Boh's birds

By Cathrin Schaer

A fortuitous meeting with the folks from New Zealand Mint has given local musician Boh Runga the most special of keepsakes to remind her of home as she spends the coming year living in the United States writing music. She also has a new set of presents to give to all the friends who already own her CDs.

In association with New Zealand Mint, which does everything from making commemorative coins to selling gold bullion and Kiwiana-inspired jewellery, Runga has designed a line of jewellery. Her first range is a series of adorably plump native birds in silver and gold; it will be launched tomorrow and will soon be on sale for about $199 in stores such as Workshop and Redcurrent.

How did this all come about?

I was introduced to the people from New Zealand Mint and they wanted to step up their New Zealand designs. They liked the first drawings I did and we just took it from there.

The drawings were made into 3D models, then into moulds and then you play around with the samples a bit before the jewellery goes into production. I've been working on this off and on for around five months.

Did you have any kind of fashion or object design background at all?

I designed a dress to wear in a music video once. And that was quite fun. And I do like a bit of a dress-up; I'm also a sucker for a bangle or a ring. But apart from that, I don't really have a background in design, I'm a musician. However, I do think it's just another kind of creativity - and creativity comes in many forms.

In what ways does the new jewellery reflect your own style and personality?

I don't think I'm necessarily as sweet as they are. I do quite like birds though. And I really like Pingu [the rotund cartoon character based on a penguin]. With this first range I already knew that I was going to America and I was thinking what would I like to wear myself, what would I like to take with me? In my garden I have this tui that comes to visit in the morning. So it all kind of links me to home.

I think the birds really appeal to my sensitive side while the next couple of ranges are a bit more fun and maybe a little bit more rock'n'roll.

How do you feel about the celebrity-designer thing, now that you are one?

With this, it's a relationship where both partners benefit. I have a profile and they get to use that, and I get to use their resources. Apart from that, it's good for me in other ways - I get to see my etchy-sketches turned into silver and gold. What girl wouldn't want that?

What have you enjoyed most about making your own jewellery?

I do get a real buzz out of wearing something I've helped create. A lot of my girlfriends have had a real thrill from it too. Like [fellow singer] Brooke Fraser recently became engaged and I gave her my two love birds in gold - my husband, Campbell [Smith, who runs Fraser's management company] says she's wearing them right now. And if someone really likes something you've made, that's great. My friends have all my CDs now anyway.

Do you have a favourite?

I'm wearing the little silver robin right now. I like him because he's so small and delicate. I also like the fantail because he's so iconic. And I like the others because all of our native birds are unique. Anyway, you can't make me choose out of my children.

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