September 1, 2015
A Plate Full of Inspiration
When Suess Griffin sits down to look at a box of forgotten and neglected antique china plates it’s not elegant dinners that come to mind, but a unique and one-of-a-kind jewellery collection that whispers stories from the past, and looks pretty smashing too!
A worn down box in an old antique store in the middle of “nobody knows where” is the secret place that Suess Griffin finds her inspiration. Old china dinner plates, some up to 100-years-old are stashed in these treasure chests, bearing famous names such as Queen Anne, Royal Doulton and Royal Albert. Some are one-of-a-kind, others are from collections passed down through generations – and all have a special meaning to Suess.
But it is what this grandmother-of-two does to preserve these china homewares that makes her business, Liliah Rose Jewellery so unique, a little unconventional, but special in a way that many would not consider. You see, Suess transforms the dinner plates into necklaces, bracelets and charms, preserving the history in an intricate piece of wearable art for every age and generation.
The idea to sculpt dinner plates this way started after a dream, which Suess remembers felt like more of a nightmare two years ago.
“I have a piece of my mother’s porcelain, which is an old tea strainer, probably from the late 1800s,” she says. “It was my grandmother’s before that, and I dreamt I broke it. In the dream I was really upset about breaking it and so I made jewellery out of it, and that’s what inspired me to start making the jewellery.”
The stunning pieces are bound together with antique spoons, most of which have also been discovered in the back corners of secondhand stores and small antique shops.
“There are a lot of people who use spoons for making jewellery but everybody does it differently, you know, everybody has their own technique,” she says, twirling a bracelet in her hand to inspect the individual design of the spoon.
“I am a chef by trade and many years ago when I used to work for a solicitor, I was his private chef, he came to me one day and gave me this old ‘50s beauty-box full of beautiful cutlery. He said he didn’t want it anymore, he was just tired of polishing it,” Suess explains.
“So he gave it to me and I hung onto it and carried it with me for years and years, and then one day I thought I should do something with it, something extraordinary and that’s when I started doing the spoon bracelets.
When I sell them I always put a little card in it to say this is a piece of Royal Albert, Queen Anne or Royal Doulton, just to make it that much more special. The brand of the plate makes them more valuable to people.”
“I source cutlery from all over the place, I have long since used the cutlery he gave me and I now venture to antique shops and antique fairs.”
Helping Suess find the perfect pieces for her Liliah Rose Jewellery is her 13-year-old grandson Noah, who Suess says has the eye for business.
“Noah goes out and sources plates and things for me, he is one of my main buyers – he is really good, astounding actually. He will go out and find the most extraordinary plates for me,” she says, proudly.
“I have a shop I supply to in Kenilworth, Affordable On Elizabeth, and the owner Toni buys quite a lot off me, and every now and again she will find me a plate and I will do an earring and necklace set for her, and the rest of the plate is mine to use.
“That’s how Noah got into it, he listened to this deal I made with her and on the way back in the car we stopped in an antique shop and I was looking around for plates and then he came out and said, “Will these do? I’ll buy them and get a set of jewellery out of it!”
“I had to laugh, he is smart. That’s the deal with Noah, he finds plates and buys them, and ‘half is mine, and half is yours!’.”
As a doting grandmother, Suess even named her jewellery range after her granddaughter, nine-year-old Liliah Rose.
“Up until we moved here two years ago I was working in real estate and as a chef and doing this as a hobby more than anything, and when we moved here I thought, I want to do what I want to do, and this is it.
“I really wanted to do something I could connect with, and I thought Liliah Rose was the perfect name for beautiful jewellery.”
The jewellery-making itself is quite tricky and it took Suess more than a few smashed plates and cut fingers to master the art.
“I have a friend, Suzanne, who comes and stays and grinds away at the china for me, because once it is all cut out from the plate it has to be smoothed off on the edges before I can start soldering it,” she says at her workbench, which is dusty with worn china.
“When I first started doing the plates it was a real hit and miss, it took me ages to work out how I could cut it without it breaking up and eventually I worked it out and found the right tools for it, and now I find it quite easy.”
Her workshop at the back of her Beerwah home is packed with inspiration too, with wall-to-wall of china dinner plates and antique spoons.
“I walk down here in the morning and think, what can I use today? I have so much inspiration in the art of the plates,” she says, holding out a piece of Queen Anne to show off the hues of blue and pink.
“When I sell them, I always put a little card in it to say this is a piece of Royal Albert, Queen Anne or Royal Doulton, just to make it that much more special. The brand of the plate makes them more valuable to people.”
Since its beginning a little under two years ago, Liliah Rose Jewellery has grown enormously, with unique pieces being sent across Australia and internationally.
Suess sells mostly online, but does offer a special service to customers who wish to purchase a piece of jewellery from her workshop, which is where she also makes children’s clothing, complete with aprons and handpainted dresses, with her friend Robyn.
“I am working full-time now, with my niece Judi helping out when she can, it is very busy, which is fantastic because I love it and I get to work in a fantastic location too,” she says, overlooking her homestead.
Looking out, two miniature horses named Casper and Harry Trotter wait at the gate, hoping for a pat from Suess as she works. There is also a bird aviary, ducks, a dog and chickens to keep her company.
“It’s never dull here that’s for sure, and that’s why I love what I do. I get to make people feel pretty and wear something unique and beautiful and that’s satisfying enough.”
Visit www.facebook.com/LiliahRoseJewellery or www.liliahrose.com.au to find out more.