Our last 2020 workspace feature for ‘An Organised Life with…’ is none other than Natalie Marie Fitch, from Natalie Marie Jewellery, the cult jewellery brand based on the Northern Beaches of Sydney. Creating each piece by hand in her Sydney studio, Natalie maintains complete creative control through each and every step, from conception of a design to completion of a piece. Each resulting ring, necklace or bracelet is a testament to Natalie’s dedication and love for her craft. We visited Natalie to talk about her brand, the pros & cons of being so hand crafted & bespoke as a business & of course how she stays organised while managing a growing team.
* Side Note * Our Founder was also lucky enough to create a bespoke ring with Natalie for her 30th birthday recently too. She actually picked it up when we shot Natalies beautiful workshop & studio. See the piece HERE
Name: Natalie Marie Fitch
Occupation: Jewellery Designer
Ok, so first things first, how did it all begin and what was that light bulb moment when you decided to start the brand?
The beginnings of the brand started as less of a lightbulb moment and more of a natural progression. After I finished my studies in the Arts, majoring in jewellery and object, I slowly started building my studio set up and experimenting with my skills and aesthetic. This naturally progressed into making pieces for family and friends, which slowly turned into creating more defined stories, and eventually a collection. I already had the vision for the brand before I left university, but it was a slow burn initially while I developed my skills and set up to accomodate what I wanted to create. I was working behind the scenes on the brand for two years before we launched in 2012.
Prior to Natalie Marie what was your background career wise?
I worked full time alongside the development of the brand for the first few years, in a variety of different roles. I worked in architecture and design as a design assistant, and then later in fashion as a buyer and retail manager. Everything I did throughout these developmental years played into the expansion of my awareness in terms of business and the industry as well as my knowledge and understanding of retail, design and presentation of product. While it was hard going balancing full time work alongside the business for the first few years, I took every opportunity to learn and gain experience, and ultimately defined so much of my approach in terms of relationships, business management and work ethic.
What have your biggest pinch me moments been?
The biggest pinch me I have now is stepping back and looking at our team of now 22 dedicated, passionate and talented people, who choose to spend their days pouring love and energy into our pieces and our customers. It’s very humbling to have these remarkable individuals show up every day with energy and positivity, bringing their all to make our business the best it can be. We’ve come a long way from me at my kitchen bench, and its a great blessing to have a team I can trust to care as much as I do about every single piece and customer.
Designed and handcrafted in your beautiful Northern Beaches studio + workshop, each of your stunning bespoke & collection pieces are made with such craft and perfection. Pieces that will last a lifetime. You also offer such an incredible customer experience too - paying attention to every tiny detail which is why your brand is so loved & a go-to for many engagement rings & bespoke pieces.
What are the pros & cons to being so hand crafted & bespoke?
Handcrafting to order has always been at the core of what we do, even before we offered our ‘bespoke’ service. From a practical perspective, this means that we are a minimal waste company, only creating pieces that are specifically requested in that colour way, size or configuration. This has been a great asset in terms of consciously growing as a business. Creating to order gives our customers, and our jewellers, a great sense of investment in each piece. There is an intrinsic value in something that is created solely for you - with special attention to the tailored details. Jewellery by nature is personal and sentimental, something to invest in for the long term. This is what we are trying to create, modern heirlooms to be worn and cherished. The personalised approach is especially important when it comes to key pieces like engagement or wedding rings.
The only downside to being handcrafted and bespoke, is that customers can’t always walk away with a piece on the day, and more often than not there is a wait time involved. The result is always worth the wait, and customers always enjoy seeing the process unfold in our studio, where our jewellers are working around the clock to create these special pieces.
Where does your inspiration come from?
As a jeweller, I have always designed from a tactile, process-based methodology, letting the materials and the practice take the lead. This is really where the brands aesthetic was born. However, as time has gone on, we have really needed more structure around the design process – designing seasonal collections with defined stories. We now design the seasonal collections collaboratively, and we create much clearer images of the forms and the collection as a whole prior to making the pieces. Even so, this is always an evolving process, as when we take designs from paper to the bench, there is always a natural progression.
As a business woman it's always important to have a support network by your side - who are yours?
My partner (in life and business!) Dan, is my biggest supporter. We somehow manage to navigate the world of running a business and managing a team as well as parenting our two year old daughter, Willa, and being married! It’s not always easy, but we keep each other on track and support each other through all of the juggling.
I also couldn’t manage without the support of my team, especially my design sidekick Em. Em and I studied together at uni and have been friends for over ten years. Em has had a finger in the business for most of its life, initially helping me out the odd day here and there when I was overwhelmed with orders to then working part time, to then filling my shoes in many ways when I took a break to have my daughter. We now work side by side every day, managing our bespoke world together, and co designing and executing the creative around our three seasonal collections. We are so similar in so many ways but are also polar opposites. We seem to naturally balance out each others strengths and weaknesses, level out each others crises and fight like family. I am so grateful for our unique working relationship and friendship.
Looking back on your career to date - what would your advice be for budding like minded entrepreneurs …
Don’t be afraid to redefine what hard work means, and don’t give up when it gets hard!
2019 has been a huge year for you - what have been a few of your highlights this year & what was your strategy for managing the growth?
It’s been a big and busy year, with plenty of moving parts. Highlights have been our international pop ups, developing and growing our first real retail experience, and continuing to create pieces daily which become such a huge part of our customers stories.
Our strategy for managing growth has always been to create, maintain and nurture connections with all of the people that we work with day to day. Be it customers, suppliers, our team or anyone that we interact with as a business, we always emphasise the importance of a positive relationship and experience. I think as long as this remains at our core, we can stay true to our values no matter what the coming years bring.
Why is organisation so important to you? and have you always been organised?
We live such busy lives, with so many facets, I need to feel organised to feel some sense of control over what would otherwise be complete chaos! I have always been a an organised person, have always loved a decent to do list and a diary!
What are the top 3 ways you organise your life?
1. We have a family diary at home which tracks all of our different commitments and movements which helps to give a weekly overview of who is where and when. Dan and I are juggling so much so having this is really key to keeping things running smoothly.
2. I have a personal diary which includes my day to day movements, including the constant internal meetings and demands of a working day, ensuring I stay on top of all my different tasks. I play so many roles in the business so I am having to switch between mindsets all day - having a diary to structure my time clearly helps with this.
3. My to do list is literally my bible, I have a list open at all times, and keep track of my small and large tasks for each day and week to ensure I don’t miss anything.
Stationery wise - are you a….Diary Lover / To Do List Lover / Calendar Lover / Sketch Book lover - or all of the above?!
I cannot exist without my to do list, and as hard as I have tried to embrace technology in this sense, I can’t go past striking completed tasks out with pen on paper!
What is the one thing you are notoriously disorganised at?!…
The most disorganised area of my life is definitely my car. Its uncharacteristically messy most of the time!
Talk us through your workspace - What are your essentials you need at your desk and how would you describe the vibe?
I don’t have a fixed workspace, I float between our head office and studio, and can be found anywhere from the back room with the jewellers, to stationed in a consultation room. Being a working mum, my workspace also often ends up being my kitchen bench or living room coffee table, fitting in what I can when I can! All I need to set me up is my laptop, my notebook and my phone - oh and a cup of tea!
And finally - the fun part - what are your 2020 plans + goals for Natalie Marie?
It’s been such a busy year that we are still really shaping up our strategy and goals for next year in amongst trying to wrap up this one. I am excited to launch our new collection, Sabel, in February as its probably my favourite to date, we are working on some more international pop ups and events, as well as rebuilding our website from the ground up with a focus on customer experience. I haven’t got past my January to do list yet, but none the less very excited for what’s yet to unfold in 2020.
Want to see more of Natalie Marie?
Visit Natalie Marie Jewellery HERE
Follow Natalie Marie Jewellery HERE
PHOTOGRAPHY By the wonderful Hannah Roche