Archive for the ‘Meet the Maker’ Category

Wired for silver: the Canterbury crafter who discovered a new passion

Monday, June 19th, 2017

Debbie of Wiredlove is a full time office worker, busy Mum to two teenage daughters (and one chocolate furbaby) and wife to Chris. Debbie creates her individual wearable art works in her spare time and dreams that one day her creations will adorn the necks and fingers of the rich and famous…

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What do you make?
I make handcrafted jewellery items using Sterling silver, copper, brass and mixed media.

How did you get into your craft?
I have always done crafty things, be it clothes, or toys for my children or family or friends’ kids. But in the last four years I have gotten into jewellery – this started with a friend giving me some artistic wire and some beads and it went from there.

Do you have formal training or qualifications in your craft?
In 2014 I attended a level 1 and 2 silver course with The Silversmiths’ Guild of Canterbury, who run courses at The Tannery in Woolston, Christchurch. From my very first lesson you could say I was hooked – I enjoyed it so much I became a Committee member on the Guild! The SSG run monthly workshops for members – so I’m always learning new techniques.

Your favourite materials, tools and processes?
I love mixing silver and copper in my creations. Both metals react differently once heated – over-heat silver and it will melt!

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Tell us about the techniques involved in producing one of your jewellery pieces:
Where do I start? Designing, handsawing a piece of silver plate, heating, forming, soldering, filing… not my most favourite job, but must be done!

What inspires you?
Everything inspires me. I love everything to do with nature, shapes… the list could go on. I also love looking at fashions overseas to see which way the trends are going.

Describe your creative process:
Sometimes I will wake up with ideas and sometimes just looking at something will give me an idea. I can’t say I have certain look to my jewellery (i.e. a range) – I’m forever trying new ideas out.

Describe your workspace:
Cluttered, disorganised and a work in progress. I currently have my work station set up in our office and my soldering station set up in our garage. My dream would be to have a bright airy studio in my backyard or at least a jeweller’s bench, which I’ve been waiting a couple of years for my brother-in-law to make, LOL!

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Your favourite feedback from a customer:
Just seeing the customer’s face on seeing an item is feedback enough.

What are you currently listening to?
Imagine Dragons – Thunder.

Recommend an album:
Imagine Dragons – Smoke + Mirrors – they are my favourites at the moment.

What are you reading right now?
Nora Roberts – Whiskey Beach.

A favourite quote:
Every accomplishment starts with the decision to try.

Tell us about your pets:
An eight year old chocolate lab named Rusty – he’s finally starting to get out of the puppy stage! :-)

What would your advice be for those starting out in a crafty business?
Never give up on your dreams.

What was the last handmade item you bought and what attracted you to it?
Some beautiful body butter by Inga Ford Soapmaker, in Peachy – smells divine and leaves my skin feeling beautiful.

What’s in store for the rest of 2017?
I’m currently working on some commission work which I love doing. Perhaps some markets once the weather warms up, and The Silversmiths’ Guild have an exhibition later in the year – so I’ll be working towards this.

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Debbie has generously offered a sweet prize of a stamped Sterling silver adjustable bracelet with either ‘Aroha’ ‘Love’ or ‘Kia Kaha’ stamped on it, valued at $45.00 (see above) for one lucky Felt reader. To be in to win this beautiful bracelet, simply leave a comment telling us what you like about Debbie’s story and her creations. The draw will be made on Friday 30 June and is open to New Zealand residents only.

 

Purchase from Wiredlove here »

 

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Birds, bush, and sea: the uniquely New Zealand art of Liz Abbott

Monday, June 5th, 2017

Working from her Blueskin Bay studio, full-time artist Liz Abbott draws inspiration for her original oil paintings, pastels and prints from the landscape around her. A well-known New Zealand painter, Liz’s regularly exhibited and award-winning art can be found in public and private collections throughout the world.

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What do you make?
I make pictures in a variety of mediums from woodcuts to pastels to oil paints.

How did you get into your art practice?
I grew up in Christchurch surrounded by large oil paintings hanging on the wall that were created by my great great Aunt Annie Elizabeth Kelly née Abbott (1877-1946) who was a leading NZ professional portrait artist during the 1920s and 30s, so it always seemed normal to me to pursue art as a career.

As a child I attended Saturday morning art classes at the CSA and when I left school I completed a Diploma of Fine Arts with Honours at the Dunedin School of Art, where I majored in printmaking and papermaking. Several decades later I gained a Master of Fine Arts, this time majoring in painting, from the Otago Polytechnic School of Art in Dunedin.

I developed my woodcut prints of New Zealand birds into a business as a way of supporting my other art practices. I make my woodcut prints an open edition which keeps them affordable, accessible, and easy to post – I like providing authentic original artwork that has been made here in New Zealand – this includes the harakeke paper from Whanganui that I print on and the mat boards and frames from Tauranga that I present them in.

What inspires you?
I have always been inspired by the birds, bush and coastline. In our own garden we have daily visits from pīwakawaka (fantails), kererū (New Zealand pigeons), tūī, korimako (bellbirds), riroriro (grey warblers), kotare (kingfishers) and even Australian eastern rosellas!

Blueskin Bay and Doctors Point beach are a five minute walk from home and Orokonui Ecosanctuary – a predator-free home to kākā, takahē and kiwi – is a ten minute drive away. Recently we were lucky enough to visit the northern royal albatrosses (toroa) with their chicks at Taiaroa Head, a half hour drive from Dunedin.

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Describe your creative process:
Most days include drawing and often I will take my sketchbook and pastels on my walks to work directly from nature. On wet days I will often just draw what is on the kitchen table… my 89 year old neighbour provides me with beautiful home grown flowers to draw. I also take photos of birds to use as reference for my woodcuts – I create several new designs each year.

Tell us about the techniques involved in producing a woodcut print:
I start with drawing and playing around with various compositions. I then simplify and scale down the drawing and transfer it on to MDF in reverse before carving the block and printing it on my locally made printing press. Sometimes I will make several carvings before I am happy with the end result. I hand-colour the finished woodcuts with several layers of watercolour so no two prints are exactly the same.

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Describe your workspace:
Organised chaos! I am lucky enough to enjoy a large lined double garage with sea views over Blueskin Bay which is the hub of all my making – it is a busy creative space!

Who is your hero/heroine? Why?
I have many including my mother who inspires me with her exquisite felting, knitting, crochet and paua jewellery – she has been a prolific and accomplished maker all her life and her work room is a treasure trove of colours, textures and countless ongoing projects – more organised chaos!

Your favourite feedback from a customer:
I enjoy all the feedback I get – it is wonderful when people take the time to share their responses to my work!

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What’s your favourite childhood book and why?
One that stands out is The Borrowers by English author Mary Norton, which features a family of tiny people who live in the walls and floors of a house and “borrow” from the big people. I remember making a model of them for a school project and mum “knitted” some cotton on to pins for me!

What are you reading now?
David Copperfield by Charles Dickens and A History of Pictures by David Hockney and Martin Gayford.

What are you currently listening to?
Spotify – it is so much fun looking up favourite artists and discovering new ones. I work best with music!

Recommend an album:
Ernest Ranglin’s Below the Bassline always puts me in a good mood.

A favourite quote:
There were many favourite quotes in our family including: “To thine own self be true and it must follow as night to day thou canst not then be false to any man” (Shakespeare). My grandmother used to tell me “There is no such word as can’t” and that “Every little bit helps, said the old woman as she did wee wee in the sea”!

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Tell us about your pets:
My husband Rudie and I are the proud parents of Russell, a mixed terrier who accompanies me on my walks – he gets a little impatient when I bring out the drawing materials and is inclined to kick sand to get me to hurry up and throw sticks instead!

What would your advice be for those starting out in a crafty business?
Being a full-time self employed artist involves much more than making pictures. You have to be willing to build good working relationships with outlets and suppliers, market your own work, manage your accounts and fluctuating income as well as being self motivated, energetic and positive!

What’s in store for the rest of 2017?
Continuing making pastels and paintings and working on a series of designs featuring extinct birds such as the huia and moa, as well as developing other designs of Dunedin’s architectural attractions to accompany my recent woodcut of Dunedin Railway Station.

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Liz has very generously offered a prize for one lucky Felt reader of a $69 gift voucher (that’s enough for one of Liz’s gorgeous large prints) to be redeemed in her Felt shop. Awesome, thank you so much Liz!

To be in to win this lovely prize, simply leave a comment telling us (a) which New Zealand native bird is your favourite and why, and (b) what you like about Liz’s story and her art. We look forward to reading your responses! The voucher draw will be made on Friday 15 June and is open to New Zealand residents only.

 

Explore Liz’s beautiful artworks on Felt now »

 

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Elbow deep: building a new career from clay

Monday, May 22nd, 2017

Pippa of Makerie Ceramics is a ceramicist living her dream of working with clay everyday, in her sunny Auckland studio. Most days she can be found elbow deep in clay, working at her wheel. Otherwise, she’s probably running after her three year old, doing the household chores or drinking tea!

Her ceramics reflect her lifestyle and personality: keep it simple and organic. Every piece is handmade by Pippa: the lines aren’t always straight, the rim shapes are organic, but they’re all functional and made with love.

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What do you make?
I make simple, functional ceramics that are handmade with love in my studio in Auckland. Each piece is thrown on the wheel and hand finished, made from locally sourced white earthenware clay and finished off with a glossy glaze (that is food and dishwasher safe).

How did you get into your craft?
I try to take a new creative course every year to find out as much as I can about a creative process. In 2016 I decided to try my hand at ceramics and absolutely fell in love. I signed up with Teresa at Ceramic College in Devonport and remember going home after my first lesson to tell my hubby that I had found what it was that I wanted to do with my free time. It’s been a beautiful love affair ever since and now I’m doing it full time!

Do you have formal training or qualifications in your craft?
The classes at Ceramic College kicked off the obsession and I eventually invested in a kiln and wheel and set up the studio. From there, I’ve been working with various techniques to decide on what felt best for me. While the underlying techniques I learned from the super talented Teresa, I have honed them in my studio and I do what feels best for me and my aesthetic.

Your favourite materials, tools and processes?
I absolutely love the painting stage. I paint on greenware (earthenware that hasn’t been bisque fired yet) as it is a lot smoother and easier a process than painting on bone-dry bisqueware. I also really enjoy the actual act of throwing on the wheel: it’s incredibly therapeutic and if I’m not careful, hours can go by before I step away from the wheel.

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Tell us a bit about the techniques involved in producing one of your ceramic pieces:
I start by wedging the clay: i.e. warming it up and making it supple for the throwing or hand-building phase. If I’m throwing it on the wheel, I’ll centre it and build the piece from there. If I’m hand-building, I’ll pinch it out with my hands and smooth it out with the back of a wooden spoon. Then I let the piece dry out completely which normally takes about three days. I have shelving in my garage where I store the pieces until they are ready for the kiln.

The first firing is the bisque firing (where it gets up to a temperature of about 1000 C): in this kiln session, the water is driven out of the clay and hardens up to form a bright white piece of pottery. From here I will sand the item, wipe it down and then dip it in a glossy glaze. I give the bases a good wipe (otherwise the piece sticks to the kiln shelf). It then goes into the kiln for the glaze firing (at about 1160 C) where it hardens and gets a beautiful glossy finish. At this point, the piece is either ready or it gets a lustre put on it (i.e. a gold, copper or mother of pearl trim). If that’s the case, it goes back into the kiln for the third firing (to about 700 C). Once the firings are done, I give the piece a clean by wiping down the surface and giving the bases one quick final sand. Then it’s ready to be sent out!

What inspires you?
I am absolutely inspired by our beautiful New Zealand landscapes: I fold New Zealand beach sand through a few of the pieces in the range and it gives the collection this rich, earthy texture and look.

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Is there a philosophy behind your work?
My philosophy is to keep it simple and organic. None of the lines are ever quite straight, the rims have an organic finish to them, the shapes are never perfect but it shows that each piece is utterly unique and subtly different to the next one.

Describe your creative process:
While I was refining my Autumn/Winter 2017 range, I spent months sketching up ideas. I like to let ideas ruminate so I list the pieces I think need to be in the range, then as the designs form in my head, I get on the wheel and make the piece up. Once I’ve finessed the style, I’ll note key things like clay weight, dimensions, time spent handling it etc so that I can accurately cost up the piece but also design a “blueprint” for it the next time I make it. I’m currently working on my Spring/Summer range which will launch in August. I’ve taken notes of all the best sellers from the current range, refined the offering and will soon start throwing the new pieces on the wheel. Once samples are made of the whole range, I’ll photograph them in my studio (it gets the best morning light). I take a lot of mental notes of photography flat lays or shoots that I see that resonate with me and I’ll use them to inform the new look for the season.

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Describe your workspace:
I have a studio in my home in Birkenhead. I have an admin desk where I work on my Mac answering emails, doing tax stuff or processing orders. I have a stand where finished orders are placed, ready for packing up and shipping. I have a long work bench which is home to my wheel (I prefer to stand while I throw, sitting hurts my back), my jars of sand, tools, rolling pins, etc. Above that, I have a rack to dry some pieces before the bisque fire, another shelf to house the work that’s ready for the glaze stage and another shelf which houses product ready for the markets or PR requests.

Five words that describe your mind:
Organised, focused, driven, anxious, inspired.

Your favourite feedback from a customer:
Being told “I absolutely love your work” I find has been incredibly rewarding. I also try to come back to those messages when times get a little rough.

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What are you currently listening to?
I’m on a throwback kick to the early 2000s so I’m currently listening to The All-American Rejects, Sum 41 and Blink 182. They remind me of my time at high school and uni.

Recommend an album:
Fleetwood Mac’s Greatest Hits. Give “Gypsy” a listen – what a great track!

What’s your favourite childhood book and why?
I loved Winnie the Pooh – I remember opening the book to smell the pages and was incredibly protective of it. I loved the drawings more than the stories themselves. I wished that I could jump into the illustrations and be a part of that imaginary world.

What are you reading now?
I haven’t really had time to read lately – I’ve been working 15 hour days trying to get through all my orders (NO COMPLAINTS!) but when I do have a moment, I’ve been reading The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware. It’s killing me not being able to get to the twist fast enough!

A favourite quote:
“When a flower doesn’t bloom, you fix the environment in which it grows – not the flower.” This quote has inspired me to take a plunge, out of a job that didn’t quite fit with me and straight into ceramics.

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Tell us about your pets:
We have two kitties – both rescues. Nina is our black cat that I got from Lonely Miaow. She is a little skittish but makes a wonderful hot water bottle when I crawl into bed at night. She sleeps on my chest and has the loudest purr – I miss her if she’s out gallivanting at night. Our second cat is Penny, we got her as a foster baby from the SPCA – she was supposed to go back to be adopted at the end of the foster period but we just loved her too much. She has the loveliest personality. She walks with me down the drive every day to check the mailbox. She is a sucker for warm sunlight so she can be found on my daughter’s bed in the mornings and on our bed in the afternoons as she follows the light around the house. She is GREAT with kids and nothing really seems to faze her. They’ve clearly talked us up though to their friends in the neighbourhood because all the cats in the area come to chill at our place and eat their food.

What would your advice be for those starting out in a crafty business?
Being someone else isn’t fun, so when you’ve developed your signature piece/idea, celebrate it and own it.

What was the last handmade item you bought and what attracted you to it?
I bought a ceramic spoon that had a beautiful illustration of a girl on it. I loved it for the artistic effort it took to create that piece – I thought it would make a great addition to my ceramics collection. It also reminds me of the overseas adventure that I was on when I bought it.

What’s in store for the rest of 2017?
If April has been anything to go by, it will be very busy! I’m going to be doing heaps of markets (2-3 a month), a few collaborations with some amazing brands and people, continuing to grow the wholesale side of the business and investing in another kiln! Keep a look out in the coming months for my new Spring/Summer range too.

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Pippa has kindly offered a gorgeous prize set for one lucky Felt reader, of two speckled pinch pots with matching teaspoons (see above). These gorgeous kitchenware pieces are made from a speckled buff clay and finished off with a white food and dishwasher-safe glossy glaze. Perfect as condiment sets, or use the bowls for precious rings and trinkets. To be in to win this great prize, simply leave a comment telling us what you like about Pippa’s story and her creations. The draw will be made on Friday 2 June and is open to New Zealand residents only.

 

Purchase from Makerie Ceramics here »

 

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Caretaker of imagination: the creative world of Zee Southcombe

Monday, May 8th, 2017

Auckland writer and artist Zee Southcombe has published an astonishing 12 books in the last two years, and usually has a few creative projects on the go. Her works include children’s chapter books, a wordless picture book, colouring books, a children’s anthology, and zines, as well as her surrealist, emotive paintings. Her novels The Caretaker of Imagination and Lucy’s Story: The End of the World were both finalists for Best Youth Novel in the 2016 Sir Julius Vogel Awards.

Zee loves to share her passion for writing with others – especially young creators – inspiring them to follow their own dreams.

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What do you make?
I’m a writer and an artist, so I primarily make books and zines, but I also have a fine art practice specialising in painting.

My books are in the adventure fantasy genre and written for children – but are ‘adult friendly’. I also publish an annual anthology of stories and poems by children in New Zealand. A couple of years ago, I began illustrating colouring books, and fell in love with patterns and lines. It is from that, and a passion for the natural world, that led to mandala art. I held my first painting exhibition last year, titled Broken Beautiful, which reflected the theme of mental and emotional wellbeing. My paintings are very personal; they’re basically me on the canvas.

My zines explore the creative life, both my own and through the eyes of other creative women. I love how creative and experimental zine-making can be, and that they are a hands-on version of book publishing.

How did you get into your craft?
I’ve been drawing for as long as I can remember, and reading for even longer! Although I studied teaching, after working in schools for a few years, I realised that I missed my art practice. In 2013, I decided to follow my long-time dream of writing a children’s book – and I haven’t stopped since.

Your favourite materials, tools and processes?
I like to keep it simple – pen and paper are my favourite tools. Now that I’m illustrating more, I love my new gouache paint palette, which has every colour I could want and is travel-friendly.

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Tell us about what’s involved in producing one of your publications:
For my books, it starts with the idea, which I’ve usually been playing around with in my head for anything from a week to several years. I then pull the idea out into a story by getting a plan down on paper, and begin writing the draft. Sometimes I wish the words could just magically flow out of my head and onto the paper, but unfortunately the drafting is not the easiest bit for me!

Once I have the draft done, it goes off to beta readers, who ‘test’ the story pre-publication and give me their feedback. I then revise the story based on this, and send it to my editor, who gives me much more thorough, line-by-line feedback which I trawl through. It’s usually off to one final beta reader again after that, and then another revision by me. Finally, it goes to the proofreader. The editing process usually takes at least six months.

In between all of that are the illustrations, which I either contract out or draw myself, and at the end of the process is the formatting. This bit is about font choices, line spacing, page numbers, and cover design. The files are then sent to my Auckland-based printer, who prints and binds them for me.

For my mandala artwork, I first hand-draw the template (each one is started from scratch), and build a collection of symbols and shapes within a theme. For example, Moths’ Garden was inspired by flowers and leaves found in my garden. I then draw these freehand (usually while listening to a podcast) and erase the pencil. From there, I scan the drawing, touch it up digitally, flip the colours, and overlay it on one of my photographs. It’s then sent off to my local printer.

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What inspires you?
There is a lot that inspires me, but recently I have been more and more inspired by nature, especially in my visual art practice. I love tramping and exploring the outdoors. The mindful nature walking definitely shows its face in my work, as well as more obvious references to nature in my mandala art. I’ve also spent more time creating outdoors – be that drawing, writing, or painting – even in the colder autumn weather!

My fiction books are explorations of questions I don’t know the answer to – ideas such as divinity, the beginning of time, and fate – all wrapped up in fun (and sometimes scary) adventures.

Is there a philosophy behind your work?
Always. As a child, I hated when books or movies or conversations were simplified for me. I had big questions, too! My driving philosophy for my books are to never talk down to children. An interesting outcome of this philosophy is that my stories have appealed equally to children and adults.

In addition to that, I try to make my work as honest as possible, which viewers have described as ‘a kind of rawness’. Of course, I also try to only do projects that are fun!

My fiction books are explorations of questions I don’t know the answer to – ideas such as divinity, the beginning of time, and fate – all wrapped up in fun (and sometimes scary) adventures.

Describe your creative process:
Different every time. There is a lot of ruminating on an idea before it even begins to come to fruition, often during a walk, but other than that I don’t really have a set process. Some projects are solo, some are collaborative; some are started and finished within a week, others are still in process five years later. I enjoy the flexibility of my creative work.

Describe your workspace:
Not nearly as tidy as I would like it to be! I have a big desk with room for a candle and a cup of tea, a large wooden bookshelf, and boxes of art supplies. I either face the window, looking out at the monarchs, wax-eyes, bees and tui in the bottlebrush tree, or I face my wall of art, which is covered in work that inspires me.

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I’ll often go out to write, as I find that distancing myself from my house and computer (and all the chores that haven’t been done) is useful in helping me stay focused on the project at hand. At least once a week I’ll pop into a local cafe or library, and I regularly book mini writing retreats. The most recent one was in a cabin nestled among the trees and birds in native New Zealand forest.

Five words that describe your mind:
Full, questioning, distracted, curious, doubting.

Your favourite feedback from a customer:
How do I pick? Every piece of feedback is important to me – both for my artist’s ego and to continue improving my work. What touches me most is when a reader or viewer really connects with a piece of work, but I especially love it when adults buy one of my books for their children – and then can’t resist reading it themselves!

“To label this book merely as a children’s book would not do it justice. While this book is, indeed, a great read for children of all ages, many adults will be able to relate to the main character, John, who has lost all sense of wonder in his life and goes on a journey with his faithful cat to find out where the magic and imagination he knew as a child had gone.” – Paul Magnan, Amazon review.

What are you currently listening to?
I’ve dug out an oldie and am listening to a fair bit of kiwi band, Elemeno P. I have also needed a bit of a pick-me-up, so Disney classics have been on my playlist, too!

Recommend an album:
Elemeno P – Love & Disrespect. It’s fun, kiwi, and a great way to kick off your morning.

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What’s your favourite childhood book and why?
I have so many favourites that I always find it difficult to answer this question. A series that has had a significant influence on my writing is the Narnia Chronicles by C. S. Lewis, and I love all of Roald Dahl’s stories. At an older age, I got stuck into the Harry Potter series, and Tamora Pierce’s fantasy novels.

What are you reading now?
I’m reading The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot by Robert MacFarlane, a beautiful book about some of the old pathways – on land and sea – as research for my current work in progress, Ramble On. Before that I read a heart-wrenching and simultaneously comic children’s book called See You in the Cosmos by Jack Cheng. I highly recommend it to readers of all ages.

Tell us about your pets:
I have a cat called Shadow who, like most cats, is rather particular about her wants! Sometimes she’ll hang out with me in the studio while I’m writing or painting, and if it’s cold enough then I’ll have the privilege of her sitting on my lap.

What would your advice be for those starting out in a crafty/arts business?
I’ve only been in this business for two years, so sometimes it feels like I am still just starting out. Through trial and error, I’m slowly learning what works for me and which bits of advice are worth following. I would say be patient, and trust yourself; only you know what is best for you and your goals at the end of the day.

Something I’ve been thinking about more lately is the importance of having fun. I’ve seen too many people burn out (myself included) or become despondent. If you’re not enjoying the process, then make changes so that you are. There’s no point in success if it comes at the expense of your health.

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What was the last handmade item you bought and what attracted you to it?
Whenever I table at a craft fair, I try to buy something to support my fellow artists. Last weekend I bought some beeswax food wrap from Rematerialise. I’ve been eyeing it for ages, because I need something to pack my food for long tramps. It’s environmentally friendly and easy to use, so it’s a no-brainer. My favourite handmade purchase this year was a ceramic mushroom necklace from Little Life Workshop. I am in love with all of her creations!

What’s in store for the rest of 2017?
Right now I’m working on my first book for adults, Ramble On: A celebration of walking in New Zealand and around the world. It’s going to be a glorious mix of interviews, personal essays, hand-lettered quotes, and fun facts. The book will be fully illustrated. It’s a great way to bring my love of walking, drawing, and writing together in one project.

Because I’m enjoying the project so much, I’ll be making a series of zines around walking in New Zealand, just in time for Zinefest season. I’ve also got two collaborative projects lined up – one is about self-publishing in New Zealand, and the other is a collaboration with my (also crafty) mum.

You can meet Zee at Hamilton Zinefest on Saturday 13 May, Auckland Fair on June 18, and she’ll be speaking at Lexicon in June. After that Zee’s running the Auckland Half Marathon in October, to raise money for the Mental Health Foundation of NZ, a cause close to her heart. $8 from the sale of each of her digital prints will also be going to support the fundraising. Awesome stuff!

Inspired? Zee has offered a sweet prize for one lucky Felt reader and budding zine maker of one of her great DIY Zine Craft Activity Kits. The kit contains everything you need to make your very own mini zines – blank mini zines, felt pens, stickers, and Zee’s very own “Zine Idea Generator”. To be in to win this great prize, simply leave a comment telling us what you like about Zee’s story and her work. The draw will be made on Friday 19 May and is open to New Zealand residents only.

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Explore Zee’s Felt shop here »

 

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Capturing colour: a stunning synthesis of natural and manmade materials

Monday, April 24th, 2017

Designer, music producer and DJ Nigel Greene takes inspiration for his eye-catching Greeen Customs jewellery creations from his engineering and music backgrounds, as well as the natural and manmade materials he uses. In his workshop in Christchurch he seamlessly blends native and exotic timbers, and resins in a stunning mix of colours, to create wearable art rings that are truly unique.

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What do you make?
Hand turned rings from custom castings and other creative supplies.

How did you get into your craft?
I was inspired to start a new business where I could harness my creativity and skills.

Do you have formal training or qualifications in your craft?
Living a life of art and music, accompanied by a five year history of plastics and rubber engineering.

Your favourite materials, tools and processes?
I love working with resins, exotic and native woods, hybrid acrylic blanks and delving into anything interesting I can get my hands on!

I custom cast my own resin blanks, creating personalised colourways and can use or add other materials, then process using drills, saws, gluing, sanding and a lathe to create customised wearable art rings.

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Tell us about some of the techniques involved in producing one of your rings:
As part of the custom casting process I create multiple shades of as many colours as are desired and combine them with precision timing, which allows me to get amazing results.

What inspires you?
Life, colour, music, art, nature, and everyone awesome around me!

Describe your creative process:
I get inspired, create colour, search for and combine materials to produce my rings.

Describe your workspace:
I work from an early stage, at home workshop that is slowly shaping into what I need. It’s a great space and has a good sound system. (Very important! :-) – Ed.)

Five words that describe your mind:
Creative, seeking, detailed, intuitive, introverted.

Your favourite feedback from a customer:
“So happy to have found you and this amazing piece of jewelry.” (From a yoga teacher in New York.)

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What are you currently listening to?
Heaps of drum & bass/electronic music whilst performing/producing my own.

Recommend an album: Maduk – Never Give Up.

What would your advice be for those starting out in a crafty business?
Create something unique to yourself and constantly push forward no matter what anybody says! Stick at it and be different!

What was the last handmade item you bought and what attracted you to it?
It was a beaut handmade glass pendant. It features a dragon hand holding onto a sphere containing an awesome opal! I purchased it from the Illusion Glass Gallery in the heart of Denver, USA in 2015. I was fully drawn to the colour (Slime Green) and the crazy attention to detail – it really is a work of art!

What’s in store for the rest of 2017?
Fulfilling a lot of custom ring orders locally and from around the world. Taking the time to explore new materials and techniques as well as building an extensive backlog of designs and custom options whilst preparing myself to hit the market places come spring time!

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Nigel has very generously offered a prize for one lucky Felt reader of a $100 gift voucher to be redeemed in his Felt shop. Awesome, thank you Nigel!

To be in to win this great prize, simply leave a comment telling us what you like about Nigel’s story and his Greeen Customs creations. The voucher draw will be made on Friday 5 May and is open to New Zealand residents only.

 

Explore Nigel Greene’s amazing rings on Felt now »

 

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Craft, science and skincare: the Fair & Square soap making story

Monday, April 10th, 2017

Carly of Fair & Square makes natural soaps using the traditional cold process technique. She and her husband (with their two children aged 8 months and 2 years) live near Ngunguru (Tutukaka Coast, Northland) on a small lifestyle block where they have built a lovely little “eco/passive solar/off the grid” home. She’s a full time mum, and manages to fit in making her soaps from her kitchen in between looking after the kids, animals, and gardens!

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How did you get into your craft?
I was given a soap making kit as a gift about eight years ago, and was instantly hooked. I love that soap making combines chemistry with art.

Do you have formal training or qualification in your craft?
No. I quit all math and science classes at school as soon as I had the chance and never once imagined that chemistry would be in my future. I do a lot of research online into various things, including aromatherapy, different properties of oils, butters and how they react when turned into soap. In every batch of soap I make, I learn something new, and get a better feel of how the soap batter is behaving and why. Like any craft you never really stop learning and evolving.

Your favourite tools, materials and processes?
My all time favourite tool is a little hand held leather bound soap beveller. I like to bevel the edges of my soaps so that they glide smoothly from the very first use. After un-moulding the soap and cutting into bars, I run the beveller over all the sharp edges. It is monotonous and repetitive and I love it! The beveller sits so easy in the hand, and the texture and feel of the soap being peeled away is so calming and wonderfully meditative.

I also couldn’t work without my trusty old stick blender! I’ve had her from the very start of my soap making and she has helped to create every single batch of soap I have made. I never thought I would ever come to have feelings for a kitchen appliance, but this old Betty slowly and steadily whizzed her way into my heart.

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Tell us about the techniques in producing your soap:
For a product that most of us use on a daily basis, very few people know what soap is and how it is made. True soap is created by the chemical reaction (saponification) that occurs when you mix lye (sodium hydroxide) and fats (animal or vegetable origin). It’s as simple as that.

Lye was traditionally made with hardwood ash and water, but was notoriously difficult to get right. The joy of modern soap making is that we can purchase lye that gives us reliable results every time. Lye is extremely caustic/alkaline on its own, but through the magic of chemistry (by combining lye with fats) an entirely new substance is created. In a saponified bar of soap there will be no trace of lye in it.

To produce a nice moisturising bar of soap, I add an extra 7-8% of oils to my recipe that aren’t bound up in the saponification, and so are floating around in the bar, free to love on your skin.

I create my recipes using a range of oils and butters that bring different values to the bar of soap. Some oils create a dense lather (castor) while others provide wonderful moisturising properties (avocado, olive). Coconut oil is a main ingredient in all my bars and helps to create a nice hard, long lasting bar with lots of fluffy bubbles. It is a constant juggle and balancing act to get the perfect combination of oils and create the ultimate soap bar.

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Once the mixture is poured into the moulds, it needs to sit for 24-36 hours before being solid enough to remove from the moulds. Then the soap logs sit for a further 24 hours before cutting and bevelling. Once they are all dressed up, the bars sit for a further 6 weeks to create a lovely mild, long lasting bar that is heaven for your skin.

A bi-product of soap is glycerine, which is produced naturally during the saponification process. Glycerine is a humectant and so draws moisture from the environment to your skin. This means your skin feels hydrated and soft after the wash. In commercial soaps, the manufacturers remove this glycerine and use it to make higher value products like moisturisers, meaning the soap is super drying and harsh on your skin. In fact, many commercial ‘soaps’ are not true soaps at all, rather a combination of chemical detergents, artificial lathering agents and toxic chemicals. Considering the average person uses soap ten times a day- this is something we should be more wary of!

What inspires you?
I love both the simplicity and complexity of nature. I enjoy being able to experiment with ingredients from the natural world, and am especially captivated by the aromatherapy enigma. Coming up with new blends of essential oils that actually work and smell amazing is an ongoing quest. When I smell certain scents in nature, my thoughts instantly turn to soap and how I can capture that memory and recreate it in bubble form.

My fellow soap makers, who are forever raising the bar, (We see what you did there. – Ed.) also inspire me. I love following artisan soap makers on Instagram with their amazing creations. I have tried out many different techniques from things I’ve spotted through social media and YouTube instructional videos.

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Is there a philosophy behind your work?
I aim to provide a little bit of luxury in peoples everyday lives. I wanted to create an experience that all my customers can not only enjoy, but also be sure that it is truly good for them. It’s near impossible today to get away from all the nasties in our world, and with a beauty industry heaving with products, I wanted to create something simple, honest and beautiful.

I choose to use therapeutic essential oils rather than synthetic fragrance oils because I believe that what nature has to offer is so remarkable, and I want to celebrate the splendour of these natural ingredients. I want to provide my family and friends and customers with a product that I am proud to put my name to and that is a joy to use.

In our throw-away culture, single use plastics (shampoo/body wash/liquid soap bottles etc.) are piling up in our landfills and making their way into our oceans and that’s just not ok, so all my packaging is cardboard and completely biodegradable. My packaging is 100% compostable, and in fact they work really well as seed raising pots that you can plant directly into the soil.

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Describe your workspace:
I create my soaps at home, between the kitchen and the laundry. I call it a laundry but it has very little laundry hardware in there. We are in the process of building our home and the laundry isn’t finished yet, and so I have commandeered it for my soap workshop. At any one time I would have 500 or so bars of soap curing in racks and shelving, along with buckets of oils, bottles of essential oils, containers of clays and other natural additives and tools. It’s quite the mess. My goal is to have a designated soap workshop where I can create and store all my work tucked away in my soapy haven.

Five words that describe your mind:
Obsessive, motivated, dedicated, scrambled, and very much sleep deprived!

Your favourite feedback from a customer:
I get so much lovely feedback from my customers; it gives me goosebumps to know that something I have created brings joy to peoples lives. Comments such as “Best smelling amazing soaps LOVE LOVE LOVE!” and “Best handmade soap ever, leave your body feeling amazing” and “This soap is DIVINE” just reinforce that I am on the right track.

What are you listening to?
An audiobook called: Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind. It’s super interesting, and if you haven’t discovered the joy of audiobooks – you need to!

Recommend a book:
The Passage by Justin Cronin. It’s a dystopian fantasy, but don’t let that put you off! It’s easily the best book (it’s actually a trilogy) I’ve read in a long time. I couldn’t put it away (get it on audio and you’ll be finding any excuse you can to listen, including doing the dishes, weeding the garden, painting the house… All those monotonous jobs are suddenly very appealing when it means you can listen to your book!)

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Recommend an album:
If you have children and value your sanity, then you can’t go past Anna Van Riels’ Cooking Up a Song. It’s super catchy and cute and you’ll find yourself singing along in no time. It is perfect for the car; it will stop meltdowns in their tracks. It’s a kids’ album that is actually really enjoyable for parents too.

What’s your favourite childhood book?
There’s a sea in my bedroom. I loved the illustrations and the utter joy at imagining having the real sea to play with in your bedroom. My daughter loves this book now too (I have the same copy from when I was a little girl), so any book that spans generations has got to be a goodie.

Who is your hero and why?
I’ve got to say that my husband is my hero. He’s dedicated, extremely hard working and he adores our kids. He is also exceptionally talented in making stuff (including our beautiful home). He is a creative genius and is forever dreaming up (and building) innovative projects that are both beautiful and functional. He also tolerates it when I bring home yet another animal, raise baby chicks in our bathroom, or bottle-feed orphaned baby guinea pigs that the cat brought in. He’s a keeper.

A favourite quote:
“Love her, but leave her wild.” – Atticus.

Tell us about your pets:
Our indoor pets include Levi the Italian greyhound, Charlie the border collie and Moss and Hazel; Persian x fluffball cats. Outside we have Honey, our milking cow, Marmite, Copper and Porsha (horses), Tinkerbell and Petal (mini ponies), a few free ranging guinea pigs, ducks and countless chickens.

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If you were a crafty superhero what would your name and superpower be?
I would be Bubbles McWitchypants! Bubbles can collect and store therapeutic aromas from plants and use them to manipulate the emotions of her fellow humans. Bubbles could be the best weapon for peace the world has ever seen. Her specialty would be infiltrating terrorist groups to sooth their rage and anger with her herbal potions. Then they would all decide to go and take a nice afternoon nap rather than blowing each other to pieces.

Advice for those starting out a crafty business:
Create your brand, and live it. Don’t compromise on quality. Have a very clear philosophy about why you are in business and follow your heart. I think the best small businesses are true to their creator and this is one thing that helps to make them so successful.

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Favourite handmade item:
I couldn’t be without my Japanese vegetable knife lovingly handcrafted by the super talented Peter Lorimer of Omakau. I use it every single time I cook. The bone handle sits with absolute precision in my hand and it is weighted to perfection. I will be one very happy mumma the day I have replaced all of my random knives with a simple and stunning set of Peter’s masterpieces.

What’s in store for 2017:
I have so many ideas crashing around inside my foggy mind that it’s hard to pin down exactly what I will end up doing this year. These include a shaving soap in a handmade ceramic refillable bowl, beer soaps made from local craft beers, naturally scented bath bombs, solid moisturising bars, natural candles and melts, probiotic solid-bar deodorant and essential oil massage blends. First and foremost, I will be spending all the time I can hanging out with our kids. In the greater scheme of things, they are the most important part of my day and I intend on soaking up as much of them as I can. So, in saying that, it is entirely probable that I don’t achieve any of my business goals this year. Or next year. But eventually, I will have a little more time to push my business and see where it will take me.

As a special treat for Felt customers for the next two months Carly is offering a whopping 30% off all Fair & Square products bought through Felt!

Enter the voucher code DIRTY30 at checkout to claim your discount. :-)

 

Purchase from Fair & Square here »

 

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Saisei: the beauty of vintage kimono, reborn

Monday, March 27th, 2017

Saisei means “reborn” in Japanese, and it’s a name which perfectly reflects Wellington maker Hana Yoshida’s work. Hana’s beautiful clothing and accessories were born from her grandmother’s collection of vintage kimono and they continue today with the vintage kimono and fabric she still sources from Japan. Hana says: “When I unpick kimono, I think of somebody in Japan who spent days to hand sew the kimono for her loved ones. I think of someone who wore it with much care and love.”

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What do you make?
I upcycle and repurpose vintage Japanese kimono fabrics into modern and stylish clothing and accessories.

How did you get into your craft?
I am originally from Japan. When I went back to Japan last year, my mum mentioned loads of kimono that were left in my grandmother’s wardrobes. They had been there for decades since my grandmother passed away. As a lot of women did in the old days, she used to hand sew kimono for her whole family. She was a very good seamstress, so that often kimono retailers asked her to make kimono for their clients when they received custom made orders. She also taught students how to hand sew kimono at her home. My father still remembers her students coming to their house to learn kimono making. I was blown away by the beauty of the craftsmanship and fabric itself and decided to bring some back to New Zealand.

I have been always into making stuff myself. When I was kid, I used to knit a lot of things and I learnt basic sewing skills at my university. My earliest memory of recycling is making a bag out of my old jeans. So when I got my grandmother’s kimono, I started making some scarves and cushion covers with them. This is how it all started last year. Now I used up all of my grandmother’s silk, so I purchase fabric in Japan and get it shipped to New Zealand.

Do you have formal training or qualifications in your craft?
No, except for at my university when I learnt basic skills as part of my Education/Teaching course. I’m self taught, so learnt a lot by trial and error! I also take private lessons from professionals.

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Your favourite materials, tools and processes?
My favourite material is pre-loved and antique kimono silk. It’s getting rarer because most modern Japanese people have stopped wearing traditional kimono except for special ceremonies or events. So traditional kimono hand-crafting is in decline and there are fewer people who can pass on the techniques of crafting and dyeing kimono to the next generation.

Aizome boro cotton is also special to me. “Boro” means patched. In the old days, when the fabric was damaged, people didn’t throw it away. They patched the damaged area and kept on using it for a long time. So the cotton has a huge amount of character and really interesting textures. Nowadays, these textiles are loved and highly regarded by many all around the world.

My favourite process is creating the right patterns. It takes a long time and uses a lot of paper and sample fabrics. I repeat amending the patterns until I make the right ones. It is a long process, but really satisfying in the end.

Tell us about the techniques involved in producing one of your pieces
I purchase vintage kimono fabric from Japan. Some are actual pre-worn kimono and some are vintage kimono silks that are in bolts and never sewn or worn before.

The sewn kimono are unpicked (this can take around four hours) before being hand washed. Then they are dried in the shade and ironed gently. This is done before making anything. To make my capes, I make outer wool fabric and linings separately. The vintage kimono silk is used exclusively to make the linings of the capes. Because of the width of the silk (usually around 36cm), I cut up the silk into 8-9 pieces and sew them together to make one lining. Then darts and a collar are made. Finally I sew the lining, the outer wool and collar together.

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What inspires you?
Tattoo arts, 50s-70s vintage fashion.

Is there a philosophy behind your work?
I would like more people to enjoy the beauty and craftsmanship of kimono fabric in their daily life.

Tell us about your pets:
We have a cat called Rika. We got her from the Cat’s Protection League as a kitten back in 2002, so she’s an old cat now. We have two little kids so Rika gets less attention than she used to, however when the kids are in bed she likes to sit on my lap and fall asleep.

What was the last handmade item you bought and what attracted you to it?
A flowering branch necklace on Felt from a maker in Nelson. This pendant top was about 6cm and looked just like plum flowers. I liked the oriental feel to it. I wear it on my market days.

What’s in store for the rest of 2017?
There will be more capes and reversible silk cardigans. I would like to add dresses as well, but I will see. Also men’s organic cotton T-shirts with Aizome cotton pockets.

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Hana will be holding a stall at Wellington Underground Market on Saturday 1 April, from 10am to 4pm. This is one of only a handful of markets that Hana will do this year, and it’s a good opportunity to see and try on her garments. Hana will also have sample fabrics on the day, so you can choose fabrics for you own special cape or cardigan.

Hana has also very generously offered a prize for one lucky Felt reader of this lovely autumnal scarf. This vibrant silk scarf with an orange leaf pattern, measuring 17cm x 180cm, was made with 100% vintage Japanese kimono silk. The silk was hand woven and hand printed in Kyoto, Japan.

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To be in to win this gorgeous handcrafted prize, simply leave a comment telling us what appeals to you about Hana’s story and her reborn creations. The draw will be made on Friday 7 April and is open to New Zealand residents only.

 

Explore Hana Yoshida’s beautiful work on Felt »

 

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Simon and Kate Peterson: crafting traditional toys with a contemporary twist

Monday, March 13th, 2017

Simon and Kate Peterson are a husband and wife maker duo located in the ever-beautiful and sunny Hawkes Bay. Their brand Peterson Woodcraft is all about hand crafted wooden traditional toys with a modern twist. In their spare time they moonlight as parents to four little ones aged 8 and under, drink probably far too much coffee and like to pretend that 7am is a sleep-in.

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What do you make?
We make a variety of hand crafted wooden toys, from trolleys and wooden letters to bespoke wooden dolls houses and castles. Simon (the stay at home parent) does much of the product design and wood working while juggling children and school pick-ups, while Kate (who is a librarian by day) handles all the marketing, social media etc, and hand painting of the products.

How did you get started with your craft?
An appropriate answer would be something along the lines of how Kate was always creative and Simon always wanted to make wooden toys and other beautiful things. However, honestly, it really started out of boredom and a desire to contribute to the household income!

Simon has been the stay at home dad since our eldest was just three months old and then when we moved to Hastings two years ago our moving truck crashed and we lost almost everything we owned. Suddenly we were in this position where everything got evaluated (for insurance purposes, yay) and needs and wants were also really re-evaluated.

With our twin girls blissfully still napping, the older two off at school and Kate off at work, Simon realised his days at home were numbered and he might need to get a real job one day – something neither of us particularly wanted! So, with a bit of space to dream up something, a little insurance money and a loan from our parents, Simon got stuck in creating in his new man cave. Kate, originally just a backer and encourager from the sidelines, quickly got involved in product design and the paint finishing, and it all went from there.

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Do you have formal training or qualifications in your craft?
Besides some 5th and 6th form woodworking and art classes, and a short stint into carpentry – nope! It has been a self taught, research and discovery as we go approach. And really this is partly what makes it more fun.

Your favourite materials, tools and processes?
Wood is the obvious answer. Kate never felt that strongly about it until we started working with it all the time, now she is really into grains and textures too! But dreaming things up on paper and computer screen is also a huge part of it.

Describe your creative process:
It usually starts on a bit of scrap paper the kids have drawn on and then the computer. Someone asks us to create something we haven’t done before, or Kate has spent too much time on the internet, and then a whole lot of research and tinkering on screen goes on. Simon draws it up the idea in a programme on the computer so we can get a good look at it from all angles and can work out materials etc. This design phase and problem solving part is something Simon really enjoys. For Kate, having a good cup of coffee, some music and time out to just go paint is a lovely way to spend a Sunday.

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Describe your workspace:
Currently? There isn’t one! Very excitingly, we have just moved in to our first home. So at the moment the ‘workspace’ is filled with boxes and other miscellaneous children-related paraphernalia (who knew they could have so much stuff). The great news now, though, is we actually have a dedicated wood working space, as well as a connected unit to use as a painting and finishing studio. Before this we were painting on the floor of the sleep-out of a house we rented!

Your favourite feedback from a customer:
Thankfully, we have had a lot of positive feedback and it really is important… especially for a couple of perfectionists who agonise over the details! This bit of feedback recently really made our month though:
“We are absolutely blown away by the quality of workmanship and attention to details, totally exceeded our expectations (from packaging to the product itself)! Thank you Simon!”

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What are you currently listening to?
We have The Rock radio station on almost always! If it is not that then it’s the cricket (which Kate HATES).

What was the last handmade item you bought and what attracted you to it?
The last probably, and one of Kate’s favourite things was a Chocolate Fish keyring made by Kellyvize. It always is a conversation starter! It is amazing how many people think Kate has a half eaten chocolate fish laying around the place.

What’s in store for 2017?
Settling in and setting up our workspace is our first priority, and a really exciting one! After that we have been working on some designs for wooden Rapunzel towers and castles – one off bespoke pieces – and we can’t wait to make these come to life.

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As a special treat for Felt customers Peterson Woodcraft are offering free shipping on all products bought through Felt for the next fortnight – just enter the voucher code FELTMTM17 at checkout. Offer is open until Monday 27 March and is available to New Zealand residents only.

 

Purchase from Peterson Woodcraft here »

 

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Ditching plastic for a sweet alternative: the Auckland business minding their own beeswax

Monday, February 27th, 2017

Auckland friends Tara, Jo and Amy share a love for the environment and a desire to create positive change. Three years ago they came up with a business plan that could change the face of packed lunches, picnics, and barbeques around the country – Jo shares the story and philosophy behind their business, Honeywrap.

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What do you make?
We make reusable food wraps. Honeywraps are 100% organic cotton covered with beeswax, tree resin and jojoba oil. This perfect combination makes the cloth tacky which can then be shaped over your food and dishes designed to keep your food fresh and your conscience free! Honeywrap is great for wrapping cheeses, lunches, leftovers, salads, snacks on the run and much more.

How did you get into your craft?
Three years ago a school project and a midlife crisis prompted the beginnings of Honeywrap. We were all ready for a career change and over a few wines decided we’d start our own business focusing on something that was good for the planet. The idea we were all immediately drawn to was a school project one of our kids had been involved in, using beeswax covered fabric as an alternative to plastic foodwrap.

We have always tried to do our bit for the environment so it was exciting to find something that was easy to use, reduced waste, was functional and we all believed could make a difference. When we couldn’t find anywhere in NZ to buy them, we decided to make them ourselves. After months researching, testing, failing and many laughs, Honeywrap was born.

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Do you have formal training or qualifications in your craft?
Nope, we just did a lot of research and called on 5th form science to get the right combo of ingredients then after months of trial and error, came up with the magic formula!

Your favourite materials, tools and processes?
We love the organic fabric and the beeswax as they are both natural materials which is great when we are surrounded by so much plastic in our lives. We felt strongly about using organic cotton as we didn’t want the fabric we used to be laden with pesticides and then covering food. The aroma of beeswax wafting through our workspace is an added bonus.

Tell us a bit about the techniques involved in producing your wraps
Our mix is sticky and hot when it goes on the fabric, so the main skill required is being quick so that the right amount of wax goes on – not too much and not too little!

Leaving the planet in better shape for our kids underlies everything we do and is really important to us.

What inspires you?
We love being in nature and keeping our planet pristine is the whole reason we do this, so I guess nature inspires us. We have just got some new designers on board for our next fabric range and their designs are strongly influenced by nature. We gave a broad brief of ocean, forest and city garden and can’t wait to see what they come up with.

Is there a philosophy behind your work?
Leaving the planet in better shape for our kids underlies everything we do and is really important to us.

Describe your workspace:
Cluttered, and slightly hectic! But we work from home, there’s lots of natural light and big windows looking out to the garden, which makes for a lovely calm vibe.

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Tara at work in the Honeywrap workshop

Five words that describe your mind:
There are three of us, and our minds are all really different in some ways but we are all idealistic dreamers who are sure we can change the way people live.

Your favourite feedback from a customer:
Lots of people email us or message us to say that they have ditched plastic wrap for good, which we always love hearing.

What are you currently listening to?
Weekend Hangouts on Spotify always has super cruisey tunes.

Recommend an album:
London Grammar “If you wait” is great.

What’s your favourite childhood book and why?
“The Magic Faraway Tree” by Enid Blyton I was forever climbing trees as a kid, and I think I was always half expecting to find another world the higher I climbed.

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What are you reading now?
“The Night Circus” by Erin Morgenstern – it is such a great escape into an entirely different, magical world. So imaginative and well written.

Who is your hero/heroine? Why?
Leonardo DiCaprio produced a great documentary called “Before the Flood” on climate change – so he’s a bit of a hero is our eyes. We also follow a lot of ordinary people on Instagram who live these amazing simple, waste free, organic lives – always inspiring.

Share a favourite quote:
“Each one of us can make a difference, together we make change” – Barbara Mihulski

What would your advice be for those starting out in a crafty business?
Do something or make something you love. That way it all feels worthwhile when it gets ridiculously busy and chaotic!

What was the last handmade item you bought and what attracted you to it?
A beautiful brass and wooden triple candle holder by Nannestad & Sons. I loved the simplicity of it and had to have it!

What’s in store for 2017?
We’ve just teamed up with a couple of very talented designers/artists who are currently designing a new range for us that celebrates the beauty of the planet we live on…more details will be released soon!

Tara, Jo and Amy have set up a special offer for Felt fans! Until the end of March, use the code FELT17 at checkout, and for every 3 pack (small, medium, large) purchased you’ll receive a free medium Honeywrap worth $12.

And for one lucky reader, they have a Honeywrap 3 Pack to give away! To be in to win this eco-friendly prize, leave a comment telling us what appeals to you about the Honeywrap story. The draw will be made on Friday 10 March and is open to New Zealand residents only.

Honeywrap natural reusable food wrap

 

Order your Honeywrap now »

 

“My work is slow. Leather does not invite speed.” The contemplative craft of Honey Bird Leathercraft

Monday, February 13th, 2017

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Max Jones of Honey Bird Leathercraft has a way with words as well as leather:

“Perhaps every man comes to a point in his life when he looks around at what he has created for himself and is thus afforded an opportunity to really consider the authenticity of it all. It seems we can so easily fall into roles and jobs that are not necessarily aligned with our true authentic selves. This was revealed to me a couple of years ago and there was no denying the truth of it.

I accepted my fate, and the challenge of following my destiny. Playing the Fool card, I leapt off the proverbial cliff into the relative unknown of becoming a leatherworker. I have not looked back since then. It has been such a fulfilling journey. And yes, it feels authentic; a true and inherent expression of who I am and what I “really” came here to do.

My love for the smell of leather, the sound it makes when being cut, the “ping” of a solid brass rivet being hammered upon an anvil, the energetic weight of a hand tool forged 135 years ago and the smiles on people’s faces who appreciate the quality they hold in their hands and wear on their feet, are a few of the ways that I measure the authenticity of it all.”

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honeybirdchaser
honeybirdchaser

honeybirdchaser matariki

What do you make?
I make things from vegetable tanned leather. At the moment, I am focusing on sandals, belts, and bracelets.

How did you get into your craft?
I needed a new lease on life. I really wanted to do something with my hands. Something noble. One day last winter, while I was polishing up a pair of old Italian leather boots, the idea came to me that I would like to work with leather. That was it! My “A-ha” moment. I just knew it was right. I just went for it! That’s my style. That’s how I roll.

Do you have formal training or qualifications in your craft?
I have had no formal training. I am mostly self-taught. I did have the honour of spending five days with one of New Zealand’s oldest shoe makers. He taught me how to make a particular style of sandal, what we now call the WayFinder. Before this I had, as most people, only worn leather.

Your favourite materials, tools and processes?
My favourite material is the vegetable tanned leather that I use for my work. Prior to becoming a leatherworker, I was unaware that there were different ways to tan leather. In fact, 95% of the leather products on the market today are made from leather tanned using Chromium Sulfate. This is a rather “dirty” i.e. toxic way to go about it. I don’t want my children, or my customers, absorbing this “salt” into their bloodstreams by wearing my sandals. For this, and other reasons, I use veg-tanned leather exclusively.

My most prized tool is a Joseph Dixon Plough Gauge made in 1884. It allows me to cut straps up to 6” wide. I love just looking at this ancient piece of art.

One of my favourite processes is burnishing the edges of the leather. It gives a nice slick effect to my sandals.

honeybirdchaser
honeybirdchaser

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Tell us about the techniques involved in producing a pair of your sandals
I start with 10 ounce veg tanned leather. The upper is cut from this. I use a 7 ounce leather for the straps which I cut with my beloved plough gauge. These are saddle soaped and conditioned with a beeswax polish to replace some of the fats and liquors which are removed during the tanning process.

Then there is bevelling and burnishing before the dyeing takes place. The holes are punched in the soles for the straps to pass through. These are fixed to the uppers using solid brass rivets.

I use wooden shoe lasts to build the sandals around to give me a three dimensional form to work with.

I use a non-toxic, water based glue to adhere the uppers to the soles. I nail the leather soles on using brass clinching nails and for the rubber soles we sew them on with our antique sewing machine. The edges are hand burnished and everything receives one more lick of beeswax conditioner before they are ready for their adventure.

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What inspires you?
I am inspired by so many things. My wife’s incredible artistic abilities. My children’s enthusiasm and zest for life. The smell of leather. The way water always finds the path of least resistance. The vocal range of the Tui. The timelessness of the mighty Totara. The flight of the kereru. Silence.

Is there a philosophy behind your work?
My work is slow. Leather does not invite speed. It demands that you are attentive and calculated with your movements. It’s a good teacher that way. It affords me a lot of time to contemplate the fact that life has gotten too fast for most of us. My intention with everything that I make, is that it enables the person who buys it to slow down; to be more attentive and connected to the Earth and their fellow humans, animals, and plants.

I don’t look for short cuts along the way. It’s those little, and often time consuming details, that make such a difference in the end.

Describe your creative process:
My creative process begins in the realm of The Visual. I “see” the finished piece and then work backwards. I don’t look for short cuts along the way. It’s those little, and often time consuming details, that make such a difference in the end. I enjoy the work. I am not rushed by the world around me. I am now in the realm of The Creator.

Describe your workspace:
My workshop is located on the Motueka River in the lovely wee hamlet of Ngatimoti. It’s in an old shed that was once used to make wind chimes. It’s got good vibes. I have old photos of my ancestors on the walls. They help me do the “mahi”.

There’s a huge table in the center that I can lay out a hide on. Some of these skins are over 2.5m long so its really nice to be able to accommodate them completely. My beloved outsole-stitching machine has a nice home here. His name is the Chief. He was born in Czechoslovakia in 1940. He’s a bit fat, weighing in at 450kg, but we love him just the same.

There’s always music. And yerba mate. Lots of yerba mate.

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Five words that describe your mind:
Ancestral, connected, open, deep, precise.

Your favourite feedback from a customer:
“Son, look at this. This is quality. This is going to last!”

What are you currently listening to?
Xavier Rudd.

Recommend an album:
Live at the Old Quarter by Townes Van Zandt.

What are you reading now?
The Wayfinders by Wade Davis. This is a great book about why ancient wisdom matters in the modern world. I’ve read it several times now. We named our first pair of sandals in honour of this book’s message.

Who is your hero/heroine? Why?
My heroes and heroines are all those who have walked this path before me. My ancestors enrich and enliven me. Their stories inspire me. I endeavour to make them proud. I am forever making more space for them in my life.

A favourite quote:
“The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell. Don’t go back to sleep.” – Rumi.

honeybirdchaser
honeybirdchaser

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If you were a crafty superhero, what would your name and superpower be?
I am Kitar Valentine. I am a World Bridger Extraordinaire. I journey to other dimensions, galaxies, and universes to seek out mystical nuggets, which I bring back to Earth in my Super Flash Time Capsule.

What would your advice be for those starting out in a crafty business?
Don’t be afraid to ask for help. In the beginning I wrote to people all over the world asking for advice with various things. Virtually everyone I have written to has responded. And quickly!

I found my mentor this way. He lives on a tiny island in British Columbia and has been making leather sandals for 55 years! He’s awesome.

What was the last handmade item you bought and what attracted you to it?
I rescued a beautiful ceramic cup at an op-shop recently. It was on a table surrounded by heaps of mass produced coffee cups. I heard its cry for freedom. It was 50 cents!

What’s in store for 2017?
We will begin making wallets, journal covers, bags and camera straps. We will be saddle stitching these items together. We will refine our sandal making skills and be offering a few new designs. And we will enlist the help off others to achieve all this. We are building a website and will continue to offer our wares at local markets and festivals.

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