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5 years is a long time. 2015 - 2020.

Posted by Tammy Ye on

Is it really? Was 2015 to 2020 just 5 years? I forget, because the memories seem as light as a feather, but 5 years is really pretty heavy. So much happened in these 5 years. 


Did I say heavy? It's about to get heavier. Since we're blogging again, I dove back into an old SSEK Jewelry blog. Shortly after the brand was born, when all the initial excitement and glimmer faded away, reality hit. I remember feeling immensely pressured by my environment to take a good look at SSEK Jewelry, its prospects for someone who just got out of a toxic first job (it was a local advertising agency.) 

I started SSEK Jewelry before I graduated, and took it in my stride when I got my first advertising job (I thought I had struck lottery). The job turned out to be one of the most traumatising experiences and when I finally left, I wanted to turn to SSEK Jewelry and hold it full time. 

Of course life happens, and I was pressured to follow suit, get a better job, and not rest on my laurels (and dreams). 

Blogpost here: https://ssekjewelry.wordpress.com/2015/09/30/separation/ Feel free to cringe or feel angry with me haha. 

Ironically the collection I was working on in this phase of life, would turn out to be one of our best selling ranges. Sleeves rolled up, I came out of my shell and asked for help, for collaboration, and it took a little village to finally present The Firelight Collection in October 2015.

The first time I started with an object (in this case, butterflies) to inspire and create a cohesive collection of designs. I collaborated with local artist Natalie who was doing great watercolour work and classes, and she graciously drew these butterflies. 
The Plain Nawab
The Blue Pansy
The Redspot Sawtooth
Based on the colours of these butterflies, I sourced stones that were more premium than I usually would get. Daintier, too. A perfect mix of textures, workmanship and detail to create quintessentially SSEK Jewelry pieces. 
Till today Im not quite sure how to describe what our style is, but I always note the layers to our jewelry, layers that build like paint. 
Back here I was still using beautiful pieces of brass hardware to connect and to frame these shapes. Brass was an admittedly affordable metal to work with, that was gold toned. Till date I find brass a very durable and long-lasting material, and it's still widely used across the world. However of course brass comes issues like oxidisation and it being not hypoallergenic for many skin types. To battle oxidisation I would consistently suggesting polishing it with a brass cloth. With gold plated hardware, on the other hand, polishing is hard to achieve because the plating is really thin and once scratched, can tarnish. Brass is a homogeneous material, so polishing is great coz it simply reveals the same metal underneath. 
Our first Goldfill selection.
For everyone who asked for Goldfill options, it isn't the first time! We did bring a little selection of goldfill necklaces for one of our fairs back then. Thing is, they were very "everyday" necklaces, without much of a SSEK Jewelry signature to them. The conundrum still stays the same: I wanted to make pretty things that were affordable with prices that wouldn't appear "snobby". As an avid seeker and admirer of beautiful, unique jewelry, I found myself not buying a lot of pieces I loved from overseas makers-- simply because they were priced a certain range and were very out of reach for me. 
When these Goldfill necklaces came out, the same sentiment resonated with many customers: way too expensive for what they looked like. I don't think it was the quality they were looking for, quality was certainly there. At my internal postmortem meeting I decided the designs were compromised due to the material I limited myself to. 
On Hiatus, 2017 - 2020
I believe the collections trickled down and my hiatus began in 2017, when I took on a more stable and comfortable full time job. I had the best company in the office, I had lots of fun after hours, in and out of parties. However I'd still sit in taxis, looking out of the window and wishing there was more than this. 
Comfort could only tide me over for a while too. After almost 2 years, with a home mortgage to pay for and a different kinda life, my finances did not agree with me and I job hopped. Seemed to come full circle when I joined another advertising agency in the hopes that it wouldn't be as toxic as my first one. I left the job shortly under a month, deciding that it was the industry culture that wasn't healthy for me.
I went home after sending in my notice, looked around my home with blank stares. Perhaps this is the lowest point in my life, I said.
I didn't have anything. I didn't have a portfolio bursting to take off to another company. I didn't have much money. I didn't have a line of investors. 
I looked around, and what I saw were all my old trinket boxes I brought over from my parents' place. Stacks and stacks of them. Some in the living room, some hidden under shelves, some in the storage room. I don't think I opened them since I moved out. 
Could I even? Should I? If I went back to where I started, I'd have to do this right. If I went back, there's no turning back. If I went back, I'd have to prove to everyone this was the right thing to do. 
But also, if I went back, I wouldn't be starting from ground zero, no. I had something good going on, and I knew.
I didn't have anything, but I had myself. Sure, life changed. But I didn't, not really. I still had the same aspirations, the same glimmer in my eye when I saw something beautiful. 
2020, a story for tomorrow. 


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