Posts Tagged ‘christchurch’

The whole package: sustainable, ethical skincare from L’oil

Monday, July 31st, 2017

The L’oil balms brand is created by Kelly Dorgan in her home in Beckenham, Christchurch, which she shares with her artist partner and their two teenagers. Their property (which they have dubbed Birdwood Studios) is a bit of a creative hive with music, dance, food and art being crafted there daily. Kelly works part time as a community midwife specialising in supporting women who wish to birth at home or in a birthing unit.

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What do you make?
A range of vegan, organic, zero waste skin and lip balms. Body, face and lip moisturising bars made from plant-based, organic ingredients presented in biodegradable kraft card push up tubes; and healing and mend balms presented in biodegradable, plant-wax-lined, kraft card pots. All scented with organic and therapeutic grade pure essential oils, chosen for their therapeutic properties.

How did you get into your craft?
Through frustration. I just wanted the market to offer really ethical products that allowed those who were wanting to live a zero-waste, vegan lifestyle the option of still being able to pamper themselves, without having to purchase packaging that outlasts the products by a thousand years, wreaking havoc that whole time. I gifted some home made lip balm, body balm and food wraps to my treasured midwifery colleagues for Christmas one year and after receiving great feedback, I thought that these could be great products to offer to a wider audience.

Do you have formal training or qualifications in your craft?
I studied herbal medicine for two years prior to beginning my midwifery degree and also have a diploma in te reo Māori. Therefore in regard to formal trainings specifically in my craft? No. However, I believe any education acts to open the mind and expand its creativity and therefore, I see these formal qualifications as having had a significant input.

I [wanted] to offer really ethical products that allowed those who were wanting to live a zero-waste, vegan lifestyle the option of still being able to pamper themselves, without having to purchase packaging that outlasts the products by a thousand years.

Your favourite materials, tools and processes?
I love many of the processes involved. Tweaking formulas and scents in search of the “YES!” moment when I know a formula ticks all of the boxes is pretty exciting. Photography is a great passion of mine and therefore photographing the products with favourite “props” to highlight their purity and their potential to nurture is highly satisfying. Working with such organic ingredients means the brand is timeless and natural and I love to find ways to create that aesthetic.

Tell us about the techniques involved in producing one of your products
I do a lot of online research to develop a starter formula and work from there to tweak and improve. This usually involves weeks of trials of very small amounts of products and copious notes to self suggesting tweaks, as well as forcing them on friends and family and requesting feedback. The trickiest thing has been converting beeswax-based formulas to plant-wax-based ones in order to create cruelty-free products, as plant waxes are quite different from beeswax and there is not so much information out there on plant-wax formulas.

Once I am happy with the base formula, I start working on which essential oils I want to add, choosing them first and foremost for their therapeutic properties rather than their smell. Having narrowed the range down to a few choices, scent then becomes the decider. The next step is making larger quantities, pouring them into tubes and pots before then labelling them by hand.

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What inspires you?
Ultimately I am inspired by nature and the desire to support the processes and forces that support and nurture all helpful living organisms (i.e. not so much the scary viruses and bacteria – although I do have a healthy respect for these “nasties” as I believe nature is always seeking balance and that every living organism has a role to play in this).

I am also loving being in a space with others who are in business because they are really wanting to get the right messages out there – not because they want to make a whole lot of money selling their stuff that ultimately costs everyone, forever!

Is there a philosophy behind your work?
You probably have a sense of this already. My philosophy is about staying L’oil (loyal) to nature’s rhythms and laws. I want to provide an invitation to purchase products that are beautiful to use, but that also engage consumers in being conscious about what their dollars are capable of protecting or harming.

Describe your creative process:
I walk along the riverbank every morning, practice mindfulness for 10 minutes a day, carry a notebook wherever I go and carry my camera wherever is practical. Beyond that, staying open and curious allows the ideas to constantly flow. It is important to me that I stay somewhat relaxed about not having specific regular time available to work on the products. I find being on call is the best cure for procrastination, as I never quite know when the next available moment will be, and thus have to make the most of every moment, surrendering to time’s flow.

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loilbalms

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Describe your workspace:
Opportunistic! I share our 86m2 home with my partner and our two teenagers. Fortunately we have 60sq m of studio/sleep out space although that is taken up by my Hamish’s art studio and Flyn’s music studio/bedroom. L’oil therefore occupies one shelf in the living room cupboard, a corner of the dining room, one shelf in the pantry, and the kitchen during school/work hours (though not at lunch times as someone invariably needs it then). I feel some negotiation will be required soon!

Five words that describe your mind:
Inquisitive, focused, idealistic, non-stop and slightly disorganised.

Your favourite feedback from a customer:
“Would you like to see before and after photos of my eczema?”
“This is the best lip balm I have ever used”.

What are you currently listening to?
If I have control of the airspace, it is likely to be something calm, dreamy and loud. In the past few years Tiny Ruins, Nicole Reynolds, Laura Gibson and Aldous Harding have featured regularly. If it is our 15-year-old deciding, it is likely to be something a bit more upbeat – The Shins, Vampire Weekend, Arctic Monkeys or Lana Del Ray (yep, could be a lot worse!). Bob Dylan, David Bowie and Billy Bragg tend to keep everyone happy.

L’oil… occupies one shelf in the living room cupboard, a corner of the dining room, one shelf in the pantry, and the kitchen during school/work hours… I feel some negotiation will be required soon!

Recommend an album:
We are all pretty impressed with Lorde’s latest album Melodrama (especially the singles “Liability” and “Writer in the Dark”), and Aldous Harding’s latest offering Party. We are really looking forward to Tiny Ruins’ new album in the next few months. However, to check out something a bit less well-known, try Laura Gibson’s If You Come to Greet Me from 2006, for something that truly competes with the beauty of silence.

What’s your favourite childhood book and why?
Books don’t feature a great deal in my early childhood memories. All I remember is Dick Bruna’s Miffy, after which my childhood family cat was named.

We studied To Kill A Mockingbird in the fourth form – since which time the themes of prejudice and inequality have not left my thoughts for long. As a teenager babysitting, I remember loving reading Mrs Armitage on Wheels by Quentin Blake, which highlights the potential pitfalls of human “resourcefulness” and the myth that is “progress”.

We currently have a great collection of – largely New Zealand – children’s books (quite a few in Te Reo Māori) that I love too much to part with even though the “children” no longer read them. I so adore the combination of narrative and art in a format that nurtured our young family for years and created a sense of shared experience, connection and “hygge” – a word we knew nothing of at the time. There really is nothing like snuggling on the sofa with a child or children to share a picture book, and keeping these books on the shelf keeps those memories alive.

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What are you reading now?
I have just finished reading Lance O’Sullivan’s The Good Doctor with my book club. Whilst it presented little new to me (given I have been working in public health for the last decade and a half) I do think the messages about indigenous health and the systems that create significant ethnic inequities need incessant highlighting. It is always a shame that it takes the colonised to try and spread these messages when the damage has been done and continues to be done (usually completely unintentionally) by the colonisers. Implicit bias is a subject I find really interesting. I am currently reading The Power by Naomi Alderman which is a rather intriguing exploration of how the world might look should girls be deadly powerful.

Who is your hero/heroine? Why?
I don’t really have a literary hero/ine but my real life heroine/shero is my friend Sharon Thompson. She is the most divine woman who is a volunteer stillbirth photographer bringing a little bit of light to the darkest of hearts, and creating the most meaningful memories for families in these heartbreaking situations. She also spends a significant amount of time volunteering in an orphanage in Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam, that is full of children affected by agent orange, whose families cannot care for them. There, she brings light, laughter, dance, music, flowers and bubbles to the children who otherwise live in under-resourced, forgotten institutions. She is one of those rare human treasures that you know you will not encounter the likes of more than once in a life time.

A favourite quote:
“Kindness matters” and “Cloak of love” are the quotes that always comes to mind when I think of Sharon.

However, I also love the following quote for its quirkiness (I mean, who ever says they want a new battery charger for Christmas?). It is by a beautiful singer-songwriter (mentioned above) who is also an organic farmer:

“I would like to encourage everyone to make something
for the (Christmas) holidays -
carve a spoon, knit a glove, paint a picture, draw a cartoon,
write a poem, save your seeds and give them out as gifts -
put a little thought into your friends and family, even if they
don’t give a shit and just want money or a new battery charger.”

- Nicole Reynolds

Tell us about your pets:
We have a few thousand bees and possibly the same amount of worms. We are lucky to have a pretty regular stream of “birds in residence” as our property is planted largely in natives. In winters past we have been visited daily for weeks on end by a family of kereru and a kakariki; and this year pīwakawaka are pretty reliable visitors. We may have more winged visitors if it weren’t for our property also being home to one grey moggy – Rita (named after the artist Rita Angus).

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If you were a crafty superhero, what would your name and superpower be?
Well, I think my superpower would have to be converting all plastic into a benign, biodegradable, plant based material. A name ? – “L’OIL IVY” perhaps?

What would your advice be for those starting out in a crafty business?
Keep it simple, focus on relationships (not sales), keep it plastic-free, and stay “L’oil” – to yourself, to your loved ones, and to nature.

What was the last handmade item you bought and what attracted you to it?
I recently purchased a set of gorgeous wooden bowls created from a magnolia tree from Dean’s Bush in Riccarton, Christchurch, that needed to be felled. They were crafted by Greg Morris, whom I have known from when we had neighbouring stalls at the Arts Centre Market many years ago. They have been turned with the bark still intact; and with their understated ashy tones, I love using them in my product photos and just leaving them lay about out on our coffee table “between shoots”.

Also, I have very little jewellery, but that I do have has been carefully chosen and beautifully hand crafted. My favourites are my Deborah Fellowfield silver and turquoise ring, a Monique Connell silver and copper castle pendant and a gorgeous pair of pounamu and copper earrings made by Fiona of Brightonmine (a fellow Felt seller). All made in the South Island and all of which I have had for a number of years.

I am… loving being in a space with others who are in business because they are really wanting to get the right messages out there.

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loilbalms

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What’s in store for the rest of 2017?
For L’oil – a new scent range and hopefully a stick deodorant (which has been a long time in the R&D phase). Some new body butter scents and perhaps a belly balm (for pregnancy). Hair and beard balms are also in development.

For me personally – a few glorious home births are in store before I take a break from community midwifery and from being on call (which has been my life for the last 14 years). I am curious and excited about what this will make space for – hoping it will be in the somewhere close to the community action/zero-waste buzz.

Prize draw!
Kelly has generously offered a great prize for one lucky Felt reader of a luscious L’oil gift set of a body balm, a face balm, a lip balm and a mend balm (with a value of $85 + P&P). All L’oil products are carefully handcrafted from vegan and largely organic ingredients. Consideration for human, animal and environmental health has been taken in every step of the creation of L’oil products, which are free from synthetic or animal-based ingredients, and are fully biodegradable.

To be in to win this indulgent prize, simply leave a comment letting Kelly know (a) what you loved about her story and (b) what product(s) you’d like to see added to her range. The draw will be made on Friday 11 August and is open to New Zealand residents only.

 

Purchase ethical skincare products from L’oil »

 

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Inspired by nature, crafted with skill: turning for spinners from Whimsy Wood and Wool

Monday, July 17th, 2017

Tedge of Whimsy Wood & Wool has a passion for creating with natural materials. When she’s not working with pieces of wood, wielding a paintbrush or spinning up glorious fibres, you’ll find her in the garden where she and her husband, Arnold, enjoy growing fruit, vegetables and herbs for their kitchen (and their friends).

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What do you make?
I design and turn wooden shawl pins, spindles, nostepinnes, tapestry bobbins, threading hooks and other tools for spinners and fibre crafters. I also dye silk fibre for spinners and felters, blend fibres into spin-able rolags, and sew knitting project bags. In my spare time, I spin yarn, knit shawls, felt bags, sew clothes, embroider pictures, paint and draw, amongst other things.

How did you get into your craft?
I have enjoyed art and crafts since I was a child, studied art at high school and took up spinning in my late teens. I first started woodturning as part of my Visual Art and Design Diploma at EIT Hawkes Bay, back in 2001. My major was in 3D, particularly working with wood and metal, and making quirky furniture. I got involved in the local woodturners club and for two years I learned to turn bowls, boxes and rolling pins. My main aim was to turn items I could decorate. I hit pause on the woodturning for a few years while in France, and concentrated on sewing, painting and embroidery. It was after our return to New Zealand, that we both immersed ourselves in a woodturning club, in Christchurch this time.

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Do you have formal training or qualifications in your craft?
Yes, I completed the three year Certificate of Woodturning in 2014 with the Christchurch Woodturners Association. Our amazing teachers Noel, Rex and Bruce taught us a wide range of skills, techniques, and decorative effects. They encouraged us to think creatively, work safely and pay attention to detail and finish.

My graduation piece was a set of spindles with a carved and decorated stand. My aim being to include as many learned techniques as I could: spindle and face-plate work, resin, coloured wax finishes, Dremel carving, pyrography, painting and more.

As well as a diploma in art, I have a BSc in Zoology, which has helped me in the way I look at the natural world and how it works, from the humungous to the microscopic, inspiring me in my creative processes.

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Your favourite materials, tools and processes?
My favourite turning tool is my small skew chisel, and for carving and detailing I love my Dremel Micro rotary. I prefer making smaller items, though it is still very satisfying to turn a large bowl.

I enjoy the turning itself, as well as the decorative effects such as pyrography and colouring. I can lose myself for hours in these processes. My favourite timbers are Kauri, Ash, Oak and sometimes Rimu.

Tell us about the techniques involved in producing a turned wood piece.
Firstly I plan out the item and draw it to scale. I think about the purpose of the item, and the aesthetics. If it is a functional item, for example a spindle for spinning yarn, it must be balanced in order to work well.

With an entirely new product, I will make some prototypes, experimenting with shapes and measurements, making more drawings as needed. I consider which timbers are best to use for grain pattern, strength, aesthetics, and suitability for decorating. As most of the wood I use is either recycled from buildings or old weaving frames, or wood from tree pruning, my decisions are often dictated in part by the size of the timber available. It is not my aim to produce “factory” products, but to maintain a handcrafted flavour.

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What inspires you?
Lots of things inspire me, from architectural shapes to textures and details in clothing and textiles, but especially patterns and colours in nature.

I am also inspired by the materials I work with, whether it is the feel of wood and the grain pattern, the warmth of wool, the smoothness and sheen of silk fibre. Sometimes it is not a visual stimulus, but a smell, a sound, a texture or a conversation that takes my thoughts off towards something more tangible. I am often inspired and driven too by the need for a new product, a new tool, a new way of making or doing something.

Is there a philosophy behind your work?
Yes, I like to work with natural materials as much as possible, whether it is wood, wool, silk, cotton, linen, hemp. I use polishes, dyes, and paints which may not be natural, but I steer clear of anything toxic which may be dangerous in its application or in the end use.

I aim to create pieces which reflect my passion for nature, and hopefully pass that on to the user of the product. I love that people who spin with my spindles, wear my shawl pins or keep things in my bowls tell me how much they appreciate the character of the timber from which they are created.

Describe your creative process:
Inspiration and ideas tend to come in a flood when I am in a creative frame of mind. New thoughts for shapes, decoration, or a new development, a new method of making something, a whole new “invention”. I scribble down sketches and annotations so I don’t forget and can develop the ideas later.

Describe your workspace:
I have several workspaces. The woodturning workshop is by necessity shared with Arnold, and contains a workbench, lathe, and various tools. My sewing nook is at the front of the bedroom; my art desk, storage and bookshelves in the spare room; and spinning, weaving and felting area at the front of the lounge! A bigger house would be useful…

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Five words that describe your mind:
Creative, determined, focussed, humorous, multi-tasking.

Your favourite feedback from a customer:
“I love, love, love spinning with my beautiful new spindle!”

What’s your favourite childhood book and why?
I don’t recall having a favourite. I do remember at eight years old walking to the library every day to get out the maximum three books, reading them and getting another three the following day. I still love to read.

What are you reading now?
Ken Follett’s World Without End. It has more action than I would usually go for, definitely more violence (I had to skip over one part) but it is an interesting and exciting book. As a bonus, the processes of weaving and dyeing the scarlet cloth are a vital part of the story, as one of the main characters, Caris, experiments with the best way to use madder to produce colour.

A favourite quote:
“Creativity takes courage.” – Henri Matisse.
We can often have creative ideas, but it can take courage to act on them without being afraid of failing, or of criticism. It also takes hard work, dedication and determination. And a lot of chocolate and the occasional cider.

Tell us about your pets:
We have five large goldfish who get grumpy if we don’t feed them, and a worm farm where all the worms are called Ethel and Fred.

What would your advice be for those starting out in a crafty business?
Do something that you have a passion for. Start small, grow steadily, don’t be shy, just get yourself out there. Create good products from good materials, and sell them for a price which reflects that. Believe in yourself, and don’t undervalue your talents or your products.

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What was the last handmade item you bought and what attracted you to it?
On holiday in Vietnam last month, we were in the mountain region of Sapa. I bought a length of handwoven hemp fabric from one local H’mong weaver, and a length of handwoven hemp with indigo dyed batik from another. I wanted to buy from the craftspeople themselves, so they get the whole amount of money, and so I have that direct connection with the maker, the region and the country when I use the cloth.

What’s in store for the rest of 2017?
I am working to replenish my stock of spindles, both suspended and support spindles, plus Kauri shawl pins and tapestry bobbins. I want to build up a stock of wooden yarn bowls, and I have a number of new products up my sleeve. Many other ideas are zooming around in my head or scribbled in my sketchbook, waiting for time to try them out.

I will be trading at the Creative Fibre Area in Homebush on November 19th, and I have applied to be at Summer Woolfeast, to be held at Halswell Centre on November 25th.

I have just become involved in Pay it Forward, a lovely art and craft co-op in Nancy Ave, Mairehau, and will soon add some turned bowls to my shawl pins there. I also have shawl pins at Wool Yarn Fibre, the Creative Fibre shop at the Tannery in Woolston, and at my brother-in-law’s gallery Alfred Memelink Artspace on the Petone Esplanade. I have plans to add other products to these places as soon as I can, and of course to have a wider range of products in my online Felt store.

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Prize draw!
Tedge has very kindly offered a great prize for one lucky Felt reader of a Whimsy spindle turned from recycled Kauri, with a hand-formed brass hook (see above). The spindle weighs 22g and the whorl has a diameter of 52mm. Perfect for spinning a fairly fine yarn, this little spindle spins smooth and fast. So that you have some fibre to spin, it will be accompanied by a pack of corriedale rolags with a dash of silk and sparkle. Total value $49 includes postage within New Zealand.

To be in to win this awesome combo, simply leave a comment telling us (a) what you like about Tedge’s products and (b) what yarn crafts you enjoy, or would like to try next! The draw will be made on Friday 28 July and is open to New Zealand residents only.

 

Purchase from Whimsy Wood & Wool now »

 

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Simplify to Amplify: thoughtful, imaginative play from Small & Loud

Monday, July 3rd, 2017

Joanna of Small & Loud says “As a child I always imagined having my own business, selling my own handmade crafty things. Funny how things work out!” The inspiration for her business was formed when hunting for a birthday present for her nephew. Unable to find something satisfactory that was light to post, would encourage imaginative play, and wouldn’t just add clutter to his bedroom, she hit on making her own animal masks. The name Small & Loud is a tribute to both the animals and the kids that inspire her work. :-)

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What do you make?
I make felt animal masks for kids’ pretend play and dress-ups.

How did you get into your craft?
My mum taught me to how to use her sewing machine when I was about four years old, so as long as I can remember I’ve been sewing bits and pieces. Then when my husband and I moved to Christchurch in 2015, I struggled to find work. To bring in some income, I started sewing a few things and selling them at the New Brighton Seaside Market. The masks were my most popular product so they became my focus – it grew from there.

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Do you have formal training or qualifications in your craft?
I learned a lot of sewing techniques from my mum and step-mum, and everything else is self-taught. At Otago Uni I majored in Marketing and Design Studies, so the design side has definitely had an influence.

Your favourite materials, tools and processes?
I love the vivid colours of felt. My favourite tool is my Elna sewing machine – it’s the same machine I learned to sew on. My mum had it refurbished and sent it down to Dunedin for my 20th birthday, which was an awesome surprise. I have another newer machine, but always prefer the old Elna.

Tell us about the techniques involved in producing one of your masks:
The first step is cutting out all the felt pieces. I started out cutting all the pieces out by hand, but it became too time consuming. I’ve now invested in a laser-cutter, which my husband Richard is in charge of. He’s an architectural designer, and uses his CAD skills to turn my paper patterns into cutting files. He’s spent a lot of time getting the settings just right – every colour of felt cuts differently because of the way it absorbs the light of the laser.

Once everything is cut, I glue the detail pieces to the front piece of each mask. The glue is just strong enough to hold everything in place while I sew. I usually sew in batches of six masks at a time. When I’ve finished all the front details of each mask, I glue and pin the front and back together and stitch all the way around the edge and around the eyes. At this point, most of my masks are ready to be sent out, but some need a few finishing details. The cat gets whiskers sewn on, and the ears of the rabbit are folded over and stitched down at the very end too.

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What inspires you?
For my mask designs, almost every cute animal I see inspires me. I just saw the most adorable video of a baby elephant chasing birds, so an elephant mask might be next on my list! I also get excited by beautiful, functional design and attention to detail.

Is there a philosophy behind your work?
The first mask I made was a birthday present for my nephew Nate. I wanted a gift that was light to post and that would encourage good old-fashioned play, and wasn’t a typical toy that would add to the clutter in his bedroom. My philosophy has stayed the same since then – I want to make things that encourage imaginary play, creativity and learning.

Describe your creative process:
After I’ve decided on an animal that I want to create as a mask, the first thing I do is look at a lot of close up photos of the face of that animal. I decided early on that I didn’t want my masks to be overly cutesy or cartoon-like, so by looking at photos I make sure that I’m beginning with a realistic base.

Next I start sketching a design, using an existing mask pattern as a template. I create at least three paper prototypes, making small adjustments as I go. Once I’m happy with the design, I give it to Richard to draw up in CAD. He’ll cut one set of pieces, and I sew a felt prototype. Sometimes the felt prototype throws up practical issues and we make changes. But if everything works, then it’s officially in production! I always try the masks on too.

Describe your workspace:
My studio is a sleep-out in the back corner of our property – I shot-gunned it before we even bought the house. A big, high wooden cutting table (which was a bargain on TradeMe) takes up most of the space. It’s so good to be able to stand and work without leaning over a low table. Underneath the table is chockablock with materials, tools and other crafty things. I have shelving for my fabrics, an ironing board and a small desk for my sewing machine. My two favourite things in the studio are the blackboard wall for writing up orders, and the pegboard for organising my tools. I love being in my studio, it’s a great space to work in.

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Five words that describe your mind:
Curious. Chaotic. Creative. Critical. Clever.

Your favourite feedback from a customer:
Recently a customer bought a fox mask as a gift and let me know that the birthday boy was “wearing it around the house and making fox noises.” That makes me really happy – to know that children are enjoying the masks and using their imagination.

What’s your favourite childhood book and why?
The first one that comes to mind is Jillian Jiggs. I can still remember the rhyme – “Jillian Jillian Jillian Jiggs, it looks like your room has been lived in by pigs.” Being a creative child, I always had multiple projects on the go and rarely tidied up in between, and mum was always on at me to clean my room. I haven’t changed – my cutting table is usually covered in stuff, and so is the floor.

What are you reading now?
I’m reading The Power of Less by Leo Babauta. I work full time as a Marketing Coordinator so I have to make time for Small & Loud during my evenings and weekends. As my business grows, life is getting busier so I’m learning how to achieve more by doing less.

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A favourite quote:
My mantra at the moment is a Marie Forleo quote – “Simplify to Amplify.” I’d just started to read The Power of Less when I watched a Marie TV video that talked about similar principles. It works for so many things in life.

Tell us about your pets:
We have a very fluffy, ginger and grey tabby named Alfred. He was a rescue from the Cats Protection League Canterbury, and is full of character. He’ll usually follow me out to my studio and either sit in the sun or by the heater. As soon as I vacate my seat in front of the sewing machine, Alfred often claims that spot too.

What would your advice be for those starting out in a crafty business?
Keep at it! Building a business from scratch isn’t easy, but you will make progress. Also be prepared to put a fair bit of money in before you get any out. The labour content for handmade items is usually high, so being efficient with time will help a lot. If you’re doing something you love, it’s all worth it.

What was the last handmade item you bought and what attracted you to it?
I bought a gorgeous Agate keyring here on Felt, from Dr Druzy. I was attracted to the deep purple colour and the rawness of the stone.

What’s in store for the rest of 2017?
I’ve got a lot of new masks in the pipeline, including more New Zealand birds. I’m planning to expand my product range beyond masks too. Watch this space!

Prize draw!
Joanna has kindly offered a great prize for one lucky Felt reader of your choice of any two masks from her Felt shop (includes postage,total value $55.00). To be in to win this awesome combo, simply leave a comment telling us what you like about Joanna’s story and her creations. The draw will be made on Friday 14 July and is open to New Zealand residents only.

 

Purchase from Small & Loud now »

 

Small_Loud-masks-on-display blog

Midwinter Woolfeast is here again!

Wednesday, June 14th, 2017

Heads up Christchurch yarnsters!

The Midwinter Woolfeast is here again – your opportunity to buy from some of New Zealand’s most talented fibre artists and indie yarn dyers.

Come along to Te Hāpua: Halswell Centre for a day of visual, tactile and culinary treats and immerse yourself in the colour and opulence of the modern world of woolcraft. Learn a new craft skill and stay for some yummy refreshments.

Date: Saturday June 17
Time: 10am-5pm
Place: Te Hāpua: Halswell Centre, 341 Halswell Road, Halswell.
Cost: Free entry
More information: www.woolfeast.com

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Craft adds up!

Wednesday, June 14th, 2017

Christchurch Maths Craft Day, Sunday 18 June

Here’s something for the geeky crafters out there – or is that crafty geeks?

Discover the maths behind craft and the craft behind maths at Christchurch’s first Maths Craft Day, Sunday June 18 in The Great Hall at The Arts Centre.

Featuring seven craft creation stations as well as public talks by mathematician crafters, the day-long celebration of maths promises to engage people of all ages. Make a Möbius strip, crochet a hyperbolic plane, build a fractal sculpture, fold an origami octahedron, and listen to talks about the connections between maths and crafts.

While you’re at The Arts Centre, why not also explore the newly opened Teece Museum of Classical Antiquities in the old Chemistry Building (now once again part of the University of Canterbury, housing the Classics Department) and discover the ancient relationship between mathematics and craftsmanship?

Christchurch Maths Craft Day is open to everyone: experts and amateurs, maths-fans and maths-phobes, the crafty and the curious.

Date: Sunday June 18
Time: 10am–5pm
Place: The Great Hall at The Arts Centre
Cost: Free entry
More information: mathscraftnz.org

Christchurch Maths Craft Day, Sunday 18 June

Capturing colour: a stunning synthesis of natural and manmade materials

Monday, April 24th, 2017

Designer, music producer and DJ Nigel Greene takes inspiration for his eye-catching Greeen Customs jewellery creations from his engineering and music backgrounds, as well as the natural and manmade materials he uses. In his workshop in Christchurch he seamlessly blends native and exotic timbers, and resins in a stunning mix of colours, to create wearable art rings that are truly unique.

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What do you make?
Hand turned rings from custom castings and other creative supplies.

How did you get into your craft?
I was inspired to start a new business where I could harness my creativity and skills.

Do you have formal training or qualifications in your craft?
Living a life of art and music, accompanied by a five year history of plastics and rubber engineering.

Your favourite materials, tools and processes?
I love working with resins, exotic and native woods, hybrid acrylic blanks and delving into anything interesting I can get my hands on!

I custom cast my own resin blanks, creating personalised colourways and can use or add other materials, then process using drills, saws, gluing, sanding and a lathe to create customised wearable art rings.

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Tell us about some of the techniques involved in producing one of your rings:
As part of the custom casting process I create multiple shades of as many colours as are desired and combine them with precision timing, which allows me to get amazing results.

What inspires you?
Life, colour, music, art, nature, and everyone awesome around me!

Describe your creative process:
I get inspired, create colour, search for and combine materials to produce my rings.

Describe your workspace:
I work from an early stage, at home workshop that is slowly shaping into what I need. It’s a great space and has a good sound system. (Very important! :-) – Ed.)

Five words that describe your mind:
Creative, seeking, detailed, intuitive, introverted.

Your favourite feedback from a customer:
“So happy to have found you and this amazing piece of jewelry.” (From a yoga teacher in New York.)

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What are you currently listening to?
Heaps of drum & bass/electronic music whilst performing/producing my own.

Recommend an album: Maduk – Never Give Up.

What would your advice be for those starting out in a crafty business?
Create something unique to yourself and constantly push forward no matter what anybody says! Stick at it and be different!

What was the last handmade item you bought and what attracted you to it?
It was a beaut handmade glass pendant. It features a dragon hand holding onto a sphere containing an awesome opal! I purchased it from the Illusion Glass Gallery in the heart of Denver, USA in 2015. I was fully drawn to the colour (Slime Green) and the crazy attention to detail – it really is a work of art!

What’s in store for the rest of 2017?
Fulfilling a lot of custom ring orders locally and from around the world. Taking the time to explore new materials and techniques as well as building an extensive backlog of designs and custom options whilst preparing myself to hit the market places come spring time!

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Nigel has very generously offered a prize for one lucky Felt reader of a $100 gift voucher to be redeemed in his Felt shop. Awesome, thank you Nigel!

To be in to win this great prize, simply leave a comment telling us what you like about Nigel’s story and his Greeen Customs creations. The voucher draw will be made on Friday 5 May and is open to New Zealand residents only.

 

Explore Nigel Greene’s amazing rings on Felt now »

 

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Made to be worn: the Christchurch jeweller sculpting life into silver

Tuesday, January 31st, 2017

Sophie Divett is an ethical jeweller who has recently moved back to Christchurch from Wellington. Taking her inspirations from nature and antiquity, she specialises in bespoke pieces using sustainably sourced metals and natural gems.

What do you make?
I’m a jeweller, and I make a lot of wedding rings and bespoke, one-off pieces. I like to make jewels that hold sentimental value for the wearer and will be worn and treasured.

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How did you get into your craft?
I studied Fine Art and always gravitated toward making tiny, delicate sculptural pieces. After graduating, something clicked and I started making jewellery in the evenings as a way to stay making and creative. Everything just sort of escalated from there.

Do you have formal training or qualifications in your craft?
Aside from my Bachelor of Fine Art, I’ve just finished my Diploma in Applied Arts (Jewellery Design) at Whitireia last year.

Your favourite materials, tools and processes?
All of the metals I use are ethically and sustainably sourced, mainly recycled from industry waste. I work with sterling silver, bronze and gold, with gold definitely being my favourite. It is a beautiful material to work with. I especially love white gold- most of the white gold you see in shops is rhodium plated to look brighter and more silvery, but naturally it has a beautiful subtle golden hue which is so unique.

My favourite tools would have to be the few that I have made myself, and older ones that have been handed on to me. Some tools get so much better with age, and you can’t beat a tool that has been customised or handmade to fit a specific purpose. A lot of these are the ones I use all the time and you can’t buy them in a shop.

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Tell us about the techniques involved in producing a piece of your jewellery
I like to use lost wax casting methods to make my pieces, because the wax allows for so much more freedom with organic shapes. I’ll usually create a model of a new piece in wax, before casting it in precious metal. After that, lots of polishing and finishing, and setting stones.

…the impressions left by the wearer as it takes the knocks of life and becomes polished next to the skin become part of the piece.

What inspires you?
I’ve always been very inspired by the natural world, and ancient artifacts. I am fascinated by the way centuries-old objects develop the marks of time through corrosion and decay, and it is uncertain where the original object ends and the hand of nature begins. I like to think about this when making many of my jewels- they are made to be worn, and the impressions left by the wearer as it takes the knocks of life and becomes polished next to the skin become part of the piece.

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Is there a philosophy behind your work?
Make beautiful things for lovely people.

Describe your creative process:
Sometimes there’s an idea first, other times I just begin with a lump of wax and see where it takes me. Either way, the best things happen when they develop organically.

Describe your workspace:
I share a workshop with two other jewellers at the back of Form Gallery on Colombo Street, in Christchurch. My bench is usually the messiest, though I prefer the term ‘creative jumble’. It’s usually covered in lots of half-made bits and pieces, any commissions I’m working on, and a scattering of interesting objects I’ve picked up at some point- rocks, bones, seeds, leaves, insects. The bench itself was made by repurposing an old bankers desk and customising it to suit my needs.

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Your favourite feedback from a customer:
I’m quite blessed with a lot of absolutely lovely customers so couldn’t possibly pick just one. I love hearing about the people behind the jewels, which is a bit hard when so much of what I do is online, so it’s always so special when people go to the trouble to tell me their stories.

What are you currently listening to? Shura – Touch.

Recommend an album: Furns – Furns (2014).

If you were a crafty superhero, what would your name and superpower be?
I’m not sure about superhero, but I am pretty good at hoarding gold and precious jewels. So I’d probably be a dragon.

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What would your advice be for those starting out in a crafty business?
Be prepared to persist, anything really worth doing is probably going to be difficult. But if it’s what you really want to do, do it and you won’t have any regrets.

What’s in store for 2017?
Oh, so much. This will be my first year working as a jeweller full-time since graduating, so it’s going to be all go. Right now I’m working on a new collection of engagement rings, which is so exciting, it’s something I’ve been planning for a long time. I’ve just moved back to Christchurch so am very interested in getting involved with the Christchurch arts scene, events and exhibitions and collaborations with other artists.

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Sophie has very generously offered an exquisite prize for one lucky Felt reader of a beautiful Sterling silver Annui necklace (see above). Annui in Latin means to favour or smile on, and this necklace embodies that feeling wonderfully.

To be in to win this elegant handcrafted prize, simply leave a comment telling us what appeals to you about Sophie’s story and her beautiful jewellery creations. The draw will be made on Friday 10 February and is open to New Zealand residents only.

 

Explore Sophie Divett’s ethical jewellery on Felt »

 

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Fairytale characters and crystal caves: an adventure wrought in silver

Monday, October 24th, 2016

Kim Goulding-Piper of Ore and Wander has been building her relationship with crystal and metal since she was a child. Her journey has taken her from beaches and caves, through managing a chain of prestigious crystal shops in the UK, to Aotearoa, where she now sits in her workshop with a view of snow-capped mountains.

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What do you make?
I create jewellery including rings, necklaces, pendants, earrings, bangles, tiaras, ear cuffs, and wands.

How did you get into your craft?
I grew up living on a boat in a new age town, and I think the combination really fostered a love of fossicking on beaches and finding precious rocks. At an early age I would fill my pockets with rocks and hoard my treasure in my room. From there I started to collect crystals and when I was 10 years old my grandmother died leaving me a beautiful smokey quartz necklace. This began my crystal bead collection and at 16 I had my first exhibition in a local gallery.

The same year a crystal shop opened in my home town I knew I had to work there, so I went and asked for a job. They were not hiring at the time but being desperate for the job I asked to be trained so that when a position opened up I would be exactly what they needed. Liking my enthusiasm they hired me straight away and I worked for the Crystals Company for 14 years, becoming part of a wonderful family. I filled many roles within the company and loved every position I held there, especially getting paid to talk to people about crystals all day long!

The company helped me realise my dream by facilitating an apprenticeship with the company goldsmith. From there the fairy-tale began: everyday I would go in to the workshop and fix, tinker with, and create jewellery with the resident goldsmith. It was like entering a crystal cave and working with a dwarf to create glittering treasure.

In this time I also trained in crystal therapy, which I still practice today. After learning my trade I came to New Zealand (9 years ago) and lived in a house truck until meeting my wonderful partner and having my beautiful son.

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Do you have formal training or qualifications in your craft?
My training was intensive and lasted many years, but it was not formal and I have no paper to say I know how to do what I do. I spent many years doing all the silver and many of the gold repairs, along with commissions and designing new ranges, for 21 shops. Dwarfs living in crystal caverns tend to be more focused on practical skills rather than paper ones!

Your favourite materials, tools and processes?
I love to work with crystals, blending the healing properties to suit people’s needs. This led me to spend lots of time looking at archetypes and stories. Often my work is inspired by the crystal’s properties, people, and more recently stories. There is often a fairy-tale or character behind a finished product.

Tell us about some of the techniques involved in producing your jewellery
I try to keep the techniques simple. Once I am in the workshop, taming the ideas in to a few I can stick to is my main focus, then lots of soldering and setting stones (and lots of singing and hopefully no swearing). Next a bit of polishing where everything gets nice and shiny except me, then off to have a nice soak in the bath!

What inspires you?
Most recently I have been inspired by the stories I make up to tell my five year old son every night. We go on fantastical journeys, where anything can happen and we meet incredible characters on the way. I find that some of the characters are still with me in the morning when I go into the workshop. My latest range has no crystals but is infused with the magic of the fairy-tales we share and the things that stir emotions in us.

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Is there a philosophy behind your work?
My philosophy is that jewellery is not just something to match an outfit to, but something that has meaning and can act as a reminder for us to focus on the positive. Whether it is a reminder of the person who gave it to you, the quality that you are trying to work on, or a feeling/character that you love.

Describe your creative process:
Often I dream of what I am going to make next, sometimes the stones seem to know how they want to be set and sometimes the stories find their own way on to the work. I try not to force the work, there are some days where nothing comes and some days where you have so many ideas that you have to thin them out before they overwhelm you. I have often found it difficult to represent my work in one style as there are always so many new ideas that I want to try, so many things that inspire me. I try to catch as many as I can, but for each piece I create at least ten slip through my grasp and float off!

Describe your work space:
My workshop is small but seems big to me after living in boats, house trucks and geodomes. It is a luxury to have a separate room to go to! I try to fill my work space with things that inspire me, remind me of friends and places, or tell me stories. I have a fantastic display cabinet made from an old Singer sewing machine that my wonderful partner made for me as a moving in present.

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I work from home and when the weather is nice I take small sanding and filing jobs out in to the sun with a cup of tea. We live in the middle of nowhere with no neighbours, and stunning views of the mountains and the Port Hills, so it is very relaxing.

Five words that describe your mind:
Dreamlike, excited, holistic, meandering and intuitive.

Your favourite feedback from a customer:
One of my customers told me that during the Feb 22 (2011) earthquake in Christchurch, she had to walk through the city centre with her little dog to get out of the city. She told me that she carried the dog in her arms but put her hand over the bangle I had made because all she could think of was how devastated she would be if she lost or damaged it in the chaos. To be up there in importance with someone’s favourite pet in an emergency was very special.

What are you currently listening to?
I listen to lots of different music: mostly tunes that make me feel good, I can sing along to, and have a good story. I love old English folk for the stories, I listen to world music and sing along in a language I don’t know if the song stirs my emotions. I listen to devotional music to calm my soul. I love music that reminds me of people, there really is not a lot that I don’t appreciate.

At night when I tell my son stories they often end with me singing a song to him so I try to introduce him to as many different music styles as I can, I think music is like taste you have to try things and hear things a few times to learn to enjoy them. I also love to listen to BBC Radio plays in my workshop.

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Recommend an album:
One album is too hard! Try new things often and look for the beauty in all of it. I recommend checking out The BBC Archives and trying samples of folk, world, 60s, classical… anything you don’t usually listen to. Expand your horizons!

What’s your favourite childhood book and why?
I love to read, so did my Mum and Dad. I could name a hundred books I loved as a child but my favourite was always the one that Mum or Dad was reading to me at the time. I knew if they had a book in their hand I could go and snuggle up on the sofa with them for a long relaxing reading session! My Mum was great at all the voices and I loved hearing my Dad read the Just So Stories so much that I asked him to record them for my son. Mum and I collected the pieces to make the Magic Alphabet Necklace from How the Alphabet Was Made for years. I am still looking for a few letters!

What are you reading now?
Jasper Fforde’s The Well of Lost Plots and Mitch Album’s Tuesdays with Morrie (again). It is one of my favourite books and reminds me of my Mum’s grace, courage and wisdom.

Who is your hero/heroine? Why?
My Mum. She worked so hard to make herself into the person she knew her children deserved. She was true to herself and lived with integrity. She made me who I am and that reminds me that I am always good enough.

A favourite quote:
“We are all here because we have more to learn, if we didn’t we wouldn’t need to be here and we would evolve!” – My Mum.

“There used to be giants in the sky who looked after everything but they all died so now the police have to do it.” – My son (at age 4).

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Tell us about your pets:
We have a beautiful cat called Itty Nabibi (Little Black Panther) who is fantastically independent, properly witchy and super snuggly.

If you were a crafty superhero, what would your name and superpower be?
My super power would be to make all my jewellery able to come alive and tell the stories that inspired them. My name: the Silver Story Singer.

What would your advice be for those starting out in a crafty business?
Do what you love.

What was the last handmade item you bought and what attracted you to it?
I bought a beautiful sculpture from one of my favourite local artists, Blanch Fryer. I brought it for my wonderful partner who works in the circus field and loves all things circus, especially clowns and object manipulation. The sculpture was of a jester juggling, and Blanch had captured the expression so beautifully. I think Blanch may have my super hero skill as I feel that her work is about to come alive and tell me a fantastical story!

What’s in store for the rest of the year, and 2017?
I have no idea! Where is the fun in having it all mapped out? I have a hundred things I want to create, at least two new ranges that I want to get stuck into, and a secret project that I am itching to start. I have the feeling that 2017 is going to be exciting! I have had four delightful years at home with my son, but I am now beginning to refocus my attention on my creative goals and that fills me with a sense of adventure.

 

See more from Ore and Wander here »

 

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Other people would love them too: the voice that inspired a new direction

Monday, September 26th, 2016

Every now and then on Felt we meet a maker who has a truly extraordinary story to tell. Kim Annan of NZ Art is one such artist.

Waxeye on Windsticks by NZ Art

What do you make?
I make Windsticks, a kinetic wind sculpture which also feeds the birds if you wish – or you can just enjoy them for their lovely sculptural value and watch them move and sway in the wind.

How did you get into your craft?
I moved into a new subdivision in early 2000 and I had no trees or plants in my back yard. I had nowhere to hang my bird feeders from, so I was throwing the food on the lawn and my dog was eating it. I tried to train her out of that, but she wouldn’t listen. So I had to think of a way to feed the birds, keep them safe from my dog, and keep my dog away from their food…

I wanted something that looked pretty even when I was not feeding the birds, and I knew it had to be vertical as there was nothing on the section for anything to hang from. That was when Windsticks were born.

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Then after the first Christchurch earthquake in September 2010, I moved in with my best friend Stephen. I asked Stephen if I could put my Windsticks in his garden as I did not want them to get broken in storage. He said yes, as he loved my Windsticks. Stephen had told me this for years but I thought it was him just being kind as he was such a kind soul. After I installed them I would catch Stephen standing at the window watching them swaying in the breeze and I realised he actually genuinely did like them!

So I decided to make him a set of his own, as I thought he would miss them when I moved out. I made him a set of red ones and we installed them in his garden. We moved them three times in seven days trying to find the perfect spot. On the third try we had that “Ah ha!” moment of “That is the perfect spot.”

I said “I’m working from home tomorrow, so I will photograph them.” I took a photo and showed Stephen it that night. We both loved it (photo below).

Windsticks in Stephens garden

The very next day, 22 February 2011, Stephen was killed in the CTV site.

Stephen only had his Windsticks for seven days, but in those seven days we talked about them every day. They were the last conversations that we had, and his voice got stuck in my head: “You need to do more with these, other people would love them too.” His voice played over and over in my head every day, like a tape stuck on loop.

His voice played over and over in my head every day, like a tape stuck on loop.

So after I found a place of my own, and I got my drill press out of storage, I decided to make a few Windsticks and go to a show. Stephen was right, other people do love them too! I even won a bronze medal at the 2014 Ellerslie Flower Show.

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Dealing with Stephen’s death was difficult and all the positive feedback from customers and the joy that my Windsticks brought them was the most therapeutic thing for me. Now there is a little piece of myself, Stephen and Bailey dog bringing smiles and joy to people and little birds all over New Zealand.

This has been a silver lining in a very difficult time. This experience confirmed to me that if you find the perfect gift for a loved one, you should give it to them then, do not wait until their birthday or Christmas as life can be unpredictable and you never know what can happen. Stephen got so much enjoyment out of his Windsticks in those seven days.

In 2013, I was given permission to install a large set of red Windsticks on the CTV site (photo below). It is the only sculpture on the CTV site. On anniversary day this year, I wired on 30 real white roses to give a moving flower sculpture for the day.

Windsticks - CTV site 22-2-2016

Do you have formal training or qualifications in your craft?
No. But I have always been artistic. I also do landscape photography, stone mosaic work and stonemats, and last year I learnt abstract painting. I love learning new things and one day I would love to learn casting glass and also Oamaru stone carving.

Your favourite materials, tools and processes?
It would be stones. Every Windstick has two river stones set on it. All the stones are hand selected and drilled by me.

Tell us about the techniques involved in developing and producing your windsticks
I spent time choosing the eight colours and getting them to the exact shade that I wanted. The stones are hand selected and staggered at five different heights, which allows for varying weights of food, and they also move slightly differently in the wind. I have chosen a diameter on the wands that means that they will move even in the slightest of winds.

I wanted to feed the little birds, but not the big ones. I was frustrated in the past how the large birds like black birds and thrushes would bully the small pretty birds like wax eyes, bellbirds and finches away from the food. So I spent time working out what diameter the 2m Windsticks needed to be that the larger birds were too heavy for them. I have a large thrush here that knows he is too heavy to land on the 2m Windsticks but he wants the food so much that sometimes he tries to grab a bite of the food as he flies by! It is really funny to watch.

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Is there a philosophy behind your work?
I create things that I love and then often I find that others like it too.

Describe your workspace:
I work from home. My garage is fully dedicated as my creative space and I have another room as an office. I can look at my window and see the birds feeding on my Windsticks, and when I take my coffee break I spend time with my ducks and ducklings at the creek in my back yard.

Five words that describe your mind:
Fast, bright, passionate, analytical, creative.

Your favourite feedback from a customer:
“I bought some Windsticks from you and they are installed in the garden. They are awesome, within two hours the wax eyes turned up and were having a feed. I can’t get the smile off my face.”

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What are you currently listening to?
Sia – This Is Acting.

Recommend an album:
A classic that I like but is little known – Amos Lee – self titled album called Amos Lee.

What are you reading now?
I am really enjoying some books by Napoleon Hill. I have just been listening to an audiobook called “Napoleon Hill in his own voice”. Napoleon Hill’s books look at the principals to achieving success.

In 1908 Napoleon Hill was given an assignment by the wealthiest man in the world, philanthropist Andrew Carnegie, to spend 20 years studying him and other successful and wealthy people like Henry Ford, Alexander Graham Bell, Elmer R Gates and Thomas Edison to discover a simple formula for success. In 1937 Napoleon published Think and Grow Rich and his teachings have been made into the successful “The Secret.”

Who is your hero/heroine? Why?
I find stories like Napoleon Hill inspiring as he worked for free for those 20 years, he was never paid a cent as he studied those successful people. He understood the value of spending time with them. He really wanted to share the learnings with the world to help others. During the 20 years everyone including his family thought he was mad working for free as he struggled financially yet the people he was studying were very rich. But eventually the joke was on them as Napoleon’s Think and Grow Rich book has now sold over 100 million copies, and in Napoleon’s words, he said he ended up with more money than everyone in his family added together for many generations back. Among other things Napoleon shows that if you believe in something, never ever give up, no matter what everyone else thinks. Always believe in yourself.

A favourite quote:
“People are like stained glass windows, they sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within.” – Elizabeth Kubler Ross.

“Happiness is not in having what you want, but wanting what you have.” – from the Thunderbirds.

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Tell us about your pets:
I love animals and have had an array of animals in my life – including a pet penguin when I was 7! We found him with a broken wing and we rehabilitated him back to the wild. My lovely dog passed away before the quakes and the house I live in now is too small for a dog, but it does have a creek in the back yard and that brings other opportunities.

So at this time in my life I have what I call “Nature’s free pets” – ducks and ducklings and all the birds that feed on my Windsticks like wax eyes, bellbirds and finches, among many others like fantails that enjoy my garden.

I am in the central city of Christchurch but there can be 100 birds in my back yard at any time, it is like a small sanctuary in amongst the urban CBD. The ducks have their own duck bath and a lovely spot to sit by the creek.

Last year one of the ducks turned up with a very badly damaged leg. He struggled to stand or walk and would fall over trying to walk. He was like that for weeks. We took care of him and kept him fed and safe. Last week I was excited when he turned up with a wife and 14 ducklings!

The ducks are well trained – I use the same principals of training that I did for my dog. When I whistle they come running – that way I know if they are ducks that have lived here before or new ducks. I have at least 15 ducks that visit and over summer we will have over 40 ducklings. I can hand feed them and all the ducklings are all friendly enough to sit on my knee. I find nature very relaxing and the ducks, although not as bright as my dog, are more intelligent that I ever gave them credit for and they are trainable. They bring me lots of smiles and joy.

If you were a crafty superhero, what would your name and superpower be?
I would be the superhero of my feathered friends, making little birds fat and happy all over New Zealand from feeding on my Windsticks and keeping them safe from cats and dogs as they feed well above the ground.

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What would your advice be for those starting out in a crafty business?
If you make something for yourself that you are passionate about and love, the chances are that others will love it too. Create a listing on Felt and see what happens!

It is important that the photo is great, that you have good text describing the item. Try and convey what you love about what you have created. Remember the customer cannot pick it up and touch it, so you have to convey all of that with your words and photos. Customers love getting to know the creator and some will fall in love with the story about you and your creation. (Excellent advice! -Ed.)

Believe in yourself and never ever give up.

What was the last handmade item you bought and what attracted you to it?
I purchased a lovely hand painted cushion. I loved the colours and the design and it perfectly matched the colours in my house.

What’s in store for 2016?
October to January is summer trade show time! I attend many of the larger shows around the South Island and some in the North Island. Events coming up in the next month include:
Thursday 27 October – the Culverden Fete
Sunday 30 October – Oxford Garden Fete
Thursday 3 November – Geraldine Summer Fete
Sunday 6 November – Garden Marlborough in Blenheim

Kim has a special offer running right now in her Felt shop NZ Art: purchase any item before 31 October, and go in the draw to win a bundle of five beautiful 2m Windsticks in the colour of your choice, shipped anywhere in NZ. With a cost of $75 plus $28 shipping, this is a total prize value of $103, so place an order now!

Competition open to New Zealand residents only. The winner will be drawn by Kim on 31 October and will be notified directly.

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A perfect tension: the art and craft of making artists’ canvasses

Monday, September 12th, 2016

Stretched canvas maker Alanah Tocker freely admits she has an obsession with timber. With more than ten years of industry experience, Alanah joined Felt a year ago to offer her high quality, fully customised painting surfaces as Stretched – a very appropriate name! Alanah starts with New Zealand first grade kiln dried pine, which is handcrafted into stretcher frames of 35 and 45mm and stretched with quality 12 ounce cotton duck canvas. The canvas is then primed twice by hand for a perfect painting surface.

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What do you make?
I make stretched canvasses, boards and blocks for artists. I often work directly with artists to ‘create’ a surface that they are looking for to complete their artistic ideas that they cannot make or buy elsewhere.

How did you get into your craft?
I have always painted, and being a poor student could never justify paying crazy prices for poor quality canvasses. I was lucky to be taught to make canvasses from scratch by David Heaphy, the technician at the School of Fine Arts at Canterbury University. David made and sold to full-time artists, so I learnt the tricks-of-the-trade from the best.

Do you have formal training or qualifications in your craft?
I have a BFA from the University of Canterbury, where I studied sculpture. The art school workshop was so well appointed I was able to learn woodworking, casting and mould-making, foundry skills, welding as well as critical thinking. Following art school, I worked as a screen printer, a stretched-canvas maker for local artists, and then as an artist’s technician for Phil Price and Hannah Kidd, whilst retaining a painting practice and selling canvasses.

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Your favourite materials, tools and processes?
Wood is my favourite material to work with, it’s so versatile and I can craft anything from it. My favourite tool would be a very old wood plane of my great granddad’s, which I still use regularly. My favourite process is taking a 4×2 and a roll of cotton-duck canvas and producing a beautiful stretched canvas. If I want to paint on it I know it’s good!

What inspires you?
I love being in the workshop or studio – it’s my happy place, it brings me energy. I think I am supposed to say “my kids”… I guess they’re pretty inspiring too! I love the fact that my boys think it’s totally normal to have a mum using power tools and a builders pouch – which it should be! No surprises they want to be builders!

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Often it’s the customers that keep me focused, their feedback and gratitude for helping them translate their vision into reality, make me feel great about what I produce.

Is there a philosophy behind your work?
Simple: Locally-made and careful production will always result in premium quality products.

Describe your creative process
The creative process for crafting my artist’s surfaces involves putting myself in the artist’s shoes; it helps being a painter too! I and ask what does the ideal surface look like? What details are important and what do I need to do to achieve that. Then I build from there.

Describe your workspace
I work out of a 100-year-old workshop-turned-garage-turned-workshop again at home, in organised chaos! The fun comes when the bigger canvasses need to be walked outside, just to be turned around! It can be chilly but it makes me work fast to get warm, which is easy as I usually have lots of projects going on at once!

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Five words that describe your mind:
Enquiring, introverted, passionate, authentic, inspired.

Your favourite feedback from a customer:
“Your canvasses and rimu blocks are absolutely stunning!” Feedback from last week’s order, feedback makes me happy!

What are you currently listening to?
Tiny Ruins, a Melbourne based singer-songwriter, beautiful music to paint to.

Recommend an album:
The Lumineers by The Lumineers, always a go to for the workshop!

What’s your favourite childhood book and why?
Pottle Pig by Shirley Hughes (also my boys’ favourite!). I love the naughty pig that always gets into trouble along with the lovely illustrations, reading it now makes me love and reminisce about the farm I grew up on.

What are you reading now?
The Goose Bath Poems by Janet Frame, love her work – so honest.

Who is your hero/heroine? Why?
I would have to say hero and heroine would be my mum and dad. They’ve always encouraged my love of the arts, from Dad starting me off on his tools at age 10, to Mum taking me to buy paints. They’ve supported me through art school and even now look after the kids one or more days a week so I can get my orders out. They are awesome.

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A favourite quote:
Live simply, dream big, be grateful, give love, and laugh lots.

Tell us about your pets:
One old whippet named Uma, one old cat named Meow-meow and a selection of chooks, names dependent on if they are in the veggie garden!

If you were a crafty superhero what would your name and superpower be?
Timber Woman – with the power of building and shaping anything using just her mind.

What advice do you have for those starting out in a craft business?
Start now. Get on Felt. Have a great website, and have real conversations with your audience and client base – no matter how big.

What was the last handmade item you brought and what attracted you to it?
A Mother’s Day tea towel for my mum, it also came with a hand printed card, from the Felt website of course!

What’s in store for the rest of 2016?
Starting to build our first home with my partner, wrangling a 7, 5, and 0.25 year old! And of course finding time to paint…

I have some exciting new developments for artists’ surfaces. I am working on developing a special laminated circular stretcher frame made from a mould, I also have a new ‘floating’ artists board in development and I would also like to promote some of my oil paintings on the Felt site… watch this space!

Alanah has very generously offered a marvellous prize for one lucky Felt reader of one of her new 500mm diameter x 45mm deep stretched canvas circles, stretched with a 12oz canvas and primed twice by hand. These are made from a marine laminate timber using a mould technique and have a total value of $65 plus postage, and will be available on Felt from next month.

To be in to win this absolutely unique prize, simply leave a comment telling us what appeals to you about Alanah’s story and her craft. The draw will be made on Friday 23 September and is open to New Zealand residents only.

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