Interview With Jess Colston of Komorebi Jewellery
I met Jess Colson of Komorebi at the Davies Park weekend Market in West End, Brisbane. She designs gemstone jewellery for renegades, free spirits, & gypsy goddesses.
Katy and I caught up with Jess to chat about how her craft turned into her full-time hustle. Jess also shares some advice on setting up your marketplace stall to grab peoples' attention, and how you can get into your local community markets.
How would you describe your style?
I make jewellery that I want to wear. I would say my style is Bohemian-Minimalist. I’ve always been a nature lover and I like to portray aspects of nature and the cosmos through my gemstones and designs.
On your website, it says you were looking for a headpiece to wear for your wedding day but you couldn’t find one you wanted, so you made it a mission to create your own. What did your headpiece look like?
I’ve tinkered with beading and jewellery since I was a kid—I was an only child— I did a lot of arts and crafts. I figured that if I could get the right components, I’d be able to create something that was a true reflection of my style.
I found a few gemstones and chains I wanted to put together, so I made my bridal headpiece, and kept making more!
This was 4 years ago (2012). I really love it—but looking at it now—if I were to recreate this, it would be so much better. It just goes to show how much you improve in your work over the years.
What were you doing before Komorebi?
I was pursuing a career in the health sector when I fell pregnant with my beautiful daughter. All of that has gone on the back-burner (for the time being). The bump definitely puts people off at interviews!
What prompted you to turn your passion into a business?
Making money is always good motivation. I realised that I could really make something from this when people were buying my pieces and loving them… and coming back for more!
I love the feedback I get from people, especially when they want custom orders. It propels me forward. I get to think differently about my work and it’s exciting.
Can you describe your biggest “AHA!” Moment or breakthrough for you and your business?
The first time I made it to four figures at a market! I thought “OMG this is so great—this can be a real thing. I can make money from this! Maybe I don’t have to get a ‘proper’ job after all!”
There are continuing moments that feel like breakthroughs to me, too – every time my pieces become a part of someone’s wedding day; all the support I get from my customers; and each time I am invited to take part in an event I feel like things are all going well and it makes me work even harder. Having a stall at Falls Festival was amazing and was one of those moments where I felt like my business had stepped it up. One day I’d love to go to Splendour.
The greatest challenge you’ve overcome in your business?
I’m always learning new things about this business because I’ve never done anything “businessey” before. I’m not great at this stuff.
In the past, I’ve felt like I was throwing stuff at a wall and seeing what sticks. There has been a lot of throwing money down a well in certain advertising and bridal fairs that weren’t good fits—they were really expensive and I felt like I wasn’t getting anything in return.
I’ve learned to be more careful about where I spend money. I was too optimistic in the beginning and now I’m learning to do what works best for my business.
Davies park market in West End has been amazing! I know it works for me right now and I have lots of regular customers that come by.
Who do you look up to and why?
Erica Brooke from Apothecary Botanica in Manly. She’s such a cool mum and she’s got it all going on—she really knows her business inside and out. She’s grown her organic skincare range from the ground up and now has an awesome little shop.
She’s been so supportive of my work and stocks my jewellery at her boutique.
You’re originally from the Coast—what is your favourite part of living in Brisbane?
There’s a lot of Brisbane I have yet to discover, but I love exploring it and feel like it’s really growing into its own metropolis. There is a level of cool here - people have their own style, and do their own thing without it being too pretentious.
I love the people that I meet and hang out with here—even the random strangers I chat with. Everyone is really genuine.
We met at the West End market at your stall. How did you get into selling your work at the market?
I started selling my jewellery on Etsy, which is how I found out about the Etsy market in Brisbane.
It was a couple a hundred dollars to get in which was a significant amount of money for me at the time and I didn’t even know if I had enough stock to participate.
I bit the bullet and I’m glad I did. It was my first big market and the one that made me feel like I could really turn my jewellery making into a business.
One of the best ways to find out about these markets is to chat to the other stall holders. I found everywhere I’ve been there’s this really great sense of community with other makers.
Everyone is happy to share their tips. “Try this market” and “Your stuff will do really well at this one…” or “Have you applied for this big thing coming up?”
I think most people at the markets are always happy to help and support you. It’s such a great community thing.
One of the girls, who also sells jewellery, had a stall set up next to me at my very first little market. She’s always given me a heads up on other events and was always there to answer any of my questions.
Her name is Tegan from Soul Quartz and she’s so lovely and open. She’s now moved to the Sunshine Coast. Even though we do similar things—create jewellery with gemstones—it’s not a competitive relationship.
We each have our own unique styles. Her stuff is incredible. Tegan actually recommended me to do Davies Park ages ago and I’m so glad I have.
Your beautiful stall is what caught my attention to come chat with you. Do you have any advice for styling and setting up a market stall?
Thank you! My setup takes me a crazy long time, so I’m glad you liked it!
Building layers and having different levels of your stall is important. It draws the eye to jump around and scan the table.
Have good signage and put your personality into it. Do something different to what everyone else is doing because there are always ways to make it look unique, even if you start with a generic idea.
What do you do to get over creative blocks or moments when you feel uninspired?
I used to be a bit unsure of what to create next and I would get stuck on it. Now that I’ve been going to markets for such a long time, I can see what sells.
I still have so many things in my brain that I want to make, but I haven’t found the time. I always sketch out my ideas when they come, so that when I have a moment where I’m needing inspiration, I just have to open up my sketch pad.
When ideas are flowing, you have to take advantage of it!
Do you have any exciting projects in the works you’d be willing to share with us?
Right now, I’m getting ready for The Finders Keepers Market (June 22-24). This will be my second time going, so I feel better prepared this time around.
I have some exciting new pieces for Finders Keepers! I’ve been working with a family-run company in India for a few years now for silversmithing some elements of my designs. I send them sketches and it’s an incredible feeling have them bring an idea from my mind to life in a magical way!
If you have a secret passage behind a bookcase that opened by pulling a single book, what book would it be? Where would it lead?
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson. It would go definitely lead to a tiki-style party room with a dart board and a hot tub.
I think a lot of the time as makers, we’re worried that others are already making or already successful in what we want to do, which ends up stopping us. It can be intimidating to enter a scene.
My favourite takeaway from chatting with Jess was all the support that she’s received in her community market, especially from Tegan who also designs gemstone jewellery.
“You can always make it your own. You bring something else to your craft that no one else has before. Whether it’s your style, your experience, your story - different people will resonate with what you’re about, so don’t be intimidated and do you!”
Questions & write-up by:
Images from Komorebi