Design Splat | Interviews with Awesome Designers and Creatives


Posted March 15th by Design Splat in Handmade Products, Jewellery Designer, Jewellery Maker

Care Beads is a student-run charitable initiative, which sells handmade jewellery within the Cambridge University community.  In less than 10 months they have raised hundreds of pounds for causes around the world.

Today we have an interview with the three Care Beaders! Hope you enjoy the interview and support the Care Beaders in what they do!


A photo of the Care Beaders



Hello! Welcome to the Design Splat Blog Care Beads!

Tell us a bit about what you do:

We’re three undergraduate students at Cambridge University (Caroline and Heidi study History and Amy studies Archaeology). We design and produce a range of earrings, necklaces, bracelets, and other accessories to suit the student market, and donate all our profits to charitable causes.

How did you get into hand-making jewellery?

Amy was the one who inspired us.  We’d seen her making jewellery during our first term at Cambridge and we were in awe.  We quickly realised we could use our new skills to help others, so we decided to sell our jewellery to raise money for charity.  Care Beads was born!

What inspires you and influences your designs?

Our aim at Care Beads is to create the kind of elegant jewellery that wouldn’t be out of place in high-end stores, at affordable prices. We are inspired by our materials: we use beautiful Swarovski crystals, sterling silver, and unusual semi-precious stones. An influence on our early designs was the Australian entrepreneur Claire Aristides, who opened our eyes to new styles and new techniques. Her London boutique has been fabulous donating stock to us for our sales. Above all though, it has been the charities we have donated to that have provided the biggest inspiration for our work.

Caroline had spent much time in the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Hospital caring for a relative, and was struck by the positive holistic benefits that the art room bestowed on the patients. We thought it would be really fitting to use our own arts and crafts skills to support the immensely valuable arts programme within Sloan-Kettering. Our first cheque, for over $500, went to the hospital. Now we are supporting Oxfam’s Unwrapped projects, hoping to raise enough money for a library.

Which product is your personal favourite?

Caroline: The piece closest to my heart is a tigertail woven bracelet with Swarovski crystals, pearls and rose quartz.  It’s my ‘conceptual piece’ 😉 I used a ring base, but turned it into a centrepiece for my bracelet – fiddly but rewarding work! (See Photo Below)

Heidi: My favourite is also a bracelet – a strand of tigertail with rose pink, crystal, and Czech glass beads, finished with a sterling silver heart clasp. Very simple, but it looks lovely when it catches the light!

Amy: My favourite has to be a silver necklace made with pale green fluorite and jade beads, connected with intricate pieces of wire working. It’s a bit different to anything I’d made before, but was an experiment that turned out to be a success!

How long does it take to make one product?

Anything from twenty minutes to many hours of slaving over wire and beads! The construction itself does not take too long, but the designs can take ages. We’ve been known to spend weeks on one project coming up with designs, choosing colour schemes and sourcing materials for our pieces. Who knew such a tiny product could be so time consuming!

Do you see the market expanding for handmade jewellery products?

At this point in time, no. But we do feel that we can occupy a niche in this market.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?

We will have graduated from Cambridge by then, but we hope to continue Care Beads and our passion for jewellery wherever we go! We hope that, through our jewellery making classes, we can establish some kind of legacy in Cambridge.

Any new exciting products being added to your jewellery collection?

Well… we’ve just launched a bespoke jewellery commissioning service! We hope this will allow our customers to create pieces matching the specific size and style they’re looking for.

What drives you/gives you the ‘go’ to keep at it and do everything?

We have to admit, sometimes fitting jewellery making into our crazy Cambridge schedules can sometimes be a bit much! Caroline has been known on occasion to make jewellery in lectures (once managing to epically spill her beads all over the floor in the middle of a lecture by a world renowned historian!) In the end, what keeps us going is the knowledge that we’re creating products our customers will love, whilst raising money for a good cause.

Does fame attract you?

Ever so slightly… who wouldn’t want to be famous! We’d love the Care Beads reputation to spread beyond the Cambridge bubble. And if Lily Cole said she would like to sponsor us, we wouldn’t say no! At the moment though, we’ve also got to get on with our degrees, so sadly plans for Care Beads world domination might have to wait.

How do you rate yourself as a jewellery designer/maker?

Let’s face it, we know our products don’t come in Tiffany blue boxes! We’re not professionals, but we put a lot of care and attention into our designs and think we’re improving all the time. It’s also great to see people wearing our jewellery.

What makes a good handmade product?

A mix of beautiful beads and high quality materials with fine craftsmanship, a dollop of care and love, and a lot of enthusiasm!

Do you cater for custom designs?

Absolutely. We have an email address for taking specific commissions: We’d be thrilled to design something for you!

Where can we buy your products?

For now, our market is specifically Cambridge based; but we have recently recruited an IT officer, so hopefully we will have a website up and running soon. For now check out our flickr account – – or contact us for more details.

Three words to describe yourself?

Elegant, original, affordable.

Hobbies and other interests?

When we are not Care Beading, Caroline can be found on the river Cam coxing 8 rowers in the early hours of the morning; Amy most often in the air (!) performing incredible dance routines; and Heidi, most usually, in the library, or even on tv, in the recent series of University Challenge.

Favourite jewellery company?

Our guilty pleasure is the Swarovski crystal shop opposite Liberty’s. Many blissful hours have been spent there gazing at the different shades of beads!

Any tips and tricks you want to share with aspiring designers?

Practise, practise, practise! Jewellery making can be tricky at first, but with perseverance, you’ll quickly be making stunning pieces. In our experience, we’ve also found it’s worth investing in the best materials; not only does it enhance your designs, they will also last longer. Quality always beats quantity.

Tools of the trade?

There’s a huge range of jewellery making tools out there, but we’ve found we’ve only ever needed three to get by: flat nose pliers for bending, round nose pliers for curling, and wire cutters. A bead box is also a good investment.

Best and worst product you have made?

Cocktail rings are the best and worst: they sell quickly, look wonderful, and are satisfying to make, but invariably cause cuts and very sore fingers in the process! And there are the things that seemed like a good idea at the time: Caroline’s infamous lurid turquoise seashell bracelet monstrosity, and Heidi’s combination of distinctive green ‘granny beads’ and fuchsia pink pearls – we are convinced the people who bought them did so out of pity!


Some of the Care Beads Designs:


Lina Munro

Thanks Care Beads! I bought a beautiful set of earrings and bracelet for my mum for her birthday for under £20 and they were just perfect- the detailed labelling added to the personal touch.

© 2009-2012 | Showcasing Young and New Design Talent