We chat to the founder and former owner of The Little Deer to hear how Instagram and a last minute dash to Hobbycraft inspired her career-move, as well as how she balances running two business (she’s also a product photographer for small indie businesses) and why sustainability is so important to her…
Hi Jade, why and when did you decide to start Pepper You?
I had just made a huge career change and felt I needed another creative outlet. Gorgeous jewellery kept popping up on my Instagram feed and when I realised some of it was made from poly clay I was suddenly inspired to start playing around myself. I rushed to Hobbycraft one evening on a whim (just before it closed) and I guess the rest is history! My partner laughed when I told him it was a ‘hobby’ – he knows me too well and sure enough – within a few (long) months I had created a logo and a website and was selling the pieces online.
What had you done previously?
Prior to this I was running a homeware business – The Little Deer. I set that up while I was at university studying Design Photography and had been running it for about 10 years until the time I decided to sell it in April 2019. This was a really special milestone in my life and it felt great to say goodbye to one chapter and move onto the next.
How would you describe your style?
I’m drawn to warm colours – hues of orange, and yellow mainly. I love clean lines and shapes that derive from circles.
How do you create your work?
It’s a process that took me a lot longer than I thought it may to perfect – and i’m still learning new techniques everyday. I was getting incredibly frustrated when I first started making, with pieces breaking or burning but I stuck with it and slowly but surely I found a process that works for me.
I start by making the colour of clay that I require – some colours I use are straight out the packet, but others are made by mixing pigmented clays together to get the shade I need. To do this you have to cut up the clay and mould it with your hands (or a clay machine) until it is malleable and soft – rather than crumbly.
Once I’ve created the colours and made the shapes I need, the clay is baked for about 45 minutes, it then cools under a tile (to keep it flat) and then the sanding, drilling and assembly process begins.
When baked properly the poly clay should bend when put under pressure and not snap. I love using a material like this because it has much more longevity than something which is easily breakable.
You’re known for for your quality over quantity ethos – why is this so important to you?
Yes, this really is important to me. I try to be as sustainable and ethical in my everyday life as much as possible. It’s something I started to take a real interest in about 3 years ago, so naturally, this has to translate to my business.
Fast fashion/ fast jewellery comes at a high social and environmental cost and is second only to oil as the worlds largest polluter. Making small batch items that are designed to last and avoiding any waste is my way of helping to tackle the damage caused by fast fashion.
I also don’t use any single use plastic in my packaging. The paper cards are made from 100% cotton which is recycled from t-shirt offcuts (which would otherwise end up in landfill) and I am delighted to have partnered with Eden Projects to plant a tree for every pair of earrings sold.
That’s fantastic! So which is your most popular product?
Both the Hollow Circle Earrings and the Sunset II Earrings are my most popular. I think this is potentially because they are smaller pieces, designed for everyday wear. The Zara Earrings and Frankie Earrings are much larger and designed for special occasions, so understandably, they don’t fly out as much as the more subtle ones.
Do you have a favourite?
Yes, but it changes weekly… every time I make a new design it becomes my favourite! At the moment I am loving the Frankie Earrings and I am currently working on some new colours for that design.
Where do you create from? Does your location inspire you?
Location is everything for me. I need to be in a space that I feel comfortable in. I work from my studio by the sea in Brighton. It’s a half an hour walk from my house which allows me separation between home and work and gets my legs moving everyday! I keep the space very white with pops of colour (mustard and pink mainly). I have mood boards on the walls and my jewellery displayed above my desk… it’s my little haven and keeps me motivated and inspired.
What does a typical day look like for you?
I also work as a photographer so I only get to work on the jewellery part time. On a jewellery day I will usually head into the studio and spend the first hour or so on my emails. I’ll spend a proportion of the day making clay and while that’s baking I will pack orders and pop out to the post office – which thankfully is right next door to my studio! I like to end the day on my emails again and I may squeeze in some Instagram and Pinterest browsing to stay inspired.
Speaking of your other business (photography for small businesses), how do you balance the two?
Generally I have a certainly amount of days a week I spend on the photography and a number I commit to jewellery – this helps me separate the two and not get overwhelmed with the ‘to do’ lists!
How do you approach PR and marketing?
Generally I choose marketing avenues that cost me time, rather than money. I utilise social media as much as I possibly can, Instagram and Pinterest are so excellent for connecting with my customers and advertising my work. Instagram is excellent because it allows me to create a community and start a conversation about my work rather than just advertise in the traditional sense.
Do you have any words of wisdom with readers looking to start a creative business?
Firstly, to anyone starting a small business – well done! You’re at the beginning of an amazing journey.
Be patient, good things take time and they don’t just pop up overnight. Remember that the harder something is to get right or to stick at – the more worthy it will be in the long run.
Also remember to not let your business take over your life – I’ve been there and honestly it is the worst thing you can do, for you and your business. The business should be important to you and I thoroughly encourage working incredibly hard but remember who you are outside the business. Friends and family should always come first and scheduling in ‘me-time’ should be as important as anything else because if you’re burnt out, your business will suffer too.
What’s been your highlight so far?
Honestly – everything! Every time I get a sale I am so excited that someone out there wants to wear my designs! I also wholesale to a number of shops across the UK and its so wonderful seeing my work displayed on their shelves amongst other amazing brands. I think a ‘wow’ moment for me was when a friend of mine saw someone in the street wearing a pair of my earrings. Turns out she bought them from me at the Brighton Etsy Christmas Market and has been wearing them almost everyday since. Hearing that really was such a wonderful feeling.
Describe your work in three words…
Contemporary, warm, feminine.
What are your making rituals?
Chillhop Music and a clean workspace!
Tea or Coffee?
Neither (weird I know, right!).
Mountains or Sea?
Sea, I LOVE the sea.
Night owl or early bird?
20 year old me would never believe this, but: early bird.
I wish someone had told me..
Not to take your business too seriously. Work hard but have fun with it too.
Photography: Jade Golding