Born and raised in Falköping, a small town in Sweden, Marie Rabe, founder of MISAN Jewellery, moved to London in 2005 to train as an actress!
After several years of theatre projects and performance, the creative draw of craft making began to grow. She took a beginners course in silver jewellery and set up a micro-studio at home made up of an old table, a bookshelf and some hobbyist tools.
Fast forward a few years of hard work, injured fingers and lost hours searching the carpet for fallen gemstones, MISAN jewellery has grown into a busy independent business making a splash in the alternative jewellery market in the UK and overseas.
"I’m in the fortunate position of having two careers that I absolutely love.
The jewellery making grew out of wanting something creative to pursue in-between acting jobs but as soon as I finished my one-week beginners course, I knew that this was something I really wanted to do.
It’s such a satisfying process!
I used to make jewellery out of silver wire and glass beads when I was young(er) and I did apply for a silversmithing school back in Sweden many years ago. It’s something that had been brewing for a very long time but never quite happened because I enjoy acting so much. (And then like a sneaky virus - it completely took over!)."
We are aware that jewellery is a key part of your artistic expression, however, what do you think you would be doing today if you weren't a jewellery maker?
I would have probably pushed more towards my acting career. It is so hard to pursue two unpredictable careers simultaneously, that in the end, one inevitably takes a backseat.
What would you say are the challenges faced by jewellery makers nowadays?
I find that the jewellery market is very saturated. You have to find your niche and trust your own aesthetics.
Reaching a crowd that appreciate your designs can be tricky. It takes a long time to build up a following and you have to be a social whizz as well as a designer, accountant and sales manager.
Having a returning client or have someone tell me "I met you at... and now I would like to get..." is such an incredible feeling. Someone wanting to wear a piece that you have made is worth all the trouble. It's a real honour!
What does a normal day at the studio look like?
One of the best things about being self-employed is that you can shape your day and workload in a way that suits you. In my case, I am not a morning person at all but I have no problem with working until late at night.
I usually get to the studio around midday and leave anytime between 7pm and midnight.
I make a weekly planner to make sure that I stay on track with the orders and events as if it doesn't get written down it won't get done!
On studio days, I put on true crime podcasts, get my head down and lose track of time. The rest of the days, I run around London, picking up castings, dropping off orders, handing pieces to hallmarks or gold platers.
Obviously everything is very different right now and I haven't been able to use the studio for a few weeks... I can't wait to get back there as soon as it's safe!
"MISAN Jewellery is an inclusive brand, catering to anyone who is looking for something edgy, elegant and a bit different"
Could you tell us a little bit more about your creative process when it comes to designing and making?
For the anatomical collection it all usually starts with finding a skull or bone that I find beautiful and then from there working out how to best utilise it.
As I’m self-taught I often have to try something before I know if I can make it. That means my process is seldom a straight line, more like many failed attempts sprinkled with eureka moments.
I love trying out new techniques and working out ‘better’ ways of doing things. One hurdle I often have to overcome is that I cannot draw to save my life, I get really clear images in my head of what I want to make but my *sketches* are very basic. So yet again I usually have to make a prototype to show what my idea is. That’s where wax carving comes in very handy - it’s an easy and affordable way to sculpt ideas without wasting precious metals.
We understand that each piece is different and unique. How long does it take you as an average to make one of your pieces?
Some of my more simplistic designs can be finished in a couple of hours. After I’ve spent weeks working out what I want to make, prototyping a design and finalising details that is. Special commissions could take several weeks from initial consultation to the final product.
What are your favourite materials to work with?
Gold. It’s just a very satisfying metal to work in.
What would you want to communicate to the person who purchases one of your products?
MISAN Jewellery is an inclusive brand, catering to anyone who is looking for something edgy, elegant and a bit different. It’s about finding the beautiful in the macabre, with a hope to create pieces that evoke joy and curiosity in people.
A more sustainable lifestyle is extremely important to us and our customers. Could you tell us what you do to approach your business in a more sustainable way?
I’m a small stock business, meaning the majority of items are made to order. This cuts waste products as I only use the material I definitely need to use.
I also use as much recycled metal or eco certified metal as possible and am conscious of getting all my gemstones from companies that can trace the origin back to the mines.
All bones are bought from taxidermy shops and will have lived out a full life and died naturally.
Do you have any plans for the near future to increase your sustainability even further?
I am always looking at ways to improve and become more sustainable and ethical. I have recently been going through all my packaging and upgrading to more eco friendly materials. (I am desperate to get my hands on home compostable bubble envelopes, but have only found them in Australia so far and they won’t deliver to the UK yet. I’ve settled for a paper padded envelope for now. Recyclable is good but compostable would be even better…)
Using animal skeletons can be tricky, there’s definitely an element of trusting that the bones have been ethically collected. That is one area I am always working on improving. The HIVE collection use bees that were supplied by the London Bee, an urban honey company -being able to tell a customer exactly how and where the bees came from is great.
If you had to choose only one of the products that you made to take with you forever, what would it be?
Definitely my Phantom ring. It’s a skull ring modelled on a ring my late father used to wear as a child. He was really into this comic called the Phantom who wears a skull ring and use it to fight his enemies. The first one I made was for myself as an homage to my dad, I didn’t even know that my mum still had the original ring.
Now I wear both of them. I’m making a limited edition of the Phantom rings, they are all numbered on the inside and there will only ever be 57 of them made. I’m getting close to no 40.