A 26-year-old from Llangadog, Carmarthenshire, has set up a sustainable jewellery business using sea glass collected from local beaches.
Beth Langston started her business, Ondine Designs, at the end of 2019 making handmade silver jewellery using glass that has been discarded in the sea and worn and shaped by the ocean into small smooth gems of sea glass, which she sources on Welsh shorelines.
Beth started her business with the help of Big Ideas Wales, part of Business Wales and part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund through the Welsh Government. The service is aimed at anyone between the age of 5 and 25 who wants to develop a business idea.
Beth hand makes and sells earrings, rings and necklaces which start from £22, through events, an e-commerce website and social media. Beth trained in silversmithing, with her designs using recycled silver wherever possible which is repurposed from old jewellery, medical equipment and the electronics industry.
She said: “I fell in love with the whole process of crafting a finished piece of jewellery. When I was training in silversmithing, I was introduced to using sea glass as a material in designs. After a day spent beachcombing on the Welsh coastline, I realised the sea glass would look amazing within jewellery so started making my first pieces. There’s a story behind every purchase, be that a connection to the ocean or that it’s a special gift for someone."
“The coast has always been a draw and an inspiration for me. I studied Illustration at Falmouth University, so between living there and at my home in Llangadog not far from the coast, I’ve always found inspiring and creative places to be and it’s certainly strengthened my desire to earn a living from my creative skills.”
Ondine Designs is just one of thousands of businesses in Wales that have been affected in some way by the coronavirus pandemic. Beth was due to take her designs to sell at several events during 2020 which have subsequently been cancelled, but she was able to quickly adapt to the changes, focusing her business towards e-commerce instead. She said: “Although its disappointing that events have been cancelled, it’s completely unavoidable and I’ve been able to respond quickly to this by concentrating my sales online. I’ve utilised digital events instead, for instance a four-day event held on Instagram with 15 artists from different disciplines. I met likeminded people but also grew my audience, resulting in several sales.”
During lockdown, Beth also took part in a webinar about online marketing held by Big Ideas Wales, aimed at refining young entrepreneurs’ skills in different areas of business.
One of Beth’s upcoming aims for her business is to become established as eco-friendly, with materials being recycled and sourced ethically from shorelines. She continued: “Being as sustainable and as kind to the planet as I can within my business is really important to me. Every aspect, from the sea glass to the silver, right down to the packaging is as eco-friendly as possible.”
Beth found out about Big Ideas Wales through Gower College, where she did her course in silversmithing. Talking about the support she’s received, Beth said: “I got in contact with Big Ideas Wales when all I had was an idea. I was assigned a business advisor, Miranda Thomas, who has helped me get my business started offering lots of information and support. Whenever I leave a meeting with her I feel focused and motivated. If I have a question about anything, she’s there, which has been very reassuring through the whole process.”
Miranda Thomas, Big Ideas Wales business advisor, said: “It’s great to see how well Beth is doing with her business already despite the challenges many businesses have experienced this year. She’s worked hard in order to get her business off the ground, and I look forward to seeing where her business goes.”
Talking about the future, Beth said: “I hope to increase the amount I sell through partnering with galleries and boutiques in my local area. While the pandemic it has put a delay on this, it has also allowed me to have more time to focus on the business and grow my audience which has been really valuable.”