Growing up on an island or near seawater seems to breed the thirst of exploration in people, and it certainly did for Sara Strachan. Sara is the owner and mastermind behind Ocean Boheme, an eclectic eco-friendly and surf inspired line of jewels, handcrafted by Sara and her team of artisans, and designed one by one, offering unique pieces that bring the ocean home.
We got the chance to chat with Sara about her story - how she got her start, what challenges she has encountered while bringing up Boheme, and her top tips for being an eco-conscious consumer.
Tell Us About Your Upbringing. Where/How Did You Grow Up?
I was raised on a small island in the South of England called Hayling Island, with the beach at my doorstep. My parents were into sailing so I went on the water from when I was small, so I guess that explains how I got salt in my veins from a young age! My mum also encouraged myself and my sister to do crafts as kids and we would make our own necklaces and earrings as kids which I think must have influenced my creative side.
When I was a teenager I wanted to learn how to sail, at school they were running a beginners sailing course but I missed out and ended up learning to windsurfing through my school (in hindsight I think this was a good thing as it got me into boardsports). I really fell for windsurfing and started practicing at a council subsidised after school club. I decided I wanted to be a windsurfing instructor and even studied Maritime Leisure Management at university because I wanted to become a manager at a windsurf centre in a tropical county!
You and I (Kayla) Share the Multi-Passionate Lifestyle - the world is such an exciting place! What are some of the hobbies and passions that led you to decide to become a jewelry designer?
I think my love for windsurfing definitely catapulted me on to the ocean sports path of life. After uni I trained as a windsurfing instructor and taught around Europe with the opportunity to wakeboard on calm evenings.
I soon realised that snowboarding seasons fitted nicely with this lifestyle and I worked four winter seasons in the French Alps snowboarding. Working abroad and loving the action sport lifestyle I decided to go travelling around the world with a good friend, we went through South East Asia, Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and the Cook islands - this was when I wanted to do more surfing and I learned to scuba dive.
In Australia I fell in love with Byron Bay and all of the creatives living there - it really inspired me to have my own creative business and loved their hippy markets. When I came back to England I felt the pressure to get a ‘proper job’ and got a job as a travel consultant following all of my travels. I stuck with this for almost 10 years but always wanted my own business - it was choosing what to do that was the hard part! I decided to change my hours to 4.5 days and on my half day off I trained as a paddle boarding instructor, I wasn’t really sure why but didn’t know what to do and remembered how much I had liked being in the watersports industry. I thought maybe it would bring an opportunity to me, and it did - not in the watersports world as I had expected - but a lady on the same SUP course made jewellery, I told her how I had been wanting to do a course and she told me she could teach me. So I started going to her house on Monday nights and she taught myself and a friend to make a ring and I made my first seaglass ring!
What Were Some Challenges You Encountered Whilst Starting Ocean Boheme? How Did You Overcome Those Challenges?
I guess some of the main ones were being discovered and trying to sell enough to support myself. I hoped I could run Ocean Boheme on the side for a year and then quit my travel job - as it turned out I actually had to have it as a side project for about 3.5 years and even then I wasn’t sure it could support me but COVID had a say in my travel consultancy job and I’ve just had to live very modestly since running Ocean Boheme full time BUT I do love it and have since moved to Hossegor and am loving living close to the surf and in the sunshine - priceless!
What Makes Ocean Boheme Jewelry Stand Out From Other Ocean-based jewelry brands?
Being an environmentally responsible brand is really important to me. My friends would vouch that I am always striving to minimise plastic use in my life and I have always supported marine conservation charities, so it’s natural that I want to apply similar principles to my business life too. My new campaign to plant a coral for every purchase made is something that I am very proud of.
I also strive to offer unique designs, I want my designs to be different and not piggybacking onto others ideas. In confession I do offer wave rings that are a common ‘ocean jewellery’ design, but this is an exception rather than the norm. I have had a few brands make extremely similar pieces to mine since I have started which can be annoying but I tell myself that ‘imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.
What Has Been Your Favorite Part About Bringing Ocean Boheme to Life? Your Least Favorite?
I really love the photography and editing part of the job, thinking of photoshoot ideas and making them come to life is so much fun. The least fun is probably queuing at the post office which I do a LOT of!
Tell Us About Roni and How You Met Him
Roni is great, he poduces my designs in the workshop at the back of his house. I met him on a trip to Bali, I went to a silversmithing village on my way to the ferry port and only had about 20 minutes to find someone before heading to a different island. I ran down the first alleyway and was saying ‘silver’ and pointing to my rings - hoping to find an independent silversmith. One lady hanging out her washing pointed me towards Roni who was asleep on a couch. He woke up and we talked in a mix of broken English, Bahassa and mime! I gave him a pocket full of shells and turquoise, showed him a design of a stacking ring, he named his price and I showed him on my phone calendar I would be back in a week. On my return his craftsmanship skills were excellent and we swapped whatsapp numbers. Since then we have been working together with the help of google translate! 15 years ago this relationship would have been much harder without these apps so I am really grateful.
On my next return to Bali, Roni had moved house from a modest shack to a concrete bungalow and I hope Ocean Boheme has played a part in helping him do this. I have met his wife and two kids and they are full of smiles and warmth when I visit.
What Is It Like Working With An Artisan from a Different Country? What Lessons Have You Learned Through This Process?
It’s not easy, I could have worked with a bigger silver manufacturer but I wanted to have a bigger impact on the life of the person I was working with. The language barrier can be tricky when google translate doesn’t get a meaning across. Cultural differences can sometimes be difficult too, if there’s a problem I tell him and I see it has been read but sometimes I don’t get a reply - I think the Asian way of ‘saving face’ could be playing a role here. Also when covid hit Roni lost all of his other work - he asked me for help - I felt a huge responsibility, especially having met his family and knowing he wouldn’t ask if he didn’t have to. I quickly got to sending him a huge order to work on even though I didn’t need the stock - I knew I would be able to use it at some point.
How Can Other Surfers and Ocean Lovers Contribute To Ocean Conservation in Their Daily Lives?
Ooooh there’s so many ways!
- Picking up litter (trash) at the beach and normalising this to onlookers.
- Choosing clothes made from natural fibers, or even better buying second hand from thrift stores or ebay. (Synthetic fibres are shed when washed and go out to sea)
- Also wearing clothes until they are worn rather than just out of fashion or upcycling them into something else - (I have some leopard jeans that are completely worn through that I have kept to be made into a surfboard sock for example).
- Using refill shops if they are convenient - some things are expensive but others can be cheaper - so get clued up on the price per gram/litre!
- Picking glass, aluminium or cardboard packaging over plastic.
- Using natural washing powder/liquid, washing up liquid, shampoo (hello Surf Soap), conditioner whenever possible.
- Fixing things over throwing out and replacing
- Taking you own cloth bag/keep cup/cutlery instead of using single use
- Reducing your consumption in general
- Limiting or cutting out animal products from your diet.
- Opting for eco surf wax, new neoprene technologies not based from petroleum, surfboards that incorporate greener materials.
- Using reef safe sunscreen
- Campaigning for cleaners seas to your politicians/local government and supporting ocean conservation organisations.
Where Can Our Locals find and connect with you?
The best palace is probably my instagram Ocean.Boheme or my website:www.oceanboheme.co.uk I am also on Facebook and Etsy but the first two are the ones I use the most. Always happy to connect with new people who resonate with the ethos of Ocean Boheme, who love the ocean and value keeping our oceans clean.