HELPING Jo Seagar test and prepare dishes, or writing regular column Wonderful Ways with Vinegar; co-ordinating and presenting to Parliament, a state of the sector report on invisible disability; or stomping about a bath tub of water to mould and create felt gumboot liners – it’s all in a day’s work for Sue Gould.
Having re-invented herself numerous times, the recently returned Onepu woman has a wide range of skills which she has decided to pour into one big pot – her Facebook page called Habits and Knack.
She lists food, writing, and fibre art as the three loves of her life. Home now, after more than 40 years away, she is combining these passions in one place and plans to draw from it on the basis of what people need, and when.
She says her varied career path sprung from separating from her husband many years ago, and finding herself a solo mother of two children, without the skills to enter the workforce.
“I was a farmer’s wife. That’s what I knew how to do,” Sue says. Since that point in her life she has become a master at creating new pathways and opportunities, and her ability to do so has led to career paths she might never have imagined.
It started in Clevedon, where Sue lived with her two children. “I’ve always been a total foodie,” she says. Finding she “totally clicked” with her neighbour, celebrity cook Jo Seagar, led to her first role off the farm as Jo’s personal assistant.
“It was a dream job. There was never a dull moment with Jo. She’s an amazing woman, warm and generous and so much fun.” The work happily combined two of Sue’s passions – food and writing.
“I’d always been an avid reader and writer,” she says, but helping Jo with her food writing brought Sue’s talent into focus.
Writing, in various forms, became a bigger part of her life, and she has been writing ever since. Poems, short biographical pieces, scripts for Mills and Boon, and in recent years, academic writing.
Having left Clevedon and, eventually, her job with Jo, Sue was on a mission to enter the then new and developing world of technology. Beginning studies to gain computing skills, she was at the start of what would eventually become a career as a tutor with Te Wananga o Aotearoa. “I really loved it’” she says. “My students were often very much like I had been – young mothers looking to enter the workforce”.
During these years, Sue developed skills that led her to another role that she has recently formalised with certified training, but one she says she had “naturally been doing for years anyway”. As a certified life coach now, Sue provides that service under her Habits and Knack banner too.
Following 12 years of tutoring, Sue took on a new role. As training solutions co-ordinator in the disability sector, she facilitated training throughout New Zealand. More recently, she developed a 30-minute community radio segment, Radio Ga Ga, produced and recorded by disabled clients. Recording at Auckland Unitec’s Planet Audio, Sue says the radio segment, which still airs weekly, is the first ever radio segment to be solely run by disabled people. “It was so cool,” Sue says. “I loved being part of it.” It is this role that she has left to return to Onepu, to be closer to her elderly mother.
She says amid her many life changes, there are some things that have remained constant. Sue has been involved with the Scouts organisation in South Auckland for many years, as a scout leader, for some of them, and later, as a trainer of scout leaders.
Another constant is her abiding love of fibre art. In particular, felting, and specifically, creating felt hats. Now a talented fibre artist to boot, Sue is currently looking for a millinery course to further develop her hat-making skills, with the aim of selling the hats that she has always given away.
Habits and Knack is a melting pot of Sue’s many talents, and at this early stage, she’s unsure of where the focus will go first. The possibilities are many, she says. “Once I’m set up, I’d love to look towards running felting or textile workshops from my property. And I’d love to run some food workshops too.” In terms of writing, “I’m hoping that a writers’ group might form out of the workshops I’m running at the library soon”.
Eastern Bay residents can have their first glimpse of Sue’s expertise when she holds her six-part series of creative writing workshops at Te Koputu, Whakatane library and exhibition centre. Run over six weeks, each weekly workshop will deal with a different aspect of creative writing. The first session, appropriately named, Getting Started, takes place on Thursday, July 27. Registration can be made by contacting Sue at email@example.com.