Staying true to her brand name obiq aka our brand is quirky, owner Christine Harberl creates one-of-a-kind earrings that are splashed in a scintillating combination of colours. With the idea of adding some fun and excitement to your overall look via bold and bright accessories, obiq by Christine has the potential (and advantage) to stand out with her small batch designs and collections. The ear candy by obiq is the kind that can be worn throughout the year, with anything and everything: a fancy little black dress, a short-sleeved tee and denim shorts, a tank top and a pair of sweats – the possibilities are endless!
In anticipation of their participation in the upcoming Hahndorf edition of the Gathered Design Market (11 – 13 December, 2020), I was fortunate enough to have a chat with Christine about her journey with obiq – here’s her story:
Tema: Can you please tell us a bit about yourself, Christine?
Christine: I have always been a creative person. As a kid, if anyone asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, the answer was always “an artist”. After school, I worked in hospitality for many years, and planned to start my own cafe. But one day I realised that I had lost the love for it and needed to find a new path. At this point, I studied fashion at MSIT and went on to work in the Brisbane fashion industry for a little more than ten years. I’ve always been creating in my own time, and have dabbled in many a craft; sometimes painting, sometimes making bags and purses, often making jewellery out of unconventional materials like buttons, pom poms etc. I have had an Etsy store and various iterations of OBIQ and other labels over years, but my busy jobs and personal challenges always got in the way. My husband and I decided to start a family after we got married but it took six years and many failed pregnancies, the last of which I gave birth to premature twins who passed away. I got pregnant again quite quickly after the twins and finally gave birth to a healthy baby boy. Those six years were the hardest of my life, but they made me stronger and so much more resilient. Last year, we moved to Adelaide for my husband’s work, with our then 10 month old bub, Ziggy. When he started daycare in January, it seemed like the right time for me to really focus on OBIQ and make my childhood dream a reality.
Tema: How long has OBIQ been in business for and how have you found the journey of being a small-scale business based in SA so far?
Christine: After I lost the twins, I took six months off work. During this time, I found that creating and making really helped me with my grieving process. It was during this time that I started obiq. It was also during this time, that I fell pregnant with Ziggy and then I had to go back to work. After everything I had been through, I needed to take my pregnancy as easy as possible, so obiq was shelved for a while. It wasn’t until the start of 2020 when Ziggy started childcare, that I found my feet again as a creative and decided to throw myself into my business. During Ziggy’s first year, I discovered a real love for polymer clay – a medium I had dabbled in previously. But over time, it has become my real creative passion. Starting a business in 2020 has not come without its challenges, that’s for sure. I planned my new product launch and was all set for the 3rd of April, which turned out to be right when our country went into lockdown. With that aside, I have been gaining traction and love nothing more than sending my handmade creations off to new and repeat customers. It is such a great feeling to know that people want to wear my creations. I have really enjoyed starting to do some SA markets and meet people out in the wild, and start to sell face to face. It seems to me that there is a real push for supporting local business in SA, which is great.
Tema: How would you brand your style of jewellery and why did you choose to focus on this style in particular?
Christine: I love bold design and bright colours and things that are a little quirky. Polymer clay has really enabled me to take my passion for colour, print, and combine it with my other love of earrings. I love that a pair of statement earrings can take any outfit to the next level and give an instant confidence boost to the wearer – that is what I aim to do with my designs.
Tema: Since your inception, how has OBIQ grown, in terms of the diversity and variety of designs in jewellery?
Christine: As a creative and maker, I am constantly evolving and learning. I hope I never stop learning new processes to bring to my making. As I continue to meet more of my customers, I get to know what works for them and what doesn’t. I think it is so important to listen to your customers, whilst always remaining true to your brand aesthetic. It is often the pieces that I least expect, that are really well received. So you take what you learn from that into your next design.
Tema: How do you come up with your mesmerizing unique patterns to adorn the earrings? What inspires you to put certain colors / patterns together?
Christine: My biggest inspiration is colour. More often than not, that is where my designs will start. I might see an image or an artwork where the colour pallet really grabs me, then I will start mixing the colours to make a pallet. As I work with the colours, the rest kind of blooms from there. Sometimes I try to start with an illustration but usually it happens quite organically once I have my colour pallet. The patterns come about through lots of playing and experimenting. I always try to have fun while I create.
Tema: What do you think helps OBIQ stand out from the rest in the industry?
Christine: I am working really hard to find my own voice as a designer in a very competitive market. I try to push myself creatively and to design things that I haven’t necessarily seen before. Some of my signature designs are hand-shaped, rather than using cutters. This gives them another point of difference from a lot of the designs that are available. My use of bright and bold colours also makes me stand out in a crowd.
Tema: Why should customers support OBIQ?
Christine: Obiq is a one woman show, everything that you see in my store has been created by me with a lot of attention to detail and care for quality. I absolutely love what I do and it is through customer support that little businesses like mine can afford to grow, flourish, and continue to share our creativity with the world.
Tema: How did you navigate through the COVID times with running your business successfully?
Christine: I think we all had to adapt and learn to live a little differently. As for my business, it was such early days when Australia went into lockdown, it was so hard to know if sales would be better if there was no pandemic. I had to push myself to keep going and push through the self-doubt. It also meant that my plans to start attending markets and to approach stores to start wholesaling had to be put on hold.
Tema: Do you primarily offer standard designs or are you open to custom orders as well?
Christine: I mostly work on collections rather than custom orders, however I am open to the idea. Although I work on small batch designs, there is a lot of work that goes into each collection, from design through to completion. I think it would be difficult to factor all that into a price for an individual custom order. I do hope to offer more pre-orders next year.
Tema: Do you primarily operate online or have you got a few stockists around, where customers can access your products?
Christine: I do have a couple of stockists – you can find obiq at Design A Space, Manchester Lane, in Melbourne and at Arnaandco.com. I am predominantly online but am planning to branch more into wholesale in the coming year, so watch this space.
Tema: What are some products of yours that you think are customer favourites and why do you think that might be the case?
Christine. My fruity hoops are definitely a favorite. I have done papaya hoops and pomegranate hoops so far and have another in the works. I think people love them because they colourful, vibrant and fun. I am also getting great feedback on my Oddies, Wiggle hoops and Whimsy hoops. These are real signature obiq pieces, i think people like them because they are quite simple in design but still make a statement.
Tema: What can your customers anticipate from your participation at the Hahndorf edition of the market?
Christine: Hopefully some designs that they love and haven’t seen before. Definitely lots of colour, fun and quirky styles.
Tema: Is there anything else that you’d like us to know about OBIQ?
Christine: I have a range of cards and art prints of my original watercolours available. These are predominantly of cacti because I am obsessed with cacti and succulents. There is a range of blank cards as well as a range of cheeky pun cards, because I also love a good pun.
OBIQ will be participating at the Hahndorf edition of the Gathered Design Market from October 11 – 13, 2020.