“Comfort Station” is one of those places that give London that unforgettable image of a city full of creativity and talent
A silent and colourful Cheshire Street, in the heart of Shoreditch in London, quite effectively mirrors the beauty of a little store I’m about to enter. Located between two artisan shops and surrounded by numerous vintage ones, a jewellery studio called “Comfort Station” undoubtedly stands out. Wonderful and talented owner a London-born Fine Artist Amy Anderson arrives in the studio on a bike, which momentarily reminds me of Vivienne Westwood. With a cheerful smile and natural appearance, she kindly invites me in and asks me to wait for a few minutes.
Although the studio is rather small, its plainness and evident beauty surely compensate for its size. In accordance with that plain ambience, the conceptual jewellery is nicely placed on antique books, wood cases and white walls. Just across the main entrance beautiful crockery and porcelain is placed on an antique table, which reflects the store’s uniqueness.
While looking around the studio and thinking what and how should I photograph the jewellery, I realised how easy hard work, talent and skills can drive you to your aim, and how lucky you should be if you achieve it. “Comfort Station” is exactly that – a true image of what London’s talent can offer nowadays.
Maybe I wasn’t that lucky to become a prima ballerina (I shouldn’t have left the ballet school after 5 years of dancing), but I was lucky enough to speak to the wonderful and talented Amy.
Amy: No, I fell into this by accident. I studied Art, Sculpture and Photography. When I left college I set up a market stall with clothes, handbags and some accessories. [Before that] I went to India and I bought lots of fabrics of which I made a few things. I came back here and started selling them [on the market stall]. I focused on handbags for a really long time. Besides the market stall, I started selling them to other shops. After that I started doing some designs for the London Fashion Week, after which I begun selling to even more shops. And finally, I got this shop. I stopped with the market stall, and continue selling to other shops. I always struggled with the factories, and getting into production. While I was doing one particular collection my samples didn’t arrive. I was waiting for 40 handbags and people from the factory kept saying “they’re coming, they’re coming”. But they never came. Two weeks before the show I was like ‘I’ve got these very expensive shows to do and I can’t get the money back, what am I going to do’. So I thought, ‘I’ll just make some jewellery’ so that I have something to put on the stand. After eight sample handbags arrived, I put lots of jewellery with them. And at the end everyone went crazy for the jewellery. So I thought, ‘Hm, this is a lot easier than dealing with the factory’. Next season I did more jewellery and less handbags, and the next even more jewellery…gradually, the jewellery just went crazy.
Amy: Yeah, and then I was like ‘I love handbags and I love designing them’ but the problem with production and getting them made…it’s so hard. With jewellery you can oversee it all. All factory is here…
LM: You made yourself your own boss…
Amy: I can guarantee the quality, I can guaranty the delivery and I can guaranty everything. It’s so much less stressful. I’m all about quality of life and less stress. It’s just as enjoyable and you can turn this immediately. It is much less waist.
Amy: I think a lot of people wear jewellery for a lot of different reasons. Jewellery is really nice because it is a sentimental thing, much more than clothing for example. People give them as gifts, people give it to mean things, to express things and to symbolize things. And that’s what’s really nice. We do a lot wedding rings and similar. People use it to say sorry and etc…
LM: To say something personal…
Amy: Yeah, or for a very big birthday for example. People hold on to jewellery because it has that kind of a heritage thing. I’ve got a couple who just got married and they had their wedding rings from their family who are Hungarian. They kept it secretly from the Nazis and it didn’t fit them. But we melt it down and made their wedding rings with it.
LM: I noticed you mix a lot of things. You don’t only focus on one type of metal, silver for example, you mix a lot. Is that important for you?
Amy: I don’t think there’s a specific meaning in mixing things, it’s a matter of visual aesthetics. I just don’t like focusing on one thing. I find just silver boring, or just gold boring. I like to do some all silver or all gold thing, but that’s just a matter of variations. There are a lot of our customers who only want gold, or only want silver, but some don’t even care.
LM: You’ve been on London Fashion Week as you mentioned before. How important was that for you and your work, especially being a Londoner yourself?
Amy: Not very. (laugh) I like London Fashion, but I wouldn’t say that was that important. I think its profile is taking quite seriously but it’s not the show that it used to be when I started. It was a much bigger thing and it pulled a lot more buyers from around the world. However, now it’s much quiter affair. It’s much more the profile of it rather than the actual trade show, which is a shame. That’s the reason I stopped doing it.
Amy: I have done some collaborations in the past. I think it should fit; if it is the right person, I would do it. I like doing collaborations. I’m trying to get a different artists friend to do the crockery at the moment. I’ve designed my latest collection, but I’m hoping to get a friend of mine who’s an amazing illustrator to do a little range for us. I like the idea of having different artists doing different pieces.
LM: What are you working on right now?
Amy: For our tenth birthday this spring we are finishing up a special one-off piece which will be available online and in the shop.
LM: And you won’t uncover anything else about the piece…? (laugh)
LM: That’s amazing! A lot of designers did that this year. A lot of them included the engraving into their pieces, making clothing and handbags personalized. For example, Longchamp made a collection where you can put your initials on the bag…
Amy: Oh yes, it’s very cool. It’s something we have been doing for years in the shop. We do it with rings. A lot of people get their wedding rings personalized with coordinates. Coordinates are one of our signature pieces.
LM: Let’s talk about your designs for a moment. Do you draw them on a paper, or you use the computer? How difficult do you find this process?
Amy: I do a lot of sketching. I tend to scribble and note down what’s in my head. I am quite manual, and I do a lot of actual designing on the mannequin. There are very few things I have from start to finish in my head. Normally it’s only a part of the design in my head.
Amy: Yeah, it’s still a manual job…
LM: Approximately, how long does it take for a piece to be made? A ring for example, from start to finish…the design and than making the piece?
Amy: I can spend forever designing something. Once the design is finished, making it doesn’t take very long. It’s a nightmare to make some pieces because it requires a lot of your time. Some are really labour of love and some are really cost effective. It depends on the item. But it can happen that you spend ages on some items. We have rings here that are not so difficult to make, but the engraving takes a lot of time because it needs to be perfect.
LM: It doesn’t apply here that if something is bigger it’s more difficult to make?
Amy: Generally the cost shows how difficult something was made.
LM: What advice would you give to young, aspiring jewellery designers?
Amy: It changed so much since I started out. I would probably say to them to gain as much experience as they can. You don’t really have the experimental markets as you used to. So I think it’s a lot harder to set up a shop now. I would say that they should get as much experience with some other ateliers and see how all works. I think it’s a very good thing to get an idea how these things work, how do we to put things together…
Photos are the courtesy of the author.
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