Sue Hooper-Lawrie runs a Devon based business called Zawadi UK which is Swahili for gift. Zawadi-uk makes exclusive, vibrant and colourful, hand crafted jewellery and gifts. Each piece is carefully and patiently created to ensure it is both unique and made to a high standard and quality.
Sue has always had a creative side from when she was at school and loved the practical subjects of Art, Needlework, Cookery. In fact she had never regarded herself as being academic until at the age of 45 she was accepted at Exeter University to do a Post graduate certificate in Education – something she enjoyed and is very proud of!
Devon’s Third Culture Kid
Sue describes herself as a third culture kid. When asked what that is –
I recently heard about third culture kids and realised very quickly, that I am one such kid. Third culture kids are those of us from one culture who grew up in another culture and do not really fit wholly with either, so in effect create our own third culture.
Sue was born in the UK in 1958. In 1959 her parents decided to move to Kenya, taking her and her brother. Her father was going to build dams for villages and small communities living way outside the main towns.
This meant that for the first three or four years of her life, she too lived in small villages and communities often hundreds of miles away from any towns or cities. Those early years were spent in tents, mud huts, tin huts or wooden shacks, whatever could be found to create a home for a short while.
The major horrors of the Mau Mau uprising had almost ended although there were still skirmishes and sporadic activity which caused concern and fear. As she got older, her parents relayed some of their experiences of those early years living in what were very unsafe and insecure surroundings with two small children. Through it all they were never, directly affected and for that, Sue says, she will always be eternally grateful.
We had often woken in the morning to find Giraffe, Leopard, Impala, bushbuck and a myriad of other visitors in our garden... What a privilage it was to have all these wonderful neighbours who felt safe wondering by as and when they felt the need. Although I have to say, the plants and flowers didn't look so good once the Impala and Bushbuck had had their fill!
Our next door neighbours in Langata were Armand and Michaela Dennis who made wildlife programmes for the BBC.
They also acted as a post office for the Maasai living in the Ngongs. When they had mail they would hang a big red blanket over their upstairs balcony as a signal for the Maasai that there was something to collect.
Someone from the tribe would make their way through the bush and down to the house to collect whatever awaited them.
Sue enjoyed Kenya High and though it was a great school. She says she was not a scholar, not by any stretch of the imagination, but she did thrive in art, music, needlework, cookery and all the practical subjects. Sue was also a a good swimmer and an accomplished hockey player.
She also discovered a talent as an expert hair braider. She tells how, on a Saturday afternoon all the girls from her dormitory would sit in a line one behind the other and braid each others hair. The girl at the back needed someone to do hers, so Sue was called upon to be at the back of the line! She learned a number of different styles and sometimes girls would argue about who was going to sit at the back, to be done by Sue!
Return To the UK
Sue left Kenya on 12 December 1973 arriving at Heathrow Airport on a cold, wet, windy day, which she remembers was a horrible welcome. She didn’t want to come back to the UK. She had gone to Kenya as a toddler and was now 15 years old. All she had known was Kenya and had always believed she would live in Kenya forever. She had never once thought that she would have to come back to the UK, a place with which she has no affinity.
Sue attended a school where she experienced racial prejudice and got told to go back to where she had come from. She was both confused and angry, and wanted to be back in Kenya. She had never experienced any prejudice there. After leaving school she spiralled down for a while and experienced a difficult time. She travelled but after a few years settled back in the UK
Sue still misses Kenya. She finds it a vibrant, colourful country and is still the place she thinks of as home even though she was born in the UK to English parents and even though she loves the South-West!
Starting A South-West Business
Sue started her jewellery business after being made redundant at the end of May 2012. She had made jewellery many years ago as a hobby. She had accepted redundancy as she was finding work very stressful alongside being a carer for her partner. She took her management role and responsibility for a number of staff very seriously and found it a stretch along with her caring responsibilities
She started the business as an alternative to employment. She has only been trading since June 2012 and trades on the website and in the West Country at Craft Events. The jewellery design is special and is inspired by the colours of Africa. Sue will make and design pieces from the ideas and requirements of her customers. She says that she is not afraid to create something completely different to that seen on jewellery websites and at craft events. She likes to be different, bold and brash.
However, despite being busy with her business and a carer for her partner, she works in her vegetable patch and cares for her 11 pets who all have their individual needs!
She also enjoys watching various sports, Twitter and Facebook and keeping in touch with friends in Kenya. Sometimes she even makes soft furnishings and/or dressmaking. Sue also enjoys baking and general cooking, making jams and chutneys and also like general gardening. Sue is certainly a very practical lady! Her favourite food reflects her upbringing – goat curry, mangoes, pawpaw, custard apple, maize and beans.
South-West Open Spaces
Sue says the South-West sometimes reminds her a bit of Kenya with the wide open spaces, fresh air and miles of green spaces. She finds it such a contrast from the time she lived in London which she found rather grey, black, dark, dismal with over powering buildings. The South-West inspires her.
Her ambition is to develop the business to become self-sustaining and become known for creating unique, bold, colourful quality jewellery and other gifts. Her customers are people looking for something different and unique perhaps someone who Someone who dares to wear something different and unusual.
Sue’s philosophy of life is – I am responsible for who I am, but not for how you feel about me. Wise words – worth remembering. And she aspires always to be busy, caring and loving (in all senses of the word!)
~You can buy her jewellery from her website www.zawadi-uk.com