Helen Leong of Quechua Jewellery caught my eye one day as I was scrolling through Instagram—I was immediately enamoured with the sun ray motif that is seen within her recently launched Sol Collection. What you'll notice at first glance when looking through her IG page is a sense of warmth and sunshine (as cheesy as that sounds).
I've managed to catch Helen at the very beginning of her indie jeweller journey and took this opportunity to get to know her story better and a behind-the-scenes look at her progress so far.
Can you tell us about your formative years, when did you start your jewellery practice?
My formative years all revolved around art. I loved painting portraits, sketching, worked in makeup artistry and loved fashion especially the jewellery side of fashion. I started practicing and making jewellery 3 years ago.How did you get started in jewellery and what was it like getting into the industry?
I took a short course in manufacturing after researching the industry and loving the intricacy and design of the jewellery. After the short course I also fell in love with the process.
I have found the industry is very small and exclusive. But at the same time everyone I have spoken too is very helpful and kind. It was very daunting at the start learning the processes of manufacturing and the same time building connections in the industry. I have found that the only way to gain confidence is to be open and willing to learn from experience, people I meet and printed literature.
What type of jewellery do you make?
Since my brand is in its infancy, I’m focusing on small hand made pieces such as earrings, pendants and rings. I will look to branch out to more complex designs and custom made designs in the future.Where does the inspiration for your brand and design style come from?
My brand is called Quechua Jewellery which is inspired by the Quechua language. Quechua is one of the indigenous languages spoken from my South American background. My recent DNA testing came back as 75% Indigenous South American. My brand is inspired from this heritage with my own twist and modern flare.What do you love most about the jewels you create?
I love the design, manufacturing process, time, intricacy and finesse required to make a piece of fine jewellery.
I love trying my very best to make a piece of jewellery almost perfect.
I also love the feeling of learning and developing my skills with every piece I make. I know I will never stop learning and developing with every piece I make.
What does jewellery mean to you?
Jewellery to me is symbol of personal development and accomplishment.
The process of making jewellery to me is therapeutic, exciting, challenging, scary and constant amazement as I create a piece.
Wearing any piece I’ve made gives me a sense of pride and expression. Depending on the piece it can reflect a mood I’m in or an additive to the mood I want to present myself as.What's the biggest lesson you've learned along the way?
Be humble and never stop learning. There is a lot of people willing to help you learn if you are humble enough to ask and accept their guidance.Can you tell us about challenges and wins you've had?
Besides the logistical challenges that COVID is causing currently, my challenges are the ones I make for myself in my mind. Finding inspiration and motivation can be challenging at times. But once I get to the bench, I’m absorbed into the art of jewellery and this motivates me to keep progressing and learning.
The small wins I’ve had is completing my projects at TAFE. These little wins keep me motivated and feeling excited about the future of making more delicate and intricate designs.What’s next for you and your brand?
The next big step for my brand is my launch. This will include several pieces I’m working on which I hope many people will like. After the launch, I hope to continue coming up with more designs and creating more pieces of art.Words of wisdom to someone wanting to start in the jewellery industry?
Be humble when you start. If you have fears don’t let it hold you back but address them and move forward.
And a few fun ones—What are your everyday pieces?
I can’t wear anything normally while working at my bench but when I go out I always wear my wedding bands and Sol ring collection pieces.
Most treasured piece of jewellery you own?
My wedding ring stack 🥰
The ones that have sentimental value and the ones I have created.
I’m a gemstone addict! I love any gemstone with unique cuts and all stones that shine ✨