Hana Makin began her jewellery-making journey in England, but now produces her pieces from her home beside beautiful Petone Beach. Inspired by this and the nearby Zealandia Sanctuary, her work features our fauna and landscape prominently (and in the case of the landscape, literally – small found items often make their way into her work). She’s inspired by found things, natural things and old things, and she loves handcrafting her Hana Made Jewellery in her workshop by the sea.
How did you get into your craft?
Back in 2015 when we were living in the UK, my husband had to work away for the summer. I decided to use it as an opportunity to learn a new skill and meet some new people. I had a quick Google of different classes in my local area and I discovered York School of Jewellery. I originally only planned to only do one term but I very quickly got hooked! Four and a half years later, I still go to a jewellery class every week, but that jewellery class is now in Petone. It’s such an awesome way to connect with people and constantly upskill my craft. I have a lovely tutor now called Sue Shore, and she’s so supportive of all our work. Her jewellery is beautiful and so inspiring for us to see each week!
“I’m lucky enough to live right on Petone Beach. It’s my happy place. The sunsets and sunrises, the storms and squalls…”
Your favourite materials, tools and processes?
My favourite metal to look at is copper, I think the rosy colour is so beautiful. The downside is that sawing copper is so loud compared to sawing silver!
I really enjoy finding things on the beach (pebbles, sea glass and shells) and setting them into rings. I’m such a magpie, it’s a great excuse to collect things on my walks and slip them into my pocket. I live across the road from a stunning stretch of beach, so I always have lots of treasures to choose from.
My favourite process is a really simple one, I love making little silver balls for decoration out of my scrap silver. It’s a fun job to line up little piles of leftover silver and melt them with a torch to get all different organic shapes. I’ve found lots of uses in my work for them too. Working with a precious metal, nothing ever gets wasted.
Tell us about some of the techniques involved in producing one of your pieces
Setting stones for a ring is a really fun process. First you have to make the bezel, which is the strip of silver that is the border to the stone. You have to measure the circumference exactly right, and cut a strip of silver that is the right height for the stone to the same length. It’s a nightmare if you cut it 1 or 2mm too small or too big as the stone either won’t fit, or be loose in the final setting.
Next you bend it into the same shape as your stone, and solder it together so it becomes one piece. This bezel then has to be soldered to a back-plate completely so there are no gaps. After the bezel is attached, you saw around the back-plate and file it all down so you can’t see where the join is. This is then soldered onto a ring shank and tidied up with much more filling and sanding. And only then can you put the stone into the setting (which should hopefully fit after all that), and use a burnisher to push the top of the bezel over the edge of the stone, securing it in place. Finally polish the whole thing so it comes out super shiny and beautiful!
Working with metal can be quite challenging as the more you work it, the harder it becomes. This means between each stage you have to anneal your work (heat it until cherry red with a torch), quench it and then pickle it (in acid in a slow cooker) which makes the silver malleable again, and then cleans it up ready for the next process. So there’s no quick steps in jewellery making, but that’s one of its joys. You have to take your time.
“People often complement an unusual piece and want to know where you got it from.”
What inspires your work?
The natural world. I’m lucky enough to live right on Petone Beach. It’s my happy place. The sunsets and sunrises, the storms and squalls, the very occasional calm day, it all looks so different from the beach. The bird sanctuary Zealandia is nearby, and I visit often. I love watching all of the antics of native birds, I’m particularly fond of the fantail and the robin. They’re so full of personality, I enjoy trying to capture that in my work.
Describe your creative process:
I very rarely draw a design because I always change my mind as I work. I start off with a very loose concept that I’ve normally dreamt up whilst on the bus, and then see how it goes. I know that drives some jewellers mad, but I love the design evolving as it progresses, it’s much more fun (and less frustrating) that way.
Describe your workspace:
It’s very small! I have an old computer desk in the spare room, but it’s full of lovely things. My favourite thing in my workspace is an old set of drawers that my husband found in an op shop, which was originally from the Supreme Frock Manufacturing Company in Auckland. I guess it used to house needles and threads. He fixed it all up for me and re-stained it, and I love keeping my tools in there, it’s so full of history.
What are you currently listening to?
I’m a big fan of podcasts, No Such Thing as a Fish and You’re Dead to Me are my favourites! However it’s no good trying to listen to podcasts when sawing or hammering metal as it’s so loud, so I’ll put some Spotify playlists on in the background when I’m making lots of noise.
What are you reading now?
Mudlarking by Lara Maiklem. It’s a fascinating book about a mudlarker in London (someone who finds treasure along the river bed) and it’s so inspiring. I trained in archaeology at uni, so finding things has always delighted me! It’s a great read, I would highly recommend.
“I really enjoy finding things on the beach… and setting them into rings. I’m such a magpie, it’s a great excuse to collect things.”
What would your advice be for those starting out in a crafty business?
Find your people and learn from them! It could be taking a class, or finding like-minded people through social media. The jewellery classes I have attended in both York and here in Petone have been full of awesome people, who are full of advice and motivation. I’ve met some very dear friends through this hobby of mine. Somewhere else to find advice and inspiration is Instagram, I’ve found Instagram to be full of an amazing community of jewellers from around the world who are always there with words of encouragement and advice.
Who is your hero/heroine? Why?
Both of my Nanas. Strong and fierce women who always believed in me and always wore magnificent jewels.
Why do you think it’s important to buy handmade and/or locally made goods?
I think it helps us to connect to other people on a personal level. If you know somebody created something especially for you, that something is more likely to be treasured and admired.
Handmade goods are also great conversation starters, people often complement an unusual piece and want to know where you got it from.
What does it mean to you when someone buys your creations?
It usually means a lot of squealing if I’m honest!
What was the last handmade item you bought and what attracted you to it?
I bought a wicked patch for my denim jacket from the very talented Melissa Boardman (also on Felt!) which says Fantail Fan Club, and people always comment on it. It’s very cool.
What’s in store for 2020?
I hope for this year to be the year I can get my jewellery out there a bit more. As well as selling through Felt, last year I did my first ever market which was a great place to meet customers and other makers face to face. I’d like to do some more of those this year, as well as get my work in a few more galleries.
Hana has generously offered a gorgeous prize for one lucky Felt reader of this gorgeous sterling silver and copper disc earring set (see below). To be in to win just leave us a comment below telling us what you like about Hana’s story and creations.
The draw closes at 5pm Monday 17 February 2020 and is open to New Zealand residents only.