One of the most frequently asked questions I receive is “how did you become a jeweller?” and “is it something you always wanted to do?” I feel I need to give you my back story because how I got to this point of becoming a jeweller, it definitely wasn’t a career aspiration in high school, but the story of how it all happened was an interesting ride.
In short, I did a 4 year apprenticeship and had no idea this was even a trade!
I grew up in a small town on the north west coast of Tasmania. I’d often walk to school and on the way home I’d call in to the gypsy shop full of crystals, incense and tarot cards. I’d ask all the questions about the stones and what they were for and the reiki lady would tell me of all their energy and healing properties. I probably annoyed the shit out of this woman every afternoon, but I loved going there. She would show me how to feel the energy by hovering my hands above the stones, feeling it tingle into my fingertips, it was a new world of wonders and definitely set me on this path without me knowing it.
During my school years I was pretty artistic and loved my art classes. I wasn’t super academic, mostly because I was a “Social Butterfly” my teachers would say, and not a lot has changed! But I excelled in the arts and science. I thought I’d maybe go off to Art school or something, but then what kind of career would I make out of that? Not a real viable one. I didn’t love my Catholic school and the institution of it, it wasn’t very open to new ideas and I thought quite differently to what was accepted there. I wasn’t a popular kid, more of a floater and friends with everyone. I’d often hang out in the art rooms at lunchtime and just work on my projects, it was my sanctuary. I finished year 10, and started college but just couldn’t finish, I felt caged in that environment it was suffocating me. So I left and moved to Hobart to do a Tourism course, unsuccessfully! I’m a pretty spontaneous person and left for an open ended visit to my best friend on the Gold Coast.. that sounded way more fun!!
I was on the Gold Coast for a while but it was time to think about heading home, I had enough cash to get me to Melbourne, I was going to stay there a while but I had a fairly life altering incident which changed the course of my life. It spun my nomadic dreams into a hurricane of trauma and the thought of travelling alone began to terrify me. I needed to be home to recover. So back to Tassie I went.
I starting applying for jobs, you know, the usual, hospitality, farm work anything.. Then applied for this fancy Jewellery assistant job , never thinking I would get it.. But your girl can talk the talk!! I ended up being Junior Sales assistant, I was pretty impressed with myself getting to look fancy every day, dripping in jewellery, selling diamond rings. My most favourite part of my work was dropping our trade jobs off the Jeweller Rob to be resized and old jewellery fixed. I was fascinated about his little dingy back room, with all the tools, dust and bits and pieces laying around. I would stand over his shoulder and watch what he was doing, it was fascinating. I go away and think about questions to ask the next week, to see what projects he was working on and what he had made. Robs jewellery was like no other I had seen in the shop I worked in, It was so unique, such amazing colored stones, so heavy and soooo many bright and sparkling diamonds. I was falling in love with this place, I loved how knowledgeable Rob was and his apprentice Bec. She was fun and now a life long friend. I started visiting when I’d knocked off work and hanging out in the workshop a bit, Rob would let me make a silver ring or pendant and have a turn at different things. I didn’t think this would be a job opportunity at the time, so I talked my way into Uni to study Nursing and was accepted. I got cold feet and was talking to Rob about it and how it didn’t feel right, I said I needed an apprenticeship and I really really wanted to do it. Rob accepted me and I turned into the workaholic that I am, living and breathing the trade.
I worked for Rob for about 12 years, 12 mostly amazing years. I loved my apprenticeship, I got to work on everything. I gained such a rounded set of skills, we would work late and drink beers, I was a bit of a party animal and would keep Bec and Rob fairly well entertained with my hilarious naughty pub stories. If you knew me then, my weekend started on a Wednesday and finished on a Sunday arvo. Solid.
During trade school I won best first year apprentice, that was pretty cool and I was pretty proud of myself. I went on to win a couple of silver medals at the regional World Skills comps and again I was pretty pleased with those too. I loved everything about my work, I could do it day in day out and never dream of doing anything more fulfilling. It is definitely a part of who I am and my identity.
With my work now, I really feel me going back to my roots and thinking of the Reiki lady and I am now trying to incorporate those energic practices into my work, but on a much higher end than commercial imported jewellery. A more local focus and more ethical practices. I feel my work is constantly evolving and I have so many new ideas. I have a very different business model to a normal jewellery shop, its a deeper more intrinsic way to bring the work to life. To bring your identity into this item that reflects you and your journey. I hope you have enjoyed mine, I’ll probably think of other things to include later on, but in full there you have it. I’ll do another piece on when and why I started a home studio down the track and how that evolved to Nicole Viney Jewellery as you know and love it!