Trader Profile-Musee Roo
Halloween is out of the way and we’re headlong into *Christmas* prep – yikes! If you’re on the hunt for something utterly beautiful for a loved one, or for self-gifting – look no further… We adore Musée Roo’s historically-inspired jewellery, and she’s building an incredible following – even A-list celebs! Read on for the beautiful backstory:
Tell us a bit about you and your business…
I’m Roo and I run Musée Roo. I make historically-inspired jewellery, and my small business is all about making historical design accessible, educational and fun. I started my business from the dregs of my student overdraft, and from my university bedroom in Bristol, whilst I was studying for a 4-year integrated MArts in History with Innovation at the University of Bristol.
I’d dropped out of studying Ancient History and Egyptology at UCL – Middle Egyptian hieroglyphs were a bit too much for me! I then volunteered at the British Museum, and I began lusting after the ancient treasure in the museum cabinets. I wanted to wear the pieces behind the museum glass – but alas I couldn’t (and rightly so!). I studied artefacts and started to carve them from jewellers wax. My brother would cast my designs into silver in the garden of our East London family home – using the ancient-rooted production method of lost-wax-casting. I worked full time for a jewellery designer in Liberty London and Selfridges, to save the money to start my little business, and to learn more about fine jewellery, antique jewellery, and how to try and sell it.
I saved the money to “start-up”, but after a heavy dose of heartbreak I put those ambitions on hold. I squandered the money, and I moved to Bristol to start university at the age of 22. I was a “young mature student”. I found university hard, and my mental and physical health wasn’t always great, but I wanted to be the first in my family to go to university, and I didn’t know how to make a business from nothing… but I gave it a go.
I studied silversmithing an evening a week with Kim Thomson. I bought the basics, lodged a jewellers bench in a dingy cupboard in the basement of my uni house, and I started making jewellery. It was very hand to mouth – and I started with easy things that weren’t cast or too expensive to produce. I eventually got to Frome and I was able to buy my groceries from my market takings!
However, I broke my collarbone in 2019 (at a party – being a wally) and it never healed. I finished uni in 2020 (it was a struggle!) and I went straight into running my business full-time. Covid and the lockdown of 2020 meant people were massively supporting small makers and independents online. It was amazing.
But – because of the collarbone shenanigans, I had to take lots of time out last year to get not one but two operations on my clavicle. It was hard. I had a big mental health crash… BUT I also managed to do a pop-up in London’s Selfridges!! This time I was selling my own jewels in the store I used to work in, I was the top-selling brand of the A South London Makers Market pop-up, and I even sold a piece to a Beckham! 😉
Business is a bit harder and slower now, but I’m so grateful to have my arm back, my mental health, and the opportunity to be back trading at The Frome Independent. Meeting you lovely people in person brings me so much joy.
Where do you get your inspiration – what motivates you to do what you do?
I find most of my inspiration in museums, and I want to make SO many more jewels inspired by original artefacts. I have many wax sculptures to get cast, and I really want to make ancient treasures wearable, and bring them into the everyday. I also find a lot of inspo on Pinterest. I have LOTS of Pinterest boards of interesting artefacts and jewels from various periods, places, and peoples. I adore browsing to see what past hands have created. I collect antiques and old treasures – to one day turn into jewels. I also collect precious beads and stones, to make into charms, earrings, or rings. I have a bit of a bead addiction and I love it.
Why did you choose to come and trade at The Frome Independent?
I heard the legend of The Frome independent when I was at uni. I started my little business from my student bedroom and I tried markets in Bristol and Bath but they were never quite the place for me. When I got into The Frome independent as a suitcase stall trader on the hill (in 2019 – very grateful for the student discount!!) I started to gain my first customers and build a little online audience for my business. Hands down, my first customer base came from doing The Frome Independent market, and I am very grateful. That opportunity let me get to where I am today, and the market is still my bread and butter, especially post-lockdown in this economic climate, where online sales are slower.
What do you like about market trading – why not just sell online or through retail outlets?
I love it. Being back to market this year has made me fall back in love with my little business. I work mostly alone from a home studio (which I do love) but connecting with people and selling at markets is amazing. You can’t beat selling and buying jewellery in person. I always encourage people to pick things up and try things on. My business is all about tangible material cultures and accessibility. I want people to go for it and grab and rummage. Doing markets really makes me enjoy what I do, recognise the value in what I do, and want to keep doing what I do.
Tell us about your own favourite or best-selling product. How much work goes into creating it, why do you think this is your strongest product?
My best selling? Hmmm. The Phalloi ring does well. It’s a piece that I started with – my first ring in fact. Boys wore phallic signet rings in Ancient Rome, to protect them from the evil eye and witchcraft. I spotted it in the British Museum after my heavy dose of heartbreak and had to make myself one. It’s a sneaky cheeky willy on a ring. I have a gold one, and I sell them in brass, recycled sterling silver, or gold to order… 😉
Ooooh. My favourite is my Tall Amphora amulet. I studied a module in the history of alcohol at Bristol uni and started carving amphorae. I spent hours and hours carving a large hollow amphora vessel from wax – but as I’m self taught I didn’t know that you can’t mould a hollow vessel for lost wax casting. So each piece I make is unique, as I have to seal and sculpt the two moulded halves back together. One day I’ll own one in recycled 9ct gold.
What is your favourite Frome shop, or stall to visit at The Frome Independent?
My favourite stall has become Izabela Gaganis’. Izabela is a sculptor and she makes fuzzy little soul ghosts made from recycled clothing. Their faces are adorable. Closed eyes, rosy cheeks, and fluffy hair. Apparently at the age of 28 I’ve become a teddy person. I have three and I’m ready for another. Also a BIG fan of B from Bohobo Aromatherapies. I use their organic Love deodorant and it’s amazing. I switched to it in the 2020 lockdown and now I’m addicted, plus B is a BABE.
And finally, some quick fire questions….
Colours. It’s a Shirley Hughes kids book and I still adore it. Beautiful illustrations accompany poems for each colour of the rainbow. It’s soul soothing, and now I read it to my niece and she loves it too.
Describe your dream day off.
A late rise because I’m a night owl and I like my bed. I’d like to wander around a sleepy town in the sunshine, and then discover an antique shop (if it’s a dream can I please have an unlimited budget?). Maybe a meander around a museum to look at old gold, and metalwork made many moons ago. Some good food. A nap. Maybe an evening of making and creating til the early hours.
What are you listening to right now?
I recently discovered Anna Savage and I’m loving her music. “I want to live alone but I can’t afford the rent”. I feel ya, Anna.
I’ve also been listening to the Blind Boy podcast which is very funny, soothing, and eye opening. I’m learning lots about Irish mythology from it, and it’s great.
What are you cooking/ eating / drinking at the moment?
I’m cooking a fair few curries at the moment. I’m from Ilford in Greater London, and our Indian neighbour taught us some great recipes.
I’ve been drinking a lot of elderflower – still making my way through the cordials and shrubs I made in the spring. When I get a rare gin out I usually ask for double elderflower – or St Germain!
Thank you Roo! You can find Musée Roo in Market Place during our November and December markets, or check out Roo’s website here: www.museeroo.co.uk