Dunedin is not the first place that springs to mind as a likely source of Scandinavian style Christmas decorations with a philosophy inspired by Italian food, but in fact it is exactly where you will find Natale. In between a full time job and bee keeping on the side, Mel Adams is creating decorations with heart, to bring a little more joy to your Christmas.
What do you make? Handmade Christmas ornaments.
How did you get into your craft?
Like most people who craft it all started when I was little. There are fond memories of holiday time at my grandparents farm, where my sister and I would cause havoc knitting and making things. Either my Mum or my Nana Mary taught us how to knit and I remember a phase of us making dolls out of old pantyhose and wool. It was a great way to spend the holidays. Over the years I have pottered away with various forms of crafting – fits of sewing, knitting, bookmaking. It has quietly evolved into making these lovely Christmas decorations.
Five words that describe your mind:
Excited, creative, happy, inspired, I have to add rather tired as well – it has been a busy month or two.
Do you have formal training or qualifications in your craft?
Not really, just the Nana Mary school of knitting. I love that how I knit is how Mum knits, my nana knits, my great grandmother knitted. I can’t wait to teach my little niece to do this. Aside from my family helping me out, I also have a rather large collection of craft books that I consult for advice from time to time.
Describe your workspace:
A humble little corner in my mother-out-law’s House (thank you Ros).
Your favourite materials, tools and processes?
I love the crispness of linen fabric and the softness of wool felt. I am learning the importance of having good quality tools such as needles and scissors. I have recently started using old fashion thread spools to store my threads as they were starting to get out of control.
What inspires you?
I am really rather fortunate that I have an aunt who lives in Denmark. For years we have been swapping decorations each Christmas and I can say without a doubt that Scandinavian design is a big influence. I love the clean simple colour combinations, with a bit of whimsy thrown in as well.
Is there a philosophy behind your work?
I named my little shop Natale which means Christmas in Italian. I like how in Italian cooking you use good quality ingredients to create a simple meal, so I aim to replicate this idea in my work. I try and use good quality materials when it comes to making my little treasures. I try and keep things simple design wise as well. Also Italians place a huge importance on family and celebrating life which I know may seem like a tall ask for a little Christmas treasure but I hope I can add a little bit of fun to a family’s Christmas celebrations. I like the idea of someone seeing my decorations and just smiling as it makes them happy.
What are you currently listening to?
I recently had a huge wholesale order recently which resulted in me playing a lot of Florence and the Machine. Tom Waits has a new album out so that has been getting some air time. And yes, there is a bit of Glee to make doing the housework a bit more fun.
Recommend an album: Anything by BB King – the man is legend.
Your favourite childhood book?
I have this book, I can’t even remember the name of it, something like the house of many colours. It was about a family painting a house and it showed you how you can mix colours to create new colours using a colour wheel. I loved it mainly ’cause my granddad gave it to me.
What are you reading now? Listen to My Voice by Susanna Tamaro
I have been reading some essays by Martha Gelhorn, she was an amazing journalist. She wrote during the Spanish Civil War and parts of the Second World War. She also travelled extensively, often getting herself into odd situations, she was immensely curious and refreshingly honest – reading her essays is like chatting with a friend. She decided when she was 18 that she wanted to be a journalist and so headed to Paris in the late ’20s which I think was an incredibly brave thing to do. I also like that she wrote thank you notes to authors she felt wrote well. I just loved that she lived a life that was true to herself.
A favourite quote:
“This too shall pass.” My little sister always tells me it when I am having a bad run and I try and remember it when things are good so that I enjoy the moment more.
Do you have any pets? Does a hive or two of bees count?
If you were a crayon, what colour would you be? I would have to go with red.
View the full range of Mel’s gorgeous Christmas adornments, from linen hearts and doves to paper pinecones and pom pom people, in her Felt shop, Natale.