WHEN animal-lover Niamh Morrison, from Clonakilty, who owns numerous horses, cats, and dogs, began creating her own jewellery 10 years ago, she was barking up the right tree.
“I’ve always been creative, knitting, sewing, painting, and doing upholstery,” says Niamh who is mum to Aoife, Ciara, and Brian.
Niamh also has two granddaughters and adds: “I’m 100% crafty.”
She is one of the drivers and organisers behind Cork Craft and Design week that brings together craftspeople from across Cork county every August.
“Living here in a beautiful part of the world, I get my inspiration from the sea, the sky and from Mother Nature,” she said.
She also gets inspiration from her best friends, the local plumber and the local electrician.
“Yes I do!” says Niamh, laughing.
“They supply me with materials, copper and brass that I recycle to make my jewellery. They are my best friends!”
Niamh, with her nimble hands, can fashion copper, brass and sterling silver into beautiful pieces.
“I’ve even used immersion cylinders, cabling, and brake hose pipes to create my jewellery pieces!”
In a roundabout way, one of Niamh’s equine friends prompted her to begin her new business.
“I’m in my sixties now, but when I started HEN jewellery ten years ago, I was in my fifties.”
HEN is the brainchild of her husband, Declan, who named Niamh’s fledging business H for hands, E for ears, and N for neck.
“My long-suffering husband named the business,” says Niamh. “It has nothing to do with hens at all!
“It is clever,” adds Niamh.
“We’ve been working with horses all our lives. My son Brian is a member of the Irish squad competing all over Europe. He runs an eventing yard, Global Event Horses in Churchfield, outside Buttevant. All the kids have been riding and competing since they were young. They found it fun and a good hobby to enjoy.”
Niamh, being involved in coaching and training horse-riders for national and international events, was never daunted handling big or small horses.
“One evening I was trying to catch a horse to bring him in. He was being difficult and he kept flying around the field,” says Niamh.
She had a way to coax the horse to do her bidding.
“I went to get some feed. That usually works.”
Then she was knocked for six by the horse.
“He double-barrelled me!” says Niamh.
“He got me in the tummy and took the legs from under me. I was up-ended. Luckily I was due to give a riding lesson and when the driver arrived into the yard for her lesson, she was able to alert the emergency services immediately that I’d had an accident. I was numbed but I was conscious until the ambulance and the doctor came.”
Niamh was rushed to hospital and admitted to intensive care.
“My liver and my breathing were affected. I was knocked for six.”
But Niamh, used to getting back up on the saddle, refused to stay down.
“I don’t tend to lie down!” says Niamh.
Serendipity came to pay a visit.
“I had ordered a book on jewellery-making before I went into hospital,” says Mary.
“I was in the intensive care ward when the book randomly arrived. I was in intensive care for one week and in the hospital recovering for another week.”
Did Niamh, who was always used to being busy at home and in the yard, have the patience to read the book and study it while she was recuperating?
“Declan told me to shut up, sit down and just read the book!” says Niamh.
By the time she had recovered from the accident, she was ready to start crafting her hand-made jewellery.
“It quickly became a passion of mine,” says Niamh.
She got a new lease of life starting her own business from her beautiful location in West Cork.
“I got a touch of fanaticism and I worked morning, noon and night. Whatever about my brain, my hands are in good working order!” jokes Niamh.
“I love incorporating texture using all different mediums and I interpret the Wild Atlantic Way, my way. It works for me.”
Niamh is a hands-on person.
“You could find me hammering a piece of copper into shape on the ground outside against concrete! There is nothing delicate about me!”
She even got more enthused.
“I got involved in Cork Craft and Design in Douglas as part of a co-op of local crafters. They brought me on, we swapped ideas and we went to craft shows to show and sell our wares. Cork Craft and Design are a great group of people.”
Niamh using nature, natural materials and her crafting skills, has a base of regular customers.
“People who buy my jewellery like having a one-of-a-kind piece that is unique to them,” says Niamh.
“I make my pieces affordable. I like to think people can treat themselves if they so wish.”
Niamh loves displaying her hand-made jewellery for people to admire it and to purchase it.
“I love trading at open-air country markets and at Kinsale indoor market. And the annual Food Festival in Kinsale was always a great event for us to trade,” says Niamh.
Covid upset plans to trade at markets, but Niamh is hopeful people will still shop local.
“I think people are very aware about buying local this year and supporting local businesses. Working from home; the craftspeople, working all hours, are very supportive of each other and many of us are selling our crafts and jewellery online.”
Craftspeople are also missing their regular customers.
“I miss having the chat the markets and the buzz of the markets, but look, hopefully we’ll be back doing that again soon. Human interaction is healthy and important.
“We had a great trade from the cruise ships coming into Cobh,” adds Niamh. “Tourists from home and abroad visiting Cork were always good customers.”
Working from home, Niamh has a bracing start to the day.
“I go off to the beach and ride my horse along the strand early in the morning,” says Niamh.
It is still a freedom that she enjoys.
“I used to go to all the shows and competitions all over Europe when I was involved in eventing,” says Niamh.
“In more recent years, I just go in the capacity as a mum and as chief-bottle-washer!”
For more see https://henjewellery.ie/