INTERVIEW: Sophie Filomena Designs

Like most creatives, Sophie Filomena‘s journey from art student to jewellery designer has been an unexpected but exciting one. With the intention of making money from her drawings, Sophie stumbled upon jewellery design so effortlessly and has been creating bright, playful necklaces and earrings ever since.

Based at The Island Studio’s in Bristol, Filomena’s eccentric approach to colour, pattern and shape result in truly fierce statement pieces that deserve to be the centre of attention. Her designs are eccentric, feminine, sophisticated and fun and fully encompassing of Bristol’s vibrancy.

Hannah Rooke speaks to Sophie Filomena on the highs and lows of her journey as a creative and what it takes to make it work.
Have you always wanted to be a jewellery designer?
I never imagined I’d be doing something like this. I’ve always been an illustrator and have been working towards making a living from that, ever since I can remember. The jewellery was a spur of the moment project I decided to have a go at in the summer of last year (2017). A couple of people saw my designs on social media and asked to buy them, since then it steadily became a small business!
Where do you get your inspiration from?
I take inspiration from my childhood, such as 80s music I grew up with and the geometric composition of Memphis Milano. My designs have recently become more botanical, creating flower details on hoop earrings – preparing my new collection for the summer. With my drop dangles, I’m aiming to get crazier with the shapes and designs, hopefully appealing to a wider audience.
Explain your creative process…
Usually, the colour palette is the first thing I focus on and I continue from there. With my drop dangles, I make a selection of shapes and arrange them in an appealing way. Occasionally, I find making a few sketches helps record the idea down if it’s particularly intricate. But overall, I just make it up as I go along. I think the immediate rawness shows through sometimes.
What’s your jewellery made from and why?
Polymer clay, it’s malleable, colourful and easy to use. If you can’t find a colour you need, you can easily mix your own! It also dries lightweight so my jewellery isn’t that heavy when you wear it. I’ve been told the weight is just right!
How are your pieces different to other designers?
My products are affordable and distinct, I don’t know anyone else (in Bristol at least) who makes clay hoop earrings so I felt my designs were unique in that way. The colour palette is pretty outrageous and I’m always experimenting with new style. I hope that my fearless approach to how I make my jewellery comes across and that the person wearing them feels empowered too.
What have been the biggest advantages and disadvantages of working in Bristol?
Bristol is the place to be if you’re a start-up company or a creative in general. You can easily bounce ideas off other artists because there are so many of us! I guess that can be a problem sometimes as the market can get quite oversaturated but you just have to be innovative. It’s an inspiring place to live, so new crazy ideas and opportunities are always round the corner.
Did you go to university?
I studied Illustration at UWE Bristol. There is a deer park next to it and I made a lot of life long mates there.
What advice could you give to young creatives who are thinking about starting their own business?
It’s overwhelming and it’s something I just stumbled into. The thing is, I rarely know what i’m doing, but I think if you stick to what you love doing then the rest will follow. Don’t make stuff just to make money – but rather figure out what’s not on the market and what you can bring to the game. You don’t have to invent an entirely new product, just something simple that has your passion and spirit resonating from it. I worked in retail and hospitality for around 5 years before becoming self-sufficient and it certainly wasn’t a waste of time. You can end up learning a lot about business, customers and trends and apply it to your own plan. Listen to advice, but don’t listen to all of it. People may think they’re trying to help, but don’t let them put you off the idea because it’s ‘too hard’. Yes they’re right, but as long as you chip away at it, you’re eventually going to get there. You can only do it your own way and at your own pace.
Have you ever had a crisis moment where you thought giving it all up? We all know how hard self-employment can be…
YES! I have my fair share ‘annual breakdowns’ (and i’m not talking about car insurance). It can feel like the world doesn’t want you to be creative or even self-employed in general. Don’t make the mistake of looking at someone you think is ‘successful’ and think it was plain sailing. If you sacrifice a safe and easy life to work towards your goal – you will reap the rewards later on. Just depends on how tenacious you are.
Where do you want to be in 5 years time?
I’ve literally just started a part-time freelancing contract as an Assistant to Creative Director at an independent design agency I really admire. Currently, I’m working towards perfecting my role and advancing within that. Perhaps this will set me up nicely to create my own agency or open other opportunities for me – providing things go well. Freelancing is the life for me, whatever happens. Hopefully, my jewellery business will take off and go global – dream big ha.
Are you working on any new projects at the moment?
Yes, as well as my personal and agency work, I recently co-curated an exhibition; EQUINOX which included artists from all over the world. It was a huge success, we’re cooking up plans for EQUINOX 2.0. That’s all i can say about that!
What’s been your biggest achievement so far?
Landing the assistant job was a big deal for me. It meant I could quit waitressing, which was a great little part-timer to help keep me afloat. Now I can be fully immersed in the creative business and utilise it for my own platform and help other businesses.
Who would you love to do a colab with?
There are many great artists I love. Some I know personally, but a big one for me would be with Adi Goodrich who creates crazy set designs in LA for shoots and campaigns. I’ve always wanted to take my work into fashion and other creative areas, so literally, I’m down for whatever. There’s too many to list!
What do you prefer, making prints or jewellery?
I can’t decide with this, because I have and always will be an illustrator – but it’s definitely useful and fun to mix things up a bit. It depends on my mood that day.
What’s your favourite colour?
Fluorescent Beige.
Good choice, no one’s ever said that before… finally, if you were only allowed to make earrings or necklaces for the rest of your life, which would you pick?
Earrings. I feel like I could make an endless supply of crazy designs and I even prefer wearing them!
However, I run necklace making workshops in Bristol and I much prefer seeing what other people churn out. They are there for fun and have limitless ideas of bead designs and colour combinations. I hae a couple of dates coming up for new workshops, so keep your eyes peeled!
You can buy Sophie Filomena’s designs from her Etsy shop.

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