Top: Billy Earl and Betty Grey.
Above: Get your tickets now for "Coffee Cups & a Porridge Pot at Frying Pan Lake", BATS Theatre, Wellington, 19–22 May 2010.
Below: Rosy Tin Teacaddy.
Bottom: Debut album "The Homeward Stretch".
Check out other Sounds Crafty showcases on Felt:
• Julia Deans
• James Coyle, Hikoikoi
Series 1 (2009):
• Ruth Carr, Minuit
• Flip Grater
• Fleur Jack, The Twitch
• Nathan King
• Hannah Curwood
• The Phoenix Foundation
Billy Earl and Betty Grey are the musical talent of Wellington indie-folk group, Rosy Tin Teacaddy. Having shared the stage with Chris Knox, Jose Gonzalez and Iron and Wine, they released their first full-length album "The Homeward Stretch" in 2009. Now recipients of a Wild Creations fund courtesy of Creative NZ and DOC, they are currently installed in a cottage overlooking Lake Tarawera, immersed in writing and recording a new album.
Did you make stuff when you were a kid?
Betty: I made almost everything. I drew a great deal and would recycle or 'upcycle' miscellaneous bits and bobs and give them as gifts. Although neither of my parents were arty, handmade presents were the most prized. My father died recently and I discovered in his study all the cards I'd ever made him - which is a substantial amount. 'To the Best Dad in the World' etc. I'd even put barcodes on the backs of them, plus a design company name and logo - it's not real unless it's got those. I bet he wouldn't have kept them if they were store-bought. I also constantly chopped up my clothes. Is that making or destroying?
Billy: I constantly played with Lego, made models on occasion and enjoyed sewing - I even made a pair of tartan trousers with a zip fly and belt loops.
What's your earliest or most vivid craft-related memory?
Betty: When I was about eight, mum bought my sister and I white canvas sneakers from Para Rubber and this new type of paint that would stay on fabric. Wow, such innovation! I seem to recall blue stripes and peace signs.
Billy: I made my Mum an ashtray out of clay. I pressed in the end of a cotton reel for texture. My Mum has never smoked, in her entire life - but she still has that ashtray.
Are you crafty or do you make stuff now, and if so, what do you make?
Betty: Alas, I'm not patient enough to learn how to crochet and knitting is a disaster for me. I do however, paint. I'm also quite partial to scoring furniture and giving it a new lease of life, be it functional or artistic. I'm a regular scourer of op and dump shops, which is tough work but someone has to do it.
Billy: I still hack away at op-shop scores to customise them. I made Betty a lovely birthday card last year - promised to pay for her first tattoo too, she's yet to take me up on it.
If you were a crafty superhero, what would your name and superpower be?
Betty: I'd be a hand-sewn upside-down doll called 'Flipside'.
Put me up one way and I'm the hottest retro maid (think head-scarf, full patterned skirt) – simply rub my gold earrings and the whole house gleams. But under my skirt and up the other way, I'm a gin and tonic wielding Hollywood mother from the fifties. Secretly cool, overtly a bitch. Just press my nose and gold falls out my mouth.
Billy: 'Pin Cushion' - I'd be like that freak from Hellraiser movies but I'd be really helpful for people sewing stuff. And then I'd eat their brains.
What's the best handmade thing you've ever been given?
Betty: Last year my daughter made me a card, YOU'RE MY SKYLARK it reads on the cover (cute felt-pen skylark). Inside, 'Dear Mum, You are my skylark because you sing beautifully and you would like to have a hidden house which is what skylarks have. Love from Grace'. I like its whimsy. It too has a barcode and card-company name. Maybe there's a familial link here, between cards and keepers?
Billy: Maori instruments from our buddy Al Fraser, and a lovely lady made me an mp3 player holder made from green felt. It has two big googly eyes on it. It is very funny.
Have you ever worn something you've made on stage or in public?
Betty: I wear my own haircuts.
Billy: I make my own ear adornments. I've got those disgusting giant hole piercings, so carve my own plugs. I don't take them out often enough. They smell like the worst toe jam ever..
If your music took physical shape what would it look like? What would it be made of?
Betty: It'd be a hand-knitted cardigan lined with cryptic crosswords.
Billy: Yeah, the buttons wouldn't quite line up right, but the colour would be perfect and everyone would give you nice comments to your face and then roll their eyes behind your back.
Billy and Betty are packing up their hatchback with guitars, a laptop and an omnichord for their self-imposed exile on the shores of Lake Tarawera. You're invited along for the ride – "Coffee Cups & a Porridge Pot at Frying Pan Lake" is on at BATS Theatre in Wellington from May 19–22. Expect an evening of driving music played live in your front seat as Rosy Tin Teacaddy steer their story-telling magic through New Zealand’s most volatile landscape.