Written in Metal: The Jewellery of Enibas
- 14 Mar 2018
- Read Time: 6 mins
“It starts off with an idea of what I want to say on the piece. I am not a native Irish speaker so I have some people I rely on including native Irish speakers, local teachers and a lecturer in Trinity College. It’s an interesting process. Depending on the saying, I think of a design that would work well with that message.”
Sabine Lenz is the founder of Enibas - a West Cork jewellery design company established in 1993 which specialises in beautiful simple jewellery designs which incorporate inscriptions in the Irish language.
“It is such an emotional purchase and often a gift purchase,” says Sabine. “This is why my designs have become simple. Our followers love that emotional purchase and now all our pieces have a message in Irish. We have so many stories from customers about, say, people giving their child a piece of ours when they move away from home. Our retailers tell us that they hear so many stories from customers. It is a very emotional purchase.”
Enibas have two jewellery boutiques in West Cork alongside their many stockists - one in Schull and one in Kinsale. Purchasing their shop in Schull in 2014, having rented for many years, was a turning point for the business. “It was a landmark moment. We now have a beautiful workshop above the shop. Prior to that we worked out of a windy shed for years!” says Sabine.
The company set up shop in Kinsale in 2006, moving to a new location in 2011. “We do a lot of things by gut feeling. The opportunity arose because our landlord had a property in Kinsale and we thought it ticked all the boxes however it was a different experience and took us years to build the business in Kinsale - there are many more shops in Kinsale so there is more competition and it takes time to build up the local customer base.”
A native of Germany, Sabine says that she felt a huge connection with Ireland when she first visited the country 28 years ago. “I felt very emotionally connected with the place. Germany is a very perfectionist kind of a country and I found the Irish people to be so warm and easy going - for about 10 years after I moved here I would get so emotional flying back here - I felt such a connection.”
Sabine says that she also loves the landscape of West Cork. “Experiencing the wild landscape here is so amazing for me. It’s so rare now in Europe. It is incredible to find a country that is still so wild and as it was hundreds of years ago in places.”
In approaching her designs, Sabine balances creativity with commerciality: “I approach a new design with a metal weight and a price point in mind. There is a certain price point that works very well for us. In a way I enjoy the challenge of having that limitation - it makes you box that little bit smaller but you still have to come up with something that is beautiful yet affordable and still ticks all the boxes in terms of what it is that customers like about the Enibas brand.”
Enibas supports 11 members of staff including Sabine and her husband Len. She says that the business would never have been a success without her accountant husband. “He made me realise that I might actually be good at business as I was a complete artist. It is a challenge working with your partner but you learn ways to work with each other and we have separated our roles in the business quite a lot over the years.”
Sabine finds creativity in many aspects of her life and business: in marketing and advertising, in her home and garden. “I have really enjoyed forming the business over the years and branding the business - I find much creativity in that. I used to think creativity was painting and drawing and fashion design but now, apart from perhaps spreadsheets and book-keeping, I can explore my creativity in many ways,” she smiles.
Looking to the future Sabine hopes to develop the online side of the business as well as to explore the wedding and engagement categories. “There will have to be a lot of financial commitment in developing the online side of the business. It’s not straight forward and will require a lot of investment. That will be our focus for the next few years.”
Whether selling online or through her stores and stockists, Sabine says it is very important that Enibas jewellery continues to be made in Ireland. “All our products are made in our Schull workshop. It is really important to me to have direct control over the quality of the jewellery and to employ people locally as part of our business ethos.”