When Joanne Low left her job as a lawyer with British Petroleum Co. after the birth of her second son, running her own jewellery business was not at the top of her mind. The idea of enrolling in a jewellery-making course was sparked rather unexpectedly when the stay at home mum was sitting with a box of beads from Toys R Us she had bought for her then four year-old daughter, Kaitlyn, and figuring out how to string them together. “Being someone with a voracious appetite for learning, I wanted to learn how to do it perfectly,” explains the mother of two boys, Evan and Iain, and a girl.
She then signed up for the Jewellery Design and Management School’s Fashion Jewellery programme. Finding the classes enriching and riveting, she continued with other courses like metalsmithing, pencil and paper design, followed by computer-aided design and gemology.
Having always been creative – she paints and enjoys cake decorating -- jewellery-making was a natural choice at a time when she was thinking about pursuing a second career. “Jewellery making had the edge over cake decorating as you are dealing with beautiful stones and there are many ways to express and create something beautiful with a few pieces of natural products. I love working with my hands, creating something out of nothing.”
In the Fashion Jewellery course, learned the professional techniques jewellers use to assemble jewellery. “I made 10 pairs of earrings and five necklaces. You come with nothing and go back with something. It was exciting and rewarding to have created something in the span of a few hours,” she says. Her favourite course was metalsmithing. “You are given a sheet of metal and other raw materials and with traditional tools, you craft a beautiful piece of jewellery. That was fascinating.”
Equipped with good technical skills from the various courses at JDMIS, Joanne went on to start her own jewellery line, Joanne L. Created for the contemporary, cosmopolitan woman who is bold and unafraid of expressing herself, the pieces are stocked at a shop called Simpliciti and can also be ordered through her website. She will also be showcasing her work at fashion tradeshow Blueprint next month after which she hopes to take the line to another level in Singapore and overseas.
“I am grateful to the school for having taught me the foundations and giving me a good grounding and opportunities to showcase my work,” she says. The carefully structured courses have given her the drive and the passion to do something new and interesting.
Besides the design aspects, the school’s merchandising course provided her with knowledge on the different aspects of running a business and also contacts for the products needed to launch a new label. The school’s founder and dean Tanja Sadow and its director Alex Zupancich have also been mentors who have unreservedly shared their knowledge with her. “I have been given the basics and confidence to start a label, knowing that if I need some help there is somebody there to support me. The teachers are people who really want to impart their knowledge.” There are also opportunities to review what she has learnt as well as pick up new techniques at JDMIS’ one-day classes held towards the end of the year.
An added benefit of having her own business is a good work-life balance as she works mostly from home. “Sometimes my children and I do work on the same table. My children do their Math homework while I do my design work.”
“I started as a lawyer, then a homemaker and now have a business. I never expected to come this far and to one day have my things stocked at boutiques or participate at events,” she says. “I am lucky to have had mentors who have walked the path in the jewellery field,” says Joanne.
Empowering others the way she has been empowered is something she is keen to do. “Having a business like this allows me to encourage other women around my age group, and especially mums who want to do something different, to tell them that ‘it is possible’. Running a business is by no means an easy task, even if the main workplace is your home. The needs of my family come first and it is usually only in the wee hours of the night that I'm able to focus on work. However, I want to give back by encouraging other women like me to be unafraid to walk a new path and pursue their passions, as I have done.”