Clova Rae-Smith has been making and selling her own jewellery through Instagram since her uni days, and has now accumulated over 15k dedicated followers. Through her innovative and authentic rings, necklaces, earrings and grillz, Clova puts her middle finger up to traditional jewellery-making as she sets out to be the next big jeweller to watch out for.
Creative at heart, Clova’s path to jewellery design took some exploring to find. When catching up with her, she recalled, “I never really thought that I’d be a designer, I thought I’d be more of a fine artist. But then I realised that I probably wouldn’t make as much money doing sculpture”. She went on to complete her diagnostic foundation year at Camberwell College of Arts, experimenting with graphics, design, architecture, jewellery and fashion, before heading off to Central Saint Martins to study jewellery design. “I’m also really into fashion and design, and I thought the perfect mix between fine art and design is jewellery”. Though she’s found her niche, Clova still incorporates elements of sculpture and other art forms she initially studied into her jewellery, treating it “as an art form”.
“I got into making and selling to pay for materials to fund the course. [CSM] gives copper for free, but I only ever really wanted to work with precious materials”. And so, Clova started her Instagram, @clovajewellery. Starting out by selling to her friends and uni mates, the designer’s platform quickly grew after she held a giveaway earlier this year. “Over 7,000 people entered. I had 2,000 followers before and then I gained like 5 or 6k from that”, she said. Finding her inner circle of creatives, she told me “I think the reason why a lot of people can connect to my jewellery is because it was people from my year group, or in [the] creative industry sharing [my giveaway post] and then their friends who were in the same industry also sharing. Everyone can kind of connect from the same place that I’m coming from”.
Not only has Clova pinned her aesthetic down through her delicate designs and ‘BLOOD, SWEAT AND TEARS’ collection, she is also at the forefront of the re-imagined grillz wave focused on tooth caps, something she learnt how to make on her own, outside of university. “What has drawn people to them recently is [that] they’ve seen that there is a different side to it. There are only a few people who are making art grillz, whereas before they’ve been more heavy or full sets, not very delicate, not very conceptual or different to just full sets”. Some of her highlights include the thorn, silver blood fangs and snake designs.
And while her online followers have backed the designer since day one, Clova has not always felt supported within her circle of peers. “I had a lot of issues with tutors in my last year because they told me to stop doing what I was doing”, she recalled. “And I was just kind of thinking ‘Well, this is what I want to do afterwards, this is my brand. I can’t just stop’. I care about my degree, but what I’m doing now is what I wanted to achieve from my degree, that’s why I went to St Martins”. Truth be told, Clova may not have fit in the parameters of university teaching, but she already had her foot well in the door in terms of her dream career. “I’m not going to listen to one or two people’s opinions on my work. Maybe if I didn’t have the amount of following and support that I have now, I would have been more swayed by it. I know that people like my stuff. I think you just really need to believe in the work that you’re making, and then other people will be drawn to it”.
Having just graduated with a BA in Jewellery, Clova now sets out for her side university-funding hustle to become her full-time business. “Now that I’m established as a company, I want to continue selling my own stuff”, she said as she explained why runway jewellery, a path many take after studying at a fashion university, might not be suited for her. “I wouldn’t want my designs to be owned by someone else. I’m quite privileged in the sense that I already have a basis, I already have my own brand now. I can’t give that up”. Set to make her business successful, Clova recently hired her first intern to alleviate the heavy workload she already has.
Perhaps Clova’s success could be attributed to her genuineness, as she told me she “my main inspiration is I make things that I would want to wear myself. I think that attracts people to it, because they can connect to it more authentically”. But there is more that goes into being a successful business owner and jewellery designer, and she knows this. With the mindset to keep on “having to push yourself to make more work”, Clova’s dedication, sheer talent and success she’s already garnered has made her unstoppable. Because at the end of the day, Clova’s words never rang truer, “Yeah, fuck it, I’m gonna do this”.
Model: Ethan Samuel Jacobs
Photography assistant: Olivia Ulpiani