Carol Vickers tells us how she went into silversmithing in response to NHS delays, why she’s an avid YouTuber, and how her world opened up during the covid lockdown.
How do you identify as disabled, and what does it mean to you?
I have Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, arthritis, and ADHD. While these create challenges in my daily life, I think they’ve also taught me adaptation and resilience, which are themes that are reflected in my work as a silversmith and jewellery designer.
I campaign for disability equality and improved access by working with disability charities.
Tell us a little about your business.
Created by Carol is a relatively new business that grew from a hobby. I make solid silver jewellery with a purpose: my collections include fidget jewellery for people with anxiety or neurodivergent conditions, adjustable rings for anyone with hand swelling or arthritis, and a range of upcycled antique cutlery, which is a direct response to today’s disposable, fast fashion.
Why did you start the business? Share your story so far.
I originally went to silversmithing classes because I was tired of waiting for NHS ring splints to support my fingers. The splints took six months to arrive and when they did, they were bendy and ill-fitting, so I decided to learn to make my own! Once I started working with silver, I was hooked. I felt like I immediately understood how it moved and changed: the possibilities seemed endless. My assistance dog patiently sat through all my night school classes and was the belle of the ball! When lockdown happened, I carried on practising and learning at home, and soon people began asking if I would sell my creations to them.
What do you see as the main challenges facing your business and its continued operation or growth?
My business was selected as a SmallBiz100 in 2022, but it is still in its early stages and I currently fit it around my day job, so time is always pressured.
My disabilities present their own challenges: I have a connective tissue disorder plus Raynaud’s Syndrome and carpal tunnel syndrome, all of which affect my grip and cause hand pain, numbness and weakness – which are not ideal for a silversmith who is constantly using tiny gemstones!
What can we do to encourage more disabled entrepreneurs to start businesses – what is holding them back and what can we all do to help change that?
I think something that really struck me during the pandemic was how many opportunities suddenly became available online. During covid 19, I was able to attend webinars, events and courses virtually that had previously been inaccessible to me as a disabled person, because it’s difficult for me to travel. The transformation of learning from in-person to at home was amazing for so many disabled people. It felt like the world had opened up – ironic in the middle of a lockdown!
I’m adamant that support services, educators, etc should not automatically return to in-person events post-covid. To do so will once again exclude so many inventive, brilliant, disabled people and make it so much harder for them to reach their potential.
If there was one thing you could change about peoples’ perception of disability what would it be and why?
I don’t believe people are disabled by their health conditions, so much as by the barriers society puts in their way.
For example, I am really bad at maths and really bad at walking. Society ensures that I have a calculator available to me all the time: in my phone, my office, my computer, etc, so my inability to count well doesn’t disable me. If I had that sort of access to suitable public transport, dropped kerbs, online events rather than face-to-face, and buildings incorporating inclusive design, then my inability to walk well wouldn’t be a disability either.
If society at large realised that disability is created by decisions and attitudes, I think accessibility and inclusivity would increase exponentially.
Who or what inspires you?
History inspires me. I have always loved vintage aesthetics. My home is full of antiques, I wear vintage styles, and I’m fascinated by design from the 1860s to the 1960s. Much of my work has a retro feel or is made from upcycled antiques. The opportunity to take the best of the past and give it a new life in the present just blows my mind.
Do you have a recommendation for a book or a podcast which has helped you along your journey?
I’m an avid YouTuber! There are so many tutorials and things to learn for free! What an amazing resource. Also, when I need a bit of a boost, I like a good TED Talk!