Interview first published in West magazine, July 2016
Through her sassy and empowering, thought provoking and otherworldly creations, all reflecting her Cornish roots, designer and jeweller Lucy Wilson has put Cornwall on the map – and won the hearts of a few global superstars along the way.
Pop star Rita Ora could be the next of a slew of celebrities rocking Bloody Mary Metal jewellery -Kylie was the first (on the X Factor), Ellie Goulding’s been seen out with a Fire Alchemy ring in Paris, also Jessie J, the recipient of two pairs of earrings, a necklace and a ring. And this summer, broadcaster Fearne Cotton was showing off her personalised stack rings, a tribute to her children Rex and Honey, on This Morning.
“Rita’s pretty cool – she’s definitely a Bloody Mary girl,” Lucy, the equally cool girl behind the business, tells me. “We’d love to see her wearing Bloody Mary,” she continues, explaining that sometimes she’s approached by the stylists of the stars, and vice versa.
Within a year of starting her jewellery apprenticeship near Perranporth four years ago, Lucy’s signature antler pendant made it into Vogue – she still doesn’t quite know how but thinks it has something to do with her burgeoning Instagram eminence – and then a few months later it featured on the pages of Marie Claire.
Within months, Bloody Mary went from being just Lucy, designing and making from her front room of her home near Truro, to an internationally sought after business taking over two storeys of a Chenoweths Business Park unit on the Roseland Peninsula. These days, Lucy heads-up the business, still designing, but with little time for making anymore, instead leaving it to her talented crew.
“I’m not on the bench as much as before, and I’m a bit of a control freak so it’s hard to delegate,” she laughs. “But I’ve got a really strong team and I know I can trust them.”
When I catch up with Lucy, the daughter of organic rare breed farmers from Rilla Mill, north Cornwall, she says she started her day like any other; ploughing through a gazillion emails (orders, enquiries, anecdotal thank yous) before getting stuck into finalising the wedding range, which launches on August 1st, in time for her own wedding to Jules, owner of Cornish concrete manufacturing and distribution firm, Maen Karne.
Lucy, who relaxes by zooming around the undulating Cornish lanes on her motorbike with her fiancé, is Cornish through and through. Her collections draw upon her roots, and the essence of Cornwall’s seafaring heritage. Think the sea, pirates and smugglers, fishermen and the rawness of the natural environment.
“Cornwall is the sea, the cliffs, the sailors, the fisherman, the rustic countryside – it’s all of that,” she says. “And these are the things that inspired me in the beginning, and they’re still the things that inspire me now.”
At moments, Bloody Mary is earthy and Medieval, at others it’s humorous and edgy. Try picking a piece – you wouldn’t be able to, I bet.
Guns, skulls and cross bones feature, but so do crowns, anchors and gems galore; pink moonstone, magical labradorite and amethyst. I am reminded of the Medieval fantasy book and blockbuster television series Game of Thrones. Lucy laughs when I tell her this, and says they’ve just created ring inspired by Daenerys Stormborn.
The new wedding collection will be true to the Bloody Mary design base and feature a “pick and mix” of shapes, metals and stones providing a platform from which customers can choose for their own bespoke designs.
So why the name? “Haha! I used to sell tomatoes, so I was known as Lucy Tomatoes for years! I was out drinking a Bloody Mary one evening and thinking about what to call my new business, and Bloody Mary Metal became blindingly obvious!”
Pieces range from £20 for a stack ring, to £3,000 commissions. Each piece is individualistic, yet scatter them over your fingers and they’ll look like they were always meant to be worn together – by you. “I’ve always loved jewellery and gone overboard with it, I wear everything all the time,” Lucy reveals. “But within each collection you can craft a style for yourself – there are big statement pieces but also more delicate ones too.”
When I say it appears her business took off almost immediately, she giggles: “Some of our best sellers are things I made right at the beginning,” she says. “The antler pendent that ended up in Vogue, and the cross bones are the first things I carved from wax, along with other designs which have definitely been shoved off! We’ve definitely evolved, but we haven’t changed course. Although we’ve introduced some softer more bohemian designs, we’ll always come back to the bones! There’s a story with every piece, and it’s usually the story which sells the piece.”
While browsing the collections, which all have dreamy names like Luna Tribe, Winterspell, Wild Horses, and more recently Outlaws and Bandits, there are designs that are both evocative and emotive, none more so than the Hope and Anchor pendant in memory of her dad who died from cancer soon after her graduation. “He always used to say to me, anchor yourself, and remember where you’re from,” she tells me. All the profits go to Macmillan Cancer Support.
“Every now and again I text the regional fundraiser, go for coffee and hand over a cheque, which is really nice to be able to do,” she continues. “We sometimes get messages back with the orders for the necklace from people telling us how much it’s helped them, or a family member, there are often floods of tears reading their emails! My vision is that one day so many people will have them, that eventually people will bump into someone else wearing it and start talking, knowing they have this bond.”
Other pieces in the collection also raise money for the Brain Tumour Charity and mental illness charity, Rethink, inspired by friends. “I will always keep a certain amount of charitable pieces – it’s nice to be in a position to be able to do this,” Lucy says.
Now 29, Lucy used to help her parents out on the farm after coming home from school at Callington Community College – but only with the pigs and sheep. “I’m petrified of cows!” she laughs. “Growing up on a farm was brilliant,” she adds. “I had so much freedom, and being surrounded by animals really taught me and my brother about responsibility, respect and nature.”
She left her beloved Cornwall to complete a degree in European Theatre Arts from Rose Bruford College, came out with a first, then worked in the industry in London, before dabbling with retail management, all the while longing to do something more creative. It was while managing a tattoo studio and mixing with passionate creatives, that she was inspired to try jewellery making, seeing it as the excuse the “country girl at heart” needed to get back to Cornwall.
So how did Bloody Mary become an instant success? In a word, Instagram. “I pushed very hard on social media to get into people’s line of sight, and was incredibly supported by my friends – some of whom already had a wealthy following,” she explains, adding that Instagram with her impressive 50.4k followers, is how Bloody Mary attracts the most attention. “It’s absolutely where we get most of our customers,” she affirms. “It’s been paramount to the business, especially down here in Cornwall.”
“We get by with a little help from our friends” is certainly a line that resonates with Lucy, however it’s clear she is a grafter and has soul, from whence her creative vision blossoms, and she was prepared to invest the time, and take necessary risks. “At first it was a struggle,” she admits. “I couldn’t get a bank loan because I didn’t have a good credit rating from being a student, so I had to get a high interest loan.”
For now, the wedding collection (and her wedding) is the focus, then a limited edition Halloween inspired collection will be ready in September, followed by a sparkly mini collection in time for Christmas. The next big set will launch in February. Tell us about it Lucy! “I don’t know want to give too much away, but I’m really bad at keeping secrets!” she hesitates. Just one word, I probe. “OK, so directionally, it’s a zig zag back, somewhere between Wild Horses and Outlaws and Bandits,” she hints.
Lucy loves what she does, and because of this, people from Amsterdam to Australia love what she does.
She adds: “It’s the most amazing feeling being anywhere in the world and seeing someone wearing Bloody Mary. The other week I got an email from a customer who said they were in Ontario, Canada, recently when a bar tender recognised her rings, pointed and yelled, Bloody Mary Metal!”