Leaves Collection ~ Behind the Scenes

Kauri tree and leaves

How I Design & Create New Collections

August 2020

I have two new collections that I’m hoping to launch on 1st September. One has been in the pipelines and on my brain for some time, the other is a newer idea I’ve been mulling over, but one which I’m no less passionate about. I’ve decided to keep the two collections separate for several reasons, but mainly because they use different materials. Also, one ‘collection’ is made up entirely of different types of earrings! 

So this month I thought I’d give you an inside look or ‘behind the scenes’ of my inspirations and processes and how I design, create and produce a new set – in this case; my new “Leaves” collection. 

As the name suggests, a collection is several different items created with a common theme (in this case the theme is ‘leaves’). I have been thinking about this collection for over a year now! 

Leaves Collection: Inspirations

My main inspiration for ‘Leaves’ came from the leaves of the mighty kauri tree (Agathis australis), colloquially known as the ‘Kings of the forest’ to most New Zealanders, they are taonga and practically a national treasure. Found naturally in the northern part of the North Island of New Zealand, kauri trees are one of the longest-living in the world, and also one of the largest (by volume). If you’re walking through native bush in the upper North Island, chances are, you’ll be near a kauri. Kauri have existed as a species for around 20 million years.

small grove of Kauri trees
Young Kauri Trees
Close up of kauri tree leaves and cone
Kauri Leaves & Cone

Kauri trees and special treasures made from NZ kauri gum are already close to my heart. Literally! A few years ago I had the pleasure of making some jewellery and other keepsake items for a customer. Our communication over time grew into a valuable friendship and he very kindly gave me some raw kauri gum, from which I have (learnt to hand polish) and made into jewellery. You can see some of those items down below (I still have more pieces to upload to the webshop!)

                       Clover Honey coloured NZ kauri resin silver double koru necklace                 You can see the translucent properties of this piece

One of the reasons it has taken me so long to produce this new collection is because right from the first concept, I have been passionate about donating a portion of sales from this particular collection towards some sort of conservation project, I just wasn’t sure exactly which one or how to go about it. The more I thought about it though, I realised that – if possible – the money should be directed towards helping with kauri dieback disease. 

What is Kauri Dieback disease?

More than 100 species of Phytophthora (or ‘water moulds’) currently exist around the world. One of these species of water mould is responsible for causing kauri dieback. 

It is not known when or where the microorganism first arrived into New Zealand. Scientists think it has existed within our country for at least three centuries and only recently become a danger to kauri. It was first observed in the Waitakere Ranges in the 1950s and again on Great Barrier island in the early 1970s, however it is now believed these were different species, as the 100% mortality and speed at which the disease has spread since 2016, suggests that it is a more recent arrival.

In 2006, kauri were observed to be dying in the Waitakere Ranges, and the authorities were alerted. As a result, an investigation was carried out, and a new species (of the water mould) was discovered.  Tentatively, it was given the name of Phytophthora ‘taxon Agathis’. This was formally renamed in 2015 as Phytophthora agathidicida.

This particular spore attacks the roots and trunk of kauri trees (and other species too), causing yellowing leaves, thinning canopy, dead branches, lesions that bleed resin and ultimately, tree death. It damages the tissue that carries nutrients within the tree, causing them to starve.

The spore is spread by soil disturbance and is mainly carried between trees in the mud on our shoes or outdoor equipment. Pigs and dogs allowed off their leash, also spread the disease. They disturb and carry soil while rooting around for food (and smells) on the forest floor.

It can take years for dieback symptoms to show. Sometimes they can show quickly within young seedlings and juvenile trees, however it can be decades before discovering a mature tree has the disease. Although scientists have a good understanding of how kauri are infected, how quickly or what factors cause a tree to perish is not known. They also don’t know how some kauri trees are more affected than others. 

As a ‘keystone’ species, kauri play an important role in the other types of trees and bushes that live in a kauri forest. Many plants have evolved to live on and around kauri due to the type of soil that it helps to develop over time. Without kauri, the ecosystem would likely be very different. Although there has been research looking into the long-term effects of the disease and determining the makeup of the soils around healthy and diseased kauri, a lot more research is still required.

Kauri tree with dieback disease
Kauri tree with Dieback Disease
Trunk of kauri tree with dieback disease
Trunk of Kauri with Dieback

Dual Purposes

As an environmentally aware kiwi, with the extensive Waitakere Ranges forest on my back doorstep and the mighty kauri relatively abundant in this area, its protection is imperative.

Looking after our environment has always been important to me, and finding ways that I can incorporate this into my business has become central to my ethos. I’d like to think my Leaves collection will represent this, but I wanted to DO more, so I started doing a bit of research into how this collection might help the environment at the same time as being sustainable in itself. 

Not only did I want to be using entirely 100% recycled Sterling Silver in all of the designs, but I somehow wanted to give back – or pay it forward? Whichever way you look at it: enriching both the customer and the environment at the same time.

I had already decided I wanted to donate a portion of (all) my sales to a conservation project, but also wanted to have something more specific for this collection.

Designs & Creative Production of a Collection

Around the same time, I started thinking about the designs and what I wanted them to look like.

First designs for Leaves collection
First designs of Leaves collection
Original designs for Leaves collection
second page

I knew I wanted to have some sort of lariat-styled necklace, some earrings – small and large, a ring and a bangle. It evolved from there. Usually I will start a design using copper wire (as it’s much cheaper and easier to get hold of than Sterling Silver) – and I can work out amounts required without worrying so much about waste. I was pretty happy with how the necklace turned out straight away….

Producing prototype of Leaves lariat necklace

Then I started to design and create the earrings – both small and large, but couldn’t get it quite right. I asked my social media audience (Instagram and Facebook) to help me by choosing their favourites out of various designs. It was quite funny actually, one of the original large earrings design, resembled something entirely different from a leaf – which I was not happy about at all! You can see some of these designs below:

Early designs for large leaf earrings_2

Creating the prototypes

When NZ went into lockdown, I took a little time out from creating, and gave myself some space to reflect, which was really useful. I really didn’t have the time to work on the business as much given I was homeschooling and back to full-time mothering! After a month or two, I had another go – changing things around a little, and have been really pleased with how things have turned out.

Currently, my new Leaves collection will include: 

  1. A 2-way Lariat Necklace, 
  2. 2-way Small Leaf earrings, 
  3. 2-way Large Leaf earrings, 
  4. 2 leaves ring, 
  5. 2 leaves Cuff or Bangle, and 
  6. a unisex or Mens Leaf adjustable Bracelet.

The first 3 items on the list above have been thought about, designed, created and a prototype produced. I’ve then worn the prototype myself to see if there are any issues that become apparent upon wearing.  The reason they all became ‘2-way’ products, is that with each one you can wear it in (at least) 2 different ways.

The lariat necklace may be worn in at least two different ways:

  1. One where the leaf hook is clasped onto the main, larger leaf.
  2. The second where the recycled silver chain runs through the leaf hook.

The small leaf earrings may be worn either as ear climbers, or as small drop earrings:


Also with the large leaf earrings, you can put either ‘end’ piece through your ear piercing hole and the look will be slightly different!

The ring, bangle and mens bracelet are still in their design phases – I’m hoping to finish producing these over the next week or so. Then comes the photography of each item individually, and the collection all together. 

Post Production

After taking all the proper photos (and there needs to be at least 7 different images of each item), there is a LOT of editing to do, before each photo is exported (to my computer) and renamed. This is all before anything is uploaded to any of my webshops! I’ll also need to do some keyword research and ensure I have all the correct measurements and information to pass on to you, the customer.

So – there’s a lot of work involved in producing a new collection, which all takes time. Hopefully this has given you some insight into how it’s all done.

Finally, I’m super proud to announce that I’ve chosen to support Forest & Bird on an ongoing basis and reveal that 10% of each sale made from this collection will be donated directly to Forest & Bird to help fight Kauri Dieback disease! 😁 

What is Forest & Bird doing to help fight Kauri Dieback?

Forest & Bird believe the national Kauri Dieback Programme has so far been seriously mismanaged, and are asking for urgent changes to:

  • The establishment of an independent National Pest Management agency, who would manage the kauri dieback programme and govern with representation from community experts, science, environmental groups, relevant government agencies and iwi
  • An urgent programme of ground surveillance with a particular focus on areas that may be uninfected
  • The total closure of all forests with healthy kauri – to protect and try to stop the extinction of kauri in mainland forests
  • Increased aerial predator control to improve the overall health of the forests
  • Urgent focus on research – in particular, a cure for the disease, the effects of the pathogen on other species and effective cleaning solutions
  • The public closure of all forests with unhealthy kauri (unless they have adequate tracks that stop soil movement, and adequate cleaning facilities)
  • A comprehensive national programme for pig control
  • Border control measures against kauri dieback at domestic airports and ferries in areas such as Great Barrier, Waiheke and Coromandel

So, I’m hoping that by donating 10% of each item in the Leaves collection sold, I can help to make some of these things happen.

Which is where YOU come in. Will you help me?

Now I’m off to finish off my collection, trying to get it ready to launch for September 1st 2020! I’d love to hear what you think?