We chat to Nyassa, an illustrator and jeweller living in the creative town of Falmouth. We discovered Nyassa on Instagram, where she shares her wonderful projects - from illustrated maps, greeting cards to bold and colourful polymer jewellery. We instantly fell in love with her unique style and was keen to find out more about her jewellery and how she combines her skills as an illustrator.
Below, Nyassa shares some of her behind the scenes snaps of her design process, chats all about her home studio and her top tips for those who wish to give polymer clay a go too.
I started doing art properly in secondary school (I say properly but it was actually pretty atrocious), but it was only during my A Level course that I started to think I could actually make a career out of it! As much as I loved drawing and painting, I also really loved stories, so when it came to deciding what to do for my degree illustration seemed like a pretty good option to combine these.
Throughout my degree I mostly focused on illustrating children’s books, as well as designing maps, and in my second year I discovered Etsy and started selling a few prints and cards. That tiny little shop has now grown to include my earring collections too.
Although I loved the degree I did, and I learnt a lot, I did feel that there was a lot of pressure to create quite “commercial” work which wasn’t necessarily all I wanted to do, and by the time I’d graduated I was just so desperate to create something for myself.
Designing a collection of jewellery was the first creative idea that came to mind and I ended up really enjoying it. I can’t remember which specific pair I made first as I did a whole batch together with the intention of releasing a few designs as a collection, but I think the first idea I had was for the Chunky Leaf earring set, inspired by monstera plants (which are my favourite!).
I use a polymer clay - the brand most people will recognise is Fimo - and I just find it works really well for what I wanted to create. I’ve used acrylic paints for all my work throughout uni, and I wanted to be able to take that style and transfer it onto something wearable, and these earrings are created in pretty much exactly the same style that I use for all my work. It’s also perfect because it’s lightweight; I didn’t want to make anything that would be uncomfortable to wear, but these are ideal even for children or people who don’t often wear chunky earrings.
Although my designs do rely on getting the shape right, what really brings them to life are the painted designs, which I wouldn’t have had any idea how to do if I hadn’t already spent three years at uni developing my style.
Also as I mentioned before I had already set up my little shop before my earring collections came along, although it was still pretty small at the time, I did already have the understanding of how Etsy worked, how to write captions, and how to use social media to market what I was doing. I definitely wouldn’t say that I’m an expert but I don’t think my earrings would have sold anywhere near as well as they did if I hadn’t already had at least a small following.
The time! I’m still a very small fish in the illustration world so I work a part time job as well and don’t have all the time that I’d love to spend on growing my business. Not to mention that my shop is only half my business as I also take on illustration commissions as well, so it can be hard to balance all the work I’m doing as well as working a day job and also just generally being an adult.
Ooh it’s so hard to decide because I make designs based on things that I love. However, I’m a big house-plant lover so probably one of my leafy designs - I have a pair of cacti in little pots which I love and I’m very very tempted to keep for myself.
I also love all the sets that I’ve added smiley faces too, I just feel like it makes them look so happy!
It has become a huge priority of mine that my little shop doesn’t leave a huge impact on the planet, so finding a way to package up my earrings was really important, however it did take me a while to find a way that worked for me. I started out using tissue paper, but after a few pairs were damaged in transit I moved on to using scraps of bubblewrap from a local company that would otherwise be thrown in the bin.
Although I liked the idea of recycling another companies waste, I did want my shop to be entirely plastic free, and also little parcels of bubblewrap just didn’t look that nice, and I wanted my customers to feel like they were opening a little present, not opening up some rubbish.
Now I use gift boxes from the Tiny Box Company; they’re made out of recycled materials and they are fully recyclable (including the recycled eco-fibre insert to pad the jewellery). I also use cardboard envelopes to post all my orders which are recyclable too!
I get inspiration from everywhere; often from things that I like, like my (very extensive) collection of house plants, but also from following other creative people on Instagram and Pinterest, and sometimes even from other projects that I’m working on at the time.
I’ve been really busy painting for a collection of seaside greetings cards and I’m already planning the fish and sailboat earrings that I could make to go with it.
I wish I could say that I have a really fancy, well equipped studio but in reality my “studio” is just the spare bedroom in our house and it’s very far from perfect. The wall is painted a really awful peachy orange colour, there is hardly any storage space and my desk was the cheapest one we could find in IKEA that definitely isn’t wide enough for me to paint on properly.
However, I am grateful that I’ve got a space at home, I don’t have to rent a desk, and my boyfriend works in there with me so there is always someone on hand to bring me tea and snacks.
The most important tip I would give for any creative process is you’re not going to make the “best thing ever” on the first try and that’s ok, it takes time and practice. Having said that, Fimo clay is quite easy to use, it’s not messy, it dries overnight, it’s very malleable and all in all pretty perfect for modelling anything small so if you’ve been interested in clay and ceramics it’s quite a nice, and also very inexpensive, introduction.
I think, living in Falmouth, I see a lot of people who use fashion to express their personality and creativity; I don’t think I’ve ever seen so much tie dye or so many patterned dungarees in any of the other places I’ve lived, so my earrings fit right into that aesthetic. Also, not necessarily to do with design, but living in Cornwall has definitely influenced the way I run my business.
I’m so lucky to live in such a beautiful corner of the world and I want it to stay looking beautiful, which is why making eco-friendly choices in my business has become so important to me.
Definitely Instagram! I’m no photographer but I do have a camera and I love taking photos of walks that I go on, cute dogs that I see, and obviously work that I’m doing. It’s also really nice to be able to connect with other people who are running their own creative businesses, and I’ve even made friends!
Also I am a tiny bit obsessed with Instagram stories and you can always find me doodling extra details to add to my photos.
At the moment my earrings are only for sale through my Etsy shop, I always use Instagram and Facebook to update when each batch is going to be release but I generally only make a handful at a time so you gotta be quick otherwise your favourite design might go out of stock!
When creating polymer clay designs you will need findings to complete your designs. We offer high quality earring findings so you can easily transform your designs into pieces of jewellery.
Jump rings are essential for jewellery making. They often go unnoticed but these little components will help you complete your designs by connecting your designs to earwires or chains.