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.