Meet The Maker: Fleur En Route Jewelry
Florine from Fleur en Route Jewelry creates handmade jewellery and decor, utilising the nature around her as the centerpieces of her products.
As a German who moved to France during the pandemic, the last few years for Florine have been full of navigating and overcoming obstacles. Throughout that time, her business has been going from strength to strength and, in this article, we uncover her story and why creating in an ethical and environmentally friendly manner is so important.
How did you get started creating handmade jewellery?
I have no formal education related to what I do now; I actually have a Bachelor in History and Culture of the Middle East and a Masters in Peace and Conflict Studies. It was during my studies that I sometimes felt the burden of dealing with such heavy topics and I followed the advice of my professor to take up an activity that would help clear my mind.
I started knitting in the winter and half a year later I moved to Israel for my Master’s degree. The climate was a lot warmer than in Germany so I switch from knitting to making micro macrame jewellery. It was a very popular craft among my friends and I gained a lot of knowledge and skills from them as well as online from Pinterest. I started making jewellery for myself, friends, and family and I learned quickly that there were traditional aspects of the craft I wanted to change in my own work.
Most macrame jewellery is ornamented with little brace spacers and/or knotted around semi-precious stones of uncertain origin. The results are beautiful and I have respect for any work done with it but I soon knew it was not for me.
Because of ethical and environmental concerns, I started to look for alternatives and tried various options over the years. Little by little, I started to make more jewellery with epoxy and I stepped away from macrame. Instead, I incorporated more decor, homeware objects and dried plants.
Tell us more about your business and why it was created.
I had studied abroad and had been travelling and working in New Zealand for a few months. In 2017, I spent one year working with refugees but I couldn’t shake the travel bug and I wanted to hit the road again, specifically to France. I had the idea in my head that I could earn a little money on the side by making and selling my jewellery to support my travel plans.
I then learned that since I had completed a year of full-time work, I had the right to 6 months of unemployment money. I decided to take this time to launch my business and it was during these months in 2017, while I worked on a business plan, that I began to take everything more seriously. It helped define and develop my ambition and purpose. I had to learn so much about legal requirements, bookkeeping, and making (completely unrealistic) income and spending projections. I knew nothing about this and I loved the challenge of being completely out of my comfort zone.
This was about the same period I really started to take my first steps with epoxy and flower preservation and it was a very busy and exciting time leading up to launch. I learned a lot, got the business plan and aid for 6 months approved, but I still didn’t know everything and the first year was one big learning curve. I have gained a lot of confidence and experience but, in a way, the learning process is an ongoing one and it is one of the aspects of this work that I love.
I did go travelling, though less than I originally planned. My priorities had shifted and my business had become more important to me. I spent more than 5 months in France in 2018 for the launch year and again for 3 months in 2019. I lived in my furnished Kangoo, did my jewellery work when staying with friends, and sold my creations at local markets.
I now live in France after moving with my partner in June 2020. To move country with a business in the middle of a global pandemic was extremely challenging and I had a difficult year but things are getting better and my business is taking roots at my new home.
I’ve always worked from home (and where I could during travels). Working with epoxy is not something that should be done where you live, eat or sleep. So for all my time in Germany, I set up my “workshop” in the bathroom, because I lived in a very small studio apartment. During winter 2018/19, that meant sitting on the closed toilet seat, a small fold-up table in front of me, and my elbows touching the sink on one side and the shower on the other side. Now I live in a bigger house and enjoy the luxury of an entire room dedicated to my work with epoxy, a desk in the living room for office work and shipping, and a space in the garage for the dirty work. While I made it work before, my new workspace allows me to take my products to the next level.
I’ve sold my jewellery online through Etsy since day one. I sell within the EU and further afield to the USA and Canada. In Germany, my main income came from selling at artisan fairs. I’ve struggled with markets in France, firstly because of the pandemic and because the infrastructure is different from Germany. Instead, I’ve started to partner with local boutiques and concept stores and I hope to expand on that. I also plan to launch a local wedding bouquet preservation service next year.
Why did you choose floral and botanical themes for your jewellery?
I saw this idea first on Pinterest. As I mentioned previously, I was looking for something to replace semi-precious stones for my macrame and thought they looked pretty. It’s funny because my name is Florine (from Latin ‘flora’ – flower) and my last name is Baumbach (in German- tree and brook), so this makes it seem like it was meant to be, but it was really a coincidence. I like flowers and nature as anyone would. The love, knowledge and relationship grew and intensified with the work itself and now the awareness of the plants around me (scanning as to whether they would be suitable and interesting to work with) has become automatic. Right now, crafts including dried flowers have become very popular but that was only starting to grow when I began working in this medium.
Where do you source your flowers and plants for your jewellery?
All the flowers I use for my work I have collected and dried myself. The most important part to me about starting to work with epoxy and dried flowers was ownership over my creations – to create as much as possible with my own hands. I use a lot of wildflowers and leaves and my Mother has allowed me to plunder her large garden. I also collected everywhere I went during my travelling months.
Since I moved to France, I had to get to know the native plants and scout good spots to find them. I have also started building my own garden but that will take a while before it will become a good source for my work. I don’t live far from the Atlantic Ocean now and this has allowed me to forage driftwood and incorporate that into my work.
How important is it to you that your jewellery is produced in an environmentally friendly way?
It’s very important. It is the main reason that I started using Entropy Resins, as it dawned on me pretty quickly that epoxy has its drawbacks. I begrudge any unnecessary waste and try to reduce it as much as possible.
For example, I learned the basics from Pinterest and Youtube tutorials and almost everyone used throwaway plastic cups and tools. Early on, I started searching for a different way, because to me, that was just unacceptable. At the time, the silicone cups I use now were not widely available, so I used small recycled glass jars and metal spoons, all of which I wiped and then cleaned properly with acetone. I now use the silicon cups, but keep the spoons, as silicone does not last forever either. With my moulds that have gone dull, I either carry on using them for pieces with coloured backgrounds – where clarity isn’t as important – or I pass them on to colleagues who don’t need the shine on their work.
How did you discover Entropy Resins?
I made the classic mistake of buying the cheapest epoxy I could find at the very beginning of my journey, which of course was bad quality and turned yellow upon winter’s end. That was quite a blow to my young business but I had my eye on Super Sap at that point. I don’t remember exactly how I came across Entropy Resins, but I think I saw bio-based epoxies mentioned by my colleagues of the craft in America and eventually came across Entropy Resins. I purchased from the Entropy Resins EU store at first but I now get my supplies from their French supplier, Directeck.
What do you like most about using Entropy Resins?
With their SuperSap formula and their pursuit towards conserving energy, minimising harmful byproducts and reducing greenhouse gas emissions, Entropy Resins allows me to work with epoxy with a better conscience. Without this, I likely would have stopped working with epoxy all together. And of course, I am very happy with the quality of the product. It’s so easy to work with and makes for great results – it’s crystal clear and has great UV resistance. I find that if the mould is clear, the final product comes out perfectly, without any need for sanding or polishing. It’s the only epoxy I have used so far (besides that unfortunate beginner’s mistake) and I don’t plan on switching.
What would you say to anyone who is considering starting their own jewellery business?
I started out not knowing much about what I do. With an extremely small budget, I learned almost everything, both in terms of the craft and how to lead a business, all by myself. I had no studio or workshop and very little space. Selling online and creating a following is a slow grind and nothing comes without effort and patience. I struggled with imposter syndrome for many years and there were many times I thought about returning to a job in my line of studies. But now I have gained the confidence and feel able to say that this is my profession. I have found my own style and can’t wait to develop it further. I am proud of the products I make and passionate about each new kind of product I add to my line.
So to anyone who has set up a new business, or is considering launching one: if you want to do it, if you have the ideas, you can do it. No matter the circumstances. All you need is a bit of courage, patience, and passion for learning.