A CORK jewellery maker was left feeling uncertain when her business disappeared overnight at the outset of the pandemic.
But Claire Horgan quickly discovered that people still had a desire to mark special occasions like birthdays and anniversaries, Covid or not, and that her creations delivered long-lasting joy when it was needed most.
Claire, of the contemporary jewellery brand AliCe, says that her pieces help people feel connected to nature, regardless of what restrictions are in place.
Her background is in project management and teaching but she always had a love of creating things.
“Growing up on a farm, there were plenty of tools around and we always had some project or other on the go, so getting our hands dirty and wielding a hammer or saw was often part of the adventure. I think this is where my love of making began.
“I have always been interested in design and craft in different cultures and it wasn’t until my late twenties that I started reading more books and studying the art of jewellery making and practicing it myself. This urged me to do some short courses which again only whetted my appetite for more.
“After having my first child, I had an opportunity and made the decision to change my career path and to focus on making a business of jewellery and working for myself. I took the opportunity and, scary and all as it was, I ran with it, and although it’s hard work, I love it.”
She studied Jewellery and Art Metalcraft at St John’s College and also studied with Chris O’Carroll, renowned Cork jeweller and silversmith, before setting up her jewellery studio in Oysterhaven in 2017, where she makes one off and limited edition silver and gold contemporary pieces of jewellery.
“The name AliCe comes from my name Alice which is my first name after my Granny and the capital ‘C’ is for Claire,” she explains.
Claire takes her inspiration from the coastline and the sense of freedom she feels that’s only possible from being in nature.
“I frequently head off on long hikes around the West Cork coastline with my camera and come back with ideas and experiences to work from. The sunlight dancing on the sea, enormous waves crashing against the jagged cliffs and howling winds. The way the sea has eaten into the rocks and the treasure I find while beachcombing and exploring rock-pools. The fields and forests, with their colours and textures changing through the seasons.”
She designs for ‘sophisticated, independent women who have a zest for life.’
“Women who are individual in their own right… the pieces they choose reflect something very personal and will be worn again and again, far removed from the ‘throw away’ culture of mass produced and manufactured jewellery, for customers to enjoy now and for their loved ones to treasure forever.”
During the lockdowns her studio had to close, which was difficult.
“I always enjoy people dropping in and browsing, having a chat and picking up a piece of jewellery that resonated with them. Although I had an online presence, my emphasis had always been on the studio and meeting the clients,” she says.
However, with support and advice from the West Cork Local Enterprise Office, she has invested time in her online shop and getting that running smoothly and creating a social media presence.
“I was terrified that all my business had disappeared overnight, but slowly orders started to come in online for birthdays and anniversaries, all still being marked during Covid. Surprisingly, I had been forced to learn new skills, develop my business and open it to a wider audience as a result of the pandemic.”
Meanwhile, AliCe has launched a new collection called ‘Little Reed’, with 20% of sales to be donated to the work of ALONE in supporting hundreds of older people every week who are homeless, socially isolated, living in deprivation or in crisis.
Claire said: “This special collection, which symbolises strength and resilience, is dedicated to the outstanding work of ALONE in providing much needed support.”
See AliCe studio and online alicejewellery.ie