This really started off because my grandmother taught me to sew. She didn’t know it, but she was the queen of sustainability. Rather than throw anything out, it got mended, it got fixed, it got stitched. There was no waste. It would have to be nearly threadbare before it went in the bin.
I learned to sew by replacing the elastic in her knickers – bloomers that went literally from her waist to her knees. They would be handed to me and I would replace the elastic with a sewing pin. You feed the elastic around the waist band and you stitch it closed. That’s a very glamorous start to the millinery and occasion industry I stepped into.
That’s how my sewing skillset came about. The business started about eight or nine years ago when I was going to a charity ball and I couldn’t get a chunky piece of jewellery anywhere. I was wearing a strapless dress and I felt I needed something around my neck.
I took apart every bracelet, earring, anything I wasn’t wearing that was in the right colours, and stitched them onto a piece of fabric and made a neckpiece. That’s how I started. Then it kind of took off. My mother wanted one and a friend of the family wanted one. Then people that I didn’t really know – but knew through friends and family – wanted one.
I’ve always loved hats and headpieces. I took a few classes in millinery. Those necklaces and headpieces, that’s what the business was up until March of last year.
Initially I was gifting people the neckpieces and that kind of thing. I was getting back boxes of chocolates, wine, candles, smelly sets and things. I was getting so many of them I was like, either I set up a business selling them or I set up a business with the craft stuff.
Between us we’d figure out what you want. Then I’d make it. Everything is bespoke, handmade
I used to say, “People won’t buy what I make.” I really believed it. It was just for me. I was my customer, because I couldn’t find what I was looking for. In April of 2016 I registered as a business. I gave it the full whack in September 2018.
You come to me with your outfit, shoes and a bag. I’d say, “OK, what are you thinking?” Between us we’d figure out what you want. Then I’d make it. Everything is bespoke, handmade. My website before was just for people to see samples of my work. There wasn’t anything to buy, the e-commerce side of it wasn’t there.
When COVID hit I moved to more everyday jewellery, long necklaces and small earrings. People were gifting them. I’m supplying them to shops now too. As I was all occasion wear pre-COVID, I didn’t do any headpieces, nothing for the whole time there were strict COVID restrictions.
When you could have 25 guests at a wedding there was a small bit of business, but really when it went to 50 guests the phone was just ringing, “Hello I’ve a wedding,” “Hello I’m mother of the bride.” I was like, Oh God, how am I going to get all these pieces made? I mean that in a really good way.
I’m from just outside Kilkenny, but I’m married to a Meath man. We’re actually living in Navan at the moment but we’re building a house in Skryne.
I studied science in college. I worked for 10 years in the science industry before I went doing this full time
It’s funny, because when most people are building a house I’m sure they’re interested in the sitting room and the bathrooms. I’m just interested in my studio.
I studied science in college. I worked for 10 years in the science industry before I went doing this full time. I loved it, don’t get me wrong. I love science and you know what, science really helps me, because sometimes things don’t work when I’m making something. It won’t balance or it won’t sit right. Science will help me fix it.
I was good at maths and science in school and I suppose I never really considered that craft could be a career. I don’t know, maybe we were taught that you should go to school, go to college and get a job. I didn’t believe it was possible. I didn’t know anybody who was making a living from something they were solely making themselves.
Clothes are my drug
Now, my grandmother, when her children were small – my mother and my aunts – she used to knit Aran cardigans. They were sold to Connemara. But I didn’t know that until recently, so it has kind of come full circle.
Clothes are my drug. My mother has a love for clothes. She has three sisters, they have a love for clothes, very stylish ladies. My grandmother had a huge love for clothes. So I didn’t lick it off the stones. I love fashion, but I was drawn to the glittery things, the sparkly things.
I always used to say – even before I had this business – accessories make the outfit. Everyone can take the same outfit, but it’s the way you finish it. Your shoes, bag, belt, hairband, necklace or statement earrings, that’s what’ll make it different from somebody else’s.
Word of mouth is singlehandedly the most powerful tool out there. If someone is looking for a headpiece and they say it to their friend, “Do you know anybody?” And that person recommends me, that’s where they’ll go, because it’s that trust thing. Not even just for getting me off the ground, if you said to me, “You can have social media or word of mouth?” I’d still pick word of mouth.