BaldMoose is the quirky moniker for jeweller and crafter Eileen Leahy’s personality-filled range of jewellery and crochet. Born in Whakatane, Eileen grew up in Kawerau and then Taumarunui – small towns in rural areas of New Zealand’s North Island. Eileen draws inspiration from her surroundings; New Zealand’s native plants and wildlife, landscapes, and simple things like a flower in her garden. The name BaldMoose was spawned from a bizarre conversation during Eileen’s time at high school – and it has just stuck. Some of her more quirky pieces of work reflect these carefree years.
What do you make?
I make jewellery, mainly in sterling silver, and I have recently added crochet items to my shop. I find crocheting addictive and love coming up with new ideas for cute little soft toys – the next project I have in mind is crochet toys for cats, laced with catnip!
How did you get into your craft?
I’ve always been an artist. I got into jewellery because I felt that I best suited creating small detailed work, which I still believe to be true about myself. I began to learn to crochet nearly a year ago. My Oma used to crochet a lot and I wanted to carry on the craft within our family as well as to be able to make useful items for my future family which could be passed down through the generations.
Do you have formal training or qualifications in your craft?
I studied at Hungry Creek Art and Craft School where I gained an Advanced Diploma in Arts and Craft, majoring in jewellery. I spent four years studying full-time to achieve this.
Your favourite materials, tools and processes?
My favourite material for crochet has got to be New Zealand wool. I love to buy New Zealand products wherever possible. When making jewellery I enjoy using sterling silver and copper as well as acrylic resin, and more recently, glass beads. I bought a hanging motor about four years ago and it has been such a useful tool! You can change the heads on it for so many different jobs; drilling, burring, polishing, and so much more.
Shhh… really, I love all my tools equally!
What inspires you?
I’m inspired by fond memories of my childhood, plant life and playful things… small things that can often be overlooked in adulthood, but a child would revel in. This autumn I planted pots of daffodil and tulip bulbs, some of them have just begun sprouting through the dirt and I find that so exciting and inspiring.
Is there a philosophy behind your work?
I make because I can’t not make. I have spent my whole life doing handcrafts of one sort or another and couldn’t imagine living without it. Being able to make someone happy with a handmade gift or purchase is such a huge added bonus and it really does make it worthwhile.
Describe your workspace:
I crochet on the couch in the lounge, which is covered with half-finished projects and bags of wool. My jewellery bench is in the spare room… It’s incredibly cluttered to say the least! The materials from every project I have worked on in the last six months still sits on my bench and there are piles of papers, canvases, bags of wool and crochet, and materials for jewellery stacked up around the bench so that there is only really enough room to sit. I’m not naturally a tidy person.
Five words that describe your mind:
Nostalgic, hippy, dreamer, eclectic and unordered.
Your favourite feedback from a customer:
I received this message from a customer – she’s from America and had recently visited New Zealand. She bought my Pukeko stud earrings and she and her daughter share them, which I thought was really sweet.
“Hello! I received the earrings today and they are absolutely wonderful! You did a wonderful job on them. I love these little swamp hens. We got to visit NZ in February and I was able to see some of these birds. My daughter is wearing your earrings now, we get to trade off with them. Thank you again. Heather.”
What are you currently listening to?
Whatever my lovely boyfriend, Hugh, is playing. Right now its dubstep, fast paced, but chilled out at the same time. I have quite a mixed taste in music.
Recommend an album:
The Cranberries, No Need To Argue has to be my fav for a sing along on a melancholy grey day spent inside.
What are you reading now?
I’m partway through reading The Handmade Marketplace: How to Sell Your Crafts Locally, Globally, and On-Line by Kari Chapin, which Felt kindly recommended to me last year!
Do you have any pets?
I don’t have any pets of my own, but my flatmates have cats. Koda is definitely Queen Bee around here, we call her Avakoda because of her pear shaped physique. Rexy is a timid little mottled creature. She watches from the driveway but as soon as you acknowledge her she freaks out, freezes, and then runs away.
What was the last handmade item you bought and what attracted you to it?
The last handmade item I bought was from the Coatsville Market. It’s a wooden board made from recycled furniture with an awesome painting of a kakariki on it by Doug Ford. I love New Zealand birds and the painting is just so cool, I wish I could have bought the whole lot!
Eileen will be showing new BaldMoose jewellery, along with six other jewellers, in “RE: A Contemporary Jewellery Exhibition” at the Allpress Gallery. The opening is 5.30pm on July 15th. She also regularly has work at Off the Bench in Waihi Beach.
Eileen has also very kindly offered one lucky reader one of her gorgeous Kiwi Love rings, a reversible silver ring with a heart on one side and a kiwi on the other. If you want to be in the draw, Eileen would like you to leave a comment suggesting a new animal for her to crochet – so get your thinking cap on! The draw will be made on Monday 9 June and is open to New Zealand residents only.