Day In The Life Of A Jeweller With Gretel's Metals

We really excited to be chatting to Gretel, the founder of Gretel's Metals all about her jewellery making journey!

Gretel previously won our Instagram Challenge back in the summer and we fell in love with her beautiful designs and we were eager to learn more. We invited Gretel to take part in our Day In The Life Of A Jeweller series which you can watch below, where she shares an inspiring studio tour, with a late night making session and lots of cosy chats in between.

In the interview you will learn more about how Gretel discovered jewellery making, where she developed her skills through YouTube and jewellery making books, we also hear all about her markets, the challenges of running a small business full time as well as her goals for the future.

"I became fixated on the whole creative side of jewellery making and I was so eager to learn more..."

Hi Gretel, tell us how your journey into silversmithing began!

I found the art of silversmithing around October 2020 after discovering wire wrapping during lockdown. I became fixated on the whole creative side of jewellery making and I was so eager to learn more.

You’re a self taught silversmith, tell us what resources you have used to learn

Being self taught has had many advantages but also some disadvantages, sometimes I wish I had an instructor/demonstrator to show me how things can be done properly - which is why I love to go to YouTube! I absolutely love watching Estona Metalsmithing & Jewelry Making Tutorials, The Art of Metalsmithing and of course the Kernowcraft channel!

You took part in our Day In The Life Of A Jeweller series, how did you find the experience of sharing your day?

I really loved filming for the Day In The Life Of A Jeweller, it was a great experience and also extremely insightful as I normally go by each day without reflecting on what I have done, so that’s something I’m definitely taking from the experience and I am going to reflect more often!

Watch Gretel's day in the life of a jeweller video

"The whole market community is brilliant, meeting new businesses and making new friends is so important to me, especially being self employed as it can get quite lonely..."

Tell us about your workshop and how you make it your own

In October 2021 we renovated our conservatory into an at-home studio. It was a major job and I wouldn’t have this space without the help of my mum. After working at a dining table for quite a long time I knew having a Durston Tools workbench was really important to me so I’m so happy to have that as the main part of the studio! I also have filled my space with art from tattoo artists and also some bits from incredible small businesses like Beth Joy who made my amazing rug and mirror!

How would you describe your style?

The best way I would describe my style is sometimes quite simple but always magical.

I have recently been doing wax carvings and one which I got cast was a crescent moon, I absolutely adore this piece and I would love to start incorporating more jewellery like it in my collection and I’d like to continue on the spiritual side of jewellery designs - so to sum up, I don’t quite have an exact style but sticking to the spiritual side of jewellery is my aim.

What’s your favourite part of doing markets and do you have any advice for those wanting to give them a try?

I love attending markets, I usually go to one at least once a month but I would definitely like to do them at least once a week! The whole market community is brilliant, meeting new businesses and making new friends is so important to me, especially being self employed as it can get quite lonely.

Leaving my comfort zone and attending markets was one of the best steps I ever made in my career - I’ve found it has been extremely beneficial for business and a great way for customers to find out about what you do and who you are! 

Can you run us through your market stall!

My market stall is ever growing, I’m constantly adding new displays and marketing such as Gretel’s Metals signs and a frame describing what my business is all about!

I attend most markets with my mum and her business Mandy On The Moon, she’s a tarot and astrology reader, we thought our stalls went well together as a lot of the jewellery I make uses gemstones, so a majority of the time her customers are also interested in looking at the jewellery!

"Mandy is my biggest inspiration and my number one supporter, without my mum Gretel's Metals probably wouldn’t have succeeded..."

What’s one design you’ll cherish forever?

As I mentioned earlier, I have recently done a wax carving of a crescent moon that I sent to be cast in silver - this is the design I’ll cherish forever.

I made this in honour of my mother and her business ‘Mandy On The Moon’ - Mandy is my biggest inspiration and my number one supporter, without my mum Gretel’s Metals probably wouldn’t have succeeded.

What gave you the inspiration to be your own boss and what advice would you give to those wanting the same?

In 2019 I left college and went to uni to study Photography, I lasted 2 months and because of this I felt like an extreme failure. I also quit my job just before lockdown as I hated working in retail and specifically for a major fast fashion company - so I was left feeling even more like I had nothing going for me. In a way, I’m grateful for the lockdown and how it gave me time to find a creative outlet and that being jewellery making. Inspired by my self employed mum and brother, I decided to take the reigns myself and in September 2020 Gretel’s Metals was born!

What’s one gemstone you’re loving right now?

Some gemstones I really love at the moment is labradorite and tiger's eye, I can’t just pick one! I have had a few recent commissions for them both and it made me realise just how much I love them. An all time favourite is rose quartz, very popular I know but it’s the universal stone of love, of course it’s an all time favourite! 

Favourite jewellery making book?

One of my favourite jewellery making books is ‘Polishing and Finishing for Jewellers and Silversmiths’ by Stephen M Goldsmith - before this book my knowledge on finishing was awful, this book has really helped with my understanding of polishing and finishing, I think every jeweller should own this!

There are many more jewellery making books I have my eye on, like The Art of Metal Clay by Sherri Haab - it is something I’ve never tried but I’d love to experiment with!

What’s the most rewarding but also challenging part of running a small business?

Running a small business is awesome, I love having full control over how I want it to run. The most rewarding part to me is my customers, there have been a few occasions where I have walked past people in the street wearing GM and it makes me feel a sense of accomplishment that my pieces are being adorned.

My mum was even doing a tarot event recently and was approached by someone wearing a pendant I had made over a year ago! However there is also a downfall, I tend to be overly nice and generous to my customers so often I don’t charge enough as I feel bad and this causes a loss for my business - over time I’m sure I’ll be stricter on myself!

Do you do Gretels Metals full or part time?

I am so grateful that I am able to run Gretel’s Metals as a full time business. It can get extremely overwhelming, but sometimes extremely underwhelming - being self employed is never a straight forward journey.

I find that a lot of the time stress can really take over my business and in turn, nothing gets done, my top tip for this is make a rough plan for every day; if I didn’t write a to do list for each day I would always be five steps behind. I also like to make sure at the start of every jewellery making session I tidy my studio, having a clear space gives me a clear mind and if it is hectic in there I end up procrastinating!

"I have many future goals like opening a shop with my mum..."

You won the Kernowcraft Instagram challenge back in the summer! Did you enjoy it and what did you spend your Kernowcraft voucher on?

I really enjoyed taking part in the Kernowcraft Instagram challenge in the summer. Everyone who took part did an incredible job, I really didn’t expect to win it was a shock! I think everyone should give the challenges a go, it’s great to do prompts and post things that you wouldn’t have always thought about posting.

I spent the voucher on a few things but my favourite being a book by Anastasia Young - The Guide To Gemstone Settings. I’m so glad I was able to get that book, it has already made huge revelations in my gemstone settings and I’ve learned things that I didn’t know before. 

One tool you wish you had sooner!

A tool that I wish I had sooner would be my Foredom pendant motor, I got mine a year ago now but how I worked without one for over a year is shocking!

I absolutely love my pendant motor, it changed my level of work as soon as I first started using it. I would love to go back to all the jewellery I made before owning it and polish them again with it, it really made a huge difference to my work!

What’s one technique you’d love to master?

I would love to master so many things to do with jewellery making, but one thing in particular would be flush settings - they seem to be really simple to a lot of jewellers but I don’t trust that I am doing the right thing. Practice makes perfect and I know one day I will get there! Once I have mastered that then I will try to master the many other stone settings which seem absolutely impossible at the moment!

Do you have any new year goals?

I have many future goals like opening a shop with my mum, we have been speaking about it for ages but in terms of a realistic new year goal it would be to start practicing making piercing jewellery, I have tried before but I would love to get started with it properly.

Once I have it all figured out I would love to do a piercing course where I can then pierce people with the jewellery I’ve made!

What’s one thing you’re looking forward to right now?

At the moment I’m really looking forward to the few Christmas markets that I have planned! I am currently making lots of stock whilst trying to balance the Christmas orders that I have been getting - Christmas is a stressful time of year but also extremely rewarding!

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