Creative Gibraltar: Crafting & Upcycling with Sue Orfila 


Crafting and making is something which Sue Orfila has always done, from making clothes for her Sindy doll and making her own crib at Christmas at the age of 5. “I’ve always made something from nothing” says Sue “I’m a thrifty kind of artist”, something which is evident when you take a look around Sue’s workspace and shop; OriginArta.

When Sue left school, she went to work in an office “that went against the grain, I wanted to be a hairdresser and be creative, I should have stayed on at school but I wanted money to buy clothes”. That office based work continued until Sue came to live in Gibraltar with her husband, an advert for a part time job at the Caleta Palace Hotel at Catalan Bay was the catalyst for a change in direction.

Acrylic on canvas
The job advertisement was for a hotel gardener but also offered the chance to do some flower arranging for weddings and that pushed Sue’s creative buttons. She got the job and after 2 years it became a full time position. “I realised my creative side” says Sue, “the pinnacle was at Christmas when they asked me to dress the Christmas tree on a tight budget – I was in my element”.

Sue (centre) with husband David & son Adam
After having her son, Adam, Sue stopped working but continued her creativity by returning to drawing, something she hadn’t done much of since childhood. As Adam got older, Sue went into partnership with another girl in the early 1990s and and opened ‘Suzie Willow’, a shop selling dried flower arrangements. In 2000 Sue left the shop but she continued drawing and making things for herself in the meantime.


Then, ten years later, the time was right for Sue to open another shop and OriginArta was born. It’s first location was on Governor’s Street, just a short distance from it’s current spot and was “a great little shop, but when it rained it leaked like a sieve” reminisces Sue. When her current shop became available she was really happy “I got a window to dress!”


Sue’s shop window is an absolute delight (regular readers of the Postcard from Gibraltar blog may remember seeing it featured before in Sunday Sevens). Following the same principles of form and depth as in flower arranging, Sue takes great care in dressing her shop window to reflect the seasons.


As well as selling items she has made and upcycled, Sue offers a range of craft classes from flower arranging and ‘stencil and stitch’ to decoupage and still life drawing. “I don’t want to influence my students” says Sue, “I want them to find their own style”.

Daffodil Teapot, painted with enamels “In celebration of Spring”
In her stencil and stitch classes, students make their own design and cut out the negative before painting it onto fabric to creative a positive image. They then use embroidery to embellish it further. The designs can be used to make cushions and soft furnishings like trims for curtains.

Stencil & stitch sunflowers
Another passion for Sue is upcycling things which are no longer wanted, from picture frames to pieces of furniture.  She says “I like to take a photo before and after the process”. Using things like tissue, paint or wrapping paper and pieces of tile or pottery found on the beach.

Stencil & Stitch upcycled footstool
Beach walks are a regular feature of Sue’s routine. During the summer months she takes morning walks from her home in town round to Catalan Bay and forages along the beach for anything interesting the sea has washed up. “I love it in summer, I get everything from Catalan Bay – I’ve got bags of stuff” says Sue, although she just collects man-made items leaving the shells and pebbles behind.

Gibraltar National Day window display
Having her own workspace and shop means that Sue is free to please herself about what she creates, “inspiration can come from anywhere, it might result in a painting, up cycled piece or a new stencil design. What’s brilliant is if someone likes it enough to buy it, that’s a real buzz”. Sue also takes commissions.

Upcycled LP storage case
For more information about OriginArta and the lessons Sue offers, please check out her  OriginArta Facebook page

Also in the Postcard from Gibraltar series:

Creative Gibraltar : Paper crafts with Sarah Devincenzi

Creative Gibraltar : Fashion Design & Dressmaking with Dorcas Hammond

The Postcard from Gibraltar Podcast Episode 004: Rebecca Faller 

Creative Gibraltar : Watercolour painting with Deborah M Lawson

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