An education worker who reinvented herself as a jewellery maker after being forced to quit her job due to arthritis is urging others to “not give up when things go pear-shaped”.

Gillian Haqqani was forced to take extended sick leave after being struck down by the condition in 2013 which left her suffering from neck and back pain and fatigue.

In an effort to take her mind off her suffering, Ms Haqqani of Trevose Road, Walthamstow started making origami jewellery and launched her business Gillis Flowers.

After finally accepting she would never be able to return to her job as Assistant Head Inclusion Manager at a primary school, Ms Haqqani, 57, took early retirement in January and is now focusing on growing her jewellery line.

“When all of this happened I became depressed and lost a lot of confidence,” said the grandmother-of-three.

“I couldn’t cope with the pain and the tiredness. It was really difficult because I was determined to get back to work and I didn’t want things to get in the way.

“I couldn’t see a way forward but making jewellery really helped men and it has been therapeutic for me. I had to give up hobbies that I loved to do like sewing because it put a strain on my neck and shoulders.

“Last year at a market someone came up to me and said ‘oh you are the paper jewellery lady’. It is lovely to be known as that.

“The greatest inspiration for me really is Stephen Hawking who has died today. All that he achieved after developing Motor Neurone Disease is remarkable.”

Since its launch, Ms Haqqani’s business has gone from strength to strength and last year it was awarded a Small Business Sunday Award by retail magnate and entrepreneur Theo Paphitis.

The mother-of-one who is a member of E17 Designers sells her necklaces, bracelets and earrings at local markets and Walthamstow’s William Morris Gallery and Gigi’s Dressing Room.

The entrepreneur is reaching out to others who have been forced to pursue a different career path due to illness to give them hope.

She said: “Give yourself time to grieve. It’s not the path you intended and it’s going to be difficult but just look for a different path and it will come to you. Don’t give up when things go pear-shaped.

“Be kind to yourself and just accept you will have bad days. For me I find drinking lots of cups of tea helps and having a support network.

“I have had particularly bad patches and it feels nice to find something that I can get pleasure from and know people appreciate it. They are not buying my designs because they feel pity for me but because they genuinely like them.

“I’m just really proud of what I have achieved.”