Women in the workplace

Sabira Silcock: Jeweller and owner of SKEN Studios

Name: Sabira Silcock

Job title: Jeweller and owner of SKEN Studios.

Career path: I graduated from a BA in Decorative Arts at Nottingham Trent University in 2014, the course  was quite multidisciplinary and it was during my time here that I decided I wanted to pursue a  career in jewellery. After graduating, I launched Sabira Silcock Jewellery, a business I ran  alongside working other part-time jobs. During that time, I sold mainly through shops and  galleries in the UK, with most of my earnings from sales feeding back into the business, to buy  the tools I needed. I also interned for a few small companies and trained under a very talented  Goldsmith called Loree Bologna, she taught me a lot of the traditional skills which had been  lacking in my BA course. 

In 2016, I moved to Stockholm to undertake an MA in jewellery at Konstfack, a prestigious art  and design University based in an old Ericsson phone factory. This education really pushed me  and forced me to see jewellery as a more conceptual ‘fine art’ type lens. I moved back to  Manchester in 2018 after two amazing years in Stockholm and got pregnant with my son Rupert  pretty much immediately as soon as I arrived back. It was during the first few months of being  on maternity leave with a very small Rupert that I had time to reflect and come up with ideas for  SKEN Studios. I then launched in May 2020. 

Ideas & Planning: I’m usually not a huge planner when it comes to designing a new jewellery collection. My  process normally begins with a few sketches on the back of a receipt or if the mood takes me,  one of my many half-filled sketchbooks. The initial sketches for my first SKEN Studios  collection were drawn on my iPhone notes – the only tool to hand when I was trapped while  feeding my baby son. 

After sketching, I translate my drawings into silver; I draw directly onto the silver sheet then  saw out the shapes. For my Signet rings, I carve a special type of Jewellers’ wax, which is then  cast into recycled silver. I prototype all of my designs and then test-wear them to make sure I’m  happy with the final product.  

I try to work quickly to override my true instincts to ‘fanny around’. My studio is located at the  bottom of my garden, which is proving a nice short commute, with just enough distance from  the house to prevent me from opening the fridge door every five seconds. 

Finance: I launched SKEN Studios earlier this year during lockdown, which seemed like a really risky  move but it worked out well. At the time I was furloughed from a part-time job, so I used some  of my wages from that towards start-up costs, like a website and packaging. 

I tried to make the packaging feel luxurious and special by spending time, rather than money on  the little details. I hand-stamped the cotton bags for earrings and shredded colourful waste paper  as packaging stuffing. One thing I absolutely couldn’t scrimp on was the gold embossed ring  boxes, I wanted those to feel extra special. Trades can also be a clever way to keep costs low in  the early days. I made a signet ring for my graphic designer friend and in return she designed my  logo and branding, which I love.  

The main thing I did to finance the first collection was to make my first pieces available as pre  order only. As precious metals are expensive, this allowed me to gage which pieces were  popular without huge start-up costs. Once I had enough orders, I bought the silver and made the  pieces in batch, which saves time. 

Networking: In my pre-Covid life, I worked at Manchester Craft & Design Centre, which is a great hub of  talented craftspeople. They also run regular Makers meet-ups which are great for meeting people  in the same professional boat.  At the moment, most of my networking takes places on Instagram. I’ve met some other amazing  designers and business owners; Gwen from Grey Millk, Sara who runs Kano and Tara Collette who makes the most incredible banners, to name a few. I was also approached by July Child, a  Manchester based cult brand which stocks the most stylish accessories – our signet rings will  soon be available to buy from their website. Networking doesn’t need to be stuffy and formal,  just slide someone a DM and see what happens. 

Typical working day: My typical working day is varied; I’ll be prototyping some new earrings in the morning, packing  orders after lunch and polishing rings in the afternoon. People talk about having to ‘wear  different hats’ as a small business owner, which is clichéd but true. You have to have a handle on  all these different aspects of running a business which can sometimes leave you feeling scatty but ultimately it stops me from getting bored with my work.


You can shop Sabira’s latest creations here.

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