Sadie creates bright and colourful jewellery from vintage beads and all kinds of embellishments she can find, so pieces are often one of a kind. Her label SHH BY SADIE was founded in 2012 and is now celebrated as one of the most exciting New Zealand accessory brands to emerge in recent years. I dropped by her house in Wellington with stunning harbour views.
Janis: How did you become a jeweller?
Sadie: I started making handmade jewellery about three and a half years ago. Through a blog I was writing, I met “blog-friends” from around the world and we started blog swaps, which sounds really geeky now. You would make things and send them to your pen friends; a very nice way of getting presents from around the world!
Once I made a necklace for someone and really enjoyed it. I realised, I was quite good at it and went from there. After a while, I opened an Etsy shop, which went well, mainly because of the blog. Then I started doing markets and approached stores – which is when I realised that New Zealand liked my jewellery, too. (smiling)
Fantastic! Do you think about opening a shop?
I do think about it, you know, sometimes when I can't sleep at night. But it would put the pressure on selling then, and it would become more about making my salary, rather then making the jewellery because I love it. If things take off dramatically in the future, then definitely, but at the moment I'm happy with how it is.
How do you like working from home?
Well, I work four days a week at a university, and one day a week from home for my own business, plus the evenings and weekend. For that, I like the convenience of working from home. But our house is so small for my growing collection of beads, and sometimes I become frustrated, always tucking things away...
You are from the UK originally?
Yes, from Wales. Originally my partner and I moved here for two years. He got offered a job and we thought it was a great opportunity to experience life in New Zealand, and then he got promoted and so we agreed to stay one more year. It is beautiful here. Then I started making jewellery and we thought, let's give it another year... and here we still are! (laughing) It will be seven years in April!
Wow! Would you still like to move back?
Yes, the goal is to move home sooner rather than later. The main reason is to see more of our families.
What inspires you?
Anything colourful really, I'm obsessed with colour! And often I'm inspired by a new or old material. My partner and I get to travel a lot, so I'm always looking in little vintage shops for unique beads and chains. We also go to New York City every Christmas, where I head to the bead district there, it's just amazing!
Sometimes I buy something and might not use it for six months or a year, but it's there and I'm looking at it. Then all of the sudden it falls into place and I know what to do with it! This year was the first time, that I actually sat down and sketched a necklace, planning what I wanted to do in advance, rather than putting pieces together to see what works.
How did that happen?
It's these necklaces from last year, that I really love - I wanted to do an updated version of them, with my new smaller beads.
Tell me more about the materials you like to use. You said you like to hunt down vintage beads, or local shells -
Yes, when my parents were here, we went to the beach and found these tiny paua-shells! I laid them out on the beach in a formation, and told my Mum: I'm gonna make you a necklace tonight. It was so exciting! Every time we went out, she wore it and I kept looking at it, and loved it! So I made another one and sold it as a bridal necklace.
I also use a lot of salvaged things, like old necklaces, broken necklaces, things that I can turn into something else. My Dad enjoys going into secondhand shops in the UK and now he often goes straight to the jewellery section; so whenever I go home he says: there's a box on your bed! (smiling) And I really enjoy it, when I make a new design using pieces he’s discovered for me and someone chooses to buy it to make it their own. It’s very satisfying and a nice little cycle of events for that unwanted material – we rescued it!
What is the most difficult thing to manage so far?
I guess the business side of things. It's hard to get out there.
When people see, touch and try on my jewellery, they love it, but it's getting it in front of them and in front of new people. A few years ago I was doing really well on social media, Instagram in particular, but now Instagram is so oversaturated, it's difficult to keep yourself found online.
Another thing which has been difficult, is being based in New Zealand for supplies. There aren't many really good bead shops here and they are expensive, like three or four times more, than you'd pay online. So when you're trying to competitively make a piece of jewellery, you have to think about that.
Do you have a typical customer?
Yes and no. There are definitely more customers within a certain age bracket, but I have a lot of older customers, too. A few years ago, I had been in the newspaper with a little feature on my jewellery and an elderly lady rang me up to meet her in town. I had to meet her outside the Post Office, on a street that is known for prostitution actually. I got into her car and she tried on the necklace, using the rear view mirror and then wrote me a cheque to pay for it, because she loved it! (laughing) It was the most bizarre business meeting!
And your favourite place in Wellington?
In Days Bay, on the other side of this harbour, is a really nice restaurant called COBAR. I love to sit there on a beautiful day, with a nice wine. You're right on the waterfront and there's people jumping off the pier!
Thank you Sadie Hawker for the interview! To find out more about her work visit her website here.
Photography, interview & text: Janis Manini Claudia Kanga