Today I’d like to introduce you to a woman who has combined her love of and career in jewellery with her passion for ethical living into a business making handmade sustainable jewellery. Not only does she make pieces from recycled fine silver and gemstones and eco-friendly precious metal clay but she has set up a Jewellery Upcycling Service where anyone can drop off their unwanted jewellery so it can be fashioned into something new again.
“We’re dedicated to reducing waste in the fashion industry one bead at a time”, says London-based Lumoi founder, Louise Hall. All unwanted jewellery is dismantled, cleaned and checked for damage before it is reworked and upcycled into a brand new design – which helps keep perfectly good materials in circulation longer, she says. And those who donate will receive a voucher that can be used at her Lumoi boutique. Such a great idea! And so far her efforts have rewarded her with a mention in this year’s edition of the Sustainia 100, which is a list of 100 ground-breaking solutions from around the world that have the potential to transform sustainable practices.
So, come and meet Louise …
Please introduce yourself. Tell me your background, what you studied, where you’ve worked and how have you ended up where you are today.
I was born in Highgate, London. I grew up surrounded by the beautiful English countryside in Essex and by the age of 20 I had moved back to London. I have worked in the jewellery industry for 11 years.
I started my career as a buyer’s assistant on the jewellery desk for a TV shopping channel. This allowed me to work with a wide range of designs from the UK and abroad, visiting many of the UK-based jewellery shows and the Vincenza Jewellery Fair in Italy. I then went on to London’s jewellery quarter, Hatton Garden where I worked for a major diamond and gold importers.
Predominantly I’m a self-taught designer but have attended a few short courses on design and precious metal clay training. I started making jewellery as a hobby and after leaving my job in Hatton Garden, I found myself completely absorbed in creating. After a couple of years of developing my techniques, my hobby became a full-time passion. In January 2008, Lumoi was born. I also teach jewellery making at Crisis UK, with a heavy focus on upcycling and working found items into designs.
What made you decide to focus not just on making jewellery but upcycling pieces of old, unwanted jewellery?
I wanted to make a difference in the world in a creative and resourceful way and having worked in the jewellery industry for so long it was a very natural progression to join my passion for the wellbeing of our planet and continue with jewellery. The idea for the jewellery upcycling service came from reworking my own broken jewellery. Many of my friends and family also had odd earrings or snapped bracelets/necklaces laying useless at the bottom of their jewellery boxes. I started to ask them for their scraps and was inundated with supplies so it just made sense for me to offer this service to everyone. The need to find alternative ways to deal with waste has never been greater so upcycling and recycling services are now a necessity. We throw an astonishing amount of textiles and accessories into the landfills each year, not to mention plastic packaging, food waste etc. Upcycling is a greener way to reuse unwanted items, while recycling often requires more energy to process. Upcycling simply requires your own creative energy and a little time.
Do you rely solely on people donating their unwanted jewels to you or do you have a collection of pieces yourself?
I rely heavily on people sending in their unwanted jewellery for my ‘Chromatic’ fashion range – these pieces have all been made using materials sent into my upcycling service. I do buy a minimal amount of new complimentary components (mainly for restringing and assembly) but the majority of the materials I work with are reused. I really love the surprise element that the upcycling service brings. I never really know what materials I’m working with until I open the parcel. Each of our products online has an upcycled percentage rating so you can see exactly how ‘green’ each piece is.
I also have a small range of recycled fine silver jewellery called ‘Alchemy’, which is made using precious metal clay (PMC). PMC is a wonderful material that has great eco-credentials. It is made from finely ground pure silver particles that have been recycled and reclaimed from scraps, x-ray and film plates. The particles are mixed together with an organic binder to form a clay-like material. The ‘clay’ can be shaped and manipulated by hand and interesting textures and shapes can be made with the use of hand tools. PMC is 99 per cent pure silver and carries a .999 quality mark from The London Assay office.
Clearly sustainable practice is very important to you and your business. Tell me how it forms part of your life and your work.
I live my life in accordance with the ‘Slow Movement’ which represents all things ‘ethical’, ‘eco’, ‘green’ in one unified movement. Consuming less and making responsible choices when consuming is of huge importance to me in both my personal and work life. I’m really happy to see the movement gaining such momentum! I think we’re all starting to realise we cannot rely on earth’s finite resources in the way that we have been for much longer. Lots of small changes to the way we live when multiplied by the population can have big impact.
What challenges, if any, did you face along the way in setting up your own business?
I think wearing ‘all hats’ in my business has been the biggest challenge, from being the designer, photographer, accountant, maker, marketer … It’s a juggling act that I think all independent designers struggle with.
What inspires you or where do you go/what do you read/watch to get inspiration?
I draw inspiration from nature and am heavily influenced by ancient philosophies like Shamanism and Yoga. Visits to national museums and galleries are always great ways to spark creativity for me along with regular meditation. I tend to avoid television and use TED, Esoterictube, Vimeo and Youtube to listen to inspirational talks and documentaries.
Have you ever had a ‘who’d have thought?’ moment?
The one that sticks out for me was launching my upcycling service. It has received such a positive response which has been really encouraging. The upcycling service has since been nominated for the Sustainia100, international award. Receiving the award nomination gave me the ‘who’d of thought moment’! It’s a real honour to be recognised for contributing to a more sustainable future.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years’ time?
In 10 years’ time I hope to have to have seen more of the world, gathering inspiration on my travels! I’m confident I’ll still be contributing towards a more sustainable society for future generations. I’ve always wanted to make larger upcycled decorative pieces so I’ll almost certainly try my hand at some kind of sculpture or blacksmithing. Jewellery has always been a passion of mine which I’m sure will remain and with it, Lumoi will grow.
Thanks so much, Louise, for sharing an insight into your work! And if you wish to see more of her pieces, head over to Lumoi.