#MindYourself: Jewellery designer Chupi Sweetman-Pell on why the kitchen is her happy place
As part our 'Mind Yourself' series, jewellery designer Chupi talks about her happy place…. cooking in the kitchen.
As a very successful jewellery designer, Chupi Sweetman-Pell leads a very busy life, especially as her work sells internationally. This week a customer from Brazil bought a piece of jewellery, bringing the total number of countries where Chupi's jewellery has been sold to 65.
The chatty Chupi lives in Dublin city centre with her husband Brian Durney and their two rescue terriers, Rufus and Poppy. She’s the daughter of writer Rosita Sweetman and development economist Johnny Pell. Her workshop is at the top of the house, and as Christmas draws nearer, she and her team are in full production mode. “It’s like Santa’s workshop,” she says. “We have to make sure all the presents get out in time for Christmas.”
When Independent.ie meets Chupi, she’s baking a batch of chocolate chip cookies. Cooking and baking is what she does to relax, as it means that all she has to concentrate on are the taste, flavour and ingredients going into the food and the cooking process itself, which gives her a break from the demands of running a successful jewellery business. She finds it very therapeutic, and happily for her family and friends, she has been known to bake trays of cookies and chocolate brownies to give away.
“My life is insanely busy,” she smiles, “and it’s completely crazy at the moment but incredibly exciting. When I was little, my mum always said I was really impatient, and the same applies today, I want to do everything, and to see the world and change it, and I’m so madly enthusiastic that “busy” doesn’t even cover it.”
Chupi shone brightly early on, as when she was a teenager with food allergies, she became very interested in cooking. This resulted in her writing a cookbook with her younger brother Luke called, What to Eat When You Can't Eat Anything: The Complete Allergy Cookbook. After studying fashion design and bringing out her range of party dresses and tutus, Chupi was scouted by Topshop at 21 and was the youngest designer to ever work with them. She had a concession in the store in St Stephen's Green for six years, which was a huge undertaking and a steep learning curve.
In 2011, Chupi started making the jewellery she wanted to wear but couldn't find, and her collection of delicate, affordable pieces in gold, silver and semi-precious gems took off with a bang. Celebrities like Marina and the Diamonds and Ruby Wax have been spotted wearing her beautiful pieces, and she has a team of nine. Their stunning new 14 carat gold collection has just been released.
“There are times when it’s so busy, I think, ‘How are we going to make this happen?’” says Chupi. “We have been in Japan, New York, London, Paris, Sweden and Latvia for work this year, and we always use Airbnb so that we will have a kitchen to cook in. We choose places based on how good the kitchen is - none of this crap kettle and a toaster in the corner type of nonsense. There was one day when the team and I came back after a long day to find that Brian had made dinner, and from being exhausted with no energy, we all ate dinner and were soon sitting around chatting and full of life again.”
When it comes to mindfulness and mental health awareness, Chupi is a huge advocate for doing whatever makes you feel better when you're not feeling good. While she eats healthily, if eating cake to feel better is what it takes, so be it, she says, regardless of whether people on Instagram are relentlessly pushing Paleo or clean diets. She doesn’t get down often, however, and says that while her husband Brian describes her as a hopeless optimist, he is more prosaic.
“Eating is my favourite pastime, ” she laughs. “I always say there’s no problem that can’t be solved by eating, and you never cook a meal and feel worse afterwards, do you? Being down at times is part of the human condition, so we should acknowledge that and give ourselves a little time to get over it, rather than feeling guilty for being miserable. When it happens to a friend of mine, she goes to bed for an hour and then she feels fine, and sometimes, if I’m feeling miserable, I just have to bake and eat some dirty chocolate chip cookies and then I feel great.”
Check out Chupi's jewellery range on www.chupi.ie