The Ludlow Ledger
Turquoise jewel in Ludlow’s crown
THINK of almost any everyday product you normally buy, and you’ll also find a fairtrade
version. From bananas to T shirts, buying fair-trade has become synonymous with being a
‘compassionate consumer.’ So fair-trade silver? What’s all that about?
Everyone knows diamond mining is a dirty business, but unless you happen to be the wife
of a Russian oligarch, then it’s unlikely you’re being kept awake at night worrying about
your diamond purchasing decisions. If, on the other hand, you’re partial to the odd bit of
more affordable bling, step inside a small Ludlow Parkway shop dedicated to the design and
creation of ethical jewellery, and you’ll soon understand that ethical silver doesn’t mean
revisiting Woodstock. Even if you shop on the premise that exploitation is just one of the
many sorry tales our world has to tell, up there with climate change, organophosphates and
the plastic plates in all-you-can-eat Chinese buffets, it’s still worth consideration.
Overflowing with necklaces, rings, bracelets, cufflinks and spoons, La Jewellery specialise
in contemporary jewellery crafted from recycled brass, fair trade and reclaimed silver, with
some 18ct Fair Trade Gold thrown in for good measure. All created and designed by owner
and designer maker Lisa Anne, the jewellery is fresh, unique and eclectic, ranging from
quirky golden brass hare necklaces, to earrings dripping with delicate fronds of silver, with
fresh-water pearls, semi-precious stones and glittering Swarovski crystals used to accent the
pieces. In fact, even Gordon Brown’s cat, Sybil, is a fan; as the proud owner of a La
Jewellery bespoke cat collar!
As lovely as the jewellery is, however, Lisa Anne aims to pour her ethics not only into the
products they make, but the company as a whole, and is very firm about the provenance of
the metals she uses in her work. Recycled, fairtrade, or fair-mined silver remain the only
silver she will use in an effort to make certain that those who mine these precious resources
have been paid a premium price. And she makes no apologies for her insistence that the
world could be a better place. “What is Fair Trade? It’s just making sure that people can live
on what they earn. And everything can be Fair Trade. There’s no reason for it not to be. It
has never crossed my mind that as a business owner I should be making a profit out of
someone else’s misery.”
Clearly unafraid to speak out, Lisa Anne seems as passionate about this as her jewellery.
Which explains the winning concept of creating ethical jewellery; as much as the fact that
she isn’t afraid to push boundaries. Indeed, one of her collections is inscribed with the
legend ‘F**K IT.’ Admittedly, this may not to be everyone’s taste, but many of her
handmade pieces reflect the human condition in some way. And like many creatives, she is
happy to admit that some of her creative inspiration comes from a ‘dark place.’
Having experienced a childhood overshadowed by a depressed mother, Lisa Anne explains
the reasoning behind her creative process. “As a child it was a form of escapism. Physical
creativity was such a good way of zoning out from what was going on. I would make things
with anything I could get my hands on lying about the house. I remember once cutting up a
black bin liner into different shapes of fish and coral. There was nothing else going on in my
world apart from that. And that’s what happens when I start creating a piece of jewellery.
Five or six hours can go by, and I won’t even have noticed.”
So where did her visionary business start? Growing up in Wales, the family moved to
Birmingham when Lisa Anne was in her teens, and her creative career was developed when
she studied graphic design, photography and 3D design at Birmingham’s Custard Factory
(where Alfred Bird had formerly invented custard powder for his egg-intolerant wife). True
to her motto of, “Don’t buy it – make it!” she then set up a company called Loud and
Disastrous, dedicated to making hats. “My daughter, who was only one at the time, needed a
hat. But they cost ￡8! So I got myself a sewing machine and made an abundance of hats.
Friends then started putting in orders, and we began to get wholesale orders. It was also the
nineties at the start of the rave scene… it was all a bit ‘weeooh’ and so we did festivals too,
selling 1990’s rave clothing.” Another company, ‘Life at Dawn’ followed; again run from
home, except this time Lisa Anne dropped the hats and psychedelic rave clothing, turning
instead to fashioning Victorian linen and vintage fabrics into floaty feminine clothing.
La Jewellery started nine years ago, again from her kitchen table, and in what appears to be
typical ‘can do’ Lisa Anne style, was preceded by only a day’s training with a friend who was
a goldsmith. The range started with twenty pairs of earrings, sold over the internet, and now
offers hundreds of different styles and ranges of jewellery. In the past Lisa Anne would carry
out all the casting in the art studio by hand but this proved to be very time consuming and too
expensive for clients, so after having found a small family casting business, Lisa Anne sends
off the raw carcass of the jewellery to be cast and then sent back to the studio for hammering,
texturing and filing to help keep costs down.
I suggest she probably has an entrepreneurial streak, but she says selling was never her
forte. “When you create something you are baring your soul. Many of my collections are
cathartic. And to give it monetary value and explain what it’s about doesn’t come easy.” As a
result, the Ludlow shop was never meant to be. “I was never good at selling. In fact I hated it;
it was my worst nightmare, so we always focused on internet selling. The shop here in
Ludlow was only ever meant to be a wholesale base, as a type of showroom for our
customers. But from day one we were inundated with people coming in. We opened during
the Medieval Fair weekend in 2013, and took about ￡2,500 in the first week. And I hated it,
because it was sales. I just didn’t care if anyone ever bought it because it was only ever about
the creative process.” Fortunately, this didn’t last. Today, she couldn’t be more delighted to
have people in the shop.
“I got much less nervous about meeting the public, and now, I just love it. I love meeting
the people who come in here. And my inspiration literally comes walking through the door
now from the things that people tell me. I thought my inspiration was from the mystery, myth
and magic of nature, which it probably still is partly, but now it’s also people and their stories
that move and inspire me.”
She is also now more than happy to design and create bespoke pieces. “I used to be very
resistant to that,” she explains. “But now, even that inspires me too. I like to put on a piece
of music that the person the piece is for loves when I’m designing for others. It helps me get
inside it to create something that is truly about them. I’ve learned so much since doing this.
I’ll never say ‘never’ again.”
And of course, she’s eager to point out that none of this would be possible without her team.
From her husband – who custom built her workbench and restored the shop – to her
marketing and shop assistants, she is overwhelmingly grateful for their support and
investment in the business. “It’s completely a team effort,” she explains. “And how my
husband is still with me I don’t know! The poor man! I mean, I started out as a clothes
designer, then I was a weaver, then I decided to become an artist and paint, naked for days on
end, living on fags and coffee. Until of course I found jewellery. But he backed every single
project, all the way.”
And so what of the future? Do La Jewellery intend to be around for a long time to come?
On that, there is no hesitation. “If someone said to me you can’t be creative anymore – well,
that would be a complete nightmare.” And from what I’ve learned of Lisa Anne and her
determination to make something out of nothing, I suspect that is very true.