Hi Rebecca, when and why did you decide to open Rebecca Furze Jewellery?
I opened in May 2022, It’s always been a dream of mine to have my own shop with an open workshop. During the pandemic my business changed direction in many ways and made me realise I should stop thinking about it and make it happen. The shop space came up and I felt the location and frontage were perfect. Previously, the shop had been a renowned wedding dress shop since 1989, so I knew this was an opportunity that would most likely not come available again in the near future.
What had you done before? Did any of these skills help?
After leaving school, I was studying theatrical makeup and hair and aspired to work in the film industry. I’ve always been creative and loved all the special effects of theatrical make up, however my path changed when I found out I was pregnant with my first son, who’s now 16. With his arrival, my priorities changed and so I concentrated on being a mum, which also gave me the space to figure out what I wanted to pursue. I always knew it would involve something creative.
I started jewellery making (more as a hobby at the beginning) and was making pieces very differently to how I do now. I experimented with mixed mediums, base metals and clays. By doing this it helped me develop my work and give me the basic skill sets, which all feeds into how I make jewellery now.
When my second son started nursery in 2014, I had a bit more time to myself and I wanted to take making more seriously, so I started working for another jeweller as an in-house jewellery maker. I began working with more precious metals which then led me to launch my business as it is now, RFJ, in 2016.
How would you describe the interior style of the store?
Half of the shop is the retail space and the other half is the studio/workshop area (the messy side) which is open so you can see us working away. What I love about the space and interior is that everyone who comes in says how calm and tranquil the space feels. I designed the shop side to be centred around a seating/consultation area as it felt really important to have a space that felt relaxed to discuss commissions. Commissions are always so personal and usually to celebrate or commemorate a loved one or a special time in someone’s life. Therefore, I wanted the experience to feel comfortable, as building a connection with my customers is a big part of the process of making something so sentimental and important.
The overall interior of the shop is contemporary with subtle influences of ancient architecture. I used different textures including Italian plasters, olive stone textured walls, raw concrete flooring and natural woods. I feel it really reflects my own personal style and that of the jewellery I create.
How would you describe your designs?
My little motto is ‘contemporary jewellery with a nod to history’. I’ve always been fascinated by ancient history and the jewellery from those times. Growing up, my mum owned an antique shop and it was there my love of jewellery and history first started. I would spend time there mesmerised by the jewellery on display, I loved how it looked like it had just been unearthed. I can recall watching customers trying on the precious treasures and how their mannerisms and aura would change as they tried the jewellery on. The way a person would build a relationship with the pieces as they were adorned by the jewellery, this has always stayed with me, and it is these feelings I hope will transpire in my work. I was also fortunate to travel a fair bit as a child due to my dad working within the airline industry. On these travels we visited some of the world’s most ancient ruins which stayed with me and later influenced my collections such as Tulum, inspired by the Mayan architecture, as well as the Gladiatrix, Tekhenu, Frida and more.
How do you balance making and running the store?
I chose the location due to the slower pace in that part of the town and so I could find a good balance. I felt if I had been in the heart of it all it would have been too busy and I wouldn’t have got so much making done, nor would I have been able to spend quality time chatting and connecting with customers; anyone who knows me knows I love a chat! I don’t want to ever fall out of love with what I do so choosing a quieter area felt more important for me than footfall. Although it’s a shop front I do feel the studio side and making is just as important.
Tell us about the range of products we can expect to find in store…
You can find a range of my different designs from everyday studs to statement pieces, as well as pieces from my celebration and proposal collection such as diamond engagement rings, all made from 100% recycled golds and ethically sourced diamonds. As well as the jewellery I make, we also have a carefully selected range of handmade pieces that compliment the jewellery. They are all made by UK makers and include leatherwork, wall art, clothing, pottery, prints and dried flowers. In the future I will be holding jewellery workshops and other workshops with various guest makers and their crafts. I want it to feel like a handmade hub.
What does a ‘normal’ day look like?
I’m not sure what my normal day is! It depends on the time of year but usually it’s up early with my two boys, walking the dog, feeding our lovely Alpacas, followed by the school run and heading over to the shop and straight into making. I make jewellery every day I’m in the shop. In between making there’s lots of welcoming customers into the shop, appointments for commissions or engagement rings, plus all the usual admin that comes with a small business.
Which item is your bestseller?
Over Christmas it was the Meeting at Dawn and Eclipse earrings. I find during the festive seasons it’s the larger more statement pieces which are the most loved, I think it’s because everyone is in the party mood and they are great for completing a simplistic look. The Frida collection has become my classic collection, and the bestseller is the mini Frida necklace, it’s such an elegant wear.
What items are your personal can’t-live-without?
A silver Frida ring layered with a Gold Dot Pyramid ring, I’ve not taken them off since I first designed them, I would feel naked without them!
What do you enjoy most about running your business?
For me it’s the pleasure and sentimentality that jewellery brings to people, I feel so honoured to make special pieces for people. Jewellery tells a story and so to create something that will be treasured and held dear is just the most incredible feeling. To know I’m creating future heirlooms where the story will continue for generations to come is the most enjoyable part of what I do.
What has been your career highlight?
Definitely opening the shop, it’s a real dream come true!
What is the neighbourhood like around the store?
Totnes is an incredible town, I honestly think it’s like no other! It’s full to the brim with independent shops, makers and creatives. Right on ‘The Plains’ where the shop is located, we have a wonderful zero waste refill store, farm shop, coffee shop and a curiosity shop. Further up the main high street you can find a market (at the weekends) full of treasures and vintage finds. An eclectic mix of independent shops and cafe/restaurants serving the most delicious foods – I’m vegetarian and there are so many veggie/vegan eateries.
What do you wish you’d known before opening the store?
My advice would be: stop thinking about it and do it! I think I spent a lot of time thinking when the right time would be, I think we can fall into this state of ‘when is the right time’ and can easily waste time and it never happens. I would also say remember your vision is yours and no one else can see your vision until it’s complete. So, don’t be disheartened if when trying to explain your vision or ideas to people, they can’t quite see or understand it. There were many times during the process that I nearly changed what I envisioned for the shop as I was being swayed by other people’s opinions, but I’m so happy I stuck with my vision. And lastly, enjoy the process. It’s such an exciting time!