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I'm Heather McGarrigle and this is my blog - a colourful celebration of culture, crafting and creativity in Northern Ireland and beyond.

The PQ Q&A: Melanie Bond Jewellery

The PQ Q&A: Melanie Bond Jewellery

Melanie Bond with her creations

Keeping with the theme of August Craft Month, the second PQ Q&A  brings you the bold, colourful, larger-than-life creations of Co. Down jewellery maker Melanie Bond.

Self-taught, she has been creating handmade jewellery for ten years, launching Melanie Bond Jewellery in 2010.

Her pieces have been commissioned by celebrities, adorned catwalk models, and featured on the pages of national fashion magazines.

With a background in law, Melanie tells the PQ how she has set aside courtroom drama in favour of designer couture, and reveals the family inspiration behind her creativity...

PQ: How did you become a jewellery maker – have you always pursued a creative path?

A: In some ways, it was a bit of a happy accident. I studied Law with Politics at Queen's University and am actually a qualified solicitor. My boyfriend (now husband) bought me some beads and a couple of tools about ten years ago as a present for Valentine's Day. In part, this was his romantic side manifesting itself, but I also suspect he wanted to give me a hobby to keep me busy while he got on with his guitar playing!

At first I just made the occasional piece for myself or for family members - it never initially entered my head that it would turn out to be a business. It really developed organically, as first friends of friends and relatives began to ask me to make pieces for them, and then I began to advertise on Facebook and through attending craft fairs.

PQ: So tell us the story of Melanie Bond Jewellery – when did the brand first emerge, and how has it evolved?

A: The business actually began life as Mary-Jayne Jewellery (my late grandmother's name) and mostly focused on selling at local craft fairs. The watershed year was 2010 when I launched my website with the new brand using my own name - my husband still insists he should get half the credit for that!

This got me into event management and styling, as my launch party was a fashion show in Maryville Tearooms on the Lisburn Road. Since then I have focused more on this avenue of work, and have styled a number of shows and photo shoots since then.

I have had my work shown on the catwalk at Belfast Fashionweek on three occasions and it has featured in IN! Magazine, the Belfast Telegraph... and Vogue!

I’ve also been working with local boutiques over the past couple of years, and you’ll find my jewellery in A La Mode at the Linen Green, The Willow in Moira and Diamond Dolls in Banbridge, amongst others.

Headpiece: Marie-Claire Millinery, model: Jade Topping,  hair: Gemma Managh

PQ: Fashion is a burgeoning industry in Northern Ireland. What's unique about Melanie Bond Jewellery?

A: Firstly, my jewellery is hand-crafted and bespoke. A lot of my work comes from commissions – creating pieces to match outfits for special occasions - and I love working with clients to find the perfect look for them.

In terms of design, my more recent work can be characterised as fashion-forward, colourful and dynamic: statement pieces with one eye on the past and the other on future trends.

PQ: What would you say your main achievements have been; what are you most proud of?

A: Two things stick out for me. Firstly, I was selected as a finalist in the Urban Outfitters design competition sponsored by West Coast Cooler in 2010.

That was a fantastic opportunity which allowed me to gain some recognition locally and gave me a greater sense of confidence in my work.

The second thing that I'm really proud of is the piece of jewellery which Dame Mary Peters commissioned to match a dress by local designer Dave Henderson which she wore on national television at the BBC Sports Personality of the Year ceremony 2012.

It was a little bit unreal to see a piece, which I'd been working on only a few nights previously, appear in front of millions.

Dame Mary Peters, wearing a specially-commissioned piece from Melanie Bond Jewellery (Photo by Tim Whitby-Getty Images) 2012 Getty Images

PQ: You also offer jewellery-making classes, workshops and courses - why did you decide to incorporate teaching into your business model and would you recommend this approach to other craftspeople?

A: I would never have called myself a teacher, but when I was asked by a couple of different people to run courses, I spotted an opportunity.

Business-wise it makes sense - a regular class can provide some steady income - but I've also really enjoyed working with the ladies who have come along. As for other craftspeople trying it out, I'd say go for it if it is something which interests you and if you enjoy seeing other people explore their creative side.

I've certainly enjoyed that aspect of it and very recently had fun helping a bride and some of her bridal party design and create pieces for the Wedding day.

The jewellery and vintage parties have also proven to be popular - I bring my travelling boutique to your home for your family and friends to browse. They’re always a good night's craic and the hostess gets 20% of the total sales to spend back on Melanie Bond products!

PQ: What have been your favourite projects or collaborations to date? 

A: Over the past year I have been working with a design collective in Belfast called Unify, which seeks to nurture up and coming design talent. 

Unify showcased our work recently at Parliament Buildings at Stormont, hosted by Basil McCrea, and this was a real success.  

As far as projects go, I organised and styled an Autumn fashion show in 2012 which I titled Marjorie Bloom's Fashion & Craft Tea Party. This was held in Hillsborough Village Centre and brought together 130 ladies for an old-style fashion show and craft market where tea (from china cups no less!) and buns were enjoyed whilst models paraded around the tables in beautiful clothes and jewellery.

It was a real success and I hope to repeat this again in some form in the future, so watch this space...

Melanie's stall at the Unify Fashion Showcase.  Furniture: Jenny Bond Interiors, mannequin: Anne Louise Designs, vintage dress: Unique Boutique.

PQ: Are you working on anything exciting at the moment?

A: At the moment I'm concentrating on my new collection for A/W 2013 to be shown at Belfast Fashionweek, as well as working on made-to-match pieces for weddings and events.

A lot of this season's work will be quite ornate and many of my creations will involve stunning vintage brooches given to me by my Granny. They are absolutely gorgeous and really inspire me to create something very different. 

I've also branched out into selling pre-loved and vintage clothing and accessories, including bags, shoes, scarves, belts and some beautiful clothes.

PQ: What is next for you?

A: Just this weekend I am travelling to Forfey, Enniskillen to help friends with their annual music festival's boutique. This is a real highlight of my year and I can't wait to get there to get my jewellery and vintage clothes and trinkets displayed! I am also taking a DIY Jewellery workshop at the festival.

Also, in September this year I will be showing at the Merchant Hotel, Belfast at the Merchant Fashion Teas with Diamond Dolls, Banbridge and will also have a little pop-up shop in the hotel for a few days during that event. I am super excited about this!

In October I hope to be showing again at Belfast Fashionweek, and there may be another Unify showcase in the pipeline too.

PQ: Finally, what is your vision for Melanie Bond Jewellery? Are you encouraged by the success of local designers such as Grainne Maher and Zoe Boomer?

A: Absolutely! Grainne and Zoe, amongst others, are real inspirations. They are incredibly talented and creative individuals and have worked very hard to get where they are.

My ultimate dream is to have my own shop one day and I'm looking forward to when that day comes. I am enjoying working in the local fashion industry at the moment and never  imagined things would develop as far as they have.

~

I, for one, look forward to the day there is a Melanie Bond shop near me!

Do visit Melanie's website and Facebook (linked above) to see more pictures of her gorgeous creations, and get in touch if you have a stunning outfit you need an equally stunning piece of jewellery for.

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