Jeni Dickson founded Aviva out of dissatisfaction with the wastage in the fashion industry. Rather than continuing to be part of the problem, she decided it was time to be part of the solution! Aviva is Hebrew for ‘renewal’ and thus expresses nicely the upcycled nature of many of her quirky and original products. Jeni makes her pieces in Auckland with three year-old Ciara, a constant ‘helper’ in her workroom. (Ciara’s favourite job is sorting through the button box.)
What do you make?
Anything that takes my fancy! My preferred medium is fabric, so I do art, wallets, bags, cushions, and accessories in lovely pieces of ‘upcycled’ fabrics. I also have a bit of a love affair with magnets so turn buttons and animals into fridge and office decor! Then there’s a bit of jewellery… and stationery… My husband thinks I have creative ideas leaking out my ears so I really just try to catch those and make some of them happen! It’s pretty varied.
How did you get into your craft?
Like many creatives out there, I think I caught the bug as a kid because my mum was a crafter and she, with infinite patience, taught me how to sew, make Christmas decorations and cards, and generally let my imagination fly. That’s part of the reason I chose to name my shop Aviva – her name (Viv) is hiding in there.
Do you have formal training or qualifications in your craft?
I have a fashion design degree so, while it’s not exactly how I outwork my craft at present, it definitely influences my design aesthetic and even my design process.
Your favourite materials, tools and processes?
I have to say, I love using good quality materials and tools. I notice such a difference to the ease of manufacture and quality of the finished product when I’ve used the right tool for the job and good materials.
Describe your creative process:
I usually let the materials tell the story – each piece is suited to something different, be it a wallet, a magnet or a piece of jewellery. I often just take out my pieces and have a bit of an experiment to see what comes. It means my finished pieces are often very limited editions and it keeps me interested in what I do. I’ve never been one to get excited by ‘mass’ production!
What inspires you?
Oh golly. It might be easier to ask what doesn’t inspire me! Ummmm… plants, interiors, the sky, architecture, fashion, prints, colours, photography… the list is endless. Actually, the major thing that I find inspires me is conversations with other creative people, hearing their stories and ideas. The buzz is contagious. It’s one of the reasons I love this Featured Seller segment.
Is there a philosophy behind your work?
I really like the concept of taking the unwanted and making desirable objects from them. Where possible, I use ‘upcycled’ components in my work.
Five words that describe your mind:
Busy, animated, innovative, crammed, resourceful.
Your favourite feedback from a customer: “He liked it so he put a ring on it”!
Recommend an album:
Have you heard Lorde? You gotta if you haven’t.
What are you reading now?
Magazines. I have just finished a Lee Child book and got NOTHING else done (I tend to get lost in the story and lose track of time) so mags are a much safer option for me.
A favourite quote:
My current favourite is from Oscar Wilde. “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.”
Do you have any pets?
A cat called Moven. Short for Movenpick. It’s too long a story to tell, but it involved him deciding we would be his new family so he sat outside our front door and pestered us for two weeks until we caved and let him in.
What was the last handmade item you bought?
Cloud earrings by Sum;D, from The Bread and Butter Letter.
Take a peek at Jeni’s Felt shop to see her full range of original and upcycled creations. Jeni has generously offered one lucky Felt blog reader a prize of this gorgeous M’me Summertime Bag, in upcycled vintage printed cotton. This small but perfectly formed accessory is lined with cobalt blue fabric and is a guaranteed one-off. To be in to win, leave a comment below, telling us what inspires you about Jeni’s words and her creations. The draw will be made on Friday 13 September (we promise nothing spooky will happen!) and is open to New Zealand residents only.