Featured seller: Ironweed

Jane and Mario Downes of Ironweed produce handmade Kiwiana garden art from recycled steel in their home workshop in beautiful Little River on Banks Peninsula. Jane is a qualified designer and sculptor and Mario is a certified welder. Together they have combined their respective skills to produce a range of designs influenced by their Kiwi colonial backgrounds.

What do you make?
We produce site specific sculptures, Kiwiana garden art, bespoke gates and signs from recycled steel in our home workshop up a secluded valley in Little River on Banks Peninsula. We are lucky to be able sell our smaller pieces from home due to the internet (and Felt!) and our village post office.

Our larger works appear nationwide in major sculpture exhibitions giving us the opportunity to travel up and down the country in our camper we call ‘The Bach’.

How did you get into your craft?
I was working as an interior designer when the recession hit. I started to make things from the scrap generated from my husband Mario’s engineering business. Demand quickly grew, giving me the opportunity to become the full time sculptor/designer I had always wanted to be, and Mario the chance to express his creative side.

Do you have formal training or qualifications in your craft?
Yes, I have a Bachelor of Design, majoring in sculpture and Mario is a certified welder.

Your favourite materials, tools and processes?
We both love the properties of steel, enabling our sculptures to be constructed rather than carved, and are always on the hunt for interesting recycled steel. Our work is predominantly made from 1mm sheet which is then folded. (Something between 2D and 3D which we like to call ‘2 1/2D’!)

My favourite tool is the plasma cutter which enable me to draw with steel. Mario loves all tools – the more the better and is especially good at developing tools and processes to get the best out of the materials.

What inspires you?
Patterns in nature and manmade objects inspire us, along with our Kiwi colonial backgrounds. We love to make ephemeral objects from such an enduring material as steel, hence the name ironweed.

Is there a philosophy behind your work?
We love to use scrap and discarded materials to make valued, beautiful items. The resulting objects become a celebration of heart and mind.

Describe your workspace:
We have a large workshop full of discarded items ready to be given a new life, and tools and equipment ready to be put to a new use

Five words that describe your mind:
Quirky, imaginative, unconventional, questioning, resolving.

Your favourite feedback from a customer: “Just looking at it makes me feel happy.”

What else are you doing:
My annual group exhibition called ‘The Usual Suspects’ opened at the Little River Gallery on 30 November and runs until 24 December.

Our recent large-scale sculptural installations include: 7 Days currently at the Sculpture in the Gardens at the Auckland Botanic Gardens and Shapeshifter at the Dowse Art Museum, Lower Hutt, coming up in February 2014.


What are your future plans:
To design a range of sculptural objects for the home and to develop a sculpture park on our seven acre bush block.

Do you have any pets?
We’ve almost had a zoo in the past but have cut down and our favourites are now our manx cats – and they know it!

What was the last handmade item you bought?
A necklace – jewellery is wearable sculpture after all!

Don’t forget that if you’re in the area you can see Jane’s fantastic work at the Little River Gallery until 24 December (along with works by fellow Felt seller Katrina Perano).

Jane and Mario have also kindly offered to give one lucky Felt blog reader a fifty dollar voucher to be redeemed at their Felt shop. To be in to win this excellent Christmas prize, leave a comment below telling us what inspires you about Jane and Mario’s art and story. The draw will be made on Monday 16 December and is open to New Zealand residents only.

33 thoughts on “Featured seller: Ironweed

  1. Beautiful work I have seen chooks etc made with corrugated iron at the Hamilton field days and was impressed but this is amazing. Well done guys. All you had to do was ‘think outside the square’ and look what you have come up with.

  2. Jane and Mario’s designs draw me to Felt again and again. The clever and quirky styles, the beauty and movement found in narly rusty old metals, is both inspiring and amusing to me. I have recently made my first purchase, which I know will make an outstanding Christmas gift, and I will be back for more. Excellent work!

  3. Hi Ironweed….thank you so much! I ordered 2 of the beautiful butterflies as memorial sculpture pieces for my garden. They look gorgeous and ‘flutter’ on their stakes in the wind. And the shadows they cast on the wall are lovely too. thank you , so happy with them. Love your work!

  4. I have admired your work since I first came across your saw sculptures some months back. I just love how something utilitarian is transformed into something of beauty. It brings back happy memories of my father using wooden handled saws for DIY in the 1980’s. Have my eye on one!

  5. Inspiring! I love it when couples work together to create unique art. And these are so organic & interesting they would make any garden look more fun. Their big Dandelion sculptures really caught my eye, so impressive how they’ve captured the movement of the seeds as they fly away. Truly artistic & wonderful! I love all your works.

  6. OMG, I just love what you are making, so creative. I love the dandelions, they are always a reminder of fun childhood times.
    Instead of going to work today, I just wanted to drive to yours and devour all your work. I will definitely make this a stop for future. congratulations for turning something discarded into beauty.

  7. I just received the “fern” saw yesterday and it is totally beautiful, I absolutely love it. It is going on our living room wall – far too amazing for outside. Thank you

  8. Wow these are just simply gorgeous. I particularly love the dandelions – would love to have a small version for my front yard, although I think someone might whisk it away in the dead of night so perhaps the backyard would be safer. You’re both very inspirational.

  9. Love your work – it certainly inspires me to go and look for a spot where I could put some of your art in my garden!!!!! I love that you recycle old steel and it tells me that you need to look outside the box and just go with it…. you just never know what may happen……

  10. Love how you took the recession and made something incredible out of the situation.
    The chickens are my fav. Living in Auckland with no pets allowed i’m sure they would brighten up my garden
    Good work such a great story

  11. Beautiful works of art!! your story only inspires me to do more of my own artworks (painting) thanks for the opportunity to win a voucher, I know i would be super stoked to look out my window with one of your creations in my garden

  12. Wow some amazing work, so clever. I love the fact that you are doing what you love to do that came from necessity and creativity. You have created a great lifestyle together with awesome products:)

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