Cambridgeshire jeweller finds growing support for independent businesses
The pandemic has prompted an appreciation and support for small, local independent businesses, according to Oakington-based designer jeweller Claire Howieson, the founder of Histon Handmade.
Claire works from her studio to design and handcraft bold and unique pieces of jewellery, often based on commissions. A regular participant in Cambridge Open Studios, Claire has been making jewellery since around 2006.
“It started off as a hobby alongside another job,” recalls Claire, whose married name is Langston. “Then it took over and I started a small business, which then became my main job. I set up a website with some help from my husband and it’s been something that’s worked well alongside having children.”
Claire’s clients are mainly local to Cambridgeshire, but she has recently had customers in New Zealand and Norway. She continued: “My jewellery is precious metals – silver and gold predominantly – and I also work with precious and semi-precious gemstones.
"The work that you see on my website is mostly pieces I’ve designed myself, but I do a lot of commission work as well.”
Claire, who was very artistic as a child, often takes pieces of inherited jewellery and redesigns them into something new “so the sentiment’s still there, but it’s something that’s more wearable”. She favours a simple, contemporary look, noting: “I don’t tend to go for the more complex or intricate designs – I prefer clean, bold, simple lines.”
Claire founded and runs Histon Handmade, which organises a large craft fair every Christmas, in 2016. “This year we weren’t able to have our annual event, for obvious reasons, so I set up an online marketplace,” she says.
“I’ve had to try and manage that and the jewellery and the kids and the family – and to be honest I haven’t managed to put as much time into the jewellery as I would have liked. But people are still buying.
“I have found that in these current times, people are much more interested in supporting the small, local independents. They want to support local especially, and I’ve noticed that on social media. And through Histon Handmade, I’ve really found people pushing for a move away from the big corporates and trying to help keep afloat all the people who are potentially finding it harder.”
Claire adds: “Regarding Histon Handmade, I’m hoping we’ll be able to do a physical event again at the end of November. All the people that were due to do the event last year are automatically invited back.
“Because of the popularity of the online marketplace I am thinking about running that alongside the physical event. I’ve had feedback from disabled people who don’t get to go around these busy craft fairs – actually being able to browse these things online has been quite wonderful for them.”
As well as being available online, Claire’s jewellery can also be purchased, once lockdown has been lifted, in the Topiary Tree gift shop in Histon – formerly the Daisy Chain – just off the Green.