Wool homewares a hit at Field Days

Jo Ruddenklau and Hannah Crossan sell their New Zealand wool homewares at Southern Field Days...
Jo Ruddenklau and Hannah Crossan sell their New Zealand wool homewares at Southern Field Days last week. Photo: Alice Scott
Baby mobiles, luxury cat beds and trinket boxes - products your typical farming bloke is probably not looking for at a field days event, but Sheep-ish Design co-owner Jo Ruddenklau says their New Zealand wool products are an instant hit with that demographic in particular.

Sheep-ish Design is an Otago-based company owned and operated by Jo Ruddenklau and Hannah Crossan. The duo have created a business designing homewares made out of New Zealand strong wool, having them made in Nepal.

Talking to Southern Rural Life at the Southern Field Days event last week, Mrs Crossan said the business idea grew from being ‘‘crazy cat ladies’’. In 2016 she had been looking for a stylish cat-bed for her beloved pet, and when she could not find anything she set about designing one.

‘‘From there the idea was born and through a lot of trial and error we now have a line of products which we supply to homeware stores throughout the country,’’ Mrs Crossan said.

The women worked together in previous careers and knew they could go into business together with skills that complemented each other.

Mrs Ruddenklau lives in Gore and looks after the company’s 200-plus stockists remotely from her home-based office, while Mrs Crossan lives in Dunedin and looks after the warehousing and distribution side which is based at Mill Park.

‘‘The key thing for us has been quality and designing products that aren’t going to be easily copied by the likes of Kmart. A quality woollen product is not economic for a large cut-price retailer to copy,’’ Mrs Crossan said.

The strong wool is bought from wholesaler company Wools of New Zealand.

‘‘It’s great to use such a sustainable and beautiful fabric and there’s that feel-good factor when you meet a sheep farmer that’s totally chuffed with what we have created.’’

Outsourcing the manufacturing side of the business to an overseas company was a challenging aspect to consider, but Mrs Ruddenklau said making the products in New Zealand was not a viable option.

‘‘Our Nepalese manufacturer is so efficient, it was a no-brainer in order to make the business economically viable. They are a certified fair trade company and their staff are so highly skilled working with woollen felt material.’’

With more than 200 retailers to look after, Mrs Ruddenklau said they are careful when they booked events that they were not competing with their clients.

‘‘We only come to this event and the Wanaka A&P Show. It’s great to have that direct contact with the buyer, and it’s quite important too keep up with what people like ...’’

Of all the beautiful products on display, Mrs Crossan said the most popular product was the dryer balls, which are put in with wet clothes in an air dryer.

‘‘They significantly reduce drying time and save on energy costs as the balls absorb moisture and separate laundry, allowing hot air to circulate ... And the balls reduce static and naturally soften fabric.’’

-By Alice Scott

Add a Comment