Self-taught makers and artists Logan de Ridder and Mirielle Maxwell of Aotearoa Gems were both born in Northland, and now call South Westland home. They have been working New Zealand gemstones for the past fifteen years and have a life-long passion for them.
What do you make?
We handcraft jewellery from authentic New Zealand gemstones.
How did you get into your craft?
Logan and I have both picked up stones since we were kids. Fourteen years ago we moved to the South Island and continued our passion for fossicking. This led to a fascination with making something out of these treasures, so we started making jewellery for friends and family; soon we were being asked to create items for other people. We operated a gallery between 2005 and 2012, then along came babies so now we juggle toddlers with running our business from home using the internet and attending markets.
Do you have formal training or qualifications in your craft?
Neither of us have formal qualifications, however Logan trained as a stone mason after leaving school, providing some valuable skills. We now enjoy the process of learning by doing.
Your favourite materials, tools and processes?
Industrial diamonds are our best friends, they have revolutionised carving. Now there is a tool for everything you can imagine so we are only limited by our imagination.
I (Mirielle) also really enjoy the binding part of the process; it’s my opportunity to add a different dimension and create a perfect and comfortable fit for the pieces we make, whilst maintaining my creativity.
What inspires you?
We draw all of our inspiration from our environment around us. We share our time living between the rugged West Coast beach and the Southern Alps, or in the sub-tropical Far North. Both places provide us a constant source of inspiration, and as a result our pieces recreate the organic form of the environment that surrounds us.
Is there a philosophy behind your work?
It may seem trite, but we don’t see it as work. It’s a passion, and a love. The fact that we get to share this with our clients is the icing on the cake.
Describe your workspace:
We work from home so it’s a mixture of hard work and chaotic fun as we have two young girls who love to help!
Five words that describe your mind:
Busy, creative, ordered chaotic fun.
Your favourite feedback from a customer:
“Ahhh WOW Mirielle!!!!!! I was so, so excited and elated when I took her out of the box! Absolutely exquisite, and far more lovelier than imagined even from the photos. I am so, so happy. All my heartfelt gratitude to both you and Logan for such wonderful artistry and for the really gorgeous stone. I love her, and all that you have infused her with!! Love and more.”
This is what we really enjoy about creating our jewellery, it provides us with a real connection to our clients and have made many beautiful friends from all around the world.
Your favourite childhood book?
Who Sank the Boat? by Pamela Allen.
What are you reading now?
Air Con: The Seriously Inconvenient Truth About Global Warming by Ian Wishart.
A favourite quote:
“Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.”
– Albert Einstein
Do you have any pets?
They come in pairs around here – two cats, two dogs and two kids (can I include them?) plus the wild kea that pop by, and the magnificent wild stag that graces our presence from time to time.
If you were a crafty superhero, what would your name and superpower be?
Logan would be Captain Caveman with x-ray vision, and I’d be Mighty Macramé Woman (kind of a spider woman but with braided plaits), hehe.
What was the last handmade item you bought and what attracted you to it?
I bought the girls each a really funky, warm, well-made knitted hat from the Nelson Markets. I loved the individuality and workmanship of each of them – and the fact that my money was going to a lovely old lady, and not a huge corporation, was the best.
Logan said “A pie”. Yes, he’s a male, but in his defence it was handmade!
You can see more of Mirielle and Logan’s beautiful work in their Felt shop here.
Mirielle and Logan have kindly offered one of these gorgeous wee pounamu baby bracelets (pictured above) to one lucky Felt blog prizewinner. If you’d like to be in the prize draw, just leave a comment below telling us what inspires you about Aotearoa Gems’ story and products. The draw will be made on Friday 29 August and is open to New Zealand residents only.