A question I get asked a lot is how did Jacqueline Dowd Designs start? Really the answer is by chance!
Back in 2015, my year as the Roscommon Rose of Tralee had come to an end, and I thought to myself how am I going to keep myself busy? The year as Roscommon Rose had taken up a lot of my time and I am a person who dislikes being idle. One Friday night, while watching the Late Late Show, I was messing about with fabrics and stick on pearls. Eventually, I put together a small neckpiece; I thought I was the bee’s knees! My Mother’s words to me were “Jack you’re not half bad at that.” I wore the piece the following night to a Rose of Tralee event and got many compliments, which of course spurred me on to make another piece. I borrowed my mother’s singer sewing machine and got to work. In school I wasn’t really into art, I loved academia but under the guidance of Ms Hestor, I learned how to sew, a skill that has since stood to me.
I was self-thought, finding ideas for pieces on social media, mainly Pinterest, and eventually, I plucked up the courage and created bigger bespoke pieces. The following year, I took a class with Laura Hanlon, a Roscommon based milliner who thought me easier ways of creating pieces and really gave me the confidence to keep working on my passion.
Once I started creating bespoke pieces, my grà and appetite for my new-found talent grew. Sharing photos of my works with my family and close friends gave me the confidence to set up my Facebook page, Jacqueline Dowd Designs. The support I received from my Rose of Tralee class gave me the extra boost I needed to make something of my designs.
All of my pieces are custom made and one of a kind; I believe we are all unique in our own ways, so I will never make two pieces the same unless I am specifically asked to by a client. My pieces take two-weeks to make, allowing time to source materials and deliver the piece to the client. Making a piece itself can take between 8 and 12 hours, depending on the size. I source my materials from Irish businesses such as Frances’ Finishing Touches in Roscommon and Dublin based Dink Design. All of my pieces are hand-sewn and designed to suit the client's outfit or their preferred colour. To date, my clients range from wedding guests, mothers of the bride, and lady’s day racegoers to most recently; brides to be. To this day, my Mother sees nearly every piece I create. Having a fresh pair of eyes and her encouragement gives me the confidence to know that I am happy with my finished piece. It doesn’t matter what age you are… You will always turn to your mother for advice!
During this last Summer, I undertook a course with Laura Kinsella, an award-winning milliner, at the Dublin School of Millinery. Here I learned how to create bespoke bridal wear. My New Year’s resolution for 2018 was to push myself out of my comfort zone. This happened when I created my first bespoke bridal belt and hairpiece for my friend’s wedding. It was a challenge, I greatly accepted and it has since opened a new client base of brides for me.
Getting involved in local events and initiatives such as Christmas fairs and the Strokestown Enterprise Town presentation has helped me to get my name out there. Social media has had a massive impact and is a simple, effective way of marketing my pieces. Word of mouth and referrals have also helped. I have collaborated with many bloggers and style influencers in the past including bloggers such as: Get Glam with Gret; Sinead De Blogger; and Roscommon native Paula Gannon, who is a seasonal ladies day contestant at the races. Having collaborated with these ladies has fuelled my passion for design. I get asked a lot: "Where do I get my patience from when making pieces." To me, my hobby is therapeutic; it’s a form of meditation and living in the present moment. I can only focus on one thing, creating a neck piece, or bridal wear, and more often than not time flies by. I often set the alarm on my phone to remind me to leave my desk, move about, and of course to put the kettle on!
Having a talent is a gift, and creating bespoke jewellery is a gift I can share with others. Seeing a lady’s face light up with delight, knowing I have helped her feel extra special and confident for her occasion is the part I love most.
So, what’s next? Who knows. I have so many pipeline-dreams and aspirations. Recently, bridal-wear has become my new passion and I will continue to upskill in that area, as there is an abundance of courses available in design and millinery in Ireland.
As Christmas season is around the corner, I would urge you all to take the opportunity to shop local and support our small businesses with big dreams. I would like to take this opportunity also to thank all of my clients who have supported me to date and who have given me the encouragement to carry on.
I’m looking forward to seeing what I create in the coming months and what lies in store for 2019. If I could give one piece of advice “As you think, you shall be”. If you have a talent, passion, or gift pursue it, give it a go, if you don't; you will always regret not doing so!
Bridge Street, Strokestown, Co Roscommon
T: 071 96 33694 / 071 96 33779
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