Small Business Stories: interview with accessories designer John Patterson

Retail Ready with Sniffle Co entrepreneurJohn Patterson is a musician and a designer. His musical passion is expressed through The Grates, while his graphic creativity lies behind the Brisbane based company Sniffle Co which he runs alongside his friend Melissa Perry. Most of John’s designing is done on the road, and the shot of his work space (above) is an apt illustration of his working lifestyle. John designs whimsical jewelry that is laser cut from poplar plywood before being hand painted and lacquered.

Read the interview after the jump:

Getting Started
What made you decide to start your own business? I found myself with some time off from my main job, and had been looking for a way to turn some of my sketches into something physical. I had heard about Ponoko, and it seemed like a really easy/low cost way to try out a few ideas.

How did you decide on making wooden jewelry? My girlfriend had been wearing acrylic laser cut jewellery that I had always admired, though they always seemed to look very disposable. I thought using wood you could add a lot more detail, and it would have much more of a permanence.

What skills did you already have when you started your business and what did you have to learn? I didn’t have to learn very much, I just had to brush up on my Illustrator skills. Faults become apparent when prototyping, so I’ve been able to learn a lot through that.

Business as Usual (or unusual)
What is the the most challenging part about running your own business? Staying motivated and in touch with the original vision of the business has been tough for me. The type of work I want to create sometimes doesn’t fit idea of what Sniffle Co anymore is so it’s challenging to go back and work for that world.

Do you generally create small production runs or make to order? I always make small production runs, as there is still a lot of work to put into the jewellery after it’s cut, customers would be waiting a month for an order if they were waiting for varnish to dry and so on.

How do you balance your creative drive with enterpreneurial requirements? I feel like the way I work best is by going on ‘creative benders’, doing a lot of creative work when I get on a roll, and then following it up with all the less exciting (but just as necessary) jobs that come along with bringing new designs into the world.

Makin’ the Money
What type of selling outlets are your products in? Boutiques, gift shops and online at

In what ways do you promote your business? Facebook, and occasionally I’ll get asked to do an interview for a blog or small magazine. Overall I just tend to leave it alone though and let people discover it for themselves.

Sage Advice
Have you made any business decisions that you regret? I don’t really regret anything, Though sometimes I wish I could focus more, rather than jumping from one project to the next. It’s all a fun learning experience though.

What would you say is the key factor to your success? I would say my most successful designs are of things that hold connections to peoples identity, so owners of the brooches or whatnot can display a piece of themselves.

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