The off-beat jewellery designer talks about the joy of wearable art and why every young creative should start small

PLAICE is the brainchild of Juliette Stuart, an Illustration and Visual Media graduate and laser-cut enthusiast. Her jewelry business was born out of practicality: she wanted to take part in a Christmas market and needed something to sell. Later, Stuart moved to New Zealand and started making more pieces to send home to the U.K. as a way to keep in touch with friends.

The etymology of Stuart’s brand name is both an ode to aquatic life and also a wink to Talking Heads. But more than that, it’s about spontaneity: “it just seemed so random and fun which sort of fits in with the jewelry I make.”

Every pair of earrings start on a blank page of paper. (“There are so many unused drawings that have never come to light!”) But inspiration for the off-beat designs also comes from books. “I’m a very visual person,” she tells me, “so I just love looking at images. I have so many art books that I’ve bought in charity shops. I find books are just so much better at providing inspiration. Something about being able to hold them tangibly in your hand means you just connect with them more.”

The secret to balancing full time study with an emerging business is, according to Stuart, all about scale. “Definitely keep it small,” she advises, “I worked towards smaller goals, such as producing a batch for a market, for launching my own online store, getting into Not Just A Shop. Now that I’ve graduated I have more time to dedicate to PLAICE, so I plan on testing out new materials, developing new designs and growing my customer base.”

The pandemic forced Stuart to graduate remotely, but she still feels excited for the future. “I can’t wait to get my teeth sunk into PLAICE more,” she tells me, “ brings all my passions into one. I get to illustrate, I get to make products out of my illustrations, I get to design my brand, I get to do the photography – I even shot two short fashion films, so it’s a combination of everything I love!”

For Stuart, the power of jewelry is in its physicality. Although she loves digital illustration, creating a pair of earrings enables people to interact with her art in a different way. They can wear it. “With PLAICE,” she says, “I get to see my art in the real world, every day.”

As for advice, Stuart’s pearls of wisdom are simple: “Nothing will happen if you don’t try.” The trick is managing expectations and having clear, modest aims. Start with something low risk, like a Christmas market, and build from there. “You can continue to grow and get bigger on your own terms,” Stuart says, “PLAICE has grown very organically and I’m grateful for that, I think if I had started off trying to get to where I am right now instantly it would have been very overwhelming. Trust the process, and just go for it!”