goldsmith, hopeless romantic and nature lover
April 11, 2017
Hi Rebecca, tell us a bit about yourself!
I am a trained goldsmith who finds great fun in building things and putting tiny objects together! The making of jewellery is second nature to me and it’s what interested me from the start, while the designing part and coming up with new ideas is more of a challenge. You have to feel right, be in the mood, there’s a lot that needs to be in place.
I enjoy making my own collections, because then I can create more freely and can twist and turn things before trying them out. But making engagement and wedding rings is absolutely the part I love the most. Mostly people come here because they saw one of my pieces and liked my style, and then I make something special just for them. When I started training as a goldsmith my dream was to meet people and create something that they would wear for the rest of their lives, sharing the process with them during maybe their biggest moment. It’s a fantastic feeling.
How did you end up here?
I just did. I didn’t have a dream to start my own business, I was living my dream during training and longed for the day when I could call myself a goldsmith, and here I am! I moved from London to Stockholm without any job to go to but started working as a shop assistant and then a salesperson. Then I started making jewellery on the side and the rest is history!
Some people go all-in from the start, look for investments and take out loans but I didn’t have that possibility and decided that if I was going to do this, it had to take time. And looking back I’ve realised it was the best way to go. I never felt pressured and let everything come as it may. It wasn’t that long ago I started working as a goldsmith full-time, maybe three years and then I’d been doing it for two years. It’s gone back and forth but looking back I’m happy I didn’t reflect so much and just started doing. There's no need to worry too much about things - what will happen will happen.
What does your creative process look like?
The first part is coming up with an idea that I like and then I prefer to build the piece immediately rather than draw it, so the creative process really is from idea to manufacturing. I find it difficult working with a sketch because you don’t know how somebody is going to interpret it. The craftsmanship varies because you work in different ways and interpret things differently so I do everything myself. The hardest part for me is coming up with something that I like myself in the end. I can have a million ideas but then I work with them for so long that out of a hundred things I’ve been doing only five end up getting made.
Are you self-critical?
Yes, absolutely. I think it’s very important to keep a high quality in what I do and the manufacturing is almost most important because I want the jewellery I create to last a long time, so I have to be self-critical. To me it doesn’t matter if something costs 300 SEK or 10.000, it’s always important that it’s really good and the customer gets high quality whatever they spend. The challenge is getting it right from the customer’s perspective. For example if a customer wants a wedding ring it’s incredibly important to get it right. If you’ve sat and worked on something for five hours you tend to start noticing every little flaw and it’s important to decide when it’s “good enough”.
What does creativity mean to you?
A lot. I think you’re actually creative in everything you do in life. If I don’t have an outlet for my creativity whether it’s at work or when I’m out walking or running or whatever, I don’t get the stimulation I need. Creativity doesn’t just have to be making a piece of jewellery or a sketch, it can be anything from how dinner looks to how I’m going to solve a problem. To me it means having an idea and turning it into reality.
Is creativity a part of you, other than being a part of your work?
I’ve never thought about it that way! But I guess so, since I’ve always been doing something creative whether it’s been drawing or loving music (I’ve tried to play but I don’t think I’m very musically gifted, haha.) I love listening to music and other people’s creativity makes me feel something very strongly as well.
I come from a creative environment in many ways - my grandmother painted and did pottery and worked as a hairdresser and was always creative and artistic, writing poems. My mother is very talented and creative in other ways, with her home and clothes and fashion although she never worked with it. Creativity has always been a very large part of my life even if I’ve never reflected on it and I guess that’s why I’m here. But then I’m also very interested in technical things, cars and machines and handiwork and that’s also a kind of creative thinking. A lot of it is about problem solving which I think is really fun - I guess that’s what I like most!
Has anybody been extra important to you in deciding to start your own business?
I’ve always been so fascinated by my grandmother, because she was so ahead of her time. She was born in 1912 och had my aunt very early in life and my mother very late. We’re a very drawn-out generation. She fought her whole life, starting as a barber girl at a salon but then a lot of other things happened in life that forced her to move at a young age to a small town. There she started her own business as a hairdresser and became successful, and all this in the 30s!
She has always been very forward-thinking, especially for her age. Everything from how to dress to being one of the first to go on a charter trip because it was so exciting and new, to being very open when it comes to love. To her it didn’t matter who you loved as long as you were happy. She worked very hard but was still so warm and loving. It’s been a long time since she passed but I still think about her a lot. She was very close to me.
How do you refill your energy?
I take time off. I’ve learnt now after a few years that people have to wait. Before I’ve been so scared that if I said I wouldn’t be able to deliver the next week they would go to someone else - because that’s what it’s like in the beginning, you want everyone to get their stuff as fast as possible. But somehow it’s also thinking that you can’t always turn yourself inside-out.
I think that society today is so built on people working 80 hours a week and that if you’re not really stressed out at work, you’re not doing enough. There’s almost a prestige in working yourself half to death and I don’t believe in it. I can feel guilty sometimes too if I’ve had a calm day and think I haven’t done enough. But I’ve still been here working for eight hours.
Do you think that is a female complex?
Yes, absolutely. I know more women who have exhausted and worn themselves out than I do men, but I also think that women are better at talking about it than men are. Women find it easier saying “I feel like shit“ to their friends, but then again maybe not everyone tell the people at work who need to hear it.
Sometimes I feel very overwhelmed and find it hard to find focus and joy in my work but then I try to think that, OK, I have a week to do this, it has to be done so just do it. It can be really hard but it’s important to remember that there is an end, and that even if you have to be at work a lot for a while you’re eventually done and can breathe out.
And the woods is where you go to breathe out?
Absolutely! I love running and being in the woods so I go for long trail runs or just a hike. Or a mountain bike ride or some kayaking. In winter I like skiing. Being in the forest, set up a fire and just looking at what’s around you is such a wonderful feeling. When I can I go to the mountains. There is so much to do there all year around. And if you feel like doing nothing you can just enjoy the view. They fill me with so much energy.
I’ve really practiced setting aside work when I have time off and remind myself that people can wait a few days. If someone had needed something the week I was away, then I couldn’t have done it anyway. People have to plan ahead.
A lot of people believe that you have to be so accommodating and turn yourself inside-out to get things done fast, but I’ve started to realise when I talk to most of my customers and tell them that it will take two to three weeks that the answer is, “wow, that fast?”.
Like when I was on vacation last summer and went out of town, and I felt like god, I’m going to lose so many customers, I’ll be gone for four weeks. But everyone said, “yes, of course you should have time off, so do we!”. There’s no rush. I realised that I have to put myself first. I do this job because I need to have a job, I have to provide and do something I think is fun but I won’t be able to do that if I don’t feel well or don’t think it’s fun. Even if it’s something you’re passionate about you can push and pull so much that it ends up feeling like torture and you don’t want that. It’s like that sometimes and I think, “have I ruined this thing I find so much fun?”
How do you handle situations like that, when you feel sick of it?
I consider what I could be doing instead, what other qualifications I have and then I keep that in the back of my head. I set up a time frame where I’m trying not to think about it and when that time frame is over, if I would still feel like I needed a change, I’d make a change. It’s easy to get sucked into a feeling of dissatisfaction and negativity and that can be really stressful. As you can see I’ve been thinking about this a lot haha, but so far I’ve always come back to the fact that I’m happy with my work. But it’s not always easy!
Tell us about LA LULA!
The idea came from my friend Katja Janford who had been thinking about it for a few years and about a year ago she told me about it and that she really wanted to do it and do it with me. It’s super fun working on something with one of your best friends, following the whole process from sketches to wax models to the final piece of jewellery, photographing it and creating a web page.
The idea of the collection isn’t to make a political statement. The point is for you to wear this jewellery as a gentle reminder of your femininity. The shape isn’t super obvious, some people think it’s a shell or a leaf and some understand exactly what it is but don’t dare say anything. It’s supposed to be a symbol for the beauty in women and to celebrate your femininity. To let go of the taboo surrounding the female sex.
I mean, you don’t really have that with the male sex. You see dicks everywhere - scribbled on toilette walls, this thing with people sending random pictures on their phones or men peeing on a street corner for example. I don’t know how many dicks I’ve involuntarily seen in my life… I’m definitely not saying that I think women should go out and do the same, because it’s not very pleasant, but a little less “hush hush” regarding the vagina wouldn’t be too bad, haha.
Our plan is to expand with more jewellery and we’ve made a pair of earrings in the shape of a woman's silhouette, where if you have one on each ear you see the front of a woman in one ear and the back in the other. Like two abstract shapes really, but when you put them together you see it’s a female body and they reflect the different body shapes depending on how far apart they are. All shapes are beautiful! A part of all of this is to get a reaction, what people think or feel. But you can interpret it as you please, we’ve just had so much fun working with La Lula!
What do you want the brand Rebecca Bonaparte to be associated with?
Quality jewellery that’s environmentally sustainable. The environment is important, always. All the gold and silver that I use is reprocessed and I use stones that I know come from good environmental- and working conditions and sometimes Fair trade stones. The entire jewellery industry can be damaging to the environment and people unless you’re careful and for that reason I choose to produce everything myself so I know it’s sustainable. I also want people to feel happy and feel welcome when they come here, and that they’re happy they bought their jewellery from me, that there’s an engagement in their particular piece. Whatever I do I want them to feel that it’s made with love.