Always Together, Gold Enamel Pendant
The new enamel pendants from Bonbi Forest feature gorgeous illustrated designs set in dainty gold and silver, and can be personalised with extra charms, making them the perfect gift for Valentines or just that someone special. I last spoke with designer Lee May Foster-Wilson in 2011, and it’s always a pleasure to catch up with her.
Since we last caught up with you in 2011 you have become a mother, how has this changed your business and inspiration?
I had my daughter in January 2012 (she’s just turned 2, time really has flown!) and weirdly since having her I have had the best two years of business yet. I was back to sending orders about a week after having her, she would come with me to the studio for short spells and would sleep while I packed orders and made things. I worked out I could get 10 scarves printed during one of her average length naps so for a long time I worked like that.
You Hold the Key, Gold Enamel Pendant
As she got older my husband and I have been sharing her care between us (he works from home which makes life a lot easier in that respect!) and while the actual length of time I have to work is a lot less than it used to be, there is nothing like having that time limit to focus the mind and work solely on the task in hand. There is no time for procrastination any more! It actually works really well, when I have my time with her I can focus on her, and when I have time to work, I only work and I get to enjoy doing both of those things every day.
Having less time in the day also pushed me to take the leap into getting some help with the jewellery, which I did about a year ago. 2013 was the busiest Christmas season ever and after nearly three months of flat out afternoons and working late into the night with a baby to look after, I was exhausted and realised that I really did now need to get someone in to help take on some of the making. I enlisted the help of my sister in law and good friend, Mo who is very deft with her hands and she now works for me on a freelance basis. It’s brilliant, I give her a big bag of components at the beginning of the week and she gives it back to me at the end of the week full of lovely pieces of jewellery!
I still make a fair bit of jewellery myself and still do all of the screen printing but to date she’s made a couple of thousand pieces which has free’d up so much extra time for me to put into designing and organising. The business has never been so well planned with ideas being worked on so far in advance! It’s made me realise I should have taken the step to do that so much sooner…
From Small Seeds Locket
My inspiration has definitely changed since becoming a mother. I have realised that since 2012 when I first found out I was expecting, that my work has gradually leaned more towards an interest in relationships, connection, ambition and looking forward. I am still very influenced by the natural world and use that kind of imagery to describe these new themes but I think becoming a parent gives you an entirely new perspective on things. It happens all of a sudden too (for me it did anyway) one day you are going along as normal and waiting for this new person to arrive and then the next they are here and your perception of love, your priorities and your life has changed forever.
Spread Your Wings Locket
I think my most recent collections reflect these changes in inspiration the most. last Autumn’s Hand pieces were to do with connecting with other people, being close to others and about personal community. The latest jewellery designs focus on close relationships and love between best friends, siblings and parents as well as romantic love.
Always Over the Mountain Locket
Looking back as well, the pieces I made around the time I found out I was pregnant were concerned with growing (the From Small Seeds Locket), looking to the future (Spread Your Wings), and about love between mothers and their children (Always Over the Mountain). All of which have been best sellers so those themes are clearly something a lot of people can relate to.
Always Together, Silver Enamel Pendant
You have just launched a new collection of enamel pendants, how did these come about?
With my wearables I am constantly striving for ways in which to put across the Bonbi Forest vibe and incorporate my own artwork and imagery. The lockets and the process used to make them has been a big success as far as this goes but I wanted to work more with different shapes and not just necessarily lockets. I have used a couple of different methods such as laser cutting and etching as well but the enamel idea has been bubbling away for a couple of years now.
I had such a strong idea of how I wanted these to look that enamel was the only way forward for these ones and after a lot of research, questions about the process, working out costing and finally finding a manufacturer that could make it happen they are here and I am so pleased with them! I loved designing these and seeing them come to life so long after the initial ideas were submitted has been really exciting…there will definitely be more enamel Bonbi things!
You Hold the Key, Silver Enamel Pendant
How would you suggest these new charms are worn and who do you think they might appeal to?
They are designed to be given as gifts of affection or worn as a token of your love for someone else. The little stamped letter charms add a touch of the personal so you can wear one with the initials of you and your most favourite, or give one as a gift to a mother with her children’s initials. They can be worn on their own too without the personalised charms to add a romantic hint to an outfit, or can be given as an anonymous gift from a guy to a gal on Valentines perhaps?
Each design comes in gold or silver and there’s a choice of a short or longer chain depending on your style…
Reaching Hands Locket
In the past you have spoken about going into homeware and stationery – is this still a wish and if so what ideas do you have?
As I mentioned earlier, in the last couple of years I have become much better organised with the business and plan ahead a lot more now. I used to be much more carefree about when and what I designed but I have come to realise that you simply can’t do everything! I have a small range of tea towels that incorporate my scarf and jumper print designs and have a range of cards with my artwork on them but aside from that I no longer have plans to add further homeware or stationery ranges to the permanent collection.
Having said that limited edition pieces aren’t out of the question and I do have a collaboration for some homeware based items in discussion, so watch this space!
How is life in Cornwall? Can you recommend any wonderful lesser known areas for those readers lucky enough to visit that part of the world?
I LOVE living here! I live in a very rural area in a small community which I know wouldn’t be for everyone but for me it’s perfect. I do miss the cultural hubbub of the city from time to time but when I did live there I craved to be back in the countryside again so I came to realise that it is where my heart belonged. The internet makes the world a much smaller place and it is easy to stay connected these days (as much as having a toddler around will allow anyway!) and I take so much inspiration from being in the countryside that I feel it is important to be within it.
I am lucky enough to live in a little cottage on The Roseland which is a beautiful rural area on the south coast. I can highly recommend the beaches here (Carne and Porthcurnick are large and sandy when the tide is out, Portholland is good for rock pooling and for off the beaten track Kiberick is beautiful) and the smattering of pubs around in the villages offer a good slice of local life…there are a few working fishing harbours here too which are very pretty and worth a visit for something a little different. If you do make it to this area the coastal path is a breathtaking must too.
The Hidden Hut just off Porthcurnick beach is a gem for lunch and I always take visiting friends there in the summer (dress for the weather though, it’s all alfresco) and if you can get tickets to one of their feast nights you are in for a treat but they sell out in minutes!
I’ll stop now before I start to sound too much like the tourist board…
What else have you got planned for Bonbi Forest in 2015?
I have a long list of ideas to get working on and am currently involved in a new collection of jewellery and screen print designs that focus on ambition and dreams which I hope to launch at some point in February. The Bonbi Forest stockist list is steadily growing and I hope to get the range stocked in a few more shops this year as well as adding to and expanding the range over the year…
Grazing Screen Print
Aside from that I will be fitting in a bit of painting to have some more original artwork on offer and I’d like to do some more limited edition runs of screen prints like the Trereife Horses pieces that I made last summer…before I know it I know we’ll be working on Christmas pieces and I like to use the first half of the year to solidify ideas and timescales so there’s always something good to be working with!
- An interview with Lee May Foster-Wilson of Bonbi Forest
- The Bonbi Forest Indie Emporium
- Vibe HarslÃ¸f Interview
- Written on the Body
- AW15: An interview with Kirsty Ward, Fashion, Jewellery and Accessories Designer