Jewellery maker Anna Quartly of Pigeon Thomas says that the inspiration for her work comes from living off-grid and self sufficiently. With the beautiful natural vista of Kahurangi National Park visible from her Golden Bay/Mohua home, she finds she is able to stay focused on what is important. She loves to create pieces that are special – one of a kind – working with natural materials that are simple, pure, and renewable.
How did you get into your craft?
I am always inventing. One thing leads to another. I had small pieces of wood leftover from furniture making so I made some earrings for myself with them. The thing I love about wood is it is so light you can have the longest earrings and they don’t pull – I was hooked!
“I try to use recyclable and renewable materials when I can, keeping things as natural and long lasting as possible.”
Do you have formal training or qualifications in your craft?
When working in London as a picture framer I was lucky enough to learn the traditional way of gold and silver leaf gilding. Finishing different types of wood gave me a great foundation in woodworking and further creative processes. I also have a background in floristry and interior design.
Your favourite materials, tool and processes?
Copper is one of my favourite metals. My builder husband comes in very handy for collecting scrap metal and wood! Torch-fired copper produces amazing patterns and colours. I never know how the metal is going to look until it cools down. Sometimes I will apply heat several times to acquire the look I’m after.
Is there a philosophy behind your work?
Strength is beauty. Our world should always be changing. Learn ways to express who we are as individuals. I try to use recyclable and renewable materials when I can, keeping things as natural and long lasting as possible.
Tell us about some of the techniques involved in producing one of your pieces
To create my silver pieces with indentations of leaf and plant matter, I work with metal clay. This requires rolling the clay out to the right thickness. I like to do each piece individually. This way they stay unique and more natural looking. After I have pressed out the design, I shape the clay to the rough size and let it dry. Once dry, it’s sanding time! This can make or break the finished result so I like to take my time and get it right. To turn the clay into metal I either torch fire it or kiln dry it, depending on the type of clay. The heat burns off the clay and turns the piece into pure metal. Finally metal is cleaned and buffed to enhance the finished piece.
What are you currently listening to?
In the studio I have the LP player on – Talking Heads, Dire Straits, Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan… I love the old vinyl sound. In the shed the radio will be a mixture of talkback stations, for when I feel like getting in touch with the world.
Whats your favourite childhood book and why?
Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak – so inventive and imaginative.
What are you reading now?
The Year of Living Danishly: Uncovering the Secrets of the World’s Happiest Country by Helen Russell, it is great. You have to read it! For those who need inspiration, change and a good laugh.
Describe your workspace
My workspace is up in the hills by the Kahurangi National Park in Golden Bay. We live an off grid lifestyle. Dogs and birds are my daytime companions. The rusty clad studio is where I do my clay and finishing work. Down in the shed is for the messy dusty stuff.
Who is your hero/heroine and why?
My good friend and author Hilary Downey. I admire her knowledge and constant search for truth. Hilary’s books are inspirational and shine a guiding light for years to come. The written word can be so deep and encouraging in times of need.
A favorite quote
“The man who has no imagination has no wings.” – Muhammad Ali.
“The rusty clad studio is where I do my clay and finishing work. Down in the shed is for the messy dusty stuff.”
Tell us about your pets
We have two big brown dogs. Rylan is our old boy. His favourite place is the bed and he believes that sausages are the holy grail. Our young boy, Major, is named after a dog in Footrot Flats. He is super naughty, loves playing frisbee and long walks on the beach.
What would your advice be for those starting out in a craft business?
Have some fun. Try everything! You never know what it will lead to.
Why do you think it’s important to buy handmade and/or locally made goods?
Handmade is personal. It is made especially for you. It comes with passion, skill and uniqueness, something a mass produced item will never have.
What was the last handmade item you bought and what attracted you to it?
The last handmade item I bought was a leather wallet made by Xavier Napoleon from the Nelson Markets. His leather work is classic and made to last, I love something that gets better with age!
What’s in store for the rest of 2019?
I will be at The Great Christmas Market in Nelson on November 24. Such a great place to shop for Christmas pressies! I have also been working on some furniture with my husband that is very exciting – mixing wood and steel, so watch this space…
Special offer for Felt readers!
Anna has kindly offered her Felt customers 20% off the gorgeous jewellery in her Felt shop, for the duration of her feature fortnight. Just purchase before 5pm Monday 30 September, and enter the code TWENTY in the voucher code field at step 4 of checkout. Thank you Anna!