Matt Akehurst of Liberation Jewellery worked as a scientist in microbiology for twenty-seven years before leaving to follow his passion. Now navigating through the world of small business together with his wife Julie, they place an emphasis on community, handmade, and reducing the environmental impact of their products. Their studio is based at home in the small beach settlement of Pines Beach, where they develop new designs that stand out from the crowd, selecting upcycled or ethically-sourced wood for each piece.
What do you make?
Liberation Jewellery is about re-inventing pre-used materials to create unique and modern jewellery.
How did you get into your craft?
All of my family are creators – painting, weaving, sculpture, cabinet making and wood carving – it’s in the blood!
Do you have formal training or qualifications in your craft?
I have a Bachelor with Honours in Fine Arts (Sculpture), from the University of Canterbury.
Your favourite materials, tools and processes?
I love using recycled wood as it has a story, a history, and it is made by the earth. You can feel it in your hands as you hold it, and you have the privilege to continue its journey.
Aaaaah my friend the scroll saw, it challenges me sometimes. Its delicate blade is capable of both turning with millimetre precision and straying off course as the density of the wood grain changes. It’s a dance!
Tell us about some of the techniques involved in producing one of your pieces
It usually starts with a rough sketch on the wood, then cutting it out on the scroll saw, then shaping. I don’t use a ruler, or laser cutting – it’s all eyeballed. A ruler has nothing to do with aesthetics or balance. The real trick is to get earrings to match – if you look closely at my work they are not identical but they work – that’s what handmade is all about. Forgot to mention sanding, sanding, and more sanding – then some polishing.
What inspires you?
Clean modern lines with a splash of colour.
Is there a philosophy behind your work?
We try to use as much recycled material as possible. I source my materials such as wood, perspex, bronze etc from off cuts from industries and artists such as Matt Williams (a sculptor in Christchurch). At the moment we are making a lot of jewellery from broken skateboards. The skateboards are sourced from Wayne at CW Works who makes awesome breadboards and knife handles from the broken skateboards, he sources the broken skateboards from a variety of skateboard shops. He has little off-cuts left over which are perfect for making jewellery. It’s about reducing waste.
Describe your creative process:
3am is the optimal time for good ideas – and sleep, however sleep loses! Anything new I make, my wife test drives. To get in the zone I might look at sculpture, paintings, architecture etc then it’s into the workshop, shut the world out, and create.
Describe your workspace:
A converted sleep out, a garage and the dining room table. The dining room table gets a bit out of control, especially in the lead up to big markets.
Five words that describe your mind:
Busy, determined, left-field, considerate, pragmatic.
Your favourite feedback from a customer:
Just walking around town and randomly seeing someone wearing my jewellery (including seeing one of my designs on TV).
What are you currently listening to? National Radio.
Recommend an album: Leftism by Leftfield.
What are you reading now? Practical Ethics by Peter Singer.
Who is your hero/heroine? Why?
Peter Singer: his clear, rational succinct messages on how to live in a more fair and ethical world.
Tell us about how you apply your ethos in other aspects of your life:
I once ran a 100km race – I thought would be a good challenge. It was hard, I mean really hard! Now I run a 4km circuit around my local beach and pick up rubbish – I’m known as the Rubbish Runner. I tally the numbers up, each run, and am currently at 19000 pieces in 220 days. I post my crazy pictures on my Facebook and Instagram pages. I have found all sorts – mobile phones, money… even rescued a penguin!
A favourite quote:
“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose.” – Dr Seuss.
What would your advice be for those starting out in a crafty business?
Do some markets to get customer feedback, and try and find the right market for what you are selling.
What was the last handmade item you bought and what attracted you to it?
I bought a Zerobag which is a reusable bag made out of parachute material it folds down into a tiny pouch. It’s awesome!
What’s in store for the rest of 2018?
We have the Encraftment Market coming up in November. We regularly do the Lyttelton Market on Saturday mornings and would love to try a few markets further afield such as Queenstown and Nelson. Love the customer contact at markets as you learn a lot. We are also venturing into a few more shops around New Zealand.
Look, prize draws! 🙂
Matt and Julie have generously offered two great prizes of their upcycled skateboard studs (see below). There’s one pair up for grabs each week of their fortnight long feature, so to be in to win make a comment on this blog post about what you enjoyed reading about Matt and Julie’s story and their ethical and stylish creations. The draws close at 5pm on Monday 8 and 15 October, and are open to New Zealand residents only.