How to pierce the design game

Tamra Wilson is adapting her Wahboo Designs business into a 100% custom-designed line of jewellery IMAGE: Sarah Joy Photography

After finding initial success selling her earrings at her husband’s market stall two years ago, Tamra Wilson is now transitioning her popular Wahboo Designs line into 100% custom-designed jewellery. With a popular following here in Townsville and stockists in some of the trendiest shopping districts in Melbourne, Wahboo Designs is making its mark.

How did Wahboo Designs come to be?
I’ve always made my own jewellery. After my second child, I was diagnosed with a chronic disease which ruled out returning to a professional job. Starting out, I thought “right I’m going to make it all my own designs” but at that stage I had no idea how to do it for myself.  I researched what I could do to create my own shapes, I taught myself how to use Adobe Illustrator and I’m still learning how to use it every day.

What does the design process look like for you?
I’m known to have my sketchbook next to the bed, so in the middle of the night I can just scrawl ideas straight down. Then when it comes time to design I flick through the book and whatever grabs me, I create. I usually have a fair idea of what it will look like, but sometimes I’ll throw something together and think ‘wow that looks great’. I quite like having that creative freedom to break the rules and pair colours or shapes that aren’t supposed to be together.

Tamra Wilson, the designer behind Wahboo Designs is transitioning to 100% custom-designed pieces IMAGE: Supplied

Where do you find your design inspiration?
I try and research the latest trends and fashions and take a lot from that and whatever appeals to me personally as well. I take my inspiration from having grown up in North Queensland – I love the tropical plants and wildlife and the colours. I feel like that influences me without even thinking about it, I tend to go with my blues and my greens then the brights of the florals we have here.

How do you know what will work?
I’ve been known to walk around the house with paper or cardboard earrings on. So I’ll draw or trace my shape and cut it out so I can put it on and see how it looks and feels over the day. Sometimes it’s hard to picture when you’re looking at a computer screen.

Wahboo Designs is stocked locally in Renegade Handmade at the Warrina Arcade IMAGES: Supplied

How do you plan to adapt for growth?
When I make the switch to 100% my own designs, the idea is to become less quantity and more one-of-a-kinds. At the moment it’s about finding a happy medium between getting it done, coordinating suppliers and just being savvier with systems. But I am starting to wonder at what point do I need an employee or to outsource to a virtual assistant for social media or get someone to do the books because it’s just getting busier and busier.

Where does social media fit into your business?
For me it’s making genuine connections with customers and other makers by commenting on their photos and asking questions. I also love taking photos, so setting up a little flat lay and rocking out a few product shots in a day is quite enjoyable. When you work for yourself and you work from home, you don’t have colleagues or a watercooler or lunchroom that you can chat over, so I get my feedback and advice from these men and women I’ve met on Instagram who are in the creative industry as well.


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