Celebrating Creativity interview: The Serpents Club’s Emily Mae Tobin
Every now and then you come across someone so achingly cool that you just hope that by being in the general energy zone that some of that cool will rub off on you. So, what better than to be able to buy and wear a bit of that person’s cool? To celebrate creativity this month I am talking to Emily Mae Tobin, freelance womenswear and accessories designer and founder of The Serpents Club – an independent British label offering bespoke statement jewellery with an eco-conscious feel.
Emily’s jewellery is made using semi precious stones, individually sourced from around the world. Each piece is handcrafted in our Manchester studio using sustainable techniques and materials wherever possible.
Welcome to Up Coaching Emily, is great to have you here. Why don’t we start by you letting us about the essence of The Serpents Club?
I think the main thing I try to bring to the table with The Serpents Club is making things that are versatile enough to be worn throughout the seasons. Everything is made using semi-precious stones that are all unique and each piece is customisable in length so the customer can create his or her own-layered looks. I think that’s what makes the jewellery different – it’s designed and made to be hardwearing (and tarnish-free!) whilst also allowing the customer to be part of the creative process – which is pretty unique when it comes to costume jewellery in this price range.
How did get into jewellery design?
I’d always mixed and matched pendants and chains but it was never something I pursued. I have really bad metal allergies so I could never wear a lot of costume jewellery (or afford the fine jewellery I like).
You talk about being obsessed with nature, historical jewellery, science fiction, psychedelia, pop culture, the occult and mythology. How does this melting pot of fascinations transpose into your work?
I take a lot of inspiration from historical jewellery for shapes and details. Jewellery has been around for thousands of years so there’s so much inspiration – I love that each piece tells a story. The occult and mythology have always been great interests of mine; past styles have been named after mythological characters and this seasons styles are named after characters from ’60’s and ’70’s satanic films. I especially love making more statement pieces that have a really grandiose ornamental feel to them. I think the psychedelic and science fiction elements plays together with the jewellery with how minimalist the designs tend to be. All the stones are cut in geometric shapes and in really vivid colours – I think they could look awesome in something like Barbarella or The Holy Mountain.
How did you get started with your business?
It happened by accident. Truth be told, I was at university full time and working as a DJ on nights. I finally finished for summer, found that I had enough money saved to live on and decided I’d had enough of being out at 3am on weeknights. I had 4 months off with nothing to do and by the 3rd week of watching bad reality TV and generally being a burn out I decided I had to find something productive to stop myself getting cabin fever. I lived with these 2 art students who always had like reels of wire, boxes of modelling materials and equipment lying around. So I began playing around with stones that I had and I made myself loads of jewellery. One day my housemate was going through them and talked me into selling them on Etsy. It kind of snowballed from there.
What is the best (and worst) thing about working for yourself?
The best thing is watching something I’ve built evolve and mature, as I get older. I don’t think I would have done all this knowing the work it would take going in. It’s definitely matured me in a lot of ways and taught me to be more patient. The downsides are it can be rough when I’m juggling all the different roles alongside maintaining my personal life. I worked full time alongside it for a while which was brutal, but it’s really rewarding when everything comes together, it’s definitely something that’s got more interesting and exciting as I’ve gone on.
What’s next for you and The Serpent Club?
I’m working on leather goods at the moment and fine jewellery, so that alongside orders has got me pretty busy!
Who, or what, are the biggest influences in your life?
I think my parents were definitely a big influence for me. They were both really young and still pretty ‘cool’ when I was a kid so I grew up around a lot of music and great style. My dad was an artist and runs his own recording studio, so I got taken to festivals and gallery openings a lot. It definitely inspired my need to do something creative! They’ve both always been really supportive and encouraged me to be independent and work hard. My mum even wears my jewellery!
What inspires you so much it makes you cry / laugh / your heart quicken?
Travelling! Barcelona and Egypt definitely are favourites. I love the architecture and general vibe of Barcelona. Egypt for the mummies, museums and tours inside pyramids. I love all that macabre stuff!
What does being creative mean to you?
I think just interpreting your interests and surroundings into your medium, whether it’s graphic design, fashion design, or painting. I think it’s important when creating something to trust your own gut and taste and to not be affected by what other people are doing or hyping.
If you could have be born to another time, when would that be?
That’s such a hard question. I mean I would love to see the Egyptian or Roman eras just because the art and monuments would be incredible to see in their former glory, but I’d probably get my ass killed within a day. Society was a lot more old testament back then! So safe choice: early 1960’s so I could be a teen in the ’70’s – great music, film and clothing.
What would you have been if you didn’t do what you do now?
I worked for a company on the design team before I left to pursue this full time. I think I probably would have continued to work for other people in fashion, or eventually do my own clothing label. The jewellery really happened purely by timing and chance!