If you consider yourself a maximalist when it comes to jewellery, and found yourself fawning over the contemporary brands featured last month, then you’re going to love the idea of chunky textile jewellery!
Based in Sheffield, former teacher Beth Pegler began making and selling textile jewellery in 2015, and now produces two collections of knotted rope jewellery a year. Her large bold pieces are a riot of colour and texture, and have proved an instant hit due to their ability to add an uplifting statement to any outfit, day or night.
“The inspiration behind my brand comes from many places,” Beth tells me. “I’m particularly interested in the process of taking an age-old craft, knot-making, and making it modern and wearable. I’m also inspired by being by the sea and its harbours and beaches. I have so many photos of fishermen’s ropes and knots on my phone and I love the bleakness and colours of a winter beach,” she says. “Design-wise, I love bold, simple design and repetition appeals to me, both aesthetically and in the making of the pieces. I find it very therapeutic.”
Textile-based jewellery is bold and impactful, but it’s also lightweight, so it’s really easy to wear.
Another significant inspiration behind the brand was the desire to work for herself, and around my four children. “I don’t come from an art or design background,” she tells me, “although I have always loved making. I did an English Literature and Creative Writing degree and then trained as a primary school teacher. When my fourth child was born though, I really wanted to take a break from teaching.”
Her journey really began when she discovered a stack of old macramé books in a charity shop. “I started learning different knots,” she tells me, “and soon found it to be addictive – especially when I nailed a tricky knot! I set up a Folksy shop selling a variety of things I’d made, but the rope jewellery proved the most popular so I quickly decided to focus solely on that. At the end of 2017 I designed my own website, and now have two collections of rope jewellery a year and work with some fantastic women on photo shoots for these.”
“I’ve always loved wearing and making jewellery,” she says. “As a child I used to make friendship bracelets and finger-knitted necklaces – which I guess isn’t that far away from what I do now in some ways! I love the way a piece of jewellery can instantly lift an outfit and make you feel special. When I started the business we really didn’t have much money, and making a piece of rope jewellery for myself to wear was a way of changing an outfit and making me feel like I had something new.”
Textile-based jewellery is bold and impactful, but it’s also lightweight, so it’s really easy to wear. “It’s highly versatile, so can be worn everyday,” says Beth, “but at the same time I’ve made pieces for brides’ wedding days! Feedback I’ve had from some customers is the jewellery is especially good for mums with small babies, because it’s soft and they can’t catch themselves on it, or easily damage the pieces. I’ve also been told that it’s good for older people who can’t do up fiddly clasps.”
Beth is keen on experimentation in developing her new collections and tells me that she enjoys nothing more than trying out different knots to see how and if they can be incorporated into a piece of jewellery. “Sometimes I’ll discard a piece only to come back to it much later, when I’ve found a different rope that it works better with, or realised it would work as a longer or thicker piece,” she tells me. “I test-wear all the pieces myself to get a feel for them, and then decide on the colours for each collection, which is really important to me and something I love doing! I like to see how the colours work in combination, and then curate a whole photo shoot around those pieces.”
Another thing she is meticulous in is the provenance of her materials. “I like to use natural materials, produced by small, family-run businesses,” she says. “I have four children so am naturally very conscious about the world we are leaving for the next generation. The rope I use conforms to OKEO-TEX Standard 100, which means it is rigorously tested to ensure it is free from any harmful substances. The rope itself also originates from recycled cotton that comes from both landfill and production waste.”
In addition to this, Beth only uses packaging that is 100% recyclable and likes to keep it to a minimum. “It makes me mad when I order something tiny and it arrives inside a mass of packaging material!” she says. “All my pieces are handmade to order and measured exactly, so I have very little waste in my production process. I even walk to the post office whilst I’m on the school run!”
Long-term, Beth tells me that she is keen to begin experimenting with different materials. “I’m looking forward to starting a jewellery course in September that I should have begun in April,” she tells me. “I’ll be learning traditional techniques, so it will be interesting to see how I can sustainably incorporate silver, brass and gold into my work going forward.”
She also tells me that she would love to do another exhibition, after being featured in The Scottish Gallery’s 2019 exhibition Feeling Fabric. “Taking part took me out of my comfort zone and pushed me to make bigger, bolder and more experimental work,” she says. “Ultimately though, if I’m still able to work around my children and set my own hours whilst maintaining the integrity of my work, then that’s what is most important to me.”
All photography © Danni Maibaum, except final image © India Hobson, all used with permission.