Justine Fletcher’s craft celebrates the inspiring life stories of famous women, with New Zealand suffragists featuring prominently in her work. Her Felt shop, Plucky Sheilas, houses a collection of jewellery and clothing that pays tribute to our rich heritage of strong female role models.
What do you make?
I make a variety of jewellery, clothing and accessories. I have also just started making gift packs in the form of ‘Suffragist Kits’.
How did you get into your craft?
I have always enjoyed making things for myself. My mother very patiently and encouragingly taught me to knit and sew as a child and my parents gave me a sewing machine for my 16th birthday, which is the one I still use. My favourite subject at intermediate school was metalwork, and I have loved metal ever since. I have never been able to choose a favourite between fabric and metal.
Do you have formal training or qualifications in your craft?
Not really. But when I was living in Milan in the early nineties I studied at the Scuola Orafa Ambrosiana, after finally admitting to myself that it was okay to be serious about making jewellery. So I spent time working through basic techniques in precious metals in a beautiful workshop – it was great, and consolidated lots of skills I had previously developed.
Your favourite materials, tools and processes?
I am always torn between textiles, metal and various types of junk. So I spend quite a lot of time combining them, or applying techniques to one that might conventionally apply to another, such as stitching on metal. I love colour and texture and with fabric and wool I experiment using different combinations of these. I have been wanting to get into enamelling for ages and have just got myself set up for this, so am really looking forward to adding a new dimension to my recycled metal.
Is there a philosophy behind your work?
I try and use my work for two main purposes – to share the stories of the women portrayed, and to rework junk into something useful and beautiful.
What inspires you?
As is fairly clear by my shop name, I have been inspired by famous women for the last few years. I also think many discarded kitchen utensils are quite inspirational! I love to look at the way they have been manufactured and to wonder about their purpose if it isn’t obvious, then transform them so they can be seen in a new light.
Your hero/heroine: It’s hard to go past Kate Sheppard.
A favourite quote:
Amey Daldy, a New Zealand suffragist, on women voting in 1893:
“Let not babies, the wash-tub, or even dinners prevent the women going.”
(She also set up childminding booths at polling stations so women weren’t put off going to vote.)
Describe your workspace:
I have a small workspace on the southern end (the geographical location only seems relevant at this time of year!) of our house. I completely love it but have to confess that in the winter months it becomes more of a storage area and I tend to work nearer the fire or at the kitchen table. My three children make this necessary most of the time anyway, which is fair enough!
What are you currently listening to?
A combination of Milanese cabaret songs (which my autistic daughter has become very attached to), Leonard Cohen, Nina Simone and RNZ National and Concert.
Recommend an album:
Gorecki’s Symphony No. 3. Some would say a little heavy but for me there’s years of listening in it.
Your favourite childhood book?
It’s a toss-up between the Milly Molly Mandy series and 365 Things to Know. Great drawings, and I felt so full of Knowledge!
What are you reading now?
Counting For Nothing – What Men Value and What Women are Worth by Marylin Waring and The Vote, the Pill and the Demon Drink by Charlotte MacDonald – thanks, Downtown Community Ministry Book Fair!
Do you have any pets? We have two guinea pigs, Fluffy and Ninja.
If you were a crayon, what colour would you be? Definitely red.
Justine’s creations are available from her Felt shop, Plucky Sheilas, and you will find her frequenting such events as Craft 2.0 and Knack in her home town of Wellington. If you have a particular heroine that deserves a garment or piece of jewellery, Justine also designs to commission.