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What Would They Know? Matthew Ely of Matthew Ely by York Jewellers

by | Jewellery Wisdom, What Would They Know?, Wisdom


Polka Dot Bride

What girl doesn’t love a bit of bling and when the bling comes in the form of these spectacular pieces – then a girl’s dreams really could come true! Matthew of Matthew Ely by York Jewellers is the man behind these designs – crafting bespoke beauties to match your lifestyle, letting the gems speak to the final design. How brilliant must it be to travel the world choosing gems that inspire you to create a spectacular piece for a client, and look of awe and delight on their faces when you present it to them. Working in a world of precious metals and gems would surely add a sparkle to your day!

Please tell us your story because it is rather unique and interesting!

Spending time in and around the family business what initially sparked my interest. I wrote my parents a letter at the age of 12 and asked them to let me work in the shop and it all began from there. My father made me try out other trades like engineering and carpentry before allowing me to settle within the family boutique.

Matthew Ely jewellery design

Do you have a mentor/mentors who were particularly important to you, and influenced your design and your jewellery making techniques?

The Master Craftsmen that I worked alongside during my scholarship in London’s fine jewellery precinct Hatton Garden were influential. That was an experience that money or study can’t buy, the skills that I picked up can only happen when you rub shoulders with jewellers of that level.

You have opened a new jewellery store in Woollahra. Does your father/family still play a significant role in your business?

Yes, my Father is someone that I look up to in both business and the trade. My Mother and Father are celebrating 40 years of business in the jewellery industry this year!

Matthew Ely Boutique

What was the genesis/catalyst of your new business?

I wanted to be able to spend more time at the bench doing what I love and to treat my clients to the full experience.

What are you hoping clients will feel when they walk into your boutique?

I hope that they feel relaxed and enjoy the experience. I wanted to be as transparent as possible and want them to feel that they can ask anything and see everything. That’s the way I designed the boutique, to feel very open. They can watch me work on their piece at my bench.

You say ‘I want to educate my clients on the complex world of gems and diamonds…’. Why is this important to you, and briefly what should we, the client know?

It’s important to me to educate them because I feel sometimes that the way people used to ‘marvel’ at the process gets a little lost. These gems and diamonds start off in such a rough, raw state and end up sparkling brightly on your finger after travelling so far, and being crafted into a beautiful piece of jewellery. I feel that it’s a very special process.

Coloured diamonds and other gems feature in your work. Would you explain about the colours we can get in diamonds, and is a coloured gemstone important to enhance a piece of jewellery?

The great thing about working with coloured diamonds and gemstones is that it makes each individual piece truly unique. Diamonds can be source in a range of colours, from classic white, to yellow, brown, orange, green and of course the rare and beautiful pinks and blues. Not only that but they are available in many different intensities and hues. Coloured gemstones are not necessarily important to enhance a piece of jewellery or complete a design but I love the contrast in colour and variety of what is available.

Matthew Ely jewellery design

Can you design individual pieces for brides if requested? Are engagement rings/wedding bands a significant part of your business?

Yes definitely. Custom, bespoke engagement and wedding rings are up there with what I enjoy doing most! Along with the special bridal piece for the day, diamonds in your hair or stunning earrings.

How do you go about designing a bespoke piece of jewellery?

I have a great design space in my new boutique. It’s very private and relaxing. I talk through different styles, designs, diamonds or gemstones with my clients and begin sketching. As we are discussing different elements of the piece it starts to take shape on paper and is ultimately hand crafted into a bespoke piece. I always consider things like their hobbies, where they will be wearing it, what it’s sitting next to and of course personal style.

What are your designs influenced by – certain periods in time, or the aesthetic influences of certain countries, the gems themselves, or other?

Generally the gemstones themselves. I get inspired when I see a spectacular gemstone and think about what I could create with it to maximize it’s beauty. Architecture also gives me inspiration.

Matthew Ely jewellery design

You make some really unusual, stunning, and award winning designs. Who most often buys these pieces – collectors of fine jewellery, bridal couples, other?

Most interest in my award winning designs comes from true collectors. To want to wear or own something like my recent pink and blue diamond creation ‘Illoura’ the individual would have most other classic pieces and is now looking for something a little more unique to add to their collection.

Where do you source your diamonds and gemstones?

From all over the world, which is another amazing part of what I do. My profession has allowed me to travel the world in search of particular gems and I feel very fortunate for that. I work with some fantastic suppliers here in Australia too.

Matthew Ely jewellery design

What metals and stones are your favourites to work with?

Platinum is one of my favourite metals; my wedding ring is actually made from platinum with a little touch of rose gold. Tourmaline would have to be one of my favourite gemstones because of the vast array of colours available.

Are your pieces handmade in Australia?

Where possible I hand craft all of my collections. I’m fortunate that I also have the support of my family’s business and we have 5 very talented jewellers who I work along side with when needed.

Matthew Ely

Do you have a favourite design that you still are making today?

A dear friend and client of mine has just commissioned me to make a piece for her inspired by the collection of Elizabeth Taylor. You can imagine the scale of this piece! I am really excited about getting started on it.

Describe a day in your life?

I start early and take our dog Molly for a run, then usually have a bite to eat at home or grab something around the corner from my boutique. I spend the morning answering some emails and picking up where I left off on working on some jewellery at my bench in-store. Quick lunch and then appointments with clients, which can vary between designing/sketching or the big reveal when they collect something that has just been completed. The look on their face is a great part of the job! More time at the bench in the afternoon and then home to have dinner with my wife and early to bed.

Thank you Matthew for sharing your story. To find out more about Matthew Ely for York Jewellers visit the website.

Headshot courtesy of Matthew Ely

Understanding Wedding Band Pricing

by | Entertainment Wisdom, Wisdom


Music For My Wedding, Music For My Wedding


Image by Fi Mims Photography via Annaliese and Trevor’s Summer Garden Wedding

Weddings are beautiful. Period! Some are extravagant, others DIY and everything in between. But each is memorable for different reasons – including the choice of wedding performers.

Many couples plan to use their choice of music or wedding band as a memorable part of their day, and spend hours researching options without really having all the ‘must-consider’ information at hand. You couldn’t be expected to know all about wedding band pricing or what influences the costs when there are so many variables, but not knowing any of them can be even more costly.

Not knowing can also lead to stress when considering questions like – how much does a band charge or what should I be paying a string ensemble?  Can they learn or play a specific song for me? Will they provide equipment?  Do I have to feed them? What information do they need from me?

You simply need answers in order to make an informed choice when you’re comparing your entertainment options.

To help, here’s a little background information on the world of wedding performers.


All artists charge different amounts for performing at weddings, so it’s almost impossible to narrow down an average cost, especially given all the variables that go into a live act.

A good rule of the thumb is this: Playing during the ceremony is the cheapest, cocktail time is a little pricier, and a full reception set is the most expensive. If you’d like the act to perform at your ceremony and reception, it’s going to be a very long day and the price is likely to reflect it. It’s also pretty obvious that a solo act will always be cheaper than a full band.

The following factors can dramatically influence the pricing structure of wedding entertainment:

  •  Entertainer location: Unless you absolutely have your heart set on an entertainer from another State or Territory, it makes sense to hire an act close to your wedding venue. Entertainers will often ask for their travel time, petrol and accommodation expenses to be covered if they need to travel (usually) more than 2 hours from home. Please note: Entertainer travel expenses are very reasonable so don’t let this deter you from hiring a band that might be further afield if you absolutely love their sound!
  •  Number of entertainers: It’s obvious, but the more people you have performing, the greater the cost. That’s not to say you should only consider a solo or duo for your wedding because the atmosphere a 4 or 5 piece band (or more) can create is truly amazing and worth every cent! Some instruments can however, sound very ‘sad’ in solo mode such as a violin for a ceremony – it can just be too sombre for such a joyous occasion.
  • Performance duration: The longer the musicians play the more you pay. A self-explanatory point but it’s good to know that even though your entertainer won’t be playing during your speeches, this time is still included in their performance duration. Some couples unfortunately believe the entertainers will reduce their fee “because we’re having 30 minutes of speeches” which simply just isn’t the case and which leads us to…
  •  On-site duration: Entertainers need to set up their PA and equipment before your guests arrive. No one wants a band carrying their gear through your canapé service or hearing them checking their microphones during the middle of your ceremony! For couples who have their ceremony and reception in the same venue, you’ll need to advise your entertainer of the time your guests are arriving so they can set up prior, ensuring you aren’t disturbed. There may be an additional cost for an earlier set-up time and this is something you should definitely discuss with the entertainer.
  •  Agent fees: Agents can be an invaluable tool when organising your wedding band and will charge a percentage or fee for their services. They’ll do all the legwork for you and often provide you with a number of options suited exactly to your needs. To make sure you’re receiving the best deal, ask them to itemise the fee you’re paying, so you know exactly what portion is exclusively for the band. Often the fee you pay an agent is well worth the saving of your sanity and time. They will also have an enormous database of entertainers at their fingertips they can choose from.
  •  Song requests: If it’s not already part of an entertainer’s repertoire, most are very willing to learn a new song for you – given enough time. This may incur an additional cost so it’s best to ask during your initial contact with the band. Professional wedding bands and entertainers will usually have a vast repertoire so no additional fees may be necessary. Others may also be able to write you an original song for a fee.


Image by Fi Mims Photography via Annaliese and Trevor’s Summer Garden Wedding


For the most part, artists will provide their own equipment. This includes amplifiers, speakers, a mixing desk (that funny looking thing with all the knobs and slides on it), instruments, lights, microphones, etc.  How much equipment they provide will depend on how many performers (i.e. a solo acoustic act or full band) as well as the size of your venue and the number of guests.

Once you’ve booked your wedding venue, it’s very helpful to let an artist know if any equipment is available and if they have the venue’s permission to use it. Some venues are very particular about entertainers providing their own equipment and will insist the band uses the in-house system only. Also, don’t be surprised if an acoustic act also mentions using a PA; this is standard practice as it can be difficult to hear a solo artist without amplification.

Image by Eric Ronald via Claire and Erwin’s Handmade Apollo Bay Wedding

Quality vs. Quantity

Quality – it’s subjective and greatly influenced by one’s own values and what’s considered important. The general belief is that the more expensive the artist the better they’ll sound. And whilst this is certainly true, in some instances – the opposite is also the case.

Consider this for one minute. One of the best solo wedding singers/guitarists that I know also happens to have one of the most reasonable wedding prices around! This isn’t to say he doesn’t have years of experience – far from it. This guitarist has around 20 years of live performance experience and some 4,500 songs in his repertoire and has a brilliant vocal range. Now that’s pretty impressive!

So how does the ‘pay peanuts get monkeys’ adage ring true? It all comes down to what you value. E.g. if you value live entertainment and can appreciate the positive impact it will have on your wedding day and your future memories, you’ll pay a reasonable fee for the best musician’s you can afford.

If live entertainment isn’t high on your list of the important wedding aspects (and it’s ok if it’s not), then you’ll consider paying less; and this is where ‘pay peanuts’ comes in.

As an example, if you’re being offered a large band for a ridiculously small fee – your alarm bells should be ringing. Sometimes those “it’s too good to be true” instances are exactly that.

There’s never a shortage of amazingly talented wedding bands and singers of all budgets and styles. It’s simply a matter of knowing how or where to find the best one to suit your plans and budget, and being armed with the right information and questions to ask to ensure you receive the best price. Being flexible in your entertainment budget and willing to compromise a little will also ensure you find the perfect wedding entertainer for your big day.

Ms Gingham says: Heaps to consider but an amazing amount of useful information. This is a great starting point.

About Music For My Wedding: I’ve worked in the Australian music industry for nearly 15 years; carrying more guitar amps and drums kits than I care to remember and rolled more leads than I could count :) I’ve managed artists’ careers, tour managed, created and project managed large events of all descriptions and helped some of the most gorgeous couples create memories with entertainers they simply fell in love with (the latter definitely being my favourites!). I know a great band when I hear one and I’ll gladly share my wealth of knowledge to help couples avoid some of the most common entertainment pitfalls.

Music For My Wedding was born from the desire to help people find their perfect wedding entertainer more effectively. The rest as they say… is history. :)

What Would They Know? Peta Calvert & Shari Trimble of We Are Alchemy Photography

by | Photography Wisdom, What Would They Know?, Wisdom


Polka Dot Bride

Our life journeys often take us to unexpected places we would never have considered – but suddenly the door opens and a new opportunity presents itself. One such door opened for Peta (formerly of Maho & Pea) to join forces with Shari to form the new partnership of We Are Alchemy Photography. This brand new collaboration between very different, yet kindred spirits brings a fresh perspective to their photography. With their relaxed and unobtrusive approach, Peta and Shari will put you at ease, so that you won’t even notice they are photographing you. Throw in a great sense of humour and fun, and booking these girls might just be the best wedding decision you make! 2015 is gonna be a big year!

Can you tell us about how We Are Alchemy was born?
Shari: I met Peta at a photography workshop and just had a feeling we would become friends. She seemed interesting and cool and I thought “yeah I could do with a little bit of that in my life”. I had no idea how that would play out however, and least of all the way that it did.
Peta: Fast forward to late 2013 and I found myself diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer. Having left my day job to shoot weddings full time, I found myself faced with the dilemma of “what if I can’t work through my busiest wedding season while going through a myriad of treatments and surgeries.’ I reached out to Shari to see if she could be a “help, we need backup!” person and very quickly our friendship was formed. Shari was able to step in on the few occasions when I was having surgeries and filled her boots perfectly. Over time, my then partner in business decided to pursue other avenues and it only seemed natural to pair up together to continue the adventure!

What do each bring to your new partnership?
Shari: I thought I was organised until I met Peta! And in the absence of that being such a requirement from me I have become a bit more free flowing. So where she has the day prepared down to the minute (thank god) I find that leaves me better able to think on the spot when things don’t go to plan. I am also pretty short compared to her…oh OK compared to most adults then. So we seem to view the world slightly differently. Which makes for totally different perspectives and angles when shooting.
Peta: Both Shari and I have been taking photos since we were teens, way back when photography was offered at school and we could spend hours and hours in the darkroom. I ended up working predominantly in the music industry and with bubs and families. I like to think that we both have the same personable nature about us, quiet achievers in a way that helps our couples to feel comfortable and at ease.

How would you describe your photography style? Do your styles differ from each other?
Shari: This is such a common question with such poorly executed responses…truly I have been looking for one for some time now that I can steal and use for myself. In all seriousness though I think the reason is that labelling your style as one particular thing can in many ways limit the expansion of it, and the morphing of it into something completely different. This is basically my excuse for having not come up with a good set of adjectives for the images I make…
Peta: We both have a very similar aesthetic and will be quick to say the other is the better photographer!! Shari was my go to when I was going through treatment for the simple reason that I felt she viewed the world in the same way I did and shared the same appreciation for little moments and values as a whole.

Does your new partnership with each other, inspire you to new creative areas and endeavours?
Shari: We have come to photography from different paths, Peta has had formal training and I am often picking her brain about such things. Obviously this is of great benefit to me but I think too that the way my mind comes to query helps her see things in a different light also…
Peta: For me personally I am looking forward to working with someone new, after working with my other-half for a few years. Being able to bounce ideas with someone new is an integral part in keeping my creative ideas fresh and new.

How do life experiences shape you as a photographer?
Shari: I still work part time in my Osteopathic clinic and so observing life and people is something that comes naturally to me these days. I feel it has given me a useful eye for body positions and lines and also insight into how people relate. All tools that have translated well into photography for me. Who would have thought!
Peta: Oh what a good question and a tough one to answer! I have personally had the most unorthodox and crazy upbringing that I like to think has prepared me for anything that life throws my way. It also makes for a natural ability to adapt to different family situations, relationships and to get the best out of our clients. Having lost parents myself gives me experience in dealing with the sensitivities around those who may be missing loved ones who cannot be there to share their big day. Being a parent myself helps with gently prying out a smile from the shyest of flower girls or roping in a rascal page boy.
The crazy life experiences also help to notice life around you, not to take anything for granted and to see the world in a different light. It can be surprising the photos that our clients love best, they’re usually not the ones they asked for or had on their ‘must have’ list, more often they’re little moments shared when they don’t realise anyone is watching. Having an appreciation of life and its beauty definitely helps us to find those moments anywhere.

Is it the wedding guests and their natural expressions that attract you – or the other 101 little details that you love to capture?
Shari: I really had to learn detail shots as I naturally gravitated towards images of peoples reactions and expressions. I am totally addicted now and can’t wait to see what little creations people have put together and how I can capture with that same enthusiasm.
Peta: A bit of everything to be honest. I’m a sucker for gorgeous detail and even the detail that you wouldn’t expect to look back on and remember fondly. Couples put so much effort into planning their day so capturing that is important to us and to them, those little touches can easily be forgotten over time so what better way to relive the beauty than through photography. Add to that the people, emotions and unexpected events that can happen on any day and its all a pretty wonderful experience to be a part of.

How do you remain unobtrusive on the wedding day, so that people are not conscious of you and your camera?
Shari: I’ve spent my whole life trying not to be noticed so this feels kind of normal to me…plus I am small and can duck and weave!
Peta: We often tell the couple that for the first hour or so they’ll feel quite conscious of us being there. After immersing ourselves a little in the day, chatting to the bridesmaids, groomsmen, family and visitors we find they relax pretty quickly. Finding that connection is important and before you know it they really just see us as part of the bridal party! Only recently we had a mother of the bride come and hug us at the end of the evening, telling us a story of when her son was married the photographer was quite abrasive, bossy and demanding. She was almost in tears with relief at how we blended into the day and how that restored her faith in the whole process!
It also helps being someone that HATES having their photograph taken so its easy to relate to how foreign and uncomfortable it can feel at first!

Do you plan your wedding shoots to the last detail with the couple, or do you maintain ‘freshness’ by capturing what inspires you on the day?
Shari: Did I mention Peta is super organised? Rather than this limiting our ability to be flexible, interestingly I feel this allows us both to relax a bit more and remain creative. However life is full of nuances and many a time we’ve been known to wing it in the face of unexpected change!
Peta: We tend to base it on the individual couple. Some will have shots they want and things they feel are important to capture. Others will need direction and advice. We provide a questionnaire to our clients that lets them enter in the little details throughout the planning which gives us a very good insight into what is important to them. Often all the plans will go out the window so it’s important that we can think on our feet and work under pressure and time constraints whilst giving them the best of ourselves. We will always have a plan up our sleeve however its important to be adaptable yet organised at the same time.

Do you most like to shoot a wedding when you have been given complete creative freedom?
Shari: Does this truly happen? I think there is always some level or understanding from both parties that has to take place or I can definitely see this coming a cropper. But I would like to think that couples make a choice based on what they have seen of your work, and therefore trust that you will capture them and the moments that are important to them from their day in away that everyone is pleased with.0
Peta: I think most photographers will say a big YES to this, however sometimes its nice to have a bit of both. Often our clients ideas will inspire us and feed our own creativity however there’s nothing better than a couple who are open to input and ideas you may offer them. Sneaking them out at sunset or for a full moon shot is always a winner and those who are adventurous at heart or don’t mind doing something out of the ordinary are our ideal clients!

Do you like to keep your images natural as possible – whether that be in ‘poses’ (or lack of..) or post production editing?
Shari: I have always shot film because that is all that I knew until recently, in the last few years, when I started using a DSLR. When I take a shot I see different films in my head and I have an idea of the colours and tones of the moment which are very different to the jpg render on screen. So I do my best to get the exposure and composition correct but still have to edit to make it appear as it was in my mind’s eye.
Peta: Outside of the family portraits we try to keep things as natural as possible. Most couples will need a bit of prompting but for the most part we like to leave them to their own devices so that their true relationship shines through. I’m a big fan of giving the couple a long list of cryptic instructions which they’ll obviously forget and then capturing the natural hilarity that ensues once they both realise they have no idea what they’re doing.
‘Walk down that path, stop at the tree, look back over your left shoulder, have a smooch, spin the bride around then look into each others eyes and hug’. It’s a guarantee that they’ll get to the tree, feel ridiculous and break into giggles and a natural interaction that really can’t be posed. Now I realise they’ll be on to me after reading this and see it coming!

Please describe a typical wedding photography working day for you?
Most days we try to arrive to the bride just after the hair and makeup artists get started. There are so many little events and moments that happen in the lead up to the ceremony itself and it gives us a chance to help the bride relax in our company and eventually forget we’re there. From there we scoot over to the groom and his merry men and do the same. Often the groom has it so easy and we’ll arrive to find them lazing around, having a spa, playing golf or calming their nerves at the pub. Back to the bride for the last details such as getting dressed and ready to leave; often a pretty exciting part of the day as its when things start to sink in and the nerves start to show.
Off to the ceremony, introductions to the celebrant or minister and a bit of mingling with the guests. Then before we know it we’re both weaving in and out of the events through the ceremony. Depending on the package our clients have booked, we may finish up as the reception is starting or we may end up there till the very end snapping some awesome dance floor action.

What are your dreams for the future of We Are Alchemy?
Shari: Multiple trips to the loo…I am a nervous excreter! True story…
Peta: I’m not sure I can compete with Shari’s response!

What do you like to do when not shooting weddings?
Shari: I like to do little personal photography projects to keep me fresh and explore more creative ideas that hopefully transfer over into my wedding work. Otherwise you can find me on my yoga mat or running with my fella, his little boy, and our two furry mutts.
Peta: Ironically I am planning my own wedding this year, pinteresting ideas like crazy and putting myself in the shoes of our clients! In the little down time I have its all about family (having just become a (step) grandma!) our furbabies, good coffee and mini getaways wherever we can squeeze them in…and yoga…and running…and swimming…and music…and chocolate, not necessarily in that order!

Thank you Peta and Shari for sharing your story with us. To find out more about We Are Alchemy Photography visit the website.

All images courtesy of We Are Alchemy Photography.

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