Fairina Cheng is an independent, unconventional jewellery label for rule breakers and story makers.
The woman behind the designs is also independent and unconventional, with a flair for offering a product and experience that is unapologetically different.
What makes her designs so different? Read on to find out the answer and get to know Sydney jewellery designer
Tell us about the light bulb moment that made you want to start your own jewellery line?
I was working long hours at a full time office job and I enrolled in an evening jewellery course to encourage myself to leave work on time. At that point I was just curious, but it wasn’t long before I fell absolutely in love with the process of manipulating metal.
Soon after, I was enrolling in a two-year contemporary jewellery design course, followed by a three-year course in commercial jewellery manufacture. I’m not the kind of person to take big risks. So diving head first into a massive career shift was a bit out of character. It just felt right!
Tell us about your design style. What makes your collections unique in the industry?
My inspiration starts with the story. This may be a big milestone someone never thought they’d reach. Or a quirky inside joke for a couple who will spend the rest of their lives together. It may be a hidden symbol or the creative use of a birthstone that means everything to the person wearing it. The Fish Ring is a great example of this.
It’s not just about creating a sparkling engagement ring. It’s about creating a piece of story-worthy jewellery that couldn’t have been made for anyone else but its owner.
What is the first thing you always do before beginning to work on a new piece or project?
Depending on the design, I might draw, measure and obsess about the details before picking up a single tool, or dive straight into it and let the materials work their magic. Often the first thing I do is give my dog, Brooklyn, a cuddle!
What’s the easiest and hardest thing about being an artist/jeweller?
The hardest thing is actually something that might resonate with many solo business owners, whether they’re artists or not! It’s being the only person in the business on most days. I do have one part-time staff member, but most of the time, I play the role of CEO, designer, maker, marketer, sales person, administrator, cleaner and everything in between! At the same time, I love waking up every day to design and make jewellery for people all over the globe. I know that there is nothing else in the world I would rather be doing.
Who are three people you follow on Instagram for creative inspiration? Why do these people inspire you?
I’m actually not big on following people for inspiration. I do follow other jewellers from time to time, but I rarely look. It helps minimise ‘comparisonitis’! Instead, I use social media for things that energise me, like learning and keeping in touch with friends.
What did your childhood jewellery box look like?
It was full of ring pops! Actually, my childhood jewellery box consisted of jewellery that I was gifted by my parents and friends but never wore. I wasn’t all that interested in jewellery because I had only seen the kind in shopping mall windows and chain stores. It wasn’t until I was in my mid- teens that I discovered a passion for body jewellery. My jewellery box started filling up with all sorts of weird and wonderful pieces as I collected piercings to wear them in. That’s when I realised that jewellery didn’t have to look a certain way!
What have the most challenging moments been in your career so far and how did you power through and keep going?
I spent many years working on my business part time, with a part time day job to keep me feeling financially secure. It took so long for me to take the leap because I doubted whether I could really succeed! After reaching a plateau in my business, I decided I needed someone to help me step up to the next level. I got a business coach and a short while later, handed in my resignation letter and embarked on a journey as a full time jeweller. I haven’t looked back since!
As a businesswoman, it’s always important to have a support network by your side – who are yours?
When you are the only person in the business, it’s so important to have a network of friends and peers to bounce ideas off! I catch up regularly with friends running their own businesses and we talk through our experiences and help work out each other’s challenges. There are also some great networking groups out there – The Facebook group Like Minded Bitches Drinking Wine is one of my favourites!
What are you working on at the moment or about to work on that excites you?
In 2019, I’m looking forward to working with gorgeous sapphires, untraditional diamonds and one-of-a-kind gems to create some very special pieces. I’ve always wanted (but have never made time to) make a ring for myself. Who knows, 2019 might be the year!
What do you want to be remembered for?
Jewellery is a very traditional trade and, while things are slowly changing, many still stick to conventional designs, conventional customer service and conventional customer experiences. In addition to a distinctive approach to story-telling designs, I’d love for my brand to be a game changer in the space, by creating unique immersive experiences that my customers will treasure forever.