After graduating from the University with a History of Art degree, Genevieve Schwartz (BA 2012) went on to train as a silversmith. She started working in jewellery design and production, developing her craft at iconic brands such as Vivienne Westwood and Astley Clarke. This year, she took the plunge and started her own business – Genevieve Schwartz Jewellery. She now makes beautifully crafted pieces from her studio in London and most recently, she launched a collection of engagement rings for men. We spoke to her to learn more about life as a creative entrepreneur.
Where did you make your best memories in Bristol?
When I was living with eight friends in a large student house in the city; as we were such a large group, the house was always a hub of activity. The friends I made were as keen as I was to explore the city itself and many of my best memories involved taking in the wide array of amazing culture, outdoor activities and nightlife that Bristol has to offer. Although my work has kept me in London, I would love to one day make it back to Bristol to live there and continue exploring it!
What inspired you to make a collection of men’s engagement rings?
Last year my partner proposed with a beautiful ring. When I saw my friends and family, the first question they asked me was whether I was going to make him one in return. That’s what initially got me thinking about my range of men’s engagement rings.
It is an age-old tradition for men to propose to women. But this is the 21st century and, as gender stereotypes are being challenged across society, women are now turning their back on convention and popping the big question. Several of my female friends proposed to their male partners over lockdown and really struggled to find rings for them. I recognised that there was a gap in the market and felt it was about time men had some engagement rings for them too. However, this collection was not solely designed for women looking to propose to men, but also for men looking to propose to their male partners or more generally for anyone who is looking for a way to symbolise their commitment to their partner, regardless of gender.
What helps you to stay creative?
This answer has changed so much over the last 18 months. Prior to the national lockdowns, visiting galleries and shows and performing in choirs and bands with friends kept me creative. But during the lockdowns I, like everyone else, had to find new ways to stay creative.
For the first time in memory I had time to sit and read and research. My mother, being an artist, has a huge selection of art books so this was a great place to start. I began painting and drawing and also picked up a skill I have always wanted to learn: the practice of realistically rendering jewellery in gouache paint. All of these factors provided me with a great creative outlet. I also find the power of the outdoors to be really helpful. When I’m in a creative rut, I go for a walk in the woods near my studio. It helps me to clear my mind and come up with new ideas.
What’s the most challenging aspect of life as an entrepreneur?
The sheer number of spinning plates! Everyone warns you when you start a business that the number of things you are responsible for is never ending and since starting Genevieve Schwartz Jewellery, I have found this to be true. However, when you are running your own business, immersing yourself in every aspect of it is also the most rewarding part.
I never saw myself as someone who was particularly entrepreneurial. But since I quit my job and threw myself in at the deep end, I have been pleasantly surprised by how I’ve been able to hold it all together. Probably the best metaphor to describe this feeling is that of a duck – gliding along, seemingly calm, but under the water paddling wildly! Even so, I’m so glad I took the plunge as I love the day-to-day of running my business.
What advice would you give to Bristol graduates wanting to start their own business?
Starting my own business has been one of the most fulfilling and stressful things I have ever done. It’s important to be determined and organised and these are the qualities within myself that I’ve found to be the most useful over the past year.
There was a time several years ago when I was considering starting my own business but I decided against it as I felt I had more to learn and wanted to build a network first. For me, this was a great decision as working for other companies gave me an opportunity to gain experience, meet people and learn from more senior colleagues in the jewellery industry. Seeing a company from the inside meant I could witness every aspect of how a jewellery business is run, which has set me up well for overseeing all the factors of running my own business. If you have an idea and there is a demand for it, I’d recommend pursuing it as I’ve found it to be so rewarding!