Bio: For those of you who don’t know, Sarah Brook-Hayes is a maker of one off pieces of jewellery and mum to one 4 year old. They go hand in hand as if it wasn’t for her son she would never have found the courage to start making jewellery.

What is Oberon Jewellery all about and when did you start it up?

Oberon Jewellery is my little escape. I made some jewellery as a child and studied art until A level and have always loved being able to express myself with things like this. I also love taking photos which is what the mainstay of my ‘creative’ talents has been over the years after work and real life kicked in. I bought my first beads in the Liberty’s bazaar from these gorgeous wooden boxes as a teenager and turned those into basic jewellery. I still have those beads all these years later and they have had many incarnations.

What inspired you to start up your own jewellery line and what’s behind the name?

A few years ago I fiddled around making little basic bead and leather pieces and sold a few to friends. I built a mini kit up and pottered at that. Then external pressures took over, mainly trying to have our son, four years resulting in IVF and then at 3 weeks old he went into hospital where we lived for 8 weeks and came out with a tracheostomy which he had until he was nearly 10 months old. I then went back to work but after a few months it became obvious that it would be better if I left.

At that point a friend was going to a wedding and couldn’t find anything jewellery wise to go with her outfit. So I suggested I make her something. I got the kit back out, made those bits and then a few more and my neighbour route marched me to a local boutique with them and it went from there. The name is a little cheesy, we had a cat who we rescued who was very much my surrogate baby during the fertility issues. I missed him and out other cats dreadfully while we were living in the John Radcliffe (we only went home for ½ hour in the last week to get the equipment we would need). Two weeks after we got home Butsy (Oberon) was run over. We were devastated. It is my little nod to him to name the company after him. People also need to have a little dream in their life… The silver jewellery which is what I now predominantly make came about as friend trusted me with a fair amount of cash to design and make her a silver bracelet, I was terrified with that first piece as I couldn’t afford for it to go wrong. It worked and eventually I built up enough sales to invest in the equipment to make more pieces and now it has taken over from the bead work.


Your designs feature lots of natural images, what is the inspiration behind the pieces?

The inspiration for the pieces tends to be whatever pops into my head! I will see something and think ‘oh can that be turned into something or can I make that and do it justice?’ I have a notebook and notes on my iPhone where I jot down anything I think of and then I sketch them out. I then cross my fingers to get a few sales or commissions to then be able to ‘play’ and make up my indulgent pieces. To be honest the animals tend to come about because my 4 year old loves all things animal so I am surrounded by them. I have a couple of followers on Twitter who are passionate about conservation which is where the Rhino came from. He will have a percentage paid to the Lawrence Anthony Foundation when he sells.

Also a number of pieces are commissions so I am trying to interpret people ideas into a piece of jewellery that will mean something very special to them or the recipient. Every pieces I make is unique, if I am ever asked to replicate a design I adjust it slightly so each person has their totally one off design.

What kinds of materials do you use and what processes?

I mainly use silver clay, a product made of tiny silver particles suspended in a resin that you then burn off to produce very pure silver, 999 rather than the usual 925. It is also very eco friendly as it is made from a lot of recycled silver. I have discovered it is good for people who discolour jewellery (like my mum who can’t normally wear silver). Because it is purer it tends to tarnish less and cause fewer reactions. Silver clay is the product used for fingerprint jewellery but I like to think I am helping give it a better profile in the jewellery world. I use no cutters or texture mat etc.

It is all my own hand drawn designs and hand cut templates. I love the flexibility of it in terms of design. I then finish the pieces with sterling silver findings. Sometimes I make pieces with silver wire and the beads. I also make copper charms for the right pieces. The silver clay is worked with soft a little like fimo, you then let it dry and there is a lot of careful finishing at this point as it is super fragile. When it is fully dry I fire it on the hob and then refire with a blow torch in my kitchen. At this point it is then brushed and then quite often I use liver of sulphur to patinate in and give the detail depth.

I sometimes apply 24k gold sheet, which is done straight after firing using heat and an agate burnisher prior to the rest of the finishing and polishing. I am completely self taught, never done any courses as I neither have the time or the money for them. So I learn as I go along and try not to make costly mistakes. I can see the evolution in my style and skills across the pieces I have made. I work from my kitchen and front room and fit my hours around my son. I have had so many jobs from dental nurse to science technician at the school Rosie Fortesque went to (she did science club with me) but am finally doing something I really love and working longer hours than I ever have and not resenting a second (well apart from the paperwork!). I also make all my own packaging.

What is your advice to up and coming Jewellery designers?

As long as you are still loving what you do just keep plugging away. Twitter and Facebook have been a massive help to me, most of my sales are from them both from word of mouth recommendations and being on the ball. When stylist Charlotte Adsett posted that she needed a ‘queen bee’ motif necklace for Maddie’s character on Hollyoaks I responded that I could do that and worked with her to get just the right thing. I also chat to a lot of people from magazines etc. and from that I ended up with two pieces in the Feb issue of Cosmo which was wonderful to see. The Hollyoaks necklace popped up again this week, to look at that and say ‘I made that!’ is an incredible feeling and it all came about from being my usual slightly over chatty self. The other thing is to not see other designers as a threat/competition but as wonderful friends who can help you. I have met a few who are amazing with wonderful advice and I try and do my best to help them too.

Who do you look up to in the Jewellery business, who do you aspire to be like?

There are so many as I love jewellery it would be hard to name any one in particular. I just want to keep enjoying it and learning new techniques. I had a wish I told a friend that I would love to see my work on tv, in a major magazine and on a celeb, in 6 months I managed two out of three… now to stalk a celeb!

What’s next for Oberon Jewellery?

Next is really just to get more commissions and sales so I can keep doing something I adore.  I would love to see more of my work in the press but mainly just to be able to keep working.

Oh and to pay off my business credit card…

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