Sabira Silcock: Jeweller and owner of SKEN Studios

Name: Sabira Silcock

Job title: Jeweller and owner of SKEN Studios.

Career path: I graduated from a BA in Decorative Arts at Nottingham Trent University in 2014, the course  was quite multidisciplinary and it was during my time here that I decided I wanted to pursue a  career in jewellery. After graduating, I launched Sabira Silcock Jewellery, a business I ran  alongside working other part-time jobs. During that time, I sold mainly through shops and  galleries in the UK, with most of my earnings from sales feeding back into the business, to buy  the tools I needed. I also interned for a few small companies and trained under a very talented  Goldsmith called Loree Bologna, she taught me a lot of the traditional skills which had been  lacking in my BA course. 

In 2016, I moved to Stockholm to undertake an MA in jewellery at Konstfack, a prestigious art  and design University based in an old Ericsson phone factory. This education really pushed me  and forced me to see jewellery as a more conceptual ‘fine art’ type lens. I moved back to  Manchester in 2018 after two amazing years in Stockholm and got pregnant with my son Rupert  pretty much immediately as soon as I arrived back. It was during the first few months of being  on maternity leave with a very small Rupert that I had time to reflect and come up with ideas for  SKEN Studios. I then launched in May 2020. 

Ideas & Planning: I’m usually not a huge planner when it comes to designing a new jewellery collection. My  process normally begins with a few sketches on the back of a receipt or if the mood takes me,  one of my many half-filled sketchbooks. The initial sketches for my first SKEN Studios  collection were drawn on my iPhone notes – the only tool to hand when I was trapped while  feeding my baby son. 

After sketching, I translate my drawings into silver; I draw directly onto the silver sheet then  saw out the shapes. For my Signet rings, I carve a special type of Jewellers’ wax, which is then  cast into recycled silver. I prototype all of my designs and then test-wear them to make sure I’m  happy with the final product.  

I try to work quickly to override my true instincts to ‘fanny around’. My studio is located at the  bottom of my garden, which is proving a nice short commute, with just enough distance from  the house to prevent me from opening the fridge door every five seconds. 

Finance: I launched SKEN Studios earlier this year during lockdown, which seemed like a really risky  move but it worked out well. At the time I was furloughed from a part-time job, so I used some  of my wages from that towards start-up costs, like a website and packaging. 

I tried to make the packaging feel luxurious and special by spending time, rather than money on  the little details. I hand-stamped the cotton bags for earrings and shredded colourful waste paper  as packaging stuffing. One thing I absolutely couldn’t scrimp on was the gold embossed ring  boxes, I wanted those to feel extra special. Trades can also be a clever way to keep costs low in  the early days. I made a signet ring for my graphic designer friend and in return she designed my  logo and branding, which I love.  

The main thing I did to finance the first collection was to make my first pieces available as pre  order only. As precious metals are expensive, this allowed me to gage which pieces were  popular without huge start-up costs. Once I had enough orders, I bought the silver and made the  pieces in batch, which saves time. 

Networking: In my pre-Covid life, I worked at Manchester Craft & Design Centre, which is a great hub of  talented craftspeople. They also run regular Makers meet-ups which are great for meeting people  in the same professional boat.  At the moment, most of my networking takes places on Instagram. I’ve met some other amazing  designers and business owners; Gwen from Grey Millk, Sara who runs Kano and Tara Collette who makes the most incredible banners, to name a few. I was also approached by July Child, a  Manchester based cult brand which stocks the most stylish accessories – our signet rings will  soon be available to buy from their website. Networking doesn’t need to be stuffy and formal,  just slide someone a DM and see what happens. 

Typical working day: My typical working day is varied; I’ll be prototyping some new earrings in the morning, packing  orders after lunch and polishing rings in the afternoon. People talk about having to ‘wear  different hats’ as a small business owner, which is clichéd but true. You have to have a handle on  all these different aspects of running a business which can sometimes leave you feeling scatty but ultimately it stops me from getting bored with my work.

You can shop Sabira’s latest creations here.


Danielle Rhoda: Freelance Illustrator, Animator, Designer ( Maker of things)

Name: Danielle Rhoda

Job title: Freelance Illustrator, Animator, Designer

Ideas & Planning: My work usually focuses on people and places I’ve seen personally. I often begin with sketching or will turn to sketches I’ve done on-site. I used to be careful of not ‘over-sketching’ as I found that it turned out too static for my liking, I prefer it when the marks are loose and playful, often with some mistakes, it breathes life into the illustrations. I’ve never been a fan of details sketching, takes too much time and I quickly then loose focus. Like to spend a few minutes doing so and moving to the main thing! I’d describe my way of working as quite fast-paced but also carefully observed.

Finance: Just starting out in freelance so it’s in no way a stable income yet and pricing varies!

Networking: At univeristy and since I always tried to show up to various events but more for the genuine interest and networking just happens naturally then! I love to collaborate with local artists, it helps to loosen up and look at your practice from a different point of view. It’s super important to remain connected with other people in the industry, you never know what might lead to the next opportunity. Also as freelancers we might often find ourselves stuck in our own head a little bit, it’s so valuable having others to bounce your ideas off of and discuss issues as well as exciting developments.

Quote to live by – Progress is not linear

Instagram @danielle_rhoda and website

Manchester’s Sustainable Fashion Party

Words: Amy Callaghan

Manchester is a city with a vibrant fashion and style scene. From the abundance of chic young professionals in the city centre to the students sporting unexpected combinations of vintage and contemporary clothes up and down Oxford Road, there’s always at least one eye-catching outfit on every street you walk down. And given the highly prolific vintage, second-hand and independent business scene in Manchester – concentrated in the city’s famous Northern Quarter but with outposts everywhere from Salford to Withington – it’s no surprise that sustainable fashion is finding a home in the north’s industrial epicentre. It’s difficult to imagine a more perfect apex of Manchester’s style sensibilities, vintage roots, and, of course, love of a good time, than at Manchester’s Sustainable Fashion Party, the first of its kind in the city.

Manchester’s Sustainable Fashion Party, held late February this year, in Salford’s high-ceilined, white-walled fivefourstudios, puts ethical consumption at the heart of fashion. As more conversations open up about the climate emergency, the culpability of the fashion industry in employing dangerously wasteful fashion practices is becoming harder and harder to ignore. Looking to step away from treating many finite resources as disposable, both those involved in the fashion industry as well as consumers are increasingly seeking out more sustainable and ethical practices – and those people in Manchester decided to have a party to raise awareness, support, and funds (all profits from the night went to local non-profit Emmeline’s Pantry, who provide food, clothes, toiletries and baby items to women in need and their families).

The event was organised by Alison Carlin, who moved to Manchester 25 years ago and became thoroughly involved in the arts and culture scene in the city. Founder of Ally Pally Vintage, Alison aims to encourage second-hand shopping and the fun and creativity that go along with it, along with the incomparable ethical and sustainable benefits such practices create. This attitude, in fact, shone through the whole night, particularly from those speaking about their local businesses and efforts to combat the damaging effects of fast fashion, but also in the catwalk, which showcased exactly how stylish sustainable fashion can be.

Opening the event was a poem from Kermit Leveridge, formerly of the band Black Grape, read by Kelly Hughes. In it, Leveridge effectively critiqued the fast fashion industry – as he points out “the time between new collections seems to be getting shorter and shorter” – how can this obsession with disposing of old trends and bringing in the new for a short period of time be sustained?

This conversation was continued in the panel discussion of people involved in various ways in the fashion industry, many of them local to Manchester. First to speak was Sophie Benson, a former stylist who left her job as she couldn’t reconcile what she was doing with the insidious practices that keep the fast fashion industry running. Sophie is now a freelance writer trying to raise awareness of how we can all engage in more sustainable fashion practices – her tips ranged from the everyday and expected (shopping secondhand wherever possible) to bigger picture calls to action (she recommends contacting your MP as government legislation could really help to curtail the negative and unsustainable practices of the fashion industry).

Niamh Carr, owner of brand and creative outlet NEMCEE, aims to make things to last as long as possible, as she believes that extremely high-quality garments that don’t need to be replaced are crucial to a sustainable fashion future. Every element of Niamh’s designs are considered with a view to being, essentially, irreplaceable, in the sense that they should never need to be replaced – she only uses buttons and never zips, for example, so that they can be replaced easily if necessary. Another independent business owner local to Manchester, Anita Smith, also emphasised the positive impact doing things for yourself at home can have on ethical fashion. She runs Sew What, designing and making clothes inspired by vintage styles using only deadstock, vintage or donated fabric. Anita also runs workshops showing customers how to make their own, as she believes that if more people knew how to sew, the dissonance between the price of a garment in, say, Primark, and the effort it takes to make it would be exposed more clearly – and they would realise how cheaply they could make their own clothes from charity shop fabric!

All the other panellists (Vinnie Tao of SneakerPharm, Rich Gill of Bags of Flavour, and Camilla Cheung of Wardrobe Wellbeing) also emphasised their own backgrounds and how the disconnect between their increasing beliefs in ethical practices and sustainability led them to where they are today, each running businesses that aim to promote more sustainable and ethical style choices (Camilla Cheung, for example, worked formerly in retail management then trained in counselling in order to provide a comprehensive service that links fashion and wellbeing).

The response from the comments of the whole panel from the audience was phenomenal, with many of their remarks being greeted by cheers – and when Alison herself made an appearance on stage, she brought the house down. The event clearly attracted an audience in Manchester – of all ages, and all, in my opinion anyway, very fashionable – who are deeply interested in increasing their own sustainable and ethical practices, and rejecting those of the fast fashion industry. In the catwalk immediately following the panel, the audience got a taste of what’s on offer right here in Manchester to help them do so, with outfits modelled from a wide range of local vintage, secondhand and sustainable shops and boutiques, from Suzy Loves Milo, Pop Boutique and Bee Vintage to the slightly more specific but just as stunning Camilla Vintage Wedding Dresses. Followed by a stunning performance from House of Ghetto, a vogue dancing group, and DJ’d by Danielle Moore of Crazy P, the event soon turned into another Manchester favourite – just generally a cracking night out. The success of the event can only leave us with an optimistic view of Manchester’s future as a leader of sustainability, and a hope that many more events like it are soon to follow, if only for the excellent time that was had by all.

Storylines Interior Design: How to make your home office work for you

Ilkley-based Interior Designer, Caroline Ann of Storylines unites beauty and function to create dynamic and stylish residential and commercial spaces whilst supporting local trades, artisans and designers. With so many of us now utilising our homes as a workspace, Caroline lists her top five ways to make a home office work in our favour.

Working from home is such a joy. The flexibility. The (relative) freedom. No commute. No 9 ’til 5. But is your work space everything you deserve it to be?

It’s far too easy to neglect your home office space, but the reality is you probably spend rather a lot of time there. One of the benefits of working from home is that your work space should be as comfortable and personal as the rest of your home. So, here are a few tips to make your office space work that little bit harder for you.


This sounds obvious, but make sure you allocate a space. No more dining table or sofa. This is even more important if you can’t dedicate a separate room to it. Whether it’s a little nook, the spare room or a space on the landing, make sure you claim it for your own. It helps stop the work/home blur and ensures you have a proper space to focus in.


Sometimes you have to make-do, but if you can, invest in the important pieces. You spend a lot of time sat at your desk, so it needs to be comfy. But don’t feel you have to be restricted to conventional office furniture. As long as it offers the comfort and support you need to sit there for long periods, be as creative as you like. There’s also plenty of design-led ergonomical furniture now, so shop around and find something you love. Don’t compromise.


Good designs work aesthetically and practically. This is all the more important in a work space. Storage is key, but that doesn’t mean you need to stick to the traditional office filing cabinet. Be realistic about your storage and filing requirements though. You might love a minimal look and think you can make do with limited storage provision. But if the reality is a “minimal” look with papers all over the floor, it doesn’t look or feel so great. Good storage doesn’t need to be expensive. Be creative; try adding some rustic wooden shelves for texture and to avoid a corporate feel.


Good ambient and task lighting is essential for work spaces. Ideally an office space will have plenty of natural light but if that’s not the case for your space, think about how best to create a light, bright space. Recessed downlights can be a simple solution, and then you can play around with some plug-in options. Find a funky desk lamp, and have fun with some feature lighting too. Work the industrial vibe with simple wire cage pendants or be playful with string lights. There are plenty of plug-in wall light options too which work well.


It’s no secret that I love sheepskins but there’s no easier way to add softness, warmth and texture to a space. Just adding a rug makes a work space more homely, more personal. It’s also a great way to zone your workspace or add a touch of colour or pattern. Even just adding a throw over your office chair makes it just that little bit more inviting.


No one wants to work in a sterile space. Make it personal; style it up. Add a photo gallery wall or frame a couple of those pictures your little one brought back from school. Buy that cool stationary and add some plants. It’ll brighten up your office, and your day. And if it helps to justify it, remember it’s for work!

Buttercrumble – The Female Twin-Team proving that two heads are better than one

We’re sure there are many of you out there who dream of starting your own business, whether you aspire to be your own boss, or be a trailblazer in your field, we know that making the jump can sometimes be the hardest part about realising our dreams. With this in mind, we wanted to introduce you to the women behind Buttercrumble. Not only are they one another’s cheerleader, but they are also big supporters of female collaboration and empowerment, who want to inspire strong women so that they too can run their own teams and partnerships.

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Strength in Numbers

Written by Gilly Piece

Someone once told me that the physical shape of a theatre building reflects the work that happens in it and the people who engage with it.

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