Archive for the ‘Meet the Maker’ Category

A good turn: bringing out the beauty in recycled native timbers

Monday, August 14th, 2017

David Gillard of WoodgrainNZ is passionate about the manipulation of timber, creating interesting designs and revealing the natural beauty of New Zealand native and exotic timbers. In his Auckland workshop David handcrafts unique artistic and functional pieces that are predominantly created from recycled timbers sourced in New Zealand.

DSCN8371 blog

woodgrainnz vase blog

woodgrainnz
woodgrainnz

What do you make?
Wood art, hollow forms, wall art and kitchenware.

How did you get into your craft?
I did a building course in 2011 and loved the finishing process and fine detail work with timber. And decided that building wasn’t really me, in that it wasn’t detailed enough. I started out making furniture and then moved onto kitchenware and I’m currently working on pushing the boundaries of wood and art.

I enjoy… taking a raw piece of wood, figuring out the best way to show it off and then seeing it all come together.

Do you have formal training or qualifications in your craft?
No. I am self taught with regard to wood turning and have gained knowledge and skill through planning, research, and of course trial and error.

Your favourite, tools and processes?
My favourite timber is Black Maire. I enjoy the process of planning what type of piece I am making and then taking a raw piece of wood, figuring out the best way to show it off and then seeing it all come together.

Tell us about some of the techniques involved in producing one of your pieces.
Milling timber is the biggest part of my work. A tree is cut down and then the centre pith of the tree is removed and cut into slabs. I then cut to rough blank, then the timber is sealed at the ends with wax so that the timber can be stored for 6-12 months. This prevents the wood from drying out and cracking.

DSCN8358 blog

woodgrainnz
woodgrainnz

Then I cut it down on a bandsaw and roughly wood turn it down to its rough size and store it again for 6-12 months so that the wood can dry out to about 6% moisture content. This process reduces the piece moving and warping once made.

When I am ready to use the wood I turn it on the lathe to its finished size and apply finishing textures and colours. Finishings include a lot of sanding, gold leaf, colour dying, woodburning and applying a finishing coat of wax, stain or polyurethane. If I am creating a laminated piece, this will involve gluing and clamping different timbers together first before turning.

What inspires you?
Learning and finding new ways to do things that push me to make things that have wow factor.

Is there a philosophy behind your work?
Big time. Showing off our native giants that have been around for hundreds to thousands of years. They are a big part of New Zealand’s history and they shaped New Zealand’s landscape.

woodgrainnz
woodgrainnz
woodgrainnz
woodgrainnz
woodgrainnz
woodgrainnz

A little bit about my Remembrance Skull…
This skull represents our New Zealand native trees over hundreds of years being chopped down and made into things. A lot like the Mexican celebration that remembers the dead. This is my way of showing my appreciation of these old giants. I’m so lucky to be able to work and show these timbers off through my works and make them be appreciated again for many years to come.

As I mostly deal with recycled or rescued timber it’s nice to be able to take something that was or intended for floorboards for houses or, even worse, firewood and design it into a piece of wood art.

The skull has Pohutakawa and Kowhai flowers, a couple of types of our native ferns, our almighty Kauri tree leaves, and the four stars from the Southern Cross.

Lastly I’d like to say I do understand there will be people that will think the skull is a dark or negative symbol, but this was not designed as that but more of a positive symbol for remembering some of these ancient giants that were covering New Zealand and are now getting harder to find.

Special thanks to Geoffrey Kerr for taking my rough idea in my head and putting it to pen to paper – looks so awesome and I’m so proud of it. Again thanks mate.

woodgrainnz koru sphere blog

woodgrainnz candle holder blog

Describe your creative process?
Jump in with two hands and don’t be scared to make some firewood along the way.

Describe your workspace
Some people say that it’s like a hobbit workshop. Lots of little spaces and wood and sawdust everywhere which is how a wood working shop should be! LOL.

Five words that describe your mind
Determined, focused, striving, inventive, experimenting.

…it’s nice to be able to take something that was… floorboards… or, even worse, firewood and design it into a piece of wood art.

Your favourite feedback from a customer
“To David/Woodgrain NZ… Please don’t ever stop making these wonderful works of art. Everyone here in Haldensleben Germany who has seen them loved the design and colours. Cheers Steffen.”

What are you currently listening to?
Anything NZ, 1814, Fat Freddy’s Drop, Katchafire, The Black Seeds, Herbs, Electron etc.

What was your favourite childhood book and why?
Badjelly the Witch. It just always cracked me up all the funny characters. We had a book and the vinyl record.

What are you reading now?
Ellsworth on Woodturning: How a Master Creates Bowls, Pots, and Vessels by David Ellsworth and Newspaper Blackout by Austin Kleon.

A favourite quote
“You learn something everyday if you pay attention.”
“Don’t sweat the small stuff.”

woodgrainnz rimu spoons blog

woodgrainnz honey sticks blog

Tell us about your pets?
We have suburban chickens, brown shavers. These girls help me get rid of all the wood shavings I create in the workshop and they are pretty good at supplying us with eggs.

If you were a craft superhero, what would your name and superpower be?
What do you mean if I were a superhero! I am a superhero and my super powers are highly classified. (Of course. Sorry to put you on the spot there. -Ed.)

What would your advice be for those starting out in a crafty business?
Do you research into the market. Learn all you can about what it is you are wanting to do. Find people that you can bounce ideas off and test the market. Never forget the reason why you started and never stop telling your story.

What was the last handmade item you bought and what attracted you to it?
A beany hat from the local market. Had it custom made by two lovely older ladies. I wear it all the time when I can find it.

What’s in store for the rest of 2017?
Taking all the ideas and techniques that I have been working on and putting them all together and getting lost in my work. Keywords: 2017, onwards, new, big, amazing, out there.

DSCN8380 blog

Prize draw!
David has generously offered an awesome prize for one lucky Felt reader of a stylish Kauri pepper mill, valued at $165.00 (see above). This gorgeous blue-green dyed, hand turned mill stands a smidge over 30cm high, making it a superb dining table statement piece.

To be in to win this great prize, simply leave a comment telling us what you loved about David’s story and his creations. The draw will be made on Friday 25 August and is open to New Zealand residents only.

 

Purchase from WoodgrainNZ’s Felt range here »

 

woodgrainnz pohutukawa bowl blog

The whole package: sustainable, ethical skincare from L’oil

Monday, July 31st, 2017

The L’oil balms brand is created by Kelly Dorgan in her home in Beckenham, Christchurch, which she shares with her artist partner and their two teenagers. Their property (which they have dubbed Birdwood Studios) is a bit of a creative hive with music, dance, food and art being crafted there daily. Kelly works part time as a community midwife specialising in supporting women who wish to birth at home or in a birthing unit.

P7170358 blog

What do you make?
A range of vegan, organic, zero waste skin and lip balms. Body, face and lip moisturising bars made from plant-based, organic ingredients presented in biodegradable kraft card push up tubes; and healing and mend balms presented in biodegradable, plant-wax-lined, kraft card pots. All scented with organic and therapeutic grade pure essential oils, chosen for their therapeutic properties.

How did you get into your craft?
Through frustration. I just wanted the market to offer really ethical products that allowed those who were wanting to live a zero-waste, vegan lifestyle the option of still being able to pamper themselves, without having to purchase packaging that outlasts the products by a thousand years, wreaking havoc that whole time. I gifted some home made lip balm, body balm and food wraps to my treasured midwifery colleagues for Christmas one year and after receiving great feedback, I thought that these could be great products to offer to a wider audience.

Do you have formal training or qualifications in your craft?
I studied herbal medicine for two years prior to beginning my midwifery degree and also have a diploma in te reo Māori. Therefore in regard to formal trainings specifically in my craft? No. However, I believe any education acts to open the mind and expand its creativity and therefore, I see these formal qualifications as having had a significant input.

I [wanted] to offer really ethical products that allowed those who were wanting to live a zero-waste, vegan lifestyle the option of still being able to pamper themselves, without having to purchase packaging that outlasts the products by a thousand years.

Your favourite materials, tools and processes?
I love many of the processes involved. Tweaking formulas and scents in search of the “YES!” moment when I know a formula ticks all of the boxes is pretty exciting. Photography is a great passion of mine and therefore photographing the products with favourite “props” to highlight their purity and their potential to nurture is highly satisfying. Working with such organic ingredients means the brand is timeless and natural and I love to find ways to create that aesthetic.

Tell us about the techniques involved in producing one of your products
I do a lot of online research to develop a starter formula and work from there to tweak and improve. This usually involves weeks of trials of very small amounts of products and copious notes to self suggesting tweaks, as well as forcing them on friends and family and requesting feedback. The trickiest thing has been converting beeswax-based formulas to plant-wax-based ones in order to create cruelty-free products, as plant waxes are quite different from beeswax and there is not so much information out there on plant-wax formulas.

Once I am happy with the base formula, I start working on which essential oils I want to add, choosing them first and foremost for their therapeutic properties rather than their smell. Having narrowed the range down to a few choices, scent then becomes the decider. The next step is making larger quantities, pouring them into tubes and pots before then labelling them by hand.

P7170397 blog

P7170365-2 blog

P7170232 blog

What inspires you?
Ultimately I am inspired by nature and the desire to support the processes and forces that support and nurture all helpful living organisms (i.e. not so much the scary viruses and bacteria – although I do have a healthy respect for these “nasties” as I believe nature is always seeking balance and that every living organism has a role to play in this).

I am also loving being in a space with others who are in business because they are really wanting to get the right messages out there – not because they want to make a whole lot of money selling their stuff that ultimately costs everyone, forever!

Is there a philosophy behind your work?
You probably have a sense of this already. My philosophy is about staying L’oil (loyal) to nature’s rhythms and laws. I want to provide an invitation to purchase products that are beautiful to use, but that also engage consumers in being conscious about what their dollars are capable of protecting or harming.

Describe your creative process:
I walk along the riverbank every morning, practice mindfulness for 10 minutes a day, carry a notebook wherever I go and carry my camera wherever is practical. Beyond that, staying open and curious allows the ideas to constantly flow. It is important to me that I stay somewhat relaxed about not having specific regular time available to work on the products. I find being on call is the best cure for procrastination, as I never quite know when the next available moment will be, and thus have to make the most of every moment, surrendering to time’s flow.

loilbalms
loilbalms

P7170222 blog

Describe your workspace:
Opportunistic! I share our 86m2 home with my partner and our two teenagers. Fortunately we have 60sq m of studio/sleep out space although that is taken up by my Hamish’s art studio and Flyn’s music studio/bedroom. L’oil therefore occupies one shelf in the living room cupboard, a corner of the dining room, one shelf in the pantry, and the kitchen during school/work hours (though not at lunch times as someone invariably needs it then). I feel some negotiation will be required soon!

Five words that describe your mind:
Inquisitive, focused, idealistic, non-stop and slightly disorganised.

Your favourite feedback from a customer:
“Would you like to see before and after photos of my eczema?”
“This is the best lip balm I have ever used”.

What are you currently listening to?
If I have control of the airspace, it is likely to be something calm, dreamy and loud. In the past few years Tiny Ruins, Nicole Reynolds, Laura Gibson and Aldous Harding have featured regularly. If it is our 15-year-old deciding, it is likely to be something a bit more upbeat – The Shins, Vampire Weekend, Arctic Monkeys or Lana Del Ray (yep, could be a lot worse!). Bob Dylan, David Bowie and Billy Bragg tend to keep everyone happy.

L’oil… occupies one shelf in the living room cupboard, a corner of the dining room, one shelf in the pantry, and the kitchen during school/work hours… I feel some negotiation will be required soon!

Recommend an album:
We are all pretty impressed with Lorde’s latest album Melodrama (especially the singles “Liability” and “Writer in the Dark”), and Aldous Harding’s latest offering Party. We are really looking forward to Tiny Ruins’ new album in the next few months. However, to check out something a bit less well-known, try Laura Gibson’s If You Come to Greet Me from 2006, for something that truly competes with the beauty of silence.

What’s your favourite childhood book and why?
Books don’t feature a great deal in my early childhood memories. All I remember is Dick Bruna’s Miffy, after which my childhood family cat was named.

We studied To Kill A Mockingbird in the fourth form – since which time the themes of prejudice and inequality have not left my thoughts for long. As a teenager babysitting, I remember loving reading Mrs Armitage on Wheels by Quentin Blake, which highlights the potential pitfalls of human “resourcefulness” and the myth that is “progress”.

We currently have a great collection of – largely New Zealand – children’s books (quite a few in Te Reo Māori) that I love too much to part with even though the “children” no longer read them. I so adore the combination of narrative and art in a format that nurtured our young family for years and created a sense of shared experience, connection and “hygge” – a word we knew nothing of at the time. There really is nothing like snuggling on the sofa with a child or children to share a picture book, and keeping these books on the shelf keeps those memories alive.

IMG_9618 blog

P7210019-2 blog

What are you reading now?
I have just finished reading Lance O’Sullivan’s The Good Doctor with my book club. Whilst it presented little new to me (given I have been working in public health for the last decade and a half) I do think the messages about indigenous health and the systems that create significant ethnic inequities need incessant highlighting. It is always a shame that it takes the colonised to try and spread these messages when the damage has been done and continues to be done (usually completely unintentionally) by the colonisers. Implicit bias is a subject I find really interesting. I am currently reading The Power by Naomi Alderman which is a rather intriguing exploration of how the world might look should girls be deadly powerful.

Who is your hero/heroine? Why?
I don’t really have a literary hero/ine but my real life heroine/shero is my friend Sharon Thompson. She is the most divine woman who is a volunteer stillbirth photographer bringing a little bit of light to the darkest of hearts, and creating the most meaningful memories for families in these heartbreaking situations. She also spends a significant amount of time volunteering in an orphanage in Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam, that is full of children affected by agent orange, whose families cannot care for them. There, she brings light, laughter, dance, music, flowers and bubbles to the children who otherwise live in under-resourced, forgotten institutions. She is one of those rare human treasures that you know you will not encounter the likes of more than once in a life time.

A favourite quote:
“Kindness matters” and “Cloak of love” are the quotes that always comes to mind when I think of Sharon.

However, I also love the following quote for its quirkiness (I mean, who ever says they want a new battery charger for Christmas?). It is by a beautiful singer-songwriter (mentioned above) who is also an organic farmer:

“I would like to encourage everyone to make something
for the (Christmas) holidays -
carve a spoon, knit a glove, paint a picture, draw a cartoon,
write a poem, save your seeds and give them out as gifts -
put a little thought into your friends and family, even if they
don’t give a shit and just want money or a new battery charger.”

- Nicole Reynolds

Tell us about your pets:
We have a few thousand bees and possibly the same amount of worms. We are lucky to have a pretty regular stream of “birds in residence” as our property is planted largely in natives. In winters past we have been visited daily for weeks on end by a family of kereru and a kakariki; and this year pīwakawaka are pretty reliable visitors. We may have more winged visitors if it weren’t for our property also being home to one grey moggy – Rita (named after the artist Rita Angus).

loilbalms
loilbalms
loilbalms
loilbalms

If you were a crafty superhero, what would your name and superpower be?
Well, I think my superpower would have to be converting all plastic into a benign, biodegradable, plant based material. A name ? – “L’OIL IVY” perhaps?

What would your advice be for those starting out in a crafty business?
Keep it simple, focus on relationships (not sales), keep it plastic-free, and stay “L’oil” – to yourself, to your loved ones, and to nature.

What was the last handmade item you bought and what attracted you to it?
I recently purchased a set of gorgeous wooden bowls created from a magnolia tree from Dean’s Bush in Riccarton, Christchurch, that needed to be felled. They were crafted by Greg Morris, whom I have known from when we had neighbouring stalls at the Arts Centre Market many years ago. They have been turned with the bark still intact; and with their understated ashy tones, I love using them in my product photos and just leaving them lay about out on our coffee table “between shoots”.

Also, I have very little jewellery, but that I do have has been carefully chosen and beautifully hand crafted. My favourites are my Deborah Fellowfield silver and turquoise ring, a Monique Connell silver and copper castle pendant and a gorgeous pair of pounamu and copper earrings made by Fiona of Brightonmine (a fellow Felt seller). All made in the South Island and all of which I have had for a number of years.

I am… loving being in a space with others who are in business because they are really wanting to get the right messages out there.

loilbalms
loilbalms

loilbalms

What’s in store for the rest of 2017?
For L’oil – a new scent range and hopefully a stick deodorant (which has been a long time in the R&D phase). Some new body butter scents and perhaps a belly balm (for pregnancy). Hair and beard balms are also in development.

For me personally – a few glorious home births are in store before I take a break from community midwifery and from being on call (which has been my life for the last 14 years). I am curious and excited about what this will make space for – hoping it will be in the somewhere close to the community action/zero-waste buzz.

Prize draw!
Kelly has generously offered a great prize for one lucky Felt reader of a luscious L’oil gift set of a body balm, a face balm, a lip balm and a mend balm (with a value of $85 + P&P). All L’oil products are carefully handcrafted from vegan and largely organic ingredients. Consideration for human, animal and environmental health has been taken in every step of the creation of L’oil products, which are free from synthetic or animal-based ingredients, and are fully biodegradable.

To be in to win this indulgent prize, simply leave a comment letting Kelly know (a) what you loved about her story and (b) what product(s) you’d like to see added to her range. The draw will be made on Friday 11 August and is open to New Zealand residents only.

 

Purchase ethical skincare products from L’oil »

 

P7170391-2 blog

loilbalms products blog

Inspired by nature, crafted with skill: turning for spinners from Whimsy Wood and Wool

Monday, July 17th, 2017

Tedge of Whimsy Wood & Wool has a passion for creating with natural materials. When she’s not working with pieces of wood, wielding a paintbrush or spinning up glorious fibres, you’ll find her in the garden where she and her husband, Arnold, enjoy growing fruit, vegetables and herbs for their kitchen (and their friends).

whimsywood blog

What do you make?
I design and turn wooden shawl pins, spindles, nostepinnes, tapestry bobbins, threading hooks and other tools for spinners and fibre crafters. I also dye silk fibre for spinners and felters, blend fibres into spin-able rolags, and sew knitting project bags. In my spare time, I spin yarn, knit shawls, felt bags, sew clothes, embroider pictures, paint and draw, amongst other things.

How did you get into your craft?
I have enjoyed art and crafts since I was a child, studied art at high school and took up spinning in my late teens. I first started woodturning as part of my Visual Art and Design Diploma at EIT Hawkes Bay, back in 2001. My major was in 3D, particularly working with wood and metal, and making quirky furniture. I got involved in the local woodturners club and for two years I learned to turn bowls, boxes and rolling pins. My main aim was to turn items I could decorate. I hit pause on the woodturning for a few years while in France, and concentrated on sewing, painting and embroidery. It was after our return to New Zealand, that we both immersed ourselves in a woodturning club, in Christchurch this time.

whimsywood
whimsywood
whimsywood
whimsywood

Do you have formal training or qualifications in your craft?
Yes, I completed the three year Certificate of Woodturning in 2014 with the Christchurch Woodturners Association. Our amazing teachers Noel, Rex and Bruce taught us a wide range of skills, techniques, and decorative effects. They encouraged us to think creatively, work safely and pay attention to detail and finish.

My graduation piece was a set of spindles with a carved and decorated stand. My aim being to include as many learned techniques as I could: spindle and face-plate work, resin, coloured wax finishes, Dremel carving, pyrography, painting and more.

As well as a diploma in art, I have a BSc in Zoology, which has helped me in the way I look at the natural world and how it works, from the humungous to the microscopic, inspiring me in my creative processes.

P1030421 blog

P1030424 blog

Your favourite materials, tools and processes?
My favourite turning tool is my small skew chisel, and for carving and detailing I love my Dremel Micro rotary. I prefer making smaller items, though it is still very satisfying to turn a large bowl.

I enjoy the turning itself, as well as the decorative effects such as pyrography and colouring. I can lose myself for hours in these processes. My favourite timbers are Kauri, Ash, Oak and sometimes Rimu.

Tell us about the techniques involved in producing a turned wood piece.
Firstly I plan out the item and draw it to scale. I think about the purpose of the item, and the aesthetics. If it is a functional item, for example a spindle for spinning yarn, it must be balanced in order to work well.

With an entirely new product, I will make some prototypes, experimenting with shapes and measurements, making more drawings as needed. I consider which timbers are best to use for grain pattern, strength, aesthetics, and suitability for decorating. As most of the wood I use is either recycled from buildings or old weaving frames, or wood from tree pruning, my decisions are often dictated in part by the size of the timber available. It is not my aim to produce “factory” products, but to maintain a handcrafted flavour.

schematics blog

work in progress blog

What inspires you?
Lots of things inspire me, from architectural shapes to textures and details in clothing and textiles, but especially patterns and colours in nature.

I am also inspired by the materials I work with, whether it is the feel of wood and the grain pattern, the warmth of wool, the smoothness and sheen of silk fibre. Sometimes it is not a visual stimulus, but a smell, a sound, a texture or a conversation that takes my thoughts off towards something more tangible. I am often inspired and driven too by the need for a new product, a new tool, a new way of making or doing something.

Is there a philosophy behind your work?
Yes, I like to work with natural materials as much as possible, whether it is wood, wool, silk, cotton, linen, hemp. I use polishes, dyes, and paints which may not be natural, but I steer clear of anything toxic which may be dangerous in its application or in the end use.

I aim to create pieces which reflect my passion for nature, and hopefully pass that on to the user of the product. I love that people who spin with my spindles, wear my shawl pins or keep things in my bowls tell me how much they appreciate the character of the timber from which they are created.

Describe your creative process:
Inspiration and ideas tend to come in a flood when I am in a creative frame of mind. New thoughts for shapes, decoration, or a new development, a new method of making something, a whole new “invention”. I scribble down sketches and annotations so I don’t forget and can develop the ideas later.

Describe your workspace:
I have several workspaces. The woodturning workshop is by necessity shared with Arnold, and contains a workbench, lathe, and various tools. My sewing nook is at the front of the bedroom; my art desk, storage and bookshelves in the spare room; and spinning, weaving and felting area at the front of the lounge! A bigger house would be useful…

workshop bench blog

hooks work bench blog

Five words that describe your mind:
Creative, determined, focussed, humorous, multi-tasking.

Your favourite feedback from a customer:
“I love, love, love spinning with my beautiful new spindle!”

What’s your favourite childhood book and why?
I don’t recall having a favourite. I do remember at eight years old walking to the library every day to get out the maximum three books, reading them and getting another three the following day. I still love to read.

What are you reading now?
Ken Follett’s World Without End. It has more action than I would usually go for, definitely more violence (I had to skip over one part) but it is an interesting and exciting book. As a bonus, the processes of weaving and dyeing the scarlet cloth are a vital part of the story, as one of the main characters, Caris, experiments with the best way to use madder to produce colour.

A favourite quote:
“Creativity takes courage.” – Henri Matisse.
We can often have creative ideas, but it can take courage to act on them without being afraid of failing, or of criticism. It also takes hard work, dedication and determination. And a lot of chocolate and the occasional cider.

Tell us about your pets:
We have five large goldfish who get grumpy if we don’t feed them, and a worm farm where all the worms are called Ethel and Fred.

What would your advice be for those starting out in a crafty business?
Do something that you have a passion for. Start small, grow steadily, don’t be shy, just get yourself out there. Create good products from good materials, and sell them for a price which reflects that. Believe in yourself, and don’t undervalue your talents or your products.

whimsywood
whimsywood
whimsywood
whimsywood

What was the last handmade item you bought and what attracted you to it?
On holiday in Vietnam last month, we were in the mountain region of Sapa. I bought a length of handwoven hemp fabric from one local H’mong weaver, and a length of handwoven hemp with indigo dyed batik from another. I wanted to buy from the craftspeople themselves, so they get the whole amount of money, and so I have that direct connection with the maker, the region and the country when I use the cloth.

What’s in store for the rest of 2017?
I am working to replenish my stock of spindles, both suspended and support spindles, plus Kauri shawl pins and tapestry bobbins. I want to build up a stock of wooden yarn bowls, and I have a number of new products up my sleeve. Many other ideas are zooming around in my head or scribbled in my sketchbook, waiting for time to try them out.

I will be trading at the Creative Fibre Area in Homebush on November 19th, and I have applied to be at Summer Woolfeast, to be held at Halswell Centre on November 25th.

I have just become involved in Pay it Forward, a lovely art and craft co-op in Nancy Ave, Mairehau, and will soon add some turned bowls to my shawl pins there. I also have shawl pins at Wool Yarn Fibre, the Creative Fibre shop at the Tannery in Woolston, and at my brother-in-law’s gallery Alfred Memelink Artspace on the Petone Esplanade. I have plans to add other products to these places as soon as I can, and of course to have a wider range of products in my online Felt store.

whimsywood giveaway blog

Prize draw!
Tedge has very kindly offered a great prize for one lucky Felt reader of a Whimsy spindle turned from recycled Kauri, with a hand-formed brass hook (see above). The spindle weighs 22g and the whorl has a diameter of 52mm. Perfect for spinning a fairly fine yarn, this little spindle spins smooth and fast. So that you have some fibre to spin, it will be accompanied by a pack of corriedale rolags with a dash of silk and sparkle. Total value $49 includes postage within New Zealand.

To be in to win this awesome combo, simply leave a comment telling us (a) what you like about Tedge’s products and (b) what yarn crafts you enjoy, or would like to try next! The draw will be made on Friday 28 July and is open to New Zealand residents only.

 

Purchase from Whimsy Wood & Wool now »

 

Tedge Memelink blog

Simplify to Amplify: thoughtful, imaginative play from Small & Loud

Monday, July 3rd, 2017

Joanna of Small & Loud says “As a child I always imagined having my own business, selling my own handmade crafty things. Funny how things work out!” The inspiration for her business was formed when hunting for a birthday present for her nephew. Unable to find something satisfactory that was light to post, would encourage imaginative play, and wouldn’t just add clutter to his bedroom, she hit on making her own animal masks. The name Small & Loud is a tribute to both the animals and the kids that inspire her work. :-)

Joanna-portrait blog

What do you make?
I make felt animal masks for kids’ pretend play and dress-ups.

How did you get into your craft?
My mum taught me to how to use her sewing machine when I was about four years old, so as long as I can remember I’ve been sewing bits and pieces. Then when my husband and I moved to Christchurch in 2015, I struggled to find work. To bring in some income, I started sewing a few things and selling them at the New Brighton Seaside Market. The masks were my most popular product so they became my focus – it grew from there.

smallandloud
smallandloud

Bear-white-background blog

Do you have formal training or qualifications in your craft?
I learned a lot of sewing techniques from my mum and step-mum, and everything else is self-taught. At Otago Uni I majored in Marketing and Design Studies, so the design side has definitely had an influence.

Your favourite materials, tools and processes?
I love the vivid colours of felt. My favourite tool is my Elna sewing machine – it’s the same machine I learned to sew on. My mum had it refurbished and sent it down to Dunedin for my 20th birthday, which was an awesome surprise. I have another newer machine, but always prefer the old Elna.

Tell us about the techniques involved in producing one of your masks:
The first step is cutting out all the felt pieces. I started out cutting all the pieces out by hand, but it became too time consuming. I’ve now invested in a laser-cutter, which my husband Richard is in charge of. He’s an architectural designer, and uses his CAD skills to turn my paper patterns into cutting files. He’s spent a lot of time getting the settings just right – every colour of felt cuts differently because of the way it absorbs the light of the laser.

Once everything is cut, I glue the detail pieces to the front piece of each mask. The glue is just strong enough to hold everything in place while I sew. I usually sew in batches of six masks at a time. When I’ve finished all the front details of each mask, I glue and pin the front and back together and stitch all the way around the edge and around the eyes. At this point, most of my masks are ready to be sent out, but some need a few finishing details. The cat gets whiskers sewn on, and the ears of the rabbit are folded over and stitched down at the very end too.

Joanna-sewing-small blog

Small_Loud-masks-in-progress blog

What inspires you?
For my mask designs, almost every cute animal I see inspires me. I just saw the most adorable video of a baby elephant chasing birds, so an elephant mask might be next on my list! I also get excited by beautiful, functional design and attention to detail.

Is there a philosophy behind your work?
The first mask I made was a birthday present for my nephew Nate. I wanted a gift that was light to post and that would encourage good old-fashioned play, and wasn’t a typical toy that would add to the clutter in his bedroom. My philosophy has stayed the same since then – I want to make things that encourage imaginary play, creativity and learning.

Describe your creative process:
After I’ve decided on an animal that I want to create as a mask, the first thing I do is look at a lot of close up photos of the face of that animal. I decided early on that I didn’t want my masks to be overly cutesy or cartoon-like, so by looking at photos I make sure that I’m beginning with a realistic base.

Next I start sketching a design, using an existing mask pattern as a template. I create at least three paper prototypes, making small adjustments as I go. Once I’m happy with the design, I give it to Richard to draw up in CAD. He’ll cut one set of pieces, and I sew a felt prototype. Sometimes the felt prototype throws up practical issues and we make changes. But if everything works, then it’s officially in production! I always try the masks on too.

Describe your workspace:
My studio is a sleep-out in the back corner of our property – I shot-gunned it before we even bought the house. A big, high wooden cutting table (which was a bargain on TradeMe) takes up most of the space. It’s so good to be able to stand and work without leaning over a low table. Underneath the table is chockablock with materials, tools and other crafty things. I have shelving for my fabrics, an ironing board and a small desk for my sewing machine. My two favourite things in the studio are the blackboard wall for writing up orders, and the pegboard for organising my tools. I love being in my studio, it’s a great space to work in.

Small_Loud-studio blog

Small_Loud-Kakapo blog

smallandloud nz birds blog

Five words that describe your mind:
Curious. Chaotic. Creative. Critical. Clever.

Your favourite feedback from a customer:
Recently a customer bought a fox mask as a gift and let me know that the birthday boy was “wearing it around the house and making fox noises.” That makes me really happy – to know that children are enjoying the masks and using their imagination.

What’s your favourite childhood book and why?
The first one that comes to mind is Jillian Jiggs. I can still remember the rhyme – “Jillian Jillian Jillian Jiggs, it looks like your room has been lived in by pigs.” Being a creative child, I always had multiple projects on the go and rarely tidied up in between, and mum was always on at me to clean my room. I haven’t changed – my cutting table is usually covered in stuff, and so is the floor.

What are you reading now?
I’m reading The Power of Less by Leo Babauta. I work full time as a Marketing Coordinator so I have to make time for Small & Loud during my evenings and weekends. As my business grows, life is getting busier so I’m learning how to achieve more by doing less.

smallandloud ruru blog

Kakapo-white-background blog

A favourite quote:
My mantra at the moment is a Marie Forleo quote – “Simplify to Amplify.” I’d just started to read The Power of Less when I watched a Marie TV video that talked about similar principles. It works for so many things in life.

Tell us about your pets:
We have a very fluffy, ginger and grey tabby named Alfred. He was a rescue from the Cats Protection League Canterbury, and is full of character. He’ll usually follow me out to my studio and either sit in the sun or by the heater. As soon as I vacate my seat in front of the sewing machine, Alfred often claims that spot too.

What would your advice be for those starting out in a crafty business?
Keep at it! Building a business from scratch isn’t easy, but you will make progress. Also be prepared to put a fair bit of money in before you get any out. The labour content for handmade items is usually high, so being efficient with time will help a lot. If you’re doing something you love, it’s all worth it.

What was the last handmade item you bought and what attracted you to it?
I bought a gorgeous Agate keyring here on Felt, from Dr Druzy. I was attracted to the deep purple colour and the rawness of the stone.

What’s in store for the rest of 2017?
I’ve got a lot of new masks in the pipeline, including more New Zealand birds. I’m planning to expand my product range beyond masks too. Watch this space!

Prize draw!
Joanna has kindly offered a great prize for one lucky Felt reader of your choice of any two masks from her Felt shop (includes postage,total value $55.00). To be in to win this awesome combo, simply leave a comment telling us what you like about Joanna’s story and her creations. The draw will be made on Friday 14 July and is open to New Zealand residents only.

 

Purchase from Small & Loud now »

 

Small_Loud-masks-on-display blog

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…

wiredlove 1 blog

wiredlove
wiredlove

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!

wiredlove
wiredlove

wiredlove pohutakawa blog

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!

wiredlove
wiredlove
wiredlove
wiredlove

wiredlove 3 blog

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.

wiredlove
wiredlove

wiredlove bracelet blog

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 »

 

wiredlove 7 blog

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.

lizabbottart pastel of bay

lizabbottart
lizabbottart

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.

lizabbottart plein air painting seacliff blog

drawing tui from kitchen table blog

lizabbottart
lizabbottart

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.

lizabbottart
lizabbottart
lizabbottart
lizabbottart

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!

lizabbottart oil landscape blog

lizabbottart studio blog

lizabbottart studio 2 blog

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”!

lizabbottart
lizabbottart
lizabbottart
lizabbottart

lizabbotart ti kouka blog

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.

lizabbottart
lizabbottart

lizabbottary press blog

lizabbottart2 blog

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 »

 

lizabbottart liz and russell blog

lizabbottart spoonbill card blog

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.

Processed with VSCO with m3 preset

IMG_1952 blog

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.

Processed with VSCO with c1 preset

Speckled Group blog

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.

IMG_3039 blog

makerieceramics bowl blog

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.

IMG_3040 blog

IMG_1514 blog

XQFM7399 blog

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.

IMG_3038 blog

IMG_3045 blog

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.

IMG_1955 blog

IMG_1162 blog

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.

makerieceramics prizedraw blog

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 »

 

IMG_1635 blog

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.

zrsouthcombe_meetthemaker2

zrsouthcombe edge

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.

zrsouthcombe_meetthemaker3 copy

zrsouthcombe_meetthemaker5 copy

gallery

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.

zrsouthcombe mandala

zrsouthcombe blog

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.

zrsouthcombe_meetthemaker1 copy

zrsouthcombe_meetthemaker4 copy

gallery

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.

zrsouthcombe2 blog

zrsouthcombe3 blog

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.

zrsouthcombe blog

gallery

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.

zrsouthcombe draw1

zrsouthcombe draw2

 

Explore Zee’s Felt shop here »

 

zrsouthcombe caretaker

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.

greeencustom title blog

greencustom 2 blog

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.

greeencustom 3 blog

greeencustom 4 blog

greeencustom 5 blog

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.)

greeencustom7 blog

greeencustom 8 blog

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!

greeencustom 11 blog

greeencustom 6 blog

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 »

 

greeencustom 10 blog

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!

fairsquare title

fairsquare grease monkey

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.

fairsquare
fairsquare

IMG_4702s

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.

fairsquare
fairsquare
fairsquare
fairsquare

IMG_4960s

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.

IMG_4994s

IMG_4997s

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.

IMG_5070s

IMG_4861s

IMG_4887s

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!)

IMG_5005s

IMG_5003s

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.

fairsquare
fairsquare
fairsquare
fairsquare

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.

IMG_5002s

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 »

 

Carly