The last few years have been pretty tough for Brighton Mine jewellery designer and artist Fiona McDonald, with her partner suffering a massive stroke less than a year after the birth of their first child, but inspired by her family and wild West Coast surroundings Fiona has risen to the challenge and is unleashing the build up of creative energy that often follows a difficult and traumatic time.
What do you make?
I make jewellery using raw and natural materials, cut stones, metals, enamels and just about anything else that can be worn. I am also a painter, one of the reasons I was drawn to the rugged environment of the West Coast. I sell mainly my jewellery in my Felt shop, but do sell a few cards which are reproductions of some of my paintings.
Your favourite materials, tools and processes?
One of my favourite materials is pounamu beach pebbles. They are a rare and precious gift from the ocean, that I very occasionally find. They have been carved by the ocean, traveling up the West Coast over many years. My designs have evolved from a desire to wear these pieces without drilling holes in the forms created by nature. So each piece is unique, and designed to complement the natural form of the stone, there are no two the same.
Making jewellery, I enjoy fabricating, forging, casting, etching and enameling.
I began experimenting with enamels, when I got given my dear grandmother’s enameling kiln. After hours of research and practice I am having a fun time with the beauty of melted glass fused onto metal.
Of course it goes without saying for me that painting a work of art is one of my favourite things to do. I like to work in oils and tend to favour landscapes and birds in my work.
How did you get into your craft?
I have made things for as long as I can remember. My family home was a hub of creativity, with everything going on, from photography and a darkroom, to a pottery studio, to oil painting or just about anything else you could think of.
My parents manufactured pop top campers in the 1970s and ’80s, and I am quite sure Dad’s love of design and taking an idea to completion has inspired me in my creativity.
I have always been a painter, while I started silversmithing after being inspired by my work as a props maker on the Lord of the Rings trilogy.
What inspires you?
My ever supportive partner and gorgeous son, but also I draw a huge amount of inspiration from the wild and breathtaking environment that I live in.
Is there a philosophy behind your work?
I really just love to create beautiful things with integrity and a view for them to last. I know when they leave my house I have put 100% into the whole product, right down to my completely handmade packaging. My feedback from customers shows me the attention to detail is definitely an important part of the whole experience of receiving handmade goods.
Describe your workspace:
My workspace is in my home (which is ideal with a young child). I have a studio set up in my garage space, which is a little chilly in winter, but makes up for it by the astounding view out the window. I feel for my family who put up with a constant takeover of our entire house, with jewellery equipment, paintings, easels, paperwork, stock and all manner of other things it requires to run a business from home.
Your favourite feedback from a customer:
It’s more about the packaging, but it’s great! “The earrings are lovely (smaller than I thought…but I love them). I’m writing though, to tell you of my deep appreciation for your packaging! The mesh bag, the colouring…all is so perfect. I don’t know what to say, except… Genius. Wow. Thank you for taking the time to be artful, to pay attention to details. The last time I felt this way about opening a package I was unwrapping my Apple computer. You go, girl!”
What are you currently listening to? Piano Song – Meiko
Do you have any pets?
I’ve always had long haired cats and adore them so much, I also have a goat who keeps our gorse in check, and a brood of black chickens and roosters who seem to be constantly crowing outside my window!
What was the last handmade item you bought?
A pottery piece by local artist Grant Hudson and a handmade laptop cover as a gift.
Check out more of Fiona’s jewellery and cards in her Felt shop, Brighton Mine, and if you leave a comment for Fiona below, you’ll go in the draw to win a pair of her gorgeous enamel earrings – in the colour of your choice! The draw is open to New Zealand residents only until Friday 28 September.