Kerikeri-based Gwyneth Hulse Design was crowned the winner of the 2015 Etsy Design Awards. Designer Gwyneth Hulse shares the inspiration behind her designs, and her tips for running a small creative business
Gwyneth, how would you describe your products/aesthetic? We’re a boutique woodwork business in Kerikeri, specialising in jewellery and small homeware. Our aim is to showcase the splendour of New Zealand through the beauty of native wood.
Our work has a strong design factor and a simple elegance
Our designs are based on the modernist principles of simplicity, geometry and the celebration of natural materials. We work to highlight the natural colour and grain of the wood by flat planes of colour.
When did you officially start Gwyneth Hulse Design? I’ve always made wooden stuff; when I was a university student every holiday I’d come home and make one wooden project to take back with me. After I had children in early 2013 I moved back to Kerikeri, where my parents and the workshop are, and I started creating wooden projects as a hobby. Then the hobby turned into a business. Just over a year ago I was joined by my husband Dave.
Where are you based? We are based in the small rural town of Kerikeri, New Zealand. We moved to Kerikeri three years ago to be closer to family. Northland is known for its Kauri trees and buried Swamp Kauri and because we use only locally sourced wood this has an influence on our work.
How and where do you make your product? We started out working in my dad’s workshop, but have now set up our own workspace at home. Working from home allows us more flexibility to work around the kids and cuts down on expenses. Our workshop is basic and small, but it is functional.
Where is it stocked? Our work is stocked in a variety of stores around NZ as well as online via Felt, Etsy and our own website.
What do you love most about what you do? I find great satisfaction in both the process of making items with my hands and experimenting with new ideas and techniques. I love that I get to do this most days.
I also love that I’m not tied to an office chairor an office building and I can choose when in the day I will work
What are the key challenges? Being a small business owner is fantastic in terms of flexibility, especially because we have young children. But creating a good work life balance is a challenge because the business takes lots of time. Everything we make is by hand and that’s really time consuming, but we also have to be a jack of all trades, especially with limited financial resources. I’ve had to learn about GST, improve my photography skills because our products are sold online, and be the accountant – there are so many things I’ve had to learn and they all take time.
How did it feel to win the 2015 Etsy Design Awards? Fantastic! We did a little happy dance with our children!
How did the win affect/grow your business? Winning our Etsy Design Award last year was an amazing confidence boost. Coming from a small, rural town in New Zealand, winning an international award was a big step upwards. It has helped us to establish our Etsy store internationally and given us added exposure within New Zealand. It has been a key factor in the business gaining recognition and momentum, and people are beginning to see the business as more than just a “hobby”.
Do you have any tips for getting started in design? It is a cliché but true — practice makes perfect. Keep perfecting your craft and making work, at some stage you will find your niche.
Do you have any tips for running a creative business like Gwyneth Hulse Design? You have to make sure you’re doing what you love because it’s hard work. I know it has been said before, but make sure you present yourself and your product well — it is particularly important when you are selling your work online. As makers we invest so much time, effort and resources into our products and our presentation needs to reflect this.
Buy Gwyneth Hulse Design products online here.