Words by Della Vreeland Images supplied
The health pandemic resulted in the cancellation of markets and the closure of retailers everywhere. This hasn’t just been devastating for businesses, but also for those who showcase their works and products within these spaces.
According to teacher and maker Sarah Johnson, however, there is still a multitude of ways consumers can support artists and creators. One half of the creative duo that is Sarah Jane Jewellery, the Gippsland resident says supporting small businesses isn’t just about making purchases.
‘We know that everyone is struggling at the moment, whether it be mentally or financially,’ Sarah says. ‘Small businesses thrive on word of mouth referrals and feedback and sharing or liking of social media posts. Any sales are an added bonus and let’s be honest, always welcome. When you make a purchase from a small business, it makes our heart happy and we do a little happy dance!’
Sarah and her friend of 15 years Jane Irwin have lived in Gippsland their entire lives. As teachers, they say they are grateful to live in a region that is not too far from the city and which boasts premium services and programs catered specifically for children.
‘We are blessed,’ Jane says. While the ladies spend most of their days in the classroom (COVID life notwithstanding), they say they have always enjoyed dabbling in arts and craft ventures – including painting classes, workshops and cooking lessons. But it was during a period of family leave that the pair decided to take this dabbling to the next stage.
‘We began designing pieces by hand, painting every individual wooden bead in addition to hand-rolling each clay bead. We have retired our hand-painted pieces now, (but) we still roll all of our clay jewellery by hand, fingerprints and all,’ Sarah explains.
The current range includes necklaces made from a variety of mediums including clay, felt, wood and silicone, as well as earrings, lanyards, key-rings and DIY kits, with new pieces added regularly – including works for mini fashionistas.
‘We first began our business predominantly through local markets. After we started to create a little interest amongst the locals, we began an online store,’ she says. ‘Seven years later, we are blessed to have our work featured in local galleries and stores across Australia, in addition to being listed on various online platforms.’
As is the case with all artists during this time, there’s no denying Sarah Jane Jewellery has faced its fair share of trials.
‘The biggest challenge is definitely time constraints,’ Sarah says. ‘We have had to make the change to almost solely selling online, so we have had to photograph our entire stock for online stores, keeping up with quantities, orders, enquiries, making and creating, and post office runs while also working full time, engaging our classes in online learning and also just being mums. We have also experienced delays with postage, ordering supplies, sourcing supplies – the list goes on.’
That being said, Sarah says there were some positives associated with the pandemic due to people being confined to isolation. ‘In a ‘normal’ world, we would be attending regular markets and any online sales would be a bonus,’ she says.
But our online business drastically increased throughout the pandemic. We hope that our online sales continue to flourish, with the support of local businesses and online platforms such as One Hour Out, who have enabled small businesses to continue trading during this time.
As well as managing their own side hustle, Sarah and Jane serve in a volunteer capacity on the Gippsland Creators Collective, which operates the largest market in the region.
‘We would love to get back to the market scene,’ Sarah says. ‘We are currently in the process of organising a Creators Collective Christmas Market in Gippsland but, understandably, in a pandemic world, there are many hoops to jump through and boxes to tick to see any large scale events come to life.’
As COVID continues to create endless obstacles for those in the arts industry, they will continue sourcing motivation from their love of making and from connecting with their beloved community. Sarah says. ‘While jewellery making can be relaxing at times, it is also time-consuming. For us, we really value the networking and friendships we have made along the way.’
WHAT: Sarah Jane Jewellery
FIND OUT MORE: made.onehourout.com.au
We wish to acknowledge the Gunaikurnai people as traditional owners of this land and to pay our respects to their Elders, past and present.