Every now and then on Felt we meet a maker who has a truly extraordinary story to tell. Kim Annan of NZ Art is one such artist.
What do you make?
I make Windsticks, a kinetic wind sculpture which also feeds the birds if you wish – or you can just enjoy them for their lovely sculptural value and watch them move and sway in the wind.
How did you get into your craft?
I moved into a new subdivision in early 2000 and I had no trees or plants in my back yard. I had nowhere to hang my bird feeders from, so I was throwing the food on the lawn and my dog was eating it. I tried to train her out of that, but she wouldn’t listen. So I had to think of a way to feed the birds, keep them safe from my dog, and keep my dog away from their food…
I wanted something that looked pretty even when I was not feeding the birds, and I knew it had to be vertical as there was nothing on the section for anything to hang from. That was when Windsticks were born.
Then after the first Christchurch earthquake in September 2010, I moved in with my best friend Stephen. I asked Stephen if I could put my Windsticks in his garden as I did not want them to get broken in storage. He said yes, as he loved my Windsticks. Stephen had told me this for years but I thought it was him just being kind as he was such a kind soul. After I installed them I would catch Stephen standing at the window watching them swaying in the breeze and I realised he actually genuinely did like them!
So I decided to make him a set of his own, as I thought he would miss them when I moved out. I made him a set of red ones and we installed them in his garden. We moved them three times in seven days trying to find the perfect spot. On the third try we had that “Ah ha!” moment of “That is the perfect spot.”
I said “I’m working from home tomorrow, so I will photograph them.” I took a photo and showed Stephen it that night. We both loved it (photo below).
The very next day, 22 February 2011, Stephen was killed in the CTV site.
Stephen only had his Windsticks for seven days, but in those seven days we talked about them every day. They were the last conversations that we had, and his voice got stuck in my head: “You need to do more with these, other people would love them too.” His voice played over and over in my head every day, like a tape stuck on loop.
His voice played over and over in my head every day, like a tape stuck on loop.
So after I found a place of my own, and I got my drill press out of storage, I decided to make a few Windsticks and go to a show. Stephen was right, other people do love them too! I even won a bronze medal at the 2014 Ellerslie Flower Show.
Dealing with Stephen’s death was difficult and all the positive feedback from customers and the joy that my Windsticks brought them was the most therapeutic thing for me. Now there is a little piece of myself, Stephen and Bailey dog bringing smiles and joy to people and little birds all over New Zealand.
This has been a silver lining in a very difficult time. This experience confirmed to me that if you find the perfect gift for a loved one, you should give it to them then, do not wait until their birthday or Christmas as life can be unpredictable and you never know what can happen. Stephen got so much enjoyment out of his Windsticks in those seven days.
In 2013, I was given permission to install a large set of red Windsticks on the CTV site (photo below). It is the only sculpture on the CTV site. On anniversary day this year, I wired on 30 real white roses to give a moving flower sculpture for the day.
Do you have formal training or qualifications in your craft?
No. But I have always been artistic. I also do landscape photography, stone mosaic work and stonemats, and last year I learnt abstract painting. I love learning new things and one day I would love to learn casting glass and also Oamaru stone carving.
Your favourite materials, tools and processes?
It would be stones. Every Windstick has two river stones set on it. All the stones are hand selected and drilled by me.
Tell us about the techniques involved in developing and producing your windsticks
I spent time choosing the eight colours and getting them to the exact shade that I wanted. The stones are hand selected and staggered at five different heights, which allows for varying weights of food, and they also move slightly differently in the wind. I have chosen a diameter on the wands that means that they will move even in the slightest of winds.
I wanted to feed the little birds, but not the big ones. I was frustrated in the past how the large birds like black birds and thrushes would bully the small pretty birds like wax eyes, bellbirds and finches away from the food. So I spent time working out what diameter the 2m Windsticks needed to be that the larger birds were too heavy for them. I have a large thrush here that knows he is too heavy to land on the 2m Windsticks but he wants the food so much that sometimes he tries to grab a bite of the food as he flies by! It is really funny to watch.
Is there a philosophy behind your work?
I create things that I love and then often I find that others like it too.
Describe your workspace:
I work from home. My garage is fully dedicated as my creative space and I have another room as an office. I can look at my window and see the birds feeding on my Windsticks, and when I take my coffee break I spend time with my ducks and ducklings at the creek in my back yard.
Five words that describe your mind:
Fast, bright, passionate, analytical, creative.
Your favourite feedback from a customer:
“I bought some Windsticks from you and they are installed in the garden. They are awesome, within two hours the wax eyes turned up and were having a feed. I can’t get the smile off my face.”
What are you currently listening to?
Sia – This Is Acting.
Recommend an album:
A classic that I like but is little known – Amos Lee – self titled album called Amos Lee.
What are you reading now?
I am really enjoying some books by Napoleon Hill. I have just been listening to an audiobook called “Napoleon Hill in his own voice”. Napoleon Hill’s books look at the principals to achieving success.
In 1908 Napoleon Hill was given an assignment by the wealthiest man in the world, philanthropist Andrew Carnegie, to spend 20 years studying him and other successful and wealthy people like Henry Ford, Alexander Graham Bell, Elmer R Gates and Thomas Edison to discover a simple formula for success. In 1937 Napoleon published Think and Grow Rich and his teachings have been made into the successful “The Secret.”
Who is your hero/heroine? Why?
I find stories like Napoleon Hill inspiring as he worked for free for those 20 years, he was never paid a cent as he studied those successful people. He understood the value of spending time with them. He really wanted to share the learnings with the world to help others. During the 20 years everyone including his family thought he was mad working for free as he struggled financially yet the people he was studying were very rich. But eventually the joke was on them as Napoleon’s Think and Grow Rich book has now sold over 100 million copies, and in Napoleon’s words, he said he ended up with more money than everyone in his family added together for many generations back. Among other things Napoleon shows that if you believe in something, never ever give up, no matter what everyone else thinks. Always believe in yourself.
A favourite quote:
“People are like stained glass windows, they sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within.” – Elizabeth Kubler Ross.
“Happiness is not in having what you want, but wanting what you have.” – from the Thunderbirds.
Tell us about your pets:
I love animals and have had an array of animals in my life – including a pet penguin when I was 7! We found him with a broken wing and we rehabilitated him back to the wild. My lovely dog passed away before the quakes and the house I live in now is too small for a dog, but it does have a creek in the back yard and that brings other opportunities.
So at this time in my life I have what I call “Nature’s free pets” – ducks and ducklings and all the birds that feed on my Windsticks like wax eyes, bellbirds and finches, among many others like fantails that enjoy my garden.
I am in the central city of Christchurch but there can be 100 birds in my back yard at any time, it is like a small sanctuary in amongst the urban CBD. The ducks have their own duck bath and a lovely spot to sit by the creek.
Last year one of the ducks turned up with a very badly damaged leg. He struggled to stand or walk and would fall over trying to walk. He was like that for weeks. We took care of him and kept him fed and safe. Last week I was excited when he turned up with a wife and 14 ducklings!
The ducks are well trained – I use the same principals of training that I did for my dog. When I whistle they come running – that way I know if they are ducks that have lived here before or new ducks. I have at least 15 ducks that visit and over summer we will have over 40 ducklings. I can hand feed them and all the ducklings are all friendly enough to sit on my knee. I find nature very relaxing and the ducks, although not as bright as my dog, are more intelligent that I ever gave them credit for and they are trainable. They bring me lots of smiles and joy.
If you were a crafty superhero, what would your name and superpower be?
I would be the superhero of my feathered friends, making little birds fat and happy all over New Zealand from feeding on my Windsticks and keeping them safe from cats and dogs as they feed well above the ground.
What would your advice be for those starting out in a crafty business?
If you make something for yourself that you are passionate about and love, the chances are that others will love it too. Create a listing on Felt and see what happens!
It is important that the photo is great, that you have good text describing the item. Try and convey what you love about what you have created. Remember the customer cannot pick it up and touch it, so you have to convey all of that with your words and photos. Customers love getting to know the creator and some will fall in love with the story about you and your creation. (Excellent advice! -Ed.)
Believe in yourself and never ever give up.
What was the last handmade item you bought and what attracted you to it?
I purchased a lovely hand painted cushion. I loved the colours and the design and it perfectly matched the colours in my house.
What’s in store for 2016?
October to January is summer trade show time! I attend many of the larger shows around the South Island and some in the North Island. Events coming up in the next month include:
Thursday 27 October – the Culverden Fete
Sunday 30 October – Oxford Garden Fete
Thursday 3 November – Geraldine Summer Fete
Sunday 6 November – Garden Marlborough in Blenheim
Kim has a special offer running right now in her Felt shop NZ Art: purchase any item before 31 October, and go in the draw to win a bundle of five beautiful 2m Windsticks in the colour of your choice, shipped anywhere in NZ. With a cost of $75 plus $28 shipping, this is a total prize value of $103, so place an order now!
Competition open to New Zealand residents only. The winner will be drawn by Kim on 31 October and will be notified directly.