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AofA People: Gillian Haqqani – Jeweller


1 Minute Read

What is your name?

Gillian Haqqani

Briefly sum up who you are and what motivates you

Who am I? That’s a hard one. Factually I’m a twice-married once divorced and now happily separated mum, granny, and former teacher, now a small business owner. What motivates me? I’ve always been very self-motivated, and I’ve always wanted to do things to the best of my ability. My immediate family also motivate me and nothing is better than getting a “Wow! That’s Awesome Granny ”. In tough times my family keeps me going.

If you have a job, what you do for a living?

I’m a former primary school assistant head and the most of my career my responsibilities were for children with special need or disability (SEND) as well as for Child Protection and Children in Care. I’m now retired and so have more time to focus on my jewellery business.

How long have you been doing this?

Just over two years.

What you find most satisfying about your job?

I love the feedback I get from customers whether that’s in real life or online and I particularly love it when I have returning customers. I also enjoy the whole creative process especially when I’m working on a new design and there is some problem solving involved to get the reality to match what I’ve got in my mind. Learning new skills whether that be in the making of my jewellery – which is something rather different as I use paper and origami to create my pieces, or in developing my business IT skills.

Is your work primarily a means to an end i.e. money, or the motivating force of your life?

I’m lucky enough to have my teachers pension as my main source of income but the money I make from my jewellery really helps in terms of getting some of the wants. I really love making my jewellery and tried to be the best I can be and it is also very much a form of emotional therapy for me. Building up my business and all the positives that come from that have really helped me to rebuild my confidence and self-belief.

If you don’t work for a living, can you say why?

Unfortunately, about five years ago I developed severe arthritis in my neck and after some other chronic diseases decided to come along and join the party, last year (2017) I had to reluctantly admit that it was becoming too difficult for me to carry on working. The plus side is that I can now focus more on my jewellery business.

When you are eight, what did you want to be when you grow up?

Very boring, but the only thing I’ve ever wanted to be was a teacher.

Did you get there – and if not, are you happy/sad that you didn’t?

Yes and I’m so glad I did.

What is your dream job?

My last job. I loved the job, the school, and the pupils. It made having to give up even more heart-breaking.

If UK – based, are you glad, indifferent or disappointed that the official pension age is rising

Disappointed, I’m lucky in that I do have a decent teachers pension and I also receive some disability benefits. However, as I still have a mortgage to pay until I’m 64 money is tight and as I’m 57 at the moments having to wait another 10 years to receive my state pension seems an awfully long time.

AofA People: Caroline Rosie Dent – End of Life Doula, Death Cafe Host, Jeweller


5 Minute Read

Caroline Rosie Dent, 59, was one of our guests at the Death Dinner (screened tonight for the first time at Barts Pathology Museum). She is an end of life Doula, a jeweller and a death cafe host. Be warned – if you’re courting Caroline, never bring her cheap chocolate!

WHAT IS YOUR NAME?
Caroline Rosie Dent

HOW OLD ARE YOU?
59

WHERE DO YOU LIVE?
London, UK

WHAT DO YOU DO?
I am an end of life Doula – I walk alongside and advocate for people at the end of life, so they feel more at ease and more empowered in their dying days. I also run a Death cafe and am active in the Positive Death movement. I have been working as a creative in Textiles and jewellery for most of my life and I still make Memorial Jewellery under the alter ego Rosie Weisencrantz

TELL US WHAT IT’S LIKE TO BE YOUR AGE?

I find that such a hard question to answer as I honestly feel ageless inside. I am all the ages I have ever been ….I still carry all those younger versions of myself inside me; they all pop out at different times. At the moment I feel about 26 because I am particularly happy right now

WHAT DO YOU HAVE NOW THAT YOU DIDN’T HAVE AT 25?
I have the security of owning a home which gives me choices. I see it as my passport to freedom and adventure in the future. I have a beautiful son, who teaches me constantly how to be a better person.

WHAT ABOUT SEX?
I see sex as part of a deeper intimacy. I have zero interest in casual sex, in the same way I have no interest in fast food. I dipped my toes in the tantric waters for a while, and I got a glimpse of what is possible. I’m an all or nothing kind of person. Never bring me cheap chocolate!

AND RELATIONSHIPS?
I was a serial monogamist for most of my life and have had some pretty disastrous relationships, and yet I regret none of them. They all contributed to my growth, no matter how difficult. However, now I would like something a bit more joyful, with a man who totally *gets* me and shares my irreverent spirit. I am not afraid to be alone, as that is infinitely preferable to being in a dysfunctional relationship. I quite like the idea of living separately within a relationship. I think this keeps a relationship healthy.
Relationships can be a breeding ground for resentment, and living apart can act as a deterrent to that, and help to engender greater respect for each other. As Gibran says *let there be space in your togetherness* I would like to meet a man to travel and explore the world with…that is very appealing…. someone who looks at me through loving and forgiving eyes, and a man who can allow himself to open and be loved fully in return. I would like to experience that once before I die.

HOW FREE DO YOU FEEL?
Freedom is a state of mind. Thoughts are our greatest jailers. Sometimes I feel free, other times I feel imprisoned by my fears. I feel most free when I am alone in nature, and the mental noise is switched off. Nature is my sanctuary.

WHAT ARE YOU PROUD OF?
My son is my greatest achievement. He is a beautiful being with a boundless heart, and he has taught me many things. I am proud of my creativity and my achievements as a designer. I won an international award at the peak of my career. I am also incredibly proud that I overcame my pathological fear of death phobia, that plagued me as a child and into adulthood, and now through my work with death and dying, am helping others to overcome theirs.

WHAT KEEPS YOU INSPIRED?
Questions and Ideas. My own creative process. I have loved playing with my imagination since I was tiny and have always got a kick out of my own thought processes. I see myself as a catalyst, energy-wise. I would have made a good inventor. I feel I could have done anything I put my mind to..because my creativity is limitless.

WHEN ARE YOU HAPPIEST?
I feel freest and happiest when I am cycling along the river, far away from people, listening to beautiful music on my iPod. I am also happy when I am having conversations about death and dying and see people opening up about their deepest fears for the first time. I am happy when I am in love.

AND WHERE DOES YOUR CREATIVITY GO?
It goes everywhere! Creativity is a state of mind. It’s an unstoppable force. Art writing talking feeling being. An open and curious mind is the foundation of all creativity.

WHAT’S YOUR PHILOSOPHY OF LIVING?
Be yourself, and don’t take yourself too seriously. Be able to laugh at yourself in all your glorious human imperfection. There is literally nobody who does you as well as you, so celebrate your uniqueness. We are all glorious paradoxes. Enjoy the play. It will be over soon enough. And dying? “Get curious about death before death gets curious about you” is my mantra. Don’t wait till your body and mind are failing to begin this most important work. Contemplation of Death teaches us how to live. As the Zen quote says *the cup is already broken* so live each moment fully and kiss the joy as it flies.

ARE YOU STILL DREAMING?
Always. To dream is to be alive. Never underestimate the power of your imagination. Enjoy this play.

WHAT WAS A RECENT OUTRAGEOUS ACTION OF YOURS?
No huge acts of outrageousness here…just being myself. That is my act of rebellion or outrageousness. To give an example; yesterday I lay on a bench with my head hanging upside down, and watched the passers by walking from *the ceiling of the earth* – from an upside down viewpoint walking looks like dancing. It amused me to notice that and I try not to bother myself with what others think of me. By being myself I hope I give others permission to be themselves also.

AofA People: Alice Portnoy – Jeweller


1 Minute Read

Alice Portnoy started studying jewellery design in her 70s, after a 25-year career as a marketing manager for a large appliance company. Since then, she has had her work exhibited at the V&A and has shown at craft fairs across London. Most recently she was one of a small number of craft people chosen for the MADE London craft fair in Canary Wharf.

WHAT IS YOUR NAME?

Alice Portnoy

HOW OLD ARE YOU?

79

WHERE DO YOU LIVE?

London

WHAT DO YOU DO?

I started making jewellery about 7 years ago, after taking several adult education courses. I call my business myjewellerywardrobe. I continue to take a jewellery course, one day each week, at City Lit. I sell my jewellery at Craft Fairs and take commissions. alice-portnoy-image-3

TELL US WHAT IT’S LIKE TO BE YOUR AGE?

I never find my age a disadvantage and try to keep a very positive attitude toward life.  I remain active socially, enjoying the theatre, art and concerts. I like to walk, play bridge and exercise at home. I try to keep up with technology but am not addicted to my phone.
I enjoy being with young people and I think they respect my intelligence.

WHAT DO YOU HAVE NOW THAT YOU DIDN’T HAVE AT 25?

I definitely have my aches and pains but try not to dwell on them. I definitely have more money and more time to travel and enjoy life. I have more tolerance and understanding of people and are less critical. I accept that things may not always run smoothly and just try to get on with things and don’t worry that much.

WHAT ABOUT SEX?

I still enjoy sex but it is less frequent. My husband had prostate cancer so his testosterone level is low. We hope that this will improve with time.

AND RELATIONSHIPS?

We have a good network of friends, many of whom we play bridge with. I think I could call on them if I had any problems. My daughter lives nearby, in case of an emergency.

HOW FREE DO YOU FEEL?

I feel reasonably free. I have a husband and hence certain responsibilities. I like to be home in the evening to prepare a meal and do the shopping and household chores. He handles most of the finances and is very good at planning and organising our holidays.

WHAT ARE YOU PROUD OF?

I’m proud of what I have accomplished. I had a  very successful marketing career and worked for one company for 27 years. I was very well know and respected in the industry. I am proud that I started a new career so late in life and that people want to buy my jewellery. I am very proud of my children and what they have accomplished – all high achievers, and very proud of my grandchildren, the type of people they have become.

WHAT KEEPS YOU INSPIRED?

Designing new pieces from ideas that I have- sometimes this can be inspired by a geometric shape, a place that I visit or something that I see. Inspiration comes from all sorts of sources.

WHEN ARE YOU HAPPIEST?

On holiday in some lovely place- seeing something truly beautiful, enjoying nature, a beautiful sunset,  wonderful scenery, surrounded by my family.

WHAT’S YOUR PHILOSOPHY OF LIVING?

Enjoy every moment, take advantage of all opportunities, keep challenging yourself, keep active and keep learning.

AND DYING?

Can’t avoid this so don’t worry about it. Just hope that you’re not a burden to others.

ARE YOU STILL DREAMING?

No

WHAT WAS A RECENT OUTRAGEOUS ACTION OF YOURS?

Applying to exhibit at Made, a craft fair in Canary Wharf, and being accepted!

http://www.myjewellerywardrobe.co.uk

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