Mother and daughter team, Helen and Annie Rennison, are using childhood memories and their travels to create a range of jewellery in farm buildings close to their home. Catherine Scott reports.
It was a passion for design and creativity which led mother and daughter team Helen and Annie Rennison to go into business together,
They run their business, Renne Jewellery, from a converted barn on a farm close to their home in Richmond, North Yorkshire, although they are in the process of creating a studio and workshop which will be open to the public.
“Our business is on-line at the moment, but we really want people to see what we do,” says Annie with passion.
It was Annie’s need for a job which really led to the creation of Renne.
“I left school at 16 and really didn’t know what I wanted to do although I loved art and always knew it would be something creative,” says Annie. “I tried a number of courses but they weren’t right for me. I did some travelling and we spent a lot of time on holiday in France when we were young and I always loved the markets and the beautiful silver jewellery.”
Ironically, Helen had also been interested in working with silver and had done a silversmithing course with a friend, but was concerned she would need a lot of large, expensive equipment.
So Helen set up a beaded jewellery business which she ran for ten years, until she became pregnant with twins, Alfie and Bea, who are now nine.
“I was 42 when I got pregnant, Annie was 12 and Ben was away at school. Annie was such a help, she always loved dolls as a little girl and when the twins came along she really loved helping to look after them.”
“I was thrilled,” continues Annie. “Because they were twins there was always one for me to have to myself.”
It is clear Annie adores her little brother and sister, and the weekend before we meet she and her boyfriend looked after the twins while Helen and Nick went away for the weekend.
Helen is divorced from Annie and Ben’s father, although they remain good friends. She is now with Nick, 11 years her junior.
When Helen had the twins she had to give up her business to look after them.
“Having twins was a massive shock. It just became too difficult to continue with the business.”
But now the twins are nine and more independent, Helen felt the time was right to launch a new business venture.
“It is hard for mum sometimes,” says Annie. “When my friends’ parents are doing what they want, mum still has the responsibility of quite young children.”
However, Helen is clearly very happy with her life balance.
She and Annie eventually found two silver jewellery tutors who they liked and allowed them to create things they loved. “We then realised that you don’t need masses of expensive equipment. Little by little we started to build up our workshop on the farm,” says Annie. “It just seemed natural to go into business with mum. We have always had a very close and open relationship. We get on really well and are more like friends than mother and daughter.”
“My mum was an older mum and very strict. We were very much more an old- fashioned mother daughter relationship. I wanted something different with Annie. She did go away to school, so when she came home in the holidays I wanted us to have fun and have a catch up. She has never caused me any problems.”
The entire process is collaborative and very organic, say the women.
Annie, with her love of French and Scandinavian jewellery does a lot of the designing although they will spend time discussing the designs which they then both make.
The main driver for the two women is to create timeless jewellery that appeals across the generations.
“We have grandmothers buying our jewellery not only for their grandchildren but for themselves,” says Annie.
Launching the business, however was a little harder.
“Photographing jewellery for a website is far harder than people think and so we got professionals in to do it, although it was still hard to get it right.”
Initially their sales came from friends and family and then through word of mouth.
Then they decided to take a stand at the Country Living Fair. “I think we must have been quite naive,” says Annie.
“Other people there were asking where else we had been and we said it was our first show. They all seemed surprised but we did amazingly well.
“We sold virtually everything we had taken and people were wanting to buy the jewellery we were wearing.”
Helen and Alison have also found their jewellery is popular with men.
“We do make cufflinks, but we have also found that some of the bangles are popular among men, particularly the younger ones,” explains Annie.
While they are getting increasing trade through their website and from fairs, they are looking forward to expanding into their new home.
“The internet reception on the farm isn’t great and so we end up having to do a lot of website and emails from home which isn’t ideal.
“We are looking forward to moving into our new studio in a few months time and we will open it to the public so that they can come and see us at work and actually see what we are making,” says Annie.
“We are also looking forward to meeting and talking to our customers which is what we like about the fairs.”
They are also looking at the possibility of introducing some of their jewellery into boutiques and shops although they haven’t yet found the right outlet.
Annie adds: “Our brand is very, very important to us.”