Moving online ‘before I actually fall off the perch’

After 30 years, Happy Hens owner Yvonne Sutherland has farewelled her Portobello shop, having...
After 30 years, Happy Hens owner Yvonne Sutherland has farewelled her Portobello shop, having closed her physical storefront, but she is ‘‘still on the perch’’ and selling her distinctive range of hand-painted ceramic hens online.PHOTO: LINDA ROBERTSON
For the past 30 years, the world has walked through Yvonne Sutherland’s Portobello door.

But the Happy Hens owner said goodbye to visits from "fabulous" tourists — and hugged goodbye to locals stopping by for one last visit — as she cleared out her Otago Peninsula shop at the weekend.

Mrs Sutherland has returned to her home studio, moving her business online "before I actually fall off the perch".

"Creative energy just doesn’t stop — I’m not going to suddenly stop doing things, but I will miss it," Mrs Sutherland said.

"When you’ve been in the same place, doing the same thing, the same item, for 30 years, it is going to be a wrench, especially if you enjoy what you’re doing — and I do and did."

She began her business in 1984, but opened her Portobello shop in 1990, welcoming tens of thousands of visitors through her doors.

She has made hundreds of thousands of hand-painted moulded liquid clay hens, either reflective of chook breeds or whimsical.

"They’re instantly recognisable, they’re colourful and they’re unique," Mrs Sutherland said.

Her designs have flown out the door of her home studio as licensed products such as fabric, tableware and kitchen linen on their way to international customers.

Her hens have featured in a Japanese television travel programme, six children’s books, gift cards, stationery and calendars.

"I’m interested in social history," Mrs Sutherland said.

"I’ve read a lot of the journals from women who came out as early settlers.


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