Member Feature: Gillisflowers

Contributor post by Michelle of EviesToolEmporium

Please join us in welcoming Gillian of Gillisflowers, our featured member!



Tell us about yourself.

I’m Gilli, I’m 56 years old divorced and I have a wonderful daughter, son-in-law and three gorgeous grandchildren.

I love creating, designing and I love making my jewellery and seen the pleasure it gives to other people.
About four years ago I was diagnosed with quite serious arthritis in my neck together with damaged discs and had to undergo surgery. Although it was successful, I have developed some other problems as a result including mobility problems and chronic pain in my neck shoulders and my arms right down to my fingers. Because of this I had to initially change my job role and go part time but I am now seeking early retirement.

As well as my family and my faitcrafting taking up origami and gradually developing its to where it is now has been really positive for me. It’s almost like therapy. When I’m designing folding or making jewellery I am completely focused on that and it brings a great sense of achievement. It brings me into contact with the new people both in the real world and on websites and developing my skills and knowledge of social media etc stimulates my brain will stop it is also a really good Rachel and press a seven-year-old grandson when you share a video you have made with him and then tell him you have your very own website!

The ironic thing is, that if it wasn’t for having become disabled and having to give up what I was doing I would not have the business that I have today. There are times when it’s difficult, when I’m too exhausted or in too much pain to make anything but even then I can sit and workout designs in my head or watch a video linked to selling on Etsy and online marketing.

When did you open your business and what make you decide to do so?

I am Gilli and I set up my businessGilli’s flowers about 15 months ago now. I I sold through local designer markets initially and although I opened my Etsy shop in the latter half of 2016 it’s really been since January this year that I’ve been putting more effort into it and been working on it and my brand more.
I took up origami about three years ago after I was told by physiotherapists that I had to give up my previous hobby of cruelty and patchwork due to arthritis in my neck which also affects my shoulders and arms. I was advised by occupational therapy to find a way of exercising my fingers and after trying several things I discovered origami. I gradually found that it was easier for me to fold small items with dinner paper (although even with this I am limited in how much I can actually fold in a day) and so this led to me into making jewellery. I particularly love flowers and so this became central to my brand and while I do make the more standard origami jewellery fans, leaves and birds I also want to really push the boundaries. I decided to open my business because as I’d had to go part time at work some extra money was useful and because of the best will in the world there are only so many piece of jewellery any one person can wear. I also love what I make and create and I wanted to share this with other people.

Tell us a bit about your products.

Although I obviously have to use bought jewellery findings as well as the occasional bead or crystal in my designs the bulk of them is traditional origami folded from paper. I use lots of different kinds of papers, pearlescent paper, Mulberry tissue paper and a range of specialist origami papers as well is also recycling old books, sheets music and vintage maps.

I sometimes customised paper either by layering its are or adding additional colour or texture to it. Most of my pieces are made folded squares of paper measuring between 1 to 2 inches although for some designs such as the lily of the valley flowers in the next picture I folded squares of paper measuring just 3/4 inch and had to use precision tipped jewellery tweezers to help with this.

I use good quality waterproof varnish – either liquid or aerosol depending on the design when finishing my pieces and typically apply around 5 coats of varnish. This not only adds to the finish of the piece but also adds strength, durability and water resistance.

Due to the materials used and drying time it can take me up to 5 days to get a piece completed and an individual pair of earrings can easily take up to an hour to make once the time taken to fold, varnish and assemble the piece is added together.

What inspires your work

Nature is probably my biggest inspiration not just the flowers themselves but natures colour combinations which are also inspirational. I always seem to have more ideas to things I want to make than I have time to make. In many ways although the bulk of it is themed around flowers my inspiration takes in Victorian and vintage jewellery as well as Art Deco and is even a touch of Gothic thrown in.

Sometimes the inspiration comes from the paper itself which wants to be used in a particular way. Film and television period dramas are also a rich source of inspiration and the next photo is of a piece that was inspired by some Victorian mourning jewellery worn by one of the characters in a recent BBC television series, Taboo.

What are your future goals for the business this year? What is your dream for this business?

My immediate goals for this year are to sell consistently on Etsy and raise my profile on social media. I am now having to take early retirement and so to have an additional regular (-ish) source of income would help me continue to buy the occasional treat not so much to myself as for my grandchildren, daughter and son-in-law. I’ve had some very positive response to my jewellery, for example this year II am one of the winners of the #small business Sunday competition run byTheo Paphitis (former TV Dragon and owner of Ryman’s), and I sell well at markets. The next stage is to transfer this success to online marketing.

My dream is for this to become a shared business with my daughter, we are very close in many ways and it would be wonderful for us eventually to be able to develop Gilli’s flowers together.

What makes your business stand out from businesses that sell similar products?

My unique designs. I take traditional origami folds and use of a new ways as well as modifying them and developing my own folds. In seeking to recreate vintage bone china flower jewellery to the use of origami I’m doing something very different and pushing the boundaries of this form of jewellery making. The row use colour and a variety of papers I use also makes me stand out as does the fact that my work is mainly about flowers. As part of that I link my floral designs to the traditional language of flowers as well as to folklore adding a meaningful aspect to my jewellery and including information about this with each piece that I sell.

I also got permission from the William Morris Gallery in London to use original designs from their collection in my pieces, something else which makes my jewellery stand out.

Tell us a bit about your work space. Do you have a separate studio?

I use what used to be my daughter’s bedroom. It’s a lovely light room,( although it does get very hot in the summer) which is perfect when trying to fold small piece of paper or assemble jewellery. I have set up so that I have four main work areas for photography, paper storage and cutting, varnishing and folding and assembling.I store my finished pieces in the kind of disposable plastic containers used by take-aways. They are cheap, it’s easy to see what is inside and they stack neatly. Downstairs I have what I term my office area with my laptop, printer records and so on.

What have you learned since opening your business that you wish you had known before hand?

That the designing and making elements is the easy part and in many ways the fun part. However like everything else in life you won’t succeed unless you put time and hard work into the background work, reviewing and updating Etsy listings, networking and making good use of social media. It’s like an iceberg, the part you see is the finished items on sale at a Designer Market or on a site such as Etsy, but underneath them is the hours of not so exciting work which is needed to make any business successful.

Any advice for those thinking about selling on Etsy?

It’s not enough just to have a good product and some decent pictures. There’s lots to learn about how to make sure listings standout and are noticed so I would recommend joining one of the many Etsy help groups that are based on social media sites such as Facebook. And from most sellers it would take a while to get noticed and get regular orders so stick with it. To make it work you have to put the effort in.

When you’re not working, what do you like to do to unwind and have fun? Do you have any hobbies?

Because of my particular situation in terms of my disability I can only work for around three hours a day and these have to be spaced out. At other times, and when I’m not resting I enjoy watching dramas, reading or listening to audio books and best of all spending time with my family.

My main hobby has become my business so it’s just as well I enjoy it.

What is your favorite quote?

He did not say “You will not be tempest-tossed, you shall not me work-weary, you shall not be discomforted.” He said “You shall not be overcome”
Dame Julian of Norwich

Where can people find out more about your business?

Facebook: @Gillisflowers
Twitter: @Gillisflowers
Instagram: @gillisflowers
Website: gillisflowers

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

Always be open to new challenges and new opportunities.


If you would like to be featured, please go to the CIJ Etsy Forum and fill out the questionnaire. Please note you must be a member of the CIJ Etsy team to be featured.

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