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The Architect Who Keeps On Creating

What was your previous occupation?
Registered Architect in private practice from 1964 - 2004 when I retired.

How long had you been in the occupation?
40 years.

Why did you leave it?
Being an architect is a very demanding job requiring long periods of concentration and continuing study of ever-changing regulations and materials. I had decided in 1993 when I was entering a new partnership that I would have a change of life after I reached the age of 65, and from then on until my retirement my wife Lorraine and I considered how we might achieve this, where we would live and what we would do. We gradually decided to move to a less vigorous climate and I decided to make silver jewellery as a hobby/occupation and slight earner. I started making jewellery at home and attended a couple of weekend workshops and night classes 2 years before retiring in early 2004 when I enrolled at Polytech in a full-time one year course in Jewellery Design and Construction.

We then moved to Coromandel, a small rural/seaside community in a warmer part of the country with good access to beaches and fishing. We had bought a 1500 sq metre site with a 1930s cottage where we built a new easy, informal 2 bedroom house at the back of the site. The old cottage became the studio for my wife and myself.

I work in the studio making mainly silver jewellery which I sell through 3 shops, one local, one 55km from here at Thames, a small town where we go for dentists, movies and access to a large supermarket etc and another in Wellington the capital city where we lived for 30-odd years. Most of the work is done by forging the silver with a hammer to obtain variations in shape and texture. The work is very handmade, although not roughly-made.

What have been the challenges?
The challenges have been making another life in a very small community, 2.5hours drive from the nearest city (3 to choose from), after 65 years living in a city, with the usual urban attractions such as a large group of like-minded friends and associates, anonymity, movies, theatre, libraries etc. We soon discovered that in a small town everybody knows your business and personal relationships are different. One needs to be tolerant of a great variety of people & behaviour, some of which one would walk away from in a city.

How do you market yourself?
My work is in 3 outlets as noted above and I also take part in occasional exhibitions. I do not have a website, although my work appears on that of the Wellington gallery Quoil (gallery@quoil.co.nz).

Take a look

Do you have tips for people thinking about having a ‘second career’?
Think carefully for as long as possible before retirement what you will do and where you will do it. We have friends here who fill their time with golf, golf club friends, visits from old friends, a wonderful and extensive garden, embroidery, fishing. Even more than us, they spend most of the time in the immediate environs of the community, very happy. My point is, if you have a bent for some activity or craft that is important then include that activity in your plans.

Both my fabric artist/ dollmaker wife and I would find it difficult to survive without serious involvement in a craft. We are always busy, although if a friend visits then we can stop what we are doing. I try to go fishing once a week, or go to the beach for a picnic etc.


Will you ever ‘retire’?
I am retired but very busily immersed in another career. I am very contented with that. One day when my interests and physical abilities are affected I will do something else, sell up and move on.

How can people contact you?
Email burwell@ihug.co.nz

Read about Burwell's creative wife here