Flotsam, jetsam, and inspiration – a Wellington artist’s lockdown lifesaver

Wellington artist Rebecca A’Court, of Little1Step, tells us “Success seemed to begin early for me at the tender age of five, when I won first prize at my school art show. Sadly ‘Cat Surrounded by Blotches’ was a high never to be repeated. But it marked the beginning to a lifelong enthusiasm for creating.” Now a mum to two kids, Rebecca keeps the creative flame burning with the help of the invention of school and locked doors. Currently she enjoys creating delightful and quirky paintings and enchanting miniature seaside scenes.


 

 
What do you make?
At the moment my focus has been on driftwood cottages, but it changes as I get bored. In the past I’ve worked with resin, done a lot of needle felting, made dolls and papier-mâché masks. With a little bit of painting thrown in.

How did you get into your craft?
I’ve made a lot of really different things over the years, and the process is always the same: I see something that sparks a desire to try it myself, then I teach myself through trial, error and YouTube videos. I started making the cottages during lockdown last year, when I needed to work on a project that didn’t require purchased materials. I scoured the local beaches for materials on our State Mandated Walks, rather than shopped. This turned out to be a bit of a lifesaver really, as it gave the walks (and myself) a sense of purpose. It kept me sane. I learned to love lockdown.


 

 
Do you have formal training or qualifications in your craft?
YouTube doesn’t count, does it? No, then. My tertiary education was at Victoria university, where I earned a BA in theatre and film. I wasn’t cut out for academic life, and found it a grim and discouraging experience. The upside was a fantastic time with the University drama club. If I could go back, I’d learn something more practical. Use my hands.

Your favourite materials, tools and processes?
I love recycled and found materials, and try to use mostly wood I have picked up off the beach. It also gives me an excuse to go to my Happy Place, the Tip Shop, where I find old screws, nails and other metal bits. There is a great shop on Jackson street, Petone, that sells beads, and I get fantastic Japanese beads from there that seem almost luminescent. They’re perfect for tiny streetlights.

My lovely husband gave me my favourite tool for our last anniversary, an Ozito drill (not sponsored, but open to offers).

What inspires you?
The Tip Shop at Wellington land fill. Seriously love that place. Every time I suggest going for a drive with my kids we’ll be two minutes in, and they’re saying “We’re going to the Tip Shop, aren’t we?” Lots of eyerolling. I’m also a Pinterest junky.


 

 
Is there a philosophy behind your work?
Make stuff that brings joy. And some money, because buying groceries is helpful.

What has been a highlight of your maker journey so far?
Lockdown. I miss it. It gave me so much time and space to create, and an amazing time with my husband.

Describe your workspace:
Too small, too messy, too accessible to my family. But at least I have one.

Five words that describe your mind:
Every time I enter a room: I came in here for something… I know that’s not five words, I’m a rebel. With a poor memory.

Your favourite feedback from a customer:
One lovely lady said they made her feel nostalgic for the Cornish coast in England. I so get that, I emigrated from the UK when I was a child. I feel nostalgic when I make my work, and it’s wonderful we could share that feeling through something I made.


 

 
What are you currently listening to?
It’s four in the morning, and I can hear a ruru (morepork) in the distance, it’s lovely. My favourite music? I love old jazz standards, and singing along with them, and the cat joins in. If my CD player hadn’t died, I would be listening to Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holliday, Lisa Ekdahl and Amy Winehouse. I love Hollie Smith’s voice, too.

Recommend an album:
Kind of Blue, by Miles Davis

What’s your favourite childhood book and why?
I loved the Anne of Green Gables series, I owned them all. I tried to dress like her at high school, but must have missed the mark, as the other kids called me SuperGran.

What are you reading now?
The Bible. It’s a best seller.

A favourite quote:
To begin, begin.


 

 
Tell us about your pets:
I have a cat called Lola, though we usually call her Beef. She has the unique ability to fall over from a sitting position. She suffered oxygen deprivation at birth. I have always wanted a fishpond, but we rent so it’s not really possible. But my mum got me a half wine barrel which I love, and use as a pond. We have had a few goldfish over the last few years, they were named Shanghai Lil; the One that’s Not called Shanghai Lil; Gypsy Rose Lee; Pringle and Not Camel Toe.

If you were a crafty superhero, what would your name and superpower be?
I don’t think I’d be a superhero. Maybe a sidekick would be more achievable. Though I’d be less a quick-witted Eddie Murphy character, and more chicken from Moana (remember him? Tried to eat a rock). My son often asks me what my superpower would be, and the answer is always the same: cake (eating it).

What would your advice be for those starting out in a crafty business?
Try Felt! I have found it fabulous. It’s such a beautiful site, and they’ve been so supportive. (Aww, thanks! – Ed.) Look online for technical help, there are so many great videos.

Why do you think it’s important to buy handmade and/or locally made goods?
You’ll support someone doing something they love, and get something unique for yourself. If we all shop at chain stores everyone’s homes end up looking the same. Buy things you really love, that resonate with you, and you’ll avoid some of the throwaway fad culture. And your home will look fabulous.


 

 
What does it mean to you when someone buys your creations?
It’s so validating to have other people love what you’ve made, and be willing to part with their hard earned money for it. Every sale is such a boost, it never stops being exciting.

What was the last handmade item you bought and what attracted you to it?
Some tea cups from Felt, they are all lovely and quirky. I particularly love the one by Aimee McLeod, which is pale blue and squishy and gorgeous. They were part of Share a Cuppa on Felt, so people could show others they were missed during lockdown. Which means I probably shouldn’t have kept one for myself, especially when I was happy as a pig at the time.

Prize draw for Felt readers!

Rebecca is very kindly offering one lucky Felt reader their choice of two lovely prizes – a gorgeous miniature sculpted seaside scene miniature or a print of her fabulous Octopus painting (see below). To be in to win, simply leave us a comment below telling us what you like about Rebecca’s story and creations, and which prize you’d love to win. Prizedraw closes 5pm Monday 7 June and is open to New Zealand residents only. Thanks so much Rebecca!

Photos by Stephen A’Court.


 

16 thoughts on “Flotsam, jetsam, and inspiration – a Wellington artist’s lockdown lifesaver

  1. I love your work. I bought one ages ago and it still brings me joy every time I look at it. They’re sentimental and quirky and so, so detailed! So cool to ‘meet’ the maker.
    And if I win I’d happily have either of the prizes.

  2. What a fantastic meet the maker story and completely agree with Brenda and Cath, who have commented on Rebecca’s fantastic sense of humour. I really love these miniature scenes as they are incredibly cute and I have the perfect spot in my home for one. I absolutely love Rebecca’s comment “Buy things you really love, that resonate with you, and you’ll avoid some of the throwaway fad culture”. Yay for another kindred spirit who doesn’t want to own the same items as everyone else, purchased from the chain stores. Happy creating Rebecca – I’m off to your felt page to order that something special for me.

  3. Nice to meet you Rebecca! I love your miniature seaside scenes – they’re so intricate and evocative – and something I would never have the patience or talent to make myself. The names of your fish are hilarious.
    Hayley. x
    PS. Thanks Felt for this series – it’s great to read about so many amazing artists.

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