tomorrow because I’ve had an idea for a pendent that I’ve been working on in my head for the last couple of months and it’s time to make it real.
What advice would you give young designers looking to start up their own business?
Make/design something that you’d want to buy yourself. Have faith that if you have a passion for what you are making then others will too. That does seem like a really obvious thing to say but there are plenty of people who try to make for an unfamiliar market and while it may work for a short time, it’s really hard to evolve at the same pace as your customers.
Melbourne Questions –
What/where was the last great meal you ate in Melbourne?
At The Commoner in Johnston St Fitzroy (I loved it so much I wanted to marry it)
Where would we find you on a typical Saturday morning?
Most often walking the dog followed by breakfast at Chimmy’s in Richmond but I also love an excursion to new suburbs to find new cafes.
Best boutique in Melbourne for clothes?
Anonymous Posh in the Royal Arcade has a great selection of good quality vintage clothes.
Melbourne’s best kept secret?
A blog written by Pip Lincolne who owns Meet me at Mikes in Fitzroy. She is not just a toasty-warm wordsmith, she also has a genuine affection for the crafting community and it makes me feel happy to see the citythrough her eyes.