Q&A: Ros Millar

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The fresh British talent that has re-focused her brand in 2012.

Designer Ros Millar might not have planned to launch her own brand, but a few years after university she has been an IJL Kickstarter, has scooped top mentoring awards and won high profile stockists. She was named a NexGem in the Professional Jeweller Hot 100 2012, in association with The Company Master Jewellers and IJL.

Professional Jeweller: Tell us about the past 12 months; how has your jewellery brand has evolved…
Ros Millar: There have been a lot of highlights. Since I launched my business in 2010 I feel that I have learned so much about my jewellery, my brand, myself and running own business and how want to present it, so I re-branded my website as I had a clear idea of how I wanted website to look. I also created the new collection Meteor. Designing and making this collection was much easier and exciting than previous collections as I had an idea of what sold well from previous collections and had some bolder pieces which I had really wanted to make so all these elements were put into the collection. I also launched my own online shop in January, won Kabiri as new stockist and took part in Art in Action, which was the first time I had worked in front of the public and explaining the process of cuttlebone casting.

PJ: You have won several awards and busaries for your jewellery. What kind of initiatives have you been involved with thi year?
RM: I was selected for IJL Kickstart Programme in September and also won the Cockpit Arts Clear Award 2012 which has given me free studio space and business development support for one year, valued at £5,000. This is my third studio move this year so it has been crazy trying to settle but I am finally happy to be based at Cockpit Arts, having moved in at end of July. I like being so close to Hatton Garden and already taking advantage of the one to one mentoring involved. Last but not least being selected for Hot 100.

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PJ: Have you hit any challenges along the way in 2012?
RM: The main challenges this year have been moving studios and being quite unsettled with lots of change. I was originally based in Woolwich for past year and moved out at end of February 2012 due to the [tricky] location, and moved to Bow Arts Studios at SE1 in March to be slightly more central for client meetings, before receiving the Cockpit award in June 2012. So there has been quite a lot of organising and change without wanting to upset getting on with business. Also, I’m sure every designer/maker faces same problem with issues of cash flow as I fund the business completely myself, so I’m always looking for funding opportunities and constantly wanting to see my business grow but I am hoping that this is something I can manage a little better with business support that I can get from Cockpit Arts and was already receiving within first weeks of moving in.

PJ: What inspires you as a designer? And how do you feel your collections have evolved over the years?
RM: I am inspired by nature, landscapes, colour, pattern, fashion and aesthetics of different materials – the list could go on. I enjoy the process of making and experimenting and focusing on creating organic textures and themes to all my pieces and collections. I think that looking back on my first collection Black & Rose, which was developed purely through the process of making and experimenting within the technique of cuttlebone casting, my first collection didn’t have such a strong focus on a large selection of jewellery pieces (it was mainly rings and necklaces) and that has brought me to design my most recent collection in a different way, by focusing on pieces being designed with pen to paper rather than designing through making, as I had a much better idea of what pieces where popular so have included a wider range of pieces [such as] earrings, necklaces, rings with both statement pieces and finer pieces. I also held back from creating so many rings in the most recent collection, which I have done in previous collections as I love making them.

PJ: You were a Kickstarter this year. How did it feel to be accepted and what do you hope exhibiting at IJL will bring your brand?
RM: I really looked forward to doing IJL this year especially with Kickstart. Since starting in 2010 my main focus has been building stockists and using them to help present my brand to certain markets, and helping me understand the market a lot better and my own jewellery. On the Hothouse Scheme with Crafts Council which I was part of in 2010 I gained some one to one mentoring regarding the growth of my business, and was advised to not jump into a trade show so that I could get a good idea of my pricing, producing, time and production costs. I feel I’m at point where I have been learning in past year about my collections so that I can advise buyers what works well, what my customers like and what sells well etc so want to take that next step and exhibit at IJL and hopefully put the Ros Millar brand out to a wider audience.

PJ: How would you describe your approach to work?
RM: I absolutely love what I do and cant imagine doing anything else. While at university I had never planned on setting up on my own and had just loved making, but would jokingly comment that I wanted to start a jewellery empire if anyone asked, almost as a defence mechanism as I actually had no idea it would be possible to set up own business and sell my own collections. But, leaving university after gaining some confidence through internships I was fortunate to have gained funding from Arts Council for tools and machinery and then graduate bursary from Goldsmiths’ Company to help create first collection so thought I better get on with making some collections. Then, the next thing I know I’m writing business plans and determined more than ever to always be doing what I love and learning that its quite nice being your own boss.

PJ: How do you manage your work-life balance and how do you relax off the job?
RM: I think having studio helps create work life balance – having somewhere to go do work and then being able to leave and have some fun and not be surrounded by work. To relax and get away from work surround myself with good friends and enjoy the constant buzz and business of London.

PJ: What are your plans for your business for the next year?
RM: I really want to focus on gaining more stockists outside the UK and am looking into doing either a retail or trade show overseas. I have begun to work on a marketing strategy and hoping this will help to develop more of my own personal customers through direct sales via the website, retail shows and open studio events. I am constantly striving to stock within a department store.
 

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