Cathy has her fingers in many pies. Heavenly delicious tempting pies, to be exact. From jewellery design, to creating bespoke wedding dresses, tv costumes and more. We're pleased to now stock her beautiful jewellery, and thought what better way to introduce the designer than with a Meet the Maker interview!
We hear that your career as a jewellery designer kind of evolved naturally. Can you recount the moment that you thought: you know what? I’m really going to do this now!
I think it would’ve been my second trip to India to work with the artisans who make my jewellery was the defining time I didn’t feel like a fraud. The first trip was researching an ethical manufacturer and I wasn’t properly prepared with designs but second time round I knew what i wanted, understood the process and felt like I was on track. I felt quite chuffed with myself to have got that far, it’s no end feat getting to India and surviving it especially as a western woman as it’s not a straightforward culture or environment. I was doing it though and I knew customers liked my designs so that felt good.
Your designs are often centred around semi-precious stones that have healing properties. Can you tell us a bit more about your relationship with these natural materials?
I’ve always been a fan of natural gemstones because I like things to be one-offs and unique. Gemstones are from the earth and each one is shaped and created from a different part of a main rock. I also like the hand-crafted nature of the gemstones and knowing they aren’t machine cut gives them a special charm. Crystals supposedly have healing properties because they positively interact with your body's energy field, or chakra.
What is your favourite part in the creation of a new collection – the concept, the design, or the crafting? Or is it a back-and-forth trial and error development?
It’s very much a back and forth process. Sometimes I’ve designed pieces for previous seasons but not released them as they didn’t resonate or make sense but now do and in other cases the designs come together really quickly. I spend a lot of time collating reference images and researching and I procrastinate a lot when it comes to the design. Mainly this is because I have design epiphanies when suddenly it all comes together and makes sense, so storing the visual information is like a slow marinade. The crafting is my favourite part, especially when I’m in India working with the artisans who bring my drawings to life. I love watching how they make the jewellery and being right there to discuss limitations and solutions. It’s much easier to get things just right this way.
Who do you have in mind when you design new pieces? Are they items you would like to wear or do you have a persona in mind that you design for?
I always design with myself in mind. This is how I started the business but I got distracted listening to too many opinions and went off track. It took a couple of collections that I wasn't happy with before I found my groove again. I’m grateful for this lesson because it made me find my truth and trust myself more. Essentially, I am the Cathy Pope customer so anything I like and believe in my customer will also.
You’re a Jack (Jane?) of all trades, from costume design for TV, film and theatre to bespoke wedding dresses and your jewellery line - where do you continue to find your inspiration?
I find inspiration in so many things but mainly I’m a magpie and love things that sparkle and shine or have unusual textures and patterns. I try not to spend too much time watching what other designers are doing because I start comparing myself which I don’t think is healthy. Everything comes from my heart and intuition. Travel really inspires me and I don’t do as much as I’d like. I find being exposed to different landscapes, experiences and culture stirs me up and my creativity and zest for beauty explodes. I’d love to spend more time travelling and exploring this part of my life further. It’s in the big plan!
Ethical production is really important to you; how did you go about finding the perfect supplier to bring your designs to life?
Ethical manufacturing is so important to me and to my customers. I jumped on a plane and flew to India to find a manufacturer and had no idea where to start. I was literally Sherlock Holmes trying to sleuth my way in India which was no easy task. My instincts led me to a jewellery shop one day which had a wholesale buying lounge upstairs and I spent hours trawling through huge Indian tin chests buying cheap wholesale jewellery. I got chatting to the owner who was very hands off (unusual in India) and not pushy at all. I asked him where this was made and he invited me to visit their factor the next day. They made me some pieces on the spot and I observed their practises, asked lots of questions and pretty much hit the jackpot first time. Its a family business and we share similar values. They pay their staff a good living wage, pay for health insurance for them and their families, supply transport to and from the factory, clean uniforms and their practices are clean and most importantly safe. I was sceptical so I visited other factories to inspect and compare and I realised I was onto a good thing. There are grim manufacturing plants in India but mine I know for a fact isn’t.
Tell us a bit about your studio and your routine – what are the closest 5 objects to you? And what music do you like to listen to when you design new pieces?
The closest five objects to me are my thin sharpie for drawing, my jewellery measuring tool, my sleeping dog and cat, my sketch pad and of course my computer. I actually prefer to work in silence as I can concentrate better but my animals are always sleeping close to me and keep me company all the time. It’s a bit like a zoo in here sometimes especially when customers visit and they all want attention.
You’ve made quite an impression to publications all over the world. Where do you see the brand growing and who would you love to see wearing your designs?
It’s always a delight to see published images of my jewellery in magazines which is getting harder these days as its always about advertising which is a luxury for the big companies, not small designers. I love seeing luxe images of models wearing my jewellery but what really gets me excited is seeing real life strong and empowered women wearing my jewellery because they choose to. Jacinda Ardern is one person who authentically wears my jewellery and I have a real sense of pride seeing her wearing it in press images, especially the photo of her meeting the Queen with her hand on her heart adorned with my onyx ring in full view. I’m not sure much will beat that. I’d like to see more stylish women of influence and in leadership roles wearing my jewellery and it’s heading in that direction. People like Anika Moa who have a profile, an opinion and wholeheartedly support small businesses and are real customers.
I’d love to see Cathy Pope Jewellery grow into a brand that’s iconic for its timelessness and quality so people really want to and can own as keepsakes. I’m pretty ambitious to see my small business grow but I have no plans for world domination. The goal is that it continues to inspire and challenge me and can support us financially. I’d like to ultimately have a shop/studio with a street frontage in an area with foot traffic where I can live above and still have work/live flexibility. At the moment, I have a great studio with a separate entrance and customers and stylists frequently visit but we’d like to get closer to town - it’s in the 3-year plan!
Shop Cathy's designs here.