One of the things I’m most incredibly proud that we’ve achieved through Love My Dress is a reputation for showing love and support to new businesses starting out in this industry, or those tiny businesses who are more often than not, just one person, pouring their absolute all into their businesses – their love, passion, and every ounce of creative energy to produce beautiful and meaningful products and services. It is always these businesses I love working with and promoting the most through this site.
One such person is Fiona Self, the founder and designer behind artisan craft business Designed to Sparkle. Fiona hand-crafts all her own wedding jewellery and hair accessories and it is my pleasure to introduce you to her today. Based in the pretty village of Bampton in Oxfordshire, just on the edge of the Cotswolds, Fiona runs her studio largely through online orders, though she tells me best part of her job is when she is lucky enough to get to meet her brides in person.
“I have always loved to make things and develop my artistic side to help balance the more scientific nature of the day job that I used to have. Making jewellery started as a hobby but I also found that it really helped me relax away from the stresses of work. I have a collection of designs for brides to choose from, but because I make every piece to order I can also tailor my designs and make changes to suit each bride individually, or work together to create entirely bespoke pieces. Due to the online nature of my business this allows me to ship across the globe, with New Zealand being the furthest distance that I have shipped, and Hong Kong my largest International order so far.”
I’ve always been about getting to know the designer behind the name. These days it’s so easy for us to partake in transactions that involve no or very little human involvement. Call me old fashioned, but I much prefer the kind of experience where two humans are actually conversing with one another, rather than a soulless machine. And just like me, Fiona turned to her entrepreneurial callings after having a baby…
“On being made redundant around the end of my maternity leave from having my little boy, I decided that it was a chance to try making my hobby into a job! I’m not sure if I would ever have been brave enough to walk away from a well paid regular income, but I haven’t looked back since.”
“My business began very small and fitted around my little boy with him being my priority. It has grown organically through the years as has my design work and individual style. I feel like I have now found my true style – it can take time to really listen to your inner voice telling you to be true to what you love, and to trust your instincts.”
One of the big focusses for Love My Dress at the moment is ‘luxury’. It’s a word used to promote the wedding concept often, but so frequently, I feel, a word that is deeply misunderstood. Luxury isn’t something that only the rich can afford. Luxury is, amongst many other things, an excellent level of customer service and 1:1 support delivered by someone who really cares about your needs and desires. It’s the kind of attention to detail that blows you away. It is delivering this kind of service that Fiona strives for in everything she does through Designed to Sparkle.
“I would now describe my signature style as delicate and feminine with flowing graceful organic shapes. I love to create these shapes and lines using twisted wire work and teeny tiny freshwater pearls and crystals. I aim for a luxurious feel that is elegant and stylish, with individual jewellery pieces that are fairly small and subtle, but that can be styled together to give scope for plenty of sparkle or shine to still stand out. I carry this through to my bigger statement accessories by still using tiny detailing, but building it up by repeating smaller patterns and elements to create bigger scale and larger accessories. The overall impact is greater whilst still remaining delicate in appearance.”
“My main inspiration currently comes from the natural flowing lines of climbing plants such as vines or honeysuckle, and tiny delicate blossoms and buds gathered together on small branches. I live in a lovely village with the most beautiful scenery right on my doorstep, so I am never short of inspiration or an escape to recharge my batteries! Going for a run through the footpaths and fields near to me can often bring an abundance of inspiration at this time of year! My colour palette for bridal jewellery tends to stay pretty neutral with clear crystals and lustrous pearls, set against gold, silver or warm rose gold settings and wires.”
“A little colour can’t help but creep in sometimes though through blossoms and flowers that just capture me! This is shown mainly through my bridesmaid collection, but also works really well for a bride wanting a splash of colour or ‘something blue’. My love of colour is developed further in my Colour Collection of jewellery which moves beyond bridal and weddings.”
“I believe that the authenticity of my designs is what makes them special. It has taken time for me to start to create pieces that I love rather than designing just what I think that people want if that makes sense!
I now design pieces that speak to me of beauty, and believe that they will then also appeal to the brides who share my view of beauty. As with all things, jewellery and accessories are such a personal choice that it is important for brides to have a choice and to be able to find a style and finish that really works for them.”
“My style won’t appeal to everyone, but I see that as a real positive, in that I am creating for a specific audience rather than attempting to create for everyone and possibly not really hitting the mark. To the right bride I believe that my pieces will be exactly what they have been searching for, or they will relate to the look and feel and know that we can create something truly special by working together.”
Prices for a lovingly handcrafted item of bridal jewellery, or a headpiece by Designed to Sparkle start at £30 for hair pins, rising through to £350 for bespoke and statement hair accessories. The majority of Fiona’s hair accessories are priced between £50 and £120. Necklaces range from £40 to £120 and the majority of bracelets and earrings are between £25 and £35.
Fiona would love to hear from you and work on creating something beautiful that you can wear on your wedding day and then treasure forever. Do get in touch via email, [email protected], or telephone – and tell her we say hello.
You can see more via the @designedtosparkle Instagram feed.
Credits & Thanks
- Photographer: Jenny Stewart Photographs Real Life
- Styling and props: Alexandra Rose Weddings
- Venue: The Barn at Upcote, Gloucestershire
- Dresses, shoes and veil: Georgina Pimm Bridal, Witney Oxforshire
- Hair accessories and jewellery: Designed to Sparkle
- Hair and Makeup: Maxine Wilson
- Model: Hayley Pegg