When Canterbury jeweller Fiona Boeyen of Fantail & Co Jewellery was younger, she wanted to be an archaeologist. How people lived a long time ago – and how they decorated themselves with jewellery – fascinated her. As she grew up, this interest developed into being a jeweller herself, still with a strong interest in history. Fiona enjoys making her distinctive style of earrings, rings and pendants, and loves to meld river stones, sea glass, and semi precious stones into her work.
What do you make?
Jewellery – mostly in solid silver, sometimes I use copper, and sometimes I mix it up and combine the two metals into a design. Semi-precious stones, river stones, beach stones and sea glass are my favourite additions.
Despite a huge love of rings and bracelets, I mostly make earrings.
How did you get into your craft?
I had been working in various jobs over the years since I left school, I’d tried varisty, but wasn’t sure where I wanted it to lead me, I’ve worked in offices, orchards, a take-away shop and a call centre. I knew I didn’t want to drift along any more – I needed to do something I loved. The saying “do the work you love and you’ll never work again a day in your life” summed up what I was looking for.
Eventually, over a couple of wines and lots of talking it through – all that thinking about “what did I really want to do when I grew up”, the remembering all the things I loved, was inspired by, interested in and enjoyed all lead to a bit of an epiphany that a life in jewellery was it for me.
The moment I knew, I really knew, I’ve never looked back and am so very happy to have found my passion.
Do you have formal training or qualifications in your craft?
Yes I have had some formal training, but hold no formal qualifications. I learnt the foundations of my craft through The Canterbury Silver Smiths Guild. The courses were fantastic and during my time as a member of the Guild I learnt a lot of skills. From there it is all self taught and connecting with other silversmiths from around the world. I’ve been silversmithing for about a decade now.
Your favourite materials, tools and processes?
I love my hammers. I have a few, it’s only a lot of self restraint that keeps me from having a lot more. Hammering makes me smile. I get a kick out of shaping and texturing and the mixture of the precise nature that is required to shape a tiny piece of metal by hitting it. Hand in hand with the hammering often goes working with my soldering torch. I have three – small, slightly bigger and starting to get quite large. Relaxing the metal with heat before shaping is a satisfying task.
The soldering torches also get used when I’m casting, which is the process of melting metal to a liquid before pouring it into a mould I have made. I would cast every day if I could, but I need a second pair of hands, so its more of a treat at this stage.
Of all the metals I’ve used silver is without a doubt my favourite. It is such a nice metal to work with, the more I use it the more I want to use it. The more I shape it and texture it and melt it and pour it the more I love it.
Tell us about some of the techniques involved in producing one of your pieces
I’m a huge fan of texture, shape and contrast of colours. So generally my pieces start with being cut from a plain flat piece of silver – I do this with a small saw (sometimes incredibly satisfying; sometimes incredibly frustrating); next step is normally sanding. (When I started silversmithing I never imagined I’d spend so many hours with sandpaper!) I use heat to relax the metal; then it’s texturing time – bring on my favourite hammers and texture blocks! Depending on my design, the relax and texture step is repeated many times until I’m happy with everything.
If I’m setting stones or glass it’s normally about here I start adding the stone setting into the piece. When I first started out I had experiences of chipping a piece of sea glass or overheating the feature strip of copper – after hours of work it was heartbreaking – these days it normally goes without a hitch but I never take it for granted.
The final steps are at least two layers of polishing – bringing that final glow to a piece is always rewarding. At the end I also use a wax to seal the copper and slow down the oxidisation process.
Even the most simple design can take hours of work, but in this job, its not a good idea to cut corners.
What inspires you?
Bringing joy – that moment when someone finds something they love and their whole face lights up and it’s because of something I created and poured love into – it’s a nice feeling. Lots of my pieces are bought as gifts, and spreading the joy of giving like that, someone finding a gift for a loved one, is a bit special to be a part of. A stone or piece of sea glass from a special place which can be a link to home is a real privilege to share with someone. I try to keep track of where each piece of shell, glass or stone comes from for that reason. Especially with gifts which go overseas to homesick Kiwis, it is inspiring to be part of that bit of Kiwi love spreading out.
As for as an inspiration for my designs it really is a combination of nature, like wanting to somehow bring the beauty of a mountain ridge at dusk to a small moment that can be carried with you. I grew up in Central Otago but now live in Christchurch, I get homesick for the landscapes I grew up surrounded by and I am intrigued by the shape of the land in the place that is now home – that does get reflected my designs, a longing for home, and place in the world that is yours. I like how textures can be like the dappled light on an ocean for someone or a line of copper can be like the road home for someone else.
Is there a philosophy behind your work?
I want to not take myself too seriously, jewellery can be such an expression of fun and I have fun making it.
Nature is such an inspiration for me, so doing what I can to have a sustainable and environmentally friendly set up does underlie my choices as much as I can. An example of that is when I forage for sea glass I’ll also do my own wee one woman and her dog beach clean up along the way.
Describe your creative process:
To be fair it is very fluid. I’ve got books full of designs which I’ve drawn up over the years, but so often I redesign a piece in my head for weeks or months and start making it with nothing drawn up at all. It means at least 80% of the time I start with an idea of what I want to finish up with and have to work my way backwards to work out how I make that piece.
I’m also notorious for starting a piece, looking at it, rethinking it entirely and leaving it on the workbench for weeks while I work out how I want to change it. These pieces are normally my favourites because they’ve had such an interesting creation journey.
Describe your workspace:
I use the spare room of our house, the space is all mine, but I have to work in a compact way and be very organised, I can be haphazard in other areas of my life so it has been a good challenge for me.
All up the space at the end of the desk where I do most of my work in measures about 60cm x 60cm square. My tools are all stored and stacked on a bookshelf but as I work they normally end up like a minefield around my feet in their various storage boxes and containers. Then the dog comes in and wants a cuddle or to sleep under my feet and although I love it, I’m sure there are times when it could look like madness from the outside. On saying that, I’ve got a lovely outlook, across the garden and down the street and the whole arrangement is quite a peaceful wee corner of the house.
Your favourite feedback from a customer:
There have been so many kind words, but one that does stand out is that a pendant which I made and sold recently, my customer told me that “It works really well with a Liberty silver and amber ring I bought way back in 1991.” For me the idea that something I have made is now at home with a piece which that lovely customer has owned and loved for more than twenty years was a really nice piece of feedback.
What are you currently listening to?
When I work I listen to a lot of audiobooks – I get through two or three a week, the library must love me! At the moment I’m listening to The Three Secret Cities by Matthew Reilly.
Recommend an album:
I was laughed at when I said I had to answer this question! I have so many favourite albums its hard to recommend just one. Walls by Kings Of Leon is a bit of favourite, but I’ll never say no to Rumours by Fleetwood Mac or at the moment I’m thrashing The Best of Everything – which is a Tom Petty compilation album.
What’s your favourite childhood book and why?
Its probably The Wind in the Willows, I’ve got lots of good memories of reading that book. Still haven’t managed to read all of it to my children though.
What are you reading now?
The Lord of the Rings. My first time reading it, but won’t be the last. On the side I’m also reading the Geronimo Stilton: Kingdom of Fantasy series – I promised my six year old I’d read them when he finished each one and he’s holding me to it!
Who is your hero/heroine? Why?
Such a hard question. I have always adored Marilyn Monroe. I don’t know why, I just always have for as long as I can remember. She’s an interesting woman who was very talented in her chosen craft. I’m incredibly lucky that although I start the day before anyone else in our household I get a coffee made just for me and bought to me in the office/workshop by my husband or one of my sons. Most days it’s in a Marilyn Monroe mug I’ve had since I was thirteen. It makes me smile every time.
Last year I discovered Dr Edith Edger and her words and outlook on life have had a big impact on me. She does have a way of looking at life and its hardships and highlights which I’d like to incorporate more into my every day.
A favourite quote:
“Only you can do what you do, how you do it.” It’s a Dr Edith Edger quote. It reminds me to have faith me and what I’m doing.
Tell us about your pets:
We’ve got two lovely pets in our family; there is our new addition, our dog Ginny. We adopted her as a pup from the Christchurch Bull Breed Rescue, she’s just over a year old so is finally through her chew everything, especially the couch phase. We also have our cat, Drifter. She drifted into our lives chose us for her family, so we’ll never be too sure how old she is, but she’s been part of our family for twelve years now.
If you were a crafty superhero, what would your name and superpower be?
I’d probably be some kind of jeweller/blacksmith that could just magic up magic rings and shields and those bangles that Wonder Woman has. That would be a cool super power to have – to be able to make the right accessory for the occasion with a click of the fingers. I suppose if I had that super power I’d have to be called something like The Maker.
Given that this is my honest answer it really is no surprise that silversmithing turned out to be that thing I want to do now I’m grown up!
What would your advice be for those starting out in a crafty business?
You’ll learn more once you start doing it than you ever will researching and wondering, so go for it. You won’t start out 100% how you want to be or exactly where you want to end up, but every step you take along the way will get there.
Also, I believe in you 🙂
Why do you think it’s important to buy handmade and/or locally made goods?
I feel that buying locally, supporting handmade is a little bit of good karma for the people around you. It’s so nice to be able to support people in your own community. Since becoming a silversmith and joining the lovely Felt family I have learnt how many amazing talented people we are surrounded by every day. Supporting people with their craft and following their dream helps build them up, which in the long run, builds up an interesting and creative community to be a part of.
What was the last handmade item you bought and what attracted you to it?
A gorgeous small brown bag from The Hope Tree. It is a beautiful, hand-stitched, timeless bag that could be just for my stuff (I had been rocking a giant Mum bag for a lot of years). It was a joy to meet the maker and buy directly from her and hear about her processes and it’s a joy to use each day. I’m stoked I bought it.
What’s in store for 2019?
Big things are in the plans for Fantail & Co Jewellery this year. I’m aiming to do various pop up markets and fairs every couple of months. On 10 March I’ll be at the Tai Tapu Fair, which I’m really looking forward to. Across the year I’m wanting to build up a regular following for my Felt shop as well as aiming to have my jewellery stocked in some stores in the later half of 2019. In November/December I’m keen to have a physical pop up shop in Christchurch and then it’s all go for 2020, Thieves Alley in Dunedin and hopefully spreading my wings back towards Central Otago and some events down that way.
Fiona has very kindly offered a lovely prize for one lucky Felt reader of these gorgeous Fantail & Co earrings (see above). These one-off, fun and individual earrings have been hand cut and textured with an eye-catching pattern reminiscent of tartan. If you would like a chance to win this beautiful pair just leave a comment below, telling us what you like about Fiona’s story and her creations. The draw closes at 5pm on Monday 1 April and is open to New Zealand residents only.