JEWELLERY designer Rowena Sheen has launched a new collection of handmade wooden jewellery in time for Christmas.
The Ennistymon native has, over the last five years, been carefully carving her position among Clare’s finest homegrown talents in the craft world having previously worked in Dublin as a costume maker in theatre and film, with period dramas such as Penny Dreadful and Ripper Street among her credits.
Five years ago, the pull of beautiful County Clare became too magnetic and she returned to put her creativity to use at Rowena Sheen Jewellery, a business borne out of her grounding at the National College of Art and Design in Dublin, where she gained a degree in Craft Design, specialising in metals and jewellery.
For the discerning shopper who wants a carefully crafted, unique piece of jewellery at an excellent price point that’s been made by hand – using native and natural materials – Rowena’s creations might tick all the boxes.
It was walks in the Burren during last year’s lockdown which inspired her latest collection, stumbling across skeletal remains of all the wildlife from sheep to dolphins and observing the fossils, plants and rocks, “basically all the different things you come across out walking in the Burren”.
The line, as with much of her products, was created using native yew trees and even polished with beeswax from hives in the Burren, tended to by her Dad, Robin the beekeeper.
Having started her journey with her jewellery business four years ago at the age of 33, Rowena admits it’s been a decision she hasn’t looked back on.
In January 2020, her business was beginning to grow thanks in part to a Local Enterprise Office showcase event where Rowana expanded her network of stockists and wholesalers; little did she know that her business trajectory would be forced to evolve as Covid arrived less than two months later.
However, forced to find new ways to market her products, Rowena admits that while she finds the online aspect of selling “frustrating” at times, she adds, “when it works out really well, it’s fantastic.”
She credits the support of LEO Clare as vital in getting to grips with online marketing, while admitting that last year’s Click For Clare campaign run by The Clare Echo and LEO Clare, drove traffic to her website in the lead-in to Christmas.
In terms of the creative process, one of the wonderful quirks of wooden jewellery is that no two pieces are exact replicas due to the colour and grain of the wood being used. “It’s mostly yew that I work with, a beautiful native Irish wood. When I decided I wanted to set up a business making a product, I really didn’t want to be using any plastics or any manmade materials that would be polluting or damaging so the wood was something I could use that was available to me locally that was natural, and it looks and feels nice.”
Rowena puts painstaking work into each piece, cutting wood, sanding, designing the pieces digitally, laser cutting, ebonising (to turn them a rich black colour), and finally assembling the pieces with sterling silver and polishing them using Burren wildflower beeswax. “It’s nice, natural, locally sourced materials which is very important to me,” she adds.
Just like using natural materials, it is also important to Rowena that “normal people like myself” can afford the pieces as gifts, or for themselves. The pieces start at €25 and go up into the hundreds, with the latest collection at a slightly higher price point due to its intricacies.
Rowena Sheen Jewellery retails at various locations in Clare including Laura Vaughan in Ennis, Olive & Crew in Lahinch, Foust Gallery in Ennistymon, Irish Crafts in Doolin, as well as at Rowena’s studio in the Courthouse, Ennistymon by appointment. For more information or to shop online, visit rowenasheen.com.
Rowena Sheen Jewellery is just one of the many retailers taking part in Click for Clare 2021. An initiative involving Local Enterprise Office Clare and The Clare Echo to drive local website traffic to Clare businesses with an online. Visit the Click for Clare Directory to see the many shops and businesses across the county taking part this year.