Jennifer Rowlands – Industry Forum 2024

Jennifer Rowlands, Owner of Refinery Row gives her insights into the successes and challenges of 2023 with hopes for the 2024 year.

Written by Jewellery World

Jennifer Rowlands
Owner, Refinery Row

Can you discuss a particularly challenging or rewarding project you worked on in 2023, and what skills or experiences from your background did you draw upon to make it successful?

My toughest project in 2023: learning to lecture as well as develop and deliver some industry-relevant units for Cert IV and diploma students. It was the ultimate test of every skill I’ve gained over the past two decades. It was a real challenge because I had to step out of my comfort zone and share my knowledge with the industry. To make things even more interesting, I had to upskill and complete a Cert V in Training and Assessment.

How do you envision your upcoming education platform impacting the industry, and what topics or skills can aspiring jewellery creatives expect to learn from your platform?

I’m aiming to create an education platform with real-world jewellery industry skills in mind. My educational platform is built on my own experience, with a goal to provide practical, relevant skills that are essential to the jewellery industry. I’m focused on developing courses and ebooks that will cover design, creative thinking, and illustration techniques such as orthographic/elevation drawings, two-point perspective, and rendering.

My aim is to make learning easy and increase confidence in these skills, highlighting the importance of design in the process. I value transparency and efficiency, so my platform emphasises a direct, no-nonsense approach. I’m well aware of how running a business can eat up your time, but I also know that design and illustration are crucial skills for success in the jewellery industry.

With a background that spans various aspects of the industry, from project management to supply chain and offshore manufacturing, how do you balance this versatility in your work, and how does it contribute to the success of your projects in 2023?

I like to take a holistic approach. Comprehending every facet of the jewellery industry enables me to provide targeted and well-thought-out outcomes. My understanding of the entire process enables me to anticipate the effects my decisions will have on my clients and their businesses. This approach streamlines communication, helping me understand their brand and values so that I can efficiently meet their needs without adding any complications. Whether I’m creating drawings for a client catalogue or developing concept solutions for a client’s bespoke pieces, my experience in various trade aspects provides me with versatile and feasible solutions. I believe that every designer should understand manufacturing, marketing, sourcing, and other areas, as you need to know the rules to break them.

How did your business address sustainability in 2023, and what sustainability goals do you have for 2024?

In my business, I tackle sustainability from both an illustration and design point of view. For client illustrations I predominantly work with a type of marker that has replaceable parts and refillable ink to reduce my impact and waste, I often reuse and recycle where possible in regards to some of my tools (my favourite gouache pallet is an offcut of Perspex that was destined for landfill). I also send my illustrations in a reusable cardboard box and compostable postage bag where possible. Design-wise, I focus on creating designs that are built to last in both manufacturing and trend terms. I would love to have more conversations in 2024 around sustainable design and what that means in terms of steering away from designs that provide a quick solution but are not built to age with the wearer.

Innovation and experimentation are central to your work. How do you keep the spirit of innovation alive in your jewellery design, and what innovative techniques or approaches are you eager to explore in 2024?

Experimentation means I’m always learning and building new skills. I maintain this by setting time to play/experiment and research. I make a conscious effort to leave my comfort zone knowing I will make mistakes, totally fail and end up with a mess but I know that I will always learn something useful. I believe that experimentation is an integral part of my business evolution. In 2024, I am looking forward to spending more time exploring alternative materials for both manufacturing and illustration, developing and using techniques that blur perceived value and highlight the importance of design and the storytelling process.

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