On our last day in Copenhagen, we awoke to a perfect sunny late summers day and jumped in a taxi out to the industrial island of Refshaleøen. The once bustling shipyard is an important part of Danish industrial history and since its closure the area has changed significantly. The previously abandoned warehouses now house a number of creative entrepreneurs, flea markets, restaurants among other cultural and recreational establishments. It is in this area where Renathe runs her business SWY Studio in a creative collective overlooking the Danish harbour. This location continues to grow and provide more and more window distractions with plans for Papirøen to move underneath her studio and bring with it the masses of tourists and locals that travel to this popular spot.
Her studio is a small one room space with a work bench under the window, a space for sitting and having a coffee and a few greens to keep the area cozy. Renathe works alone here and handles everything from sourcing of materials (points out over the water to where she gets her silver from) to shipping by herself, keeping things local.
The move to Copenhagen
Renathe's story of how she got to Copenhagen and into jewellery is the product of a series of gut decisions. Originally from Oslo, she has also spent time in Kristiansand, where she studied Political Science. At this time in her life she was not making jewellery and also had not visited Copenhagen since around the age of 12. The decision for her to move was sudden and Renathe sold her possessions, grabbed the cat and left.
"I think the biggest decisions of my life where made on a whim”
Renathe arrived in Copenhagen with not much stuff, not knowing anyone, no degree and with no idea what to do. Having previously lived in Oslo there was no bigger city she could move to in Norway and she really wanted a change which prompted the move to Copenhagen, accepting the first apartment she was offered. Shortly afterwards she started working at a cafe which she says was full of fur, old ladies and snobbish. She had no friends and hated her job so she started making small things to get through the day. “I was super depressed and even called my doctors saying I need someone to talk to I am losing my mind”.
With a love for working with her hands, one day she went by a leather shop and then a sewing shop, picking up materials to start embroidering on leather. “I had no plan, no ambition for it to become what it is, it just happened”.
She started off simple attaching things with leather and the likes which received some compliments and interest from people wanting to buy, so she created a shop on Etsy. She laughs “you can google it but its super awkward to look at". However, it started to sell and being an international platform she threw herself out there into the global marketplace. The shop opened in December 2010 and by December 2011 things had become so busy that she was struggling to balance work, SWY Studio and sleep.
She was working non-stop but wanted to learn how to make jewellery from scratch, rather than attach things with leather and wires, which motivated her to take a course in February 2012. It was not a long course but she had a very clear idea of what she wanted to make and asked to be taught everything possible in that short period of time. Following this she trained her self in her studio for one year, practising everyday, until launching under her own domain in 2013.
Change in style and SWY Studio
It is really difficult to see yourself objectively from the outside and this small hobby that turned into SWY Studio has changed majorly two times. The last of which being a full rebrand as Renathe felt she was stuck in a space that she had explored enough with no options to go left or right. She shut it down, built a new website and started over. Style wise the jewellery she now makes is bigger which is nice and challenging for her. She admits she likes to keep a clear space at all times and enjoys getting rid of stuff, so maybe in a few years she will change it up again. A process that she does not see as two opposite aspects of business but more like a natural evolution for her and what she wants to add in to her collection.
When she opened her Etsy shop it needed a name and she landed on Still With You Copenhagen. “At the time I was jamming to this song ‘heart skipped a beat’ by The xx and got the lyrics wrong, it is 'still need you' not 'still with you', so that is the story of that”. The rebrand to SWY Studio was a bit more thought out and was a proactive approach to stop 'Still With You' sounding like a “funeral compnay” (Laughs from us) “but it does” (Laughs from her). She also did not want to limit herself and the new brand name mentions nothing about jewellery which is liberating creatively.
She admits it does take some time to get set up and you want to have the right materials from the right people at the right price but, being in the EU compared to Norway it is a major advantage.
When it comes to her working method she thinks it is easier once she has the silver in her hands and sees it melt in a certain way. Everything she uses is sourced locally and she mostly, unsurprisingly, takes the bicycle to get materials. Her process is quite organic to make jewellery, rather than extensively planned. A couple of things are cast but mostly everything is made individually and may not be identical. Since establishing in 2012 every piece of jewellery is made from a silver plate or wire and she is enjoying the limitations that using those two resources brings as it sparks her to be creative in that material field.
Renathe does everything herself, “I made all the jewellery from scratch, the website, the photos for the website and the accounting; which I need to stop as I am not that good at it”. Working alone and being an entrepreneur where you do get to decide everything, you can turn into a serious control freak, however, at the same time she really likes having her hands in everything. “I will be a horrible boss one day” she laughs.
She has previously worked with photographers and models but felt the online store was missing something, so now uses herself. It is also a matter of practicality for her and “you learn by doing”. She also thinks that if she had a photographer, someone packing shipments and the other tasks it would get boring for her. At the moment she is loving the amount of variety she has in everyday and that is key. "It is good to have some pressure with time and if you get bored with one thing you are doing you can stop and do something else and pick it up again later".
There is a number of jewellery brands in Copenhagen and it is common for designers to rent a space with many others in a collective studio. Renathe has never followed the traditional path and enjoys her own working space saying “when I'm working, I'm working, if there is other people around trying to come and chat to you how are you supposed to get anything done”. It can be easy to be distracted when you are with people as you will start to talk, especially if you work together. She does understand why this set up is more normal as it is expensive with the tools, materials and rent but thinks it is a strange dynamic and “as a person working with creative things you do get in a bubble and having those distractions is not good for the train of thought and productivity".
"I really like being by myself sometimes I don't speak in a full day and it is amazing”
It is good for productivity to be alone, but being alone also gets lonely, pushing her to compensate outside of work. She has been in this studio for five years and does not consider herself a highly social person, however, she thinks it is really nice to have the luxury to choose when and where to be social with her small group of friends rather than have that pressure in the workplace.
Recently SWY Studio has been collaborating with clothing brands lending accessories to campaigns including one with other Norwegian abroad Henriette from Moe Oslo. She believes that if you think creatively and are not limited by your main medium then you are able to explore these paths. She has not been too active in initiating collaborations but thinks it would be cool to do a designated collection for a company or using the metal to do shoe detailing.
Alongside SWY Studio Renathe manages a vintage jewellery online store. This also came about by chance as she likes vintage shopping and started with purchasing a small number of pieces from Etsy, before stumbling upon a stamp shop that sold coins, old silver and jewellery while buying coffee one day. She buys vintage jewellery and restores it for sale. “Maybe the rings are crooked or have scratches but good design is good design and I restore them to a current style”.
She started this project before her rebrand as she needed something completely creative with no limitations. This all happened during the Christmas break where she came up with the concept and had a website up and running within five days. For Renathe it was really nice to have that creative air and a break from SWY Studio as she felt stuck at the time. This freedom ultimately led to her rebrand not long after and Argent Atelier has now been moved into the same online space as SWY Studio as her “side kick”.
The jewellery she makes is not seasonal, it will be the products she wants to make and if there is the want to make something new and it fits in the context of her other products she is able to add in these new items with no pressure. It does take a long time to come up with a good design and she does not just quit products but rather add and remove as she continues to develop the brand. She mentions Kjetil from sur le chemin as someone operating in a similar manner highlighting how refreshing it is to work in this way and not feel pressured by having to have new items all the time.
“I think its in no way sustainable to make stuff in that way, I make everything to order but in a factory what do you do with all that excess stock?"
All photography by Ronja Penzo