Suzie Horne of Curlicue NZ produces her wirework jewellery from beautiful Titirangi, West Auckland. When making her jewellery she takes inspiration from the natural environment around her, and places importance on selecting materials on the basis of how local and sustainable they are. Utilising 100% recycled sterling silver wires, semi precious stones, pearls, paua and Swarovski crystals, her pieces often feature the spirals and curlicues that fascinate her.
How did you get into your craft?
Back in 2010, my husband gave me a voucher to do a one-on-one jewellery making tutorial, which was so much fun! After that I continued to try new things, and evolved as I went along.
Do you have formal training or qualifications in your craft?
No. However I’d love to do a metal smithing course, learn how to cut and polish stones, and woodworking too… but they’re on the long-term to do/wish list at the moment.
Your favourite materials, tools and processes?
Well firstly there’s my 100% recycled, sterling silver wire, which is used in pretty much everything I make. My three most used tools are: round-nosed, bent and long-nosed pliers. I can do so many different things with just those three tools! I always use my straight wire cutters as I can get a smoother edge with them, which is vital for pieces such as earring hooks!
Then my little square block of steel and my two hammers, one metal and one nylon, are used in just about every piece I make. The nylon hammer is used to harden the wire without affecting the surface. The metal one has two different faces – ball and flat. The ball part makes interesting dents (great for texture) and the flat side naturally flattens the wire.
Tell us about some of the techniques involved in producing one of your pieces
Being careful not to poke myself in the eye with very long pieces of wire! Holding and tightly wrapping the wire around a diamond shaped freshwater pearl with my hands. Using my long-nosed pliers to create a pendant loop, and my hammer to harden the wire.
I do find my fingers can often cramp up, and I have to shake them out and stretch often. Plus I’ve definitely managed to hammer my own fingers a few times (and poke myself in the face with the wire). My finger nails have to be not too long, and not too short! Too short, and there’s things I can’t do, and too long and I can’t hold the wire properly!
What inspires you?
Nature and our beautiful flora and fauna in the environment around us.
Is there a philosophy behind your work?
Help people to feel beautiful and confident, and help nature (and those that can’t speak for themselves) through conservation projects.
Describe your creative process:
Many of my designs or ideas come to me when I’m out for walks. I love walking in our native New Zealand bush, and I always have to stop to look up – mostly because I’m no good at walking straight whilst looking up! I remind myself of the different plant names (mostly to see if I can still remember) then I start to think about how I could make something out of wire – a shape or form – based on individual plants and birds. Sometimes I’ll use colours to evoke a sense of the item – such as the blues, greens and black/purple hues in kererū and tui.
After thinking about things, I’ll draw/sketch them out. I then make my prototypes in copper wire first (cheaper), before making them in sterling silver. I’ll time myself and write down how to make the item again – as all my items are made to order.
Describe your workspace:
Organised chaos! It looks very messy, but I (mostly) know where everything is. I do try to put things away at the end of the day, but sometimes it’s easier to just leave some things out. Also I don’t really have enough space to put everything – another job for the to-do list…
Five words that describe your mind:
Random, thoughtful, detailed, visual, emotional.
Your favourite feedback from a customer:
“I bought this beautiful pair of earrings as a gift for a friend – she loves them as much as I’d hoped. They are such a lovely design and the quality is outstanding. Communication with Suzie has been helpful and friendly. I definitely can’t recommend her enough and I hope to get myself something from her wonderful collection soon. Many thanks Suzie! :)”
This is my favourite testimonial – and it came from a customer through Felt!
What’s your favourite childhood book and why?
I think I was actually a teenager when I read this: “Call of the Kōtuku” by Janet Slater Redhead. It’s a story about one kōtuku (white heron) who disobeys the call to fly south to their breeding ground, what happens to him and then his adventures along the way (when he eventually decides to go). It’s a great introduction to nature, different bird species and conservation within New Zealand, and it’s a heart-warming story. I recently got to read it again with my daughter (aged 12), and she loved it too.
What are you reading now?
I’m actually between books at the moment. For the last year or so, I’ve been trying to read more of the ‘greatest books ever’, interspersed with a few other favourites. I’ve just finished reading an Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot story The Mysterious Affair at Styles. I used to love reading Agatha Christie, and my daughter has recently become interested in murder mysteries, so I thought I’d re-read some to check if they’re ‘ok’ (and not too old fashioned) for her to read. I loved this one! I also recently finished The Luminaries which has been on my to-read list for ages. It did take me a while to get through it, but as it was also essentially a murder mystery, I loved it! I’m going to check out the mini-series on demand now… when I get the time! I find when I’ve finished a book, I need to have a little break (read magazines or whatever) before getting into the next one. I’m a slow, read-all-the-details kind of reader, so get quite immersed in each book.
Who is your hero/heroine? Why?
Michelle Obama. I’ve always thought she was pretty cool, and thought it was awesome when the US actually did something right and voted in Barack Obama (I guess I’m giving my political views away here!) When her book Becoming came out, my father in law had bought it for me for Christmas. I’ve never really been into reading biographies or non-fiction much, but I loved this book (would definitely recommend it), and it made me realise even more how truly awe-inspiring this woman is.
A favourite quote:
Oh – I’m terrible at favourites! I’ve actually got three favourite quotes (three is my favourite number after all ;-)) But each one applies very directly to me in a different way.
“You must give up the life you planned, in order to have the life that is waiting for you.” ~ Joseph Campbell.
“Success isn’t about how much money you make. It’s about the difference you make in people’s lives.” ~ Michelle Obama.
“Don’t judge a book by its cover.”
Tell us about your pets:
We have two crazy cats. They are both, literally, crazy! The older one is a grey and white tabby moggy, called Tinkerbell. She’s just turned eight. We got her when my daughter turned five, she has gorgeous green eyes and is quite mischievous – always poking around and getting into all sorts of tight spots. Tinks is beautiful, shy and unfortunately has stress issues, so is on a daily anti-depressant – but this has really helped her.
Our younger cat is a massive Maine Coon called Silky. (Named after Silky in the Wishing Tree stories, but she also has amazingly soft and silky fur!) She is 11.5kgs of fluffy, highly strung, anxious cat. Not entirely sure why – possibly because she was really sick after having her de-sexing operation when she was small. She has NO idea of her size, and often jumps at her own shadow – which is hilarious to watch! Unfortunately she has some skin issues and is on a daily anti-itch tablet. Despite their problems, we love them both and they keep me company at home during the day. Silky likes to sit close to me or in the same room. Or sometimes she likes to sit on top of my computer/work. Most unhelpful.
What would your advice be for those starting out in a crafty business?
Having experience in business/marketing would be really helpful. Knowing your ‘story’, working out your niche and what makes you different. Other than that – I’m still trying to work it out!
Why do you think it’s important to buy handmade and/or locally made goods?
When someone makes something by hand, they’re pouring their love and soul into making it. They’ve thought about it. Along with that there’s the time and energy required, and the knowledge and expertise that has built up over the years.
What was the last handmade item you bought and what attracted you to it?
We’ve just been away on holiday to Nelson (which was awesome!). Although we went to the infamous Nelson Market, I didn’t buy anything there – which I really regret now. I’m keen to get some Russell Harding mugs! However we did visit the Höglund Art Glass Studio (and saw the guy making a piece – fascinating to watch!) and I bought a beautiful small multicoloured bird. My daughter and I also bought a small artwork (acrylic painted canvas block – a bumble bee and flowers) for a friend’s birthday. When I buy things it’s usually the colours, style and feel evoked that pulls me to an item.
What’s in store for the rest of 2020?
Hopefully I’ll have a busy/productive lead up to Christmas, then I’ll take a break over Christmas and the New Year, and start planning for 2021! Next year my daughter will start high school – a whole new chapter, which is pretty exciting for us and I’ll need to work out how Curlicue NZ fits in and around her schedule!
Prize draw for Felt readers!
Suzie has very generously offered not one but two elegant prizes for a lucky Felt reader: a gorgeous Two Leaves adjustable ring and pair of beautiful Water Drop earrings – made from repurposed milk bottles! (See below.) To be in to win this lovely prize, leave us a comment telling us what you love about Suzie’s story and her creations. The draw closes at 5pm Monday 9 November and is open to New Zealand residents only.