Curating collections for Harper St, one of the many Sunshine Coast Boutiques I'm always interested in how talented creative designers spark their creativity, how they work and what motivates them.
Sunshine Coast Boutiques stock a stunning variety of jewellery. At Harper St we proudly stock Mulberry Mongoose’s signature collection. It was one of the first jewellery designs I introduced to Harper St, primarily for its earthy tribal tones but probably more so for their story. Many of their designs are made using snare wire removed from snare sets and cut free from wounded animals during anti-poaching patrols.
Other locally sourced materials turned into jewellery include guinea fowl feathers supplied by local farmers, hand-carved wooden beads, freshwater pearls and vintage coins picked up from Zambian markets.
I catch up with owner and inspirational jewellery designer Kate.
Tell us about who you are and what you do?
My name is Kate Wilson and I head up a team of courageous rural Zambian women who handcraft beautiful jewellery using a brutal poacher’s tool called snare traps or snare wire. Every time we sell our jewellery we donate back to conservation and have raised over $126,000 for conservation through our creativity. We call what we do transforming Beauty from Brutality. Our business is based in rural Zambia and we have elephants, lions, leopards and giraffe stroll past while we work and baboons and monkeys jumping on our roof all too often!
What’s something you do every day which sets your creativity on fire?
I write morning pages. 3 pages of stream of consciousness thinking on paper. I learnt about this from an amazing book/course called The Artists Way by Julia Cameron.
What are your favourite moments so far in your career?
I have had so many. One moment was when Mulberry Mongoose paid $100,000 in donation money at the same time as being advertised in British Vogue for up-and-coming jewellery designer of the year. This married our values of giving back whilst creating beautiful, contemporary jewellery so well. This focus was put in our DNA and embedded in our company name.
The banded mongoose is a wonderful animal found here in the bush. They survive in the bush by being a community, one mongoose keeps watching while the others feed. Similarly, Mulberry Mongoose grows as a business by caring for our environment. Mulberry is a British colour and I grew up in England and had a Mulberry tree in my garden. As a business, we strive to be as professional and efficient as any other Western business despite the challenges of running a business in the bush. We also want our clients to love our product because of its quality and style. The word ‘Mulberry’ symbolises that drive.
What’s the most treasured item in your home?
A large picture of a canoe against a sea background that I bought myself.
What does your average work day look like?
I start around 8.30 after dropping the kids at school and doing gym. I have various meetings with my team in Zambia, as well as a network meeting and then I work back-to-back with allocated hourly slots on my big projects. I set aside 1 hour to try and tackle all my emails in one go. I am very disciplined about not doing social media, WhatsApp or emails outside of the designated time so I keep my focus. I am teased about being excessively disciplined!
Can you pinpoint the moment your hobby turned into a profession?
I was working part-time on what was then a part-time role making jewellery for local lodges. I knew I had to try and make it a fully-fledged company that was a mirror of my values. However, I feared not being able to achieve it and not being able to bring in an income to support my family. I thought I might be a fraud (I still have those moments often!). I took myself for a walk along the banks of the beautiful Luangwa River. I sat on an old tree stump and looked out and I felt a kick in my stomach. I understood I had to move forwards scared or not and was definitely a spiritual moment for me. I just had an innate knowledge to do it and decided to override the fear! My husband was seriously supportive which made it possible.
What’s a skill you want to accomplish in 2022
I want to learn to manifest the things that give me fulfilment. I am very good at doing but I am not good at deciding and acting on what I really want to do. I tend to do what I must do or what someone else needs me to do! It’s time to take control of my destiny better and define who I am and what my passions are and experience them as fully as I can.
If you could collaborate with anyone (brand or individual) who would it be?
That is an awesome question and there are so many incredible brands in the world. I do think Stella McCartney is a woman with values, vision, and empathy for making this world better through her hard work and imagination. I would love to collaborate with a person who is brave, principled, creative, humble, and smart.
If you could see your work displayed absolutely anywhere, where would it be?
I always wanted to see our cord snare bracelet on every arm in the world. A symbol of how much people care for conservation, how creativity can make a difference and how if we all buy 1 snare bracelet snare wire would not exist and we would have put some serious money into conservation. It would be so cool!
You’ve got a week off… where are you headed?
To the ocean, I love being by the sea. I love Plett in South Africa.
What’s your favourite project/design so far and why?
The Pangolin Collection as it was inspired after I saw Eye of the Pangolin by Bruce Young and Yohan Vermeulen. The film affected me profoundly and so we created this design to raise funds for the Pangolin Crisis Fund as a contribution to their important work. The design is very hard to create taking about 3 hours per piece and made up almost entirely of poacher’s snare wire, it is a great symbol of our hard work, dedication and beliefs.
What's your signature dish?
Salad, brown rice and goat's cheese! I am a boring eater! But I love wine or champagne with it!
How do you stay balanced?
Hearing my kids and really getting to know them and support them, being with my husband and walking in nature.
Minimalist or Maximalist
I have no idea! I don’t seem to be very consistent, sometimes I love to have it busy and sometimes I love things zen and calm!
I couldn’t get through the weekend without……
My family time and my early morning coffee and catching up with my husband.
Made In: South Luangwa, Zambia
Where to find you
Name: Kate Wilson
Business Name: Mulberry Mongoose
If you would like us to order a piece for you please don't hesitate to ask. Simply contact us directly, we are always happy to help.
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