A Kiwi jeweller who has created collections for major department stores and fashion labels in New York has returned home and set up shop in Nelson – and her latest project is all about raising exposure for the humble bee.
Louise Douglas brought her home-based business from the US to Nelson about five years ago.
After working out of her garage for a couple of years, she branched out and set up a boutique store in Nile St in Nelson – a craft industry corner in the town.
There she works on her collections, with the help of an assistant, and customers can see her jewellery coming to life.
Her nature-inspired pieces are what New Zealanders connect to, she says. And it was watching the bees feeding on the lavender outside her studio window that inspired Douglas to create a bee necklance that paid homage to them.
Her bee necklace is hand carved from beeswax and cast in sterling silver or bronze and plated in 22k gold. The bee’s “dancing bottom” is a high-grade freshwater pearl.
The necklace comes with a package of Wild Forage wildflower seeds to attract bees to the garden. Proceeds from the seeds go to the National Bee Keepers Association of NZ.
Douglas says her work doesn’t fit solely in high fashion or craft, but is a mix of both.
“I want jewellery that is fashion-orientated and NZ made and handmade, and that is a genre that is new, and people are kind of getting their head around it,” she says.
Her Nelson boutique is pumping with customers in the summer, she says, with a mix of tourists and locals. “People like to buy to send to their family overseas, and we get all kinds of tourists – lots from Auckland, Christchurch, Australia, the US and China,” she says.
She supplies 13 stores around New Zealand, and sells goods through her online site, but says 50 percent of her income comes through the boutique store.
Douglas has enjoyed an international career as a jewller, including a 15-year stint in New York, designing collections for major departnment stores including Saks Fifth Avenue.
She also worked for private labels Old Navy, Express, Antropology and Banana Republic.
“My journey as a jeweller was a lot different to others jewellers. It was fast paced, we were always working on our own collections. It taught me about how to edit new designs, and understand what makes a good collection,” she says.