From accountancy to jewellery designer – it might not seem the obvious career route, but Áine Breen is living the dream! Love Gorey caught up with her to chat about China, Celtic symbols and the Oscars …
Q: How does China fit into your journey towards Liwu Jewellery?
A: I’m from Camolin and worked as a chartered accountant in Dublin for about 10 years. Then, in 2011, my husband had the opportunity to work in China. I had travelled through a lot of Asia, but Beijing was so culturally different. So, I wanted to learn more about the history and culture of China, so I ended up in the Chinese Culture Centre. I started learning Chinese calligraphy and loved the art of it. In primary school, I wanted to be a fashion designer when I grew up – but I was good at accountancy in secondary school. I loved art too but went into accountancy.
In Chinese, each character means a different thing. I had a necklace with ‘Love’ on it. So, that became one of the first characters I discovered – in Chinese, the character meant ‘life to the heart and grace to the body’. I wanted that character on a necklace so I started sketching and researching Chinese calligraphy.
Q: Then you moved back to Ireland …
A: We moved back in late-2013, early 2014 and moved to Ballymoney! I did silversmithing classes in Monkstown and sold my first piece of jewellery at Christmas 2014. My instinct as an accountant is to test everything gradually and build slowly. So, I tested the market, and did reasonably well with my website. In 2015, we started to get stockists and, in 2017, brought out the Native collection.
Q: How did your jewellery get into the Oscars goodie bag?
A: We’ve had great sales online, with customers in the US, Canada, Australia. Then, in 2017, we were featured in a US magazine as ‘one to watch’. That led to being contacted by the Oscars gift bag organisers – we sent them samples and our jewellery was then included in the goodie bags for the nominees.
That was huge for us and some of my best customers found me through the Oscars and direct links to our website that came out of the Oscars. So, now we’re driving online sales as that is going really well now.
Q: How important are the symbols to you?
A: I’m constantly looking at signs and symbols and their meanings. My jewellery is a modern twist on meaningful Celtic or Chinese symbols. My next range, for instance, will have an eastern influence and I’m working with Feng Shui Master Amanda Collins to incorporate elements of Feng Shui into the new designs.
I design jewellery with thoughtfulness and kindness in mind – the pieces are ideal gifts to share meaning, thoughtfulness and kindness with those you love and care about.
Interview: Deirdre O’Flynn