Tag Archives: Interviews

Interview with Emma and Ivan

Image by Emma and Ivan from Tread and Pedals.

This interview was conducted Michelle Genders originally posted on the Australian Wandarrah team website.

Let’s get to know Emma and Ivan from Tread and Pedals. They reuse reuse bike parts that would otherwise be discarded to make beautiful and functional. Emma and Ivan opened up their childhood memories of bike riding and their favourite parts of running a handmade business:

Where do you live and how long have you lived there?

We’re currently looking at buying a house in Bright, Victoria and have moved back in with the folks until we find a place to hang our hats and bicycle helmets. We’re ever so lucky to have such accommodating parents, they’ve allowed us not only to live under their roof again (after living out of home for over 9 years) but they’ve also allowed us take over the workshop with all our gear and much of the house too. Prior to the move back, we were living in a gorgeous little weather board home in the scenic Dandenong Ranges, with forest all around. The tall eucalypt and twisty wattles made up the vista from our deck and we were often host to many feathered friends who would join us on the veranda for a cuppa, the King Parrots and Turtle Doves were my favourite visitors.

Where do you make the pieces that you sell?

All our products are handmade in our studio and workshop.

What do you like most about working with upcycled bike parts?

I think the thing we both enjoy the most about working with old bike parts is the joy that comes from being able to take something that would otherwise be destined for landfill and upcycle it into something fun and functional.

What is the most difficult part about working with upcycled bike parts?

Sourcing and then cleaning the parts would have to be the two biggest challenges we experience when it comes to working with the salvaged bike parts. We’d love nothing more than being able to click “order” and receive a bundle of goodies in the mail ready to be made into our products. However the less than glamorous side of working with old bike parts, instead sees us digging through tubs of greasy bike parts and spending hours up to our elbows cleaning them.

What is your favourite tool or piece of equipment with?

The welder, it allows us to create items that will last the test of time.

What are your favourite kind of materials to work?

Emma: For me it would have to be the inner tube and the bike chain. The inner tube is wonderfully tactile and lends itself so well to being used in place of leather, it is soft to touch yet mighty tough and makes for great jewellery and accessories. The bike chain I love the way it moves and the way the light hits the metals (once all shiny clean), breaking the chain and reshaping it into other forms is much fun.

Ivan: The metals – in particular the gears, wheels and chain.

You profile says “Riding bikes since we were kids, upcycling them since 2011.” Could you tell us a story about riding bikes as a kid?

Emma: I learnt to ride on the same bike as my mother and my grandmother, it was a cute little red 1940’s Malvern Star bicycle, a fixie. I have memories of my parents telling me to keep my feet on the pedals as I sped down hills, since my pedals were also my brakes. There were a few minor incidents involving trees, but I loved every minute of it. I now have a bike with all the bells and whistles – it has brakes that I can operate from the handle bars, all the gears a gal could ask for, front and rear shocks and even a button that can pop my seat up or down depending on the terrain. Ivan introduced me to the world of Mountain Biking when we were living in Canada, on a Downhill Mountain Bike in Whistler no less, and whilst I enjoyed it thoroughly I was also terrified and decided that regular cross-country Mountain Biking was more my speed than the adrenaline rich down-hilling.

Ivan: I grew up in the burbs in the late 1980’s and 90’s, an awesome time to grow up, it was a time where you could tell where all the kids were playing by where the bikes were parked. Biking has always been a social thing for me, be it riding with mates or hanging out track side at the BMX dirt jumps, for me now it’s racing MTB and Endurance (Enduro) events and going off on riding holidays, or travelling the world with bike and backpack. As a kid I wasn’t as obsessed with biking as I am now, I think it was in my late teens and early 20’s that my obsession for biking really took off and it’s done nothing but grow over the years.

Could you tell is a bit more about how your business came into being in 2011?

In 2011 we were both looking for an alternative to the 9-5, Ivan was at the time working as workshop manager for a busy Melbourne bike store and I was in an administration role. Tread & Pedals was born at this time as a response to the shockingly large amount of old bicycle parts we saw passing through Ivan’s work (and other bike shops too) that were destined for landfill. In an effort to reduce the amount of waste being generated we decided to look at re-purposing these parts; whilst also celebrating our passion for bicycles, the arts, design and sustainability. Ivan’s background in engineering and mine in the arts really helped us on our journey and allowed us to work with our strengths, doing something we love. Our first product, from memory, was the cog and chain bottle opener. We were ever so surprised by the positive response our jewellery, homewares and accessories received – blown away even. Never did we imagine we’d be able to make it our full time job – we’re ever so lucky and feel mighty blessed being able to wake up each day and make a living doing what we love.

When I browse through your shop, I’m struck by the diversity of the products that you make and sell, yet at the same time how it all holds together so well under the overall theme of upcycling bike parts. Do you have a personal favourite piece that you wear or use yourselves?

Emma: It’s like having to choose a favourite child… please don’t tell the other products but my favourite piece would have to be the bike spoke bracelets. I have three that I wear on my right wrist, I love them so much that I never take them off. They’re made using stainless steel bicycle spokes so they make the most wonderful no fuss piece of jewellery, they don’t tarnish or rust and they never require polishing. They’re lightweight, sturdy, elegant, eco and perfect for adventures; you can wear them in the ocean, climbing mountains, or riding your bike.

Ivan: Hard call, but our Bike Chain Cufflinks are probably my favourite, that or the Bike Wheel Clocks. The Bike Chain Cufflinks are the only way Emma can get me to wear a suit, they’re a great accessory that allows you to add some personality to the suit, while still looking mighty smart. And if you’re anything like me and love bikes it’s great because you quite literally get to wear your passion on your sleeve.

Is there a piece that is a particular best seller, or flies quickly out the door?

Our Bike Tyre Stubby Holders and Bike Cog and Chain Bottle Openers are a seasonal favourite and sell like hot cakes during the summer months and over Christmas as they make great gifts for cyclists and lovers of beer, but the all year round top sellers would have to be our Bike Gear and Bike Wheel Clocks.

Your passion for resusing and upcycling so that usable materials are prevented from going into landfill is catching! Thank you for sharing your story with us – it is great to know more about the people behind the bike parts

 

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Interview with Nadya

Image by Nadya from Tiniest Spirit.

This interview was conducted by Michelle Genders and originally posted on the Rainbow Artists team blog.

Let’s get to know Nadya Sivers from Tiniest Spirit. She makes little creatures out of polymer clay and other materials that evoke magic and soul in her home tome in the Ukraine.

Where do you live and how long have you lived there? 

I live in a beautiful city named Lviv. It’s name translates to ‘City of Lions’. I’ve lived here all my life. Lviv is an old city with beautiful architecture, renaissance and art-nouveau buildings, city with character and a rich history.

Can you describe the landscape of the place where you live?

I spent my childhood in an old Austrian house with the most beautiful view from the window I ever seen. It is in the old township of Lviv and it was very close to the center of the city. Now I live in a new area with new buildings and beautiful view, but it’s a much less interesting township.

What do you like most about where you live? 

I always thought Lviv is a city of fairytales and legends. When I was a child I would look up to the window and saw a lot of roofs covered with snow and I was thinking about people who live there – knights, wizards, fairies and other habitants of this majestic city.

The thing I like more about where I live is that I always can find inspiration here. Lviv keeps the spirit of old town, I feel something similar in Prague – all the narrow streets, little windows and colorful houses.  They all remember their owners, they know all their stories and they can tell so many amazing things!

Lviv is one of the best cities for artists and writers. It inspires.

What do you like most about maintaining your etsy shop?  

I like to make photos of the items. I carefully choose all the crystals, stones, leaves and wooden sticks to make an atmosphere of magic and fantasy, to make a beautiful composition.

I also like to pack the orders. I have a little box with letter stamps and I stamp the name of the item on the box, I write a little letter with thanks on craft paper. I hope all these things bring the customer some warmth.

And the main thing I really really like – the world wideness. Imagining your creations bringing happiness for someone who lives in an opposite point of the world – it’s really fantastic. And, of course, knowing that people like what you do.

Where do you make the items that you sell?

I make all the items in my studio. I’ve had a personal studio for a year – it’s amazing – a place where you create your own world. Dolls, toys, plushies, teddy bears, watercolors – I have too much interests, and for all that I have an ocean of materials. With my studio, they’ve all got their own place on the shelves.

A lot of items in your shop are made from polymer clay – what do you like most about using polymer clay?

I like its flexibility the most. With good instruments you could make any texture, any form. It is an amazing material. But, I hope I’ll learn to work with metal and wood. One of my dreams is to try art clay – a Japanese material based on silver.

What is the most difficult part about using polymer clay? 

Actually for me it’s finding of my favorite type of polymer clay. All clays are very different, one is too soft, another is too hard. When you find your type of polymer clay, work becomes much easier. My favorite one is ‘Super Sculpey Living Doll’.

Thanks for the tip – that’s good to know!

Could you share one item from your hand made shop that you are most proud of making?

Actually, it is not the item from my shop but I really proud of it. It is a figure of ‘Baby Winston’, a hero from Blizzard computer game ‘Overwatch’.

I used many techniques – sewing, felting, hand-painting, sculpting, etc. I was working for three days. It was a present for my boyfriend, he is a game-developer. Every detail is handmade, even eyes – they are glass lenses with hand-painted backs.

All those techniques I learned myself, and it is a wonderful thing. When you begin to work with polymer clay, then you get better in sewing and so on… And after all that, you could mix all your knowledge and experience for creating something new.

Wow – well done – it really is an impressive creature that you have made. The expression is very cute.

I love the name of your shop ‘Tiniest spirit’. It is very evocative. Can you tell use more about why you called it that?

I choose the name of the shop with a little help of my boyfriend. We wanted to find a name that will be mystic but cute, with a forest scent. When I opened my etsy-shop, the first items I made were little forest spirits – Wolfy Blackberry, Iceland Mushroom, Spirit of Fox Gloves, Wooden Snails and others. So it is about this mysterious dream-like spirit. But it’s also cute and tiny.

It says in your etsy profile “I live in a world of magic, creativity, little beautiful things and music.” Could you tell use a bit more about the music that is a part of your world?

I really think that music is a very important part of creative process. I always try to find compositions that help me to be in fairy mood. Where you think of magic forests and tiny creatures who hides in tree crowns.

Music helps you to create a new story. All that you see when you are listening to the music is your world with your rules, and your hands have power to let habitants of that world come alive.

That is a really beautiful statement and a lovely way to end the interview. Thanks for chatting with me Nadya, it was great to get to know you a bit better.

 

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Interview with Alison K

Image by Alison from Mettaville.

This interview was conducted by Michelle Genders and originally posted on the Australian Wandarrah team website.

Let’s get to know Alison Koh from Mettaville. Her shop is a beautifully minimal place to purchase carefully hand crafted journals, note book and cards. She shows us behind the scenes in her studio in New Zealand:  

I noticed Alison early on after joining Wandarrah and other online creative groups. She is regularly active and supportive. I appreciated seeing her smiling face pop up! I’m happy to be sharing her story…

Where do you live and how long have you lived there? 

My husband and I (and our cat) live in west Auckland, New Zealand and we’ve been living here for the past 3 years.

Can you describe the landscape of the place where you live? 

We live in semi rural setting, though we don’t get a million dollar view from our house, the bush and sea aren’t very far away.

What do you like most about where you live? 

The rugged landscape of Waitakere Ranges and the west coast beaches. I love bush walking or tramping as they call it here, being with nature keeps me grounded. The forest and beaches are my favourite places to be.

Tell me about the shibori dyed journals that you sell, how did you come to practice the shibori dyeing technique?  

It was by chance actually. My pen pal from US sent me a shibori fabric that she dyed and I made that into journals and since then, I got hooked into making my own shibori fabric and turning them into journals.

Where do you make the journals that you sell?  

I have a tiny home studio (a spare room) and I spend most of my time making the journals here.

I’ve noticed that your cat Kiki is featured on your etsy shop as another shop member. It says she adds “a little cuteness and love…an important job to keep my human happy at work.” Can you tell me a little more about Kiki? 

Kiki is absolutely adorable! We have a kind of daily routine somewhat. After breakfast, we’d usually wander in the garden before she settles into her basket or igloo for her nap and I’d start my work, come lunch hour she’ll come look for me and we’ll have some food and take another break in the garden or enjoy play time and cuddles. She helps me stay present and relax and as all pet owners do, we “talk” with each other. She doesn’t hang out in the studio much and that’s just fine as both of us don’t want to be distracted with our work or nap.

Kiki is indeed a stunner! Beautiful eyes. And such a soft looking coat. 

What do you like most about making the journals? 

Everything. Putting the pieces together and completing a journal always feels wonderful.

What is the most difficult part about making the journals? 

When I first started making them, it was the binding part, papers get torn when I pull the thread the wrong way and have to unravel and start again. It’s much easier now and I rarely (touch wood) tear the pages.

What is your favourite tool or piece of equipment? 

I like them all, you can’t make a complete book without having them all, they all play an important role.

Both the items that you make and the way that you present your shop as a whole is very refined. It communicates a quiet beauty and considered simplicity. With the beautiful blue shining through as the thread between it all.

Thank you for your kind words. I guess it reflects the way I live. I love being in solitude and quiet surroundings, it gives me the peace and calmness to do my work. I live a very simple life and come to know the beauty in simplicity.

Could you share your thoughts on that vibrant blue colour, the minimal but meaningful designs that you favour for the covers and the perfectly implemented book binding in the spines of your journals? 

The whole process from dyeing the fabric to binding a complete book, it’s all very, how shall I say… done in a mindful way, there is a sense of orderliness and yet there are moments of child like wonder and surprises along the way too, especially during the unfolding of the dyed fabric.

Oh yes! I can imagine it would be very exciting to undo the fabric and see how it has turned out

Most of my journals are bound using coptic binding which I find it best as it is sturdy and holds the pages welI together. The simple designs that I choose are again what I would like to share of the message, which is beauty in simplicity. I’d like to think they are a mix of modern boho with a little zen to the shibori journals.

It says on your etsy ‘About page’ that the name of your shop “metta” means love and kindness and that this is your intention when you make the journals. Could you say a little bit more about how this influences the way that you make the journals? 

I am a meditator and I meditate most mornings before I start my daily activities, I practise metta meditation, which is radiating love and kindness to myself and out unto the world. That intention follows in all that I do, including making the journals, wishing that the receivers of the books connect to their own love and kindness within and this help heal, inspire and empower themselves through writing in the blank pages.

It is great to hear about your daily meditation practice. I’m a meditator myself and I also meditate most days. It fell into place for me a couple of years ago when I moved to a quieter place to live.

Do you have any tips for people who would like to get into a daily practice of meditation? Maybe there is a good place online to learn about it?

It’s wonderful that you meditate too Michelle. Definitely a lot of benefits to practice meditation. A great way to start is to spend a couple of minutes a day, whether in the morning after you wake up or in the evening just before going to bed. If you can practice just 5 minutes a day, it can go a long way in helping with your daily lives.

There are many methods and practices of meditations, Metta meditation is one of the simplest to start with. I found this link, which has a more neutral tone to it, I don’t want people to think this is a religious practise, it is not. If you can look past that labels/concept and look in a different perspective, it is simply the practice of cultivation of the mind and heart. There are 5 gradual steps to follow and it’s a great way to practice with children as well. I invite you to watch the video and see if it resonates with you and if it does, give it a try for a month and see what happens.

It also says on your ‘About page’ that you came to making journals through journalling yourself and that helps us to find our true selves. I journal most days and I can imagine that sitting down to write in one of your journals would be feel very special.   

Do you have any stories to share about your experience of journal writing?

It’s quite comforting to write, I write when I feel happy, sad, lost, confused, excited, inspired, when ideas come rushing through. I doodle and draw too, I do lots of things in my journal, but mostly I write.

Sometimes it’s just pure joy to express in the pages, other times when I feel a little lost, I would write and write and sometimes answers will reveal themselves in the pages, other times in other ways. Writing helps me go deep within, connect to higher or inner self and to what some may call the divine (whatever you choose to call it).

Words have power and I choose my words carefully. I have had many dreams come true through journaling, like this life that I am living now, doing the thing that I love and having a little home studio. It’s all through journaling, It’s pretty magical really.

Wow – that is amazing. Thank you for sharing that. What a rich and varied practice journalling is.  

I love this item in your shop which features the inspiring saying “no mud, no lotus”.

For those who are not familiar with this saying, could you tell us a bit more about what that means?

No Mud No Lotus is a phrase and also a book written by Zen Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh. As the saying goes, the lotus, so radiant and pure can only grow in the mud, pushing through and finally bloom. In the same way as humans, only through hardship (the mud) do we grow and gain wisdom and truly understand happiness (the lotus). In knowing this, we should not not discriminate the mud or hardship, instead we have to learn to embrace hardship with tenderness and compassion for ourselves and our fellow beings. And only through having to experience unpleasantness in life that we know how to suffer less.

I love this quote and it is often a reminder for me when I face my own challenges in life. How wonderful that we can learn so much from nature if we only stop and see.

I love it too. Although I still struggle with the mud, the lotus flower is indeed very inspiring.

Once again, thank you Alison for sharing your story. It has been a pleasure.

 

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Interview with Gina

Image by Gina from Gina’s Vintage Shop.

This interview was conducted by Michelle Genders and originally posted on the Rainbow Artists team blog here.

Let’s get to know Gina from Gina’s Vintage Shop. She tells us about how she started collecting vintage items and the story behind some of her items:

Where do you live? Can you describe the landscape of the place where you live? 

Where we live has been a journey in it’s own. My ex-husband removed us from the family home in June of 2015 leaving me and my four children homeless. But two very special angels found us a home that we were able to rent to own.

When the divorce came through, we were able to buy this home. We bought it in April of 2016. Home is where our hearts are. The landscape of our home is simply the love that we have for each other and the gratitude that we have for a roof over our heads.

Tell me about the vintage items that you sell on etsy – how did you come to collecting and selling vintage items? 

Gina: My love for vintage really came from the passion my father had for old books and history. We would spend hours at book sales and touring old forts and battle ships. Vintage to me is about history and stories. Both the personal history and stories as well as the history of how the items came to be.

My shop began with a few items my father and I collected and was gathering dust in the basement. My ex-husband would not allow me to open a shop and thought my idea was stupid so I hid my shop from him until one day an order came in when he was home. The cat was out of the bag and so too the arguments that followed. But I kept the shop going and my shop grew in-spite of all that was happening in the home. Then in 2015 my vintage doors closed due those events in the home.

The day I had to shut my vintage doors was a very difficult day for me. For me my vintage shop became a part of me. The stories, the mysteries and the history of each item ran through my blood and to lose those stories, mysteries and history felt like my life stopped. My ex threw out the majority of my items.

I thought my shop doors would be shut forever but those stories and mysteries wouldn’t let me go. I re-opened at the end of 2015 with a few items that I smuggled out of the house. It has been a struggle but the stories will continue.

Thank you for being so honest about your story Gina. I’m sorry to hear about your past, but I really respect the strength it has taken for you to pick up and do it all again! 

Where do you find/source the vintage items that you stock in your shop? 

Gina: Most of my items are stories that had ended and are sold at garage sales, thrift stores or left in a trash can. They are in need of someone that understands their stories and can add a new chapter to continue them.

What is the most difficult part about collecting vintage items?

The hardest part of collecting and selling vintage items is letting them go. With so many items I find that someone in the family falls in love with it and begs for me to keep it. But the point of having a shop is to find a better home for each item and making money to provide for the family. So they must go…

Out of all the items that you have in your shop at the moment, which one was the most exciting find for you? 

I have many items that were an exciting find. Many items can take a lot of time solving their mystery. Questions like time period, who produced the item, where did the item come from, what pattern or design is it, and many many many other questions that need to be answered before the item is listed.

This item was discovered at a church garage sale, I had NO CLUE to the pattern or time period or who made it nor could I find any information on her. It took me 2 years to crack the case and boy was I shocked and surprised to find out that she was 115 years old. She is sooooooooo pretty and elegant even with her imperfections. I was half tempted to keep her but I really don’t have any room for her. I’m hoping one day someone will be able to provide her with a home and continue her story for the next 115 years.

My partner loves to drink tea and we live in a cold climate, so it gets cold quickly. This item would come in very handy for us! Could you tell me a bit more about this item

Vintage Rubbermaid Woodbine Tumblers were made in the 70’s during the time when everyone was getting back to nature and becoming one with it. They are made out of heavy plastic and are great for any outdoor adventure.

(Gina’s listing for this item says:

The design, the color and the durability of Rubbermaid makes this tumbler perfect for your outdoor adventure.

These cups are great for hot or cold beverages and can be placed in the dishwasher on the top rack. They hold under 12 ounces of liquid.

I have 6 total $6.00 a piece. Each will be charged a separate shipping charge…don’t panic, I just need the amount to ship the item to you. I will refund anything over a $1.

Condition: I would say each tumbler was lightly used with general vintage fading, scratches and ware.)

This item is a classic and it seems to have an interesting story behind it. Could you tell us a bit more about the origin of this item

I love this cookie jar.  I know that cookie jars seem so outdated anymore but they really can be a useful thing  not only for cookies but  for pet treats as well.

This pretty and modern looking cookie jar was a part of Woolworth and Safeway Fresh cash savers stamp with purchase program. The program worked by collecting 20 grey stamps and exchanging it for a bake ware piece. As an incentive they gave an individual soufflé baker for free. The goal was to collect enough stamps and or books to be able to complete the entire set.

(Gina’s listing says:

This product was made in Japan. It measures under 7 inches tall and from handle to handle under 7.5 inches wide. Inside depth is under 6 inches deep. Colors are white with pink and purple flowers and a gray lid. Perfect for cookies, dog biscuits or to hide your secret stash of candy)

I know that you are very busy Gina, so I really appreciate the time you have taken to tell your story. You have given me an insight into people’s passion for vintage. 

 

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Interview with Hanna

Image by Hanna from Hanacraft.

This interview was conducted by Michelle Genders and originally posted on the Australian Wandarrah team website.

Let’s get to know Hanna Maryam from Hanakrafts. She sells vibrant, patterned paper craft that’s been meticulously made and presented. Let’s take a tour around her new home town and have a peak in her studio:

Where do you live and how long have you lived there?

I live in Rotorua, New Zealand, with my husband, and we’re very new here: we’ve only been here for 6 months! Our home is quite unique because we’ve got a little treehouse on our lawn!

Can you describe the landscape of the place where you live?

Rotorua is in the Bay of Plenty region and is surrounded by lots of beautiful lakes and greenery. We also have a lot of geothermal activity here, which makes for amazing hot springs and geysers, but it also means you have to live with a whiff of sulphur every now and then!

What do you like most about where you live?

There’s always something to do no matter what you fancy! We have the Redwoods and the lakes if you’re an outdoorsy person, and we also have museums and cultural villages if that’s more your cup of tea. Rotorua also has an amazing artistic community—I’ve already gotten so much support in the short time I’ve been here.

It looks very beautiful and you must feel lucky to live there. I was lucky enough to visit New Zealand with my nan when I was a teenager. Roturua was definitely on of my favourite place – very intriguing.

Could you recommend one particular lake and one particular museum in the Rotorua area, maybe your favourite one and give a reason why its your favourite? 

I would say the Blue Lake is my favourite in Rotorua. It’s just a short drive away from the city but it’s quiet and secluded, and there’s a nice little walk that you can take around the lake too. I would also recommend the Rotorua Museum because the building has a distinctive Elizabethan style, and you can learn so much about the history of Rotorua and New Zealand, as well as the culture of the Maori people, here. The Museum is unfortunately closed to the public right now as a precaution following the earthquake in November 2016, so hopefully it will reopen soon!

Ooh I will definitely have to take a trip back there some day and check those recommendations out!

Where do you make the pieces that you sell? 

In my home studio that has a beautiful view of the greenery outside.

Do you get to spend a lot of time there?

Yes, my home studio is actually a spare bedroom. I do get to spend a lot of time there, making items and photographing them, as well as packing orders.

Do you listen to any particular music while you work?

I like to tune in to the radio while I work, but I don’t listen to New Zealand radio; I listen to my favourite Singapore radio station instead, via the internet! It keeps me updated with what’s happening back home and it’s more of my kind of humour. I also love to listen to podcasts such as Create and Thrive, Dear Handmade Life and Explore your Enthusiasm with Tara Swiger. When I have time I will also tune in to any relevant Creative Live workshops that are on air! Okay, I clearly love to be entertained while I work!

What is one things that you’ve put in your studio that makes it feel like your own? 

My plastic stationery box is my constant companion in my studio. I’ve had it for many years and I used to bring it to the classroom with me during my teaching days, so it actually holds lots of memories. It used to contain my stash of red pens but now it holds all my crafty stuff instead!

What a sweet little place you have there, I reckon it would have been enjoyable to set up home in your new neighbourhood.

What do you like most about paper craft?

I love that paper is such a versatile medium, with so many patterns and textures, and that there are so many endless possibilities with it.

Yes, I too can get enough of paper and how it can be very fragile or very strong. And of course there are so many things to put ON the paper.

What is your favourite paper pattern design type? 

I wish I could say I love all the patterns, because I do! But if I had to choose, I would say my favourite would be traditional Asian designs. Japanese or Chinese-inspired designs, Indonesian batik patterns, Indian sari patterns–they’re all so rich and beautiful to me.

What is the most difficult part about paper craft?

Helping people realize that paper craft is also a form of art, which means it is deserving of a higher price point, especially if the products are handmade.

What is your favourite tool or piece of equipment with?

My corner rounder! I love how rounded corners always give an elegant finishing touch to whatever product I’m creating.

What is your favourite kind of paper to work with?

Definitely Japanese origami paper, specifically Yuzen Chiyogami paper, which has a fibrous and textured surface that makes it feel more like fabric than paper. I use this to make my premium origami money envelopes which were the first items I ever launched and are still bestsellers today.

Ah thanks for the tip – I’ll have to get my hands on some and have a play…

Your Etsy shop ‘About’ page tells a lovely story about how you grew up crafting alongside of your mum:

“When I was young, my mum used to love making her own money envelopes for the festive seasons. She would buy rolls of wrapping paper in a pretty design, trace out the shape of the money envelope using a cardboard sample multiple times, then very carefully cut the shapes out. She would then fold in the creases, paste the edges and voila! Money envelopes ready for filling for Hari Raya!

Could you tell us more about the rituals involved in Hari Raya and how the envelopes in particular are used in these rituals? 

Hari Raya, as it is called in countries like Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei, is better known as Eid in other countries. It is a Muslim festival that celebrates the end of a whole month of fasting. During this celebration, we dress up in our traditional clothes, get together with beloved family members and visit our elders. My favourite practice during this festival is when we ask for forgiveness from each other, an act that will always bring about tears and lots of big hearty hugs. Another common practice is to present gifts of money to children and to the elderly. This is where money envelopes come in handy, and if you’re a kid, you’ll definitely be looking forward to all the different designs of money envelopes that you’ll receive, as well as the money inside of course!

This item is the item that I would personally purchase from your beautiful shop: Arabian geometric hand-bound journals.

I write ‘morning pages’ most days and it would be lovely to write them in these journals 🙂 Do you have any stories of ways that your customers have used Hanakrafts that they’ve purchased?

That’s lovely to hear! I keep a personal planner—which I make myself of course!—and will write when I feel inspired to, but I love filling it up at the start of the year with important dates, and personalising it with stickers and hand lettering.

I love it when my customers share with me how they intend to use my products. One of my customers ordered a journal with a cover that featured titles of books—she said she was giving it to her husband, who is a bookworm, as a Valentine’s Day gift. Another customer wanted to take daily notes of her pregnancy, so she commissioned a journal from me with both lined and blank pages, and with a pocket for her to keep little mementoes in. I love knowing that my products end up becoming an important part of my customers’ lives.

I noticed on your Instagram post here that you recently completed a commission, could tell us a bit more about this commission and what their guest book is for?

This commissioned guest book was for a lady who was giving it as a gift to her sister-in-law and her husband. The guest book was for visitors to their home, so she wanted the inside pages to have questions that the visitors would answer, and she also wanted a section where they could leave their fingerprints! The book had an exposed Coptic stitch binding on the spine which made it look really special. The final flourish was the personalized hand lettering of the recipients’ names and a lovely quotation. This was truly one of my favourite commissioned pieces—I absolutely loved how it turned out and the customer did too!

Thank you Hanna. It has been lovely to chat with you. As a fellow paper and pattern lover, I’m often hearting your posts on Instagram so it was great to get to know you better! I look forward to seeing more pretty and dazzling paper products in your feed

 

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Interview with Catherine

Image by Catherine from Tribal Handmade.

This interview was conducted by Michelle Genders and originally posted on the Rainbow Artists team blog here.

Let’s get to know Catherine from Tribal Handmade. She sells a variety of handmade items inspired by her tribal belly dancing practice.. Catherine opened up about her home town in and the crafts that she enjoys making.

Where do you live and how long have you lived there?

I live in beautiful city Lviv in western Ukraine. I’m 27 and have live here all my life. I enjoy it. Lviv is one of the favorite cities for tourists to visit. It was found in 1256 and has been part of numerous states and empires since then – including Poland, Austrian and Austro-Hungarian Empires. Then it was part of the short-lived West Ukrainian People’s Republic, then Poland again and then Soviet Union. And each one of them has left a trace in the architectural, cultural and national variety.

I like to travel and see different cities and countries, but I love to go back home every time.

Can you describe the landscape of the place where you live?

I live on the street with lots of Austrian and Polish villas around me, mixed with modern houses. Some of the old buildings were ruined during World War II. Lviv is very green, people here love gardening. One traveler said: “I saw parks in the city, but never a city in the park.”

What do you like most about where you live?

It’s authentic beauty. Lviv is famous with its architectural heritage. The central part and some old streets are a must see. If you ever been to Prague, Lviv is very similar, but has its own spirit.

What do you like least about where you live?

I hate sudden weather changes. Sunny pleasant weather can swiftly turn into a storm or other way around.

Where do you make the items that you sell?

I’m on my maternity leave now, so I work at home. I like making all of my houses and miniatures but hand. I usually don’t have plan or sketch of what I’m going to make, everything is made on wave of inspiration. I wake up, I see it in my head and just do it. Details are coming to me in progress.

Tell me about the fairy houses that you sell on etsy. How did you come to start making fairy houses?

It all started from a Valentine’s gift that my husband made for me. He decided to make a replica of little baby Groot from movie “Guardians of the galaxy”. There were some leftovers of clay, and I wanted to make some beads for my dance costume. In progress I realized that clay is very pleasant to work with and wanted to make something bigger than just beads. The idea of houses came itself. I still think that the first one was the best of all. I always try to grow, use different tools and techniques.

What do you like most about working with polymer clay to make the fairy houses?

Clay is very flexible. You can create any shape or texture or material that you want – wood, bone, stone, leather, metal. This is what I like the most about working with polymer clay.

What is the hardest part about making the fairy houses with polymer clay?

The hardest, as in murder, is not to leave fingerprints. I hate working with gloves. I can’t feel the clay when I’m wearing them. So it takes a lot of time smoothing or texturing the surface. Also I usually don’t have a sketch and think of the details during the process, so I can accidentally smash something tiny while adding details to already existing design.

What is your favorite tool, piece of equipment, or material to work with?

I love everything about it otherwise I wouldn’t do it. Metal tools, wooden sticks and soft pastels paints help me to achieve required result.

If I could choose to have any item in your shop it would be these ‘Tribal Fluorescent Earrings’. Can you tell me what inspired you to make them and tell me where you’d wear them in the Ukraine? I personally would be wearing them to clubs, festivals, events and parties!!

I drew few ornaments long before those earrings appear. I was just waiting for inspiration for the shape to apply them onto. So one day it just came to me – “Hey, triangles with chains!” Then I drew it, liked what I saw and just made them.

All of the jewelry I make can be worn every day with the appropriate outfit. So I don’t think of any boundaries. But if you really think about, probably they are more appropriate for parties, then business meetings.

Ha! Yeah I guess it would be fun to wear them to work.

Can you tell me a bit about your tribal belly dancing and how that inspires your hand-made items?

Tribal began as a system of dance improvisation. It was created by Carolena Nericcio and is also known as American Tribal Style (ATS). They have amazing costumes! Concept is pretty similar to all of them  – huge 2 layered skirt, Rajasthan choli, bra with coins and chains, colorful hip scarves, mostly hand-crocheted, lots of flowers in hair, beaded medallions on a belt and lots and lots of antique bracelets, huge earrings and necklaces. As you can see field for inspiration here is endless.

Our local dance collective is called ‘Drakaris Lviv Tribal Clan’ and mostly we dance ‘Tribal Fusion’. This is another subcategory of tribal belly dance – here the dancer can mix and match style and elements of her favorite dance styles with ATS basics. Creating costumes for tribal fusion is a bit of a challenge because here you can make really anything almost without limits!

What are you working on making at the moment?

In the last two weeks I finally finished my cross stitching project – Celtic Dragon. I worked on it for a long time and I’m happy finally to hang it on my wall.

Wow, Catherine, that’s a lot of work. Congratulations on finishing it. Thanks for giving us an insight into your life in Lviv and the process of how you make your shop items!

 

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Interview with Jan

Image by Jan from Sunbird Pottery.

This interview was conducted by Michelle Genders and originally posted on the Australian Wandarrah team website.

Let’s get to know Jan Hornett from Sunbird Pottery. Jan sells wheel thrown ceramics with sculptural forms and a specialist kind of glaze from her home at the top of Australia.

Where do you live and how long have you lived there?

We live in Bowen, Queensland, population about 10,000. We came here 20 years ago from Paraburdoo in the Pilbara WA. That’s almost straight across the country.

Bowen is at the top of the Whitsundays. It is known as “the salad bowl of Australia”, award winning beaches, fantastic fishing and 27 murals. It is also home of ‘The Big Mango’.

Can you describe the landscape of the place where you live? 

Bowen is mainly flat, so the couple of hills provide you with great lookouts. There are 8 beaches to choose from depending on your likes or the weather. You can snorkel the ‘Great Barrier Reef’ from a couple of the beaches. Farms surround the town with mainly vegetables grown in the winter. They depend on underground water because the local Don River rarely runs, especially during winter time. Bowen can be very, very dry at times. We can go for months without a drop of rain. Luckily we have a bore water to keep our gardens going.

What do you like most about where you live? 

The climate, easy going friendly people, no traffic lights, slow pace of life. It’s very close to the beach, only a five minute walk across the golf course.

I love far north Queensland! I’ve visited the ‘Great Barrier Reef’ three times. Sometimes I can’t believe it is a part of the same country. It would take 3 days to drive from where I live to where you live. Can you tell me a bit more about the beaches near where you live? Which beach is your favourite and what do you like to do there? 

The prettiest one is a small one called Grays Bay. I mainly just admire it as we drive past to our favourite Chinese restaurant that overlooks the bay and beyond. Then there is Queens Beach. It is the longest beach and my favourite to walk on. It pretty, quiet and you never know what will wash up to be found or who you will meet.

Tell me about the ceramic items that you sell on etsy. How did you come to work with ceramics? 

After coming to Bowen to start our retirement life I had to find something to do that was interesting, time consuming and could do at home. There were pottery classes at the time so I tried that and became addicted. I spent years trying to perfect the pottery wheel after doing some hand building first. Wheel work is my favourite.

I stock my shop with crystal glazed pottery. My main item is knitting bowls. I haven’t stopped making them since a lovely lady named Sharon and I worked out how to make them. Functional and non-functional items are included in my shop in large variety of colours and shapes. All of my items are one of a kind and cannot be repeated.

When I look at the picture of all of your pottery pieces lines up it reminds me of the colours of the forests, desert, beaches and rivers in far north Queensland. How is your pottery inspired by the place where you live? 

I do strive to repeat the colours of these but mainly ocean and reef colours that can go from blue to turquoise and all in between. Sometimes I will get a piece that looks like you are looking though the water to the reef below. These are special but to repeat is near impossible as every firing gives different results even using the exact procedure.

I started my creative journey back in 2002 doing ceramics at a community college. So I know just how difficult it is to make your piece ‘Oriental lidded ceramic containerIt is simply beautiful, well done! It would take a lot of skill to make the lid so that it fits perfectly into the container. It would also take a lot of skill to make the form of the container and fire correctly so it does not crack.

It is all practice and for large items I always make a second lid in case the first one doesn’t make it through firing. I do love making larger items and altering them, but I only put ones in my shop that I know will arrive safely.

Where do you make the items that you sell? 

All my work is at home as I have my own kilns and equipment. 

What is your favourite tool or piece of equipment?

I love my new Venco direct drive pottery wheel I got a few years ago. It is so quiet and runs smoothly compared to my old one.

 I can see why you’d love your new pottery wheel – it looks like a powerful beast! And what a beautiful place to create in. I can see the remnants of clay around the place and it reminds me of how messy making pottery gets. I used to get it all over myself! Is getting your hands (and everything else) dirty on of the parts that you like about ceramics?   

Yes it is a messy game but to keep partly clean I wear an apron and have a towel across my lap. At least when my area gets too bad I can hose it out.

It is not that I like getting dirty but the feel of the clay, especially the white clay on the wheel, is just so creamy and smooth. The whole process on the wheel is so relaxing. Until it all falls in a heap, as occasionally it does when you push the limits.

I’m intrigued by crystalline glaze that you use. What do you like most about working with this type of glaze?

The whole trip has been one big challenge from the beginning. I still feel that I am still in the experimental stage. I never enjoyed glazing before. It was always a chore as I really hadn’t found niche. Now I look forward to glazing.

I always admired crystal glazing. It’s more difficult, time consuming and fascinating. After buying a new electric kiln I decided to give it a go. I read a lot of information and set to it. Just love it now because of the challenge of developing my own glazes that will work for my clay in my kiln.

There are so many variables to be tested. You have to consider the shapes that you’ve made and the way the glaze will run. Each glaze is slightly different depending on the colourants added and whether it is for an upright or flat item. Also some oxides don’t like other oxides. Exact measurements are so vital. Even the same batch of glaze in different firings can give a difference. It can be hard to work out what went wrong during a firing. I am really pleased with the results I am now getting.

I can see from the pictures that you sent that your husband is also creative! What are his sculptures made out of? Can you tell me a bit about how he makes them? 

Bill is always doing something very different. He loves creating with wood. Fence palings are his main material. Our yard is full of his structures. He says he only does it to attract visitors to our garden so they can buy my pottery, if you can believe that. We charge a gold coin donation for a wander through the yard. It all goes to local charities. The stone look comes from sprinkling sand onto the wet paint – very effective.

You mention that the weather in Bowen is very dry. Does this help or hinder the process of drying out your pottery in preparation for firing? 

The humidity or the dryness is a continual battle. One way I slow the drying when needed is to put it in an old broken fridge I have. It’s wonderful – you can alter the shelves to suit, the door seal is not good so my work will slowly dry. I keep my unused clay in the freezer area as it seals well and the clay stays at the same moisture level and is ready for use.

Thanks for sharing your story Jan.

 

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Interview with Rebecca

Image by Rebecca from Fluturi.

This interview was conducted by Michelle Genders and originally posted on the Australian Wandarrah team website.

Let’s get to know Rebecca Madigan-Keals from Fluturi. She is a sewing extraordinare who runs a shop stocked with pretty and carefully made items. Rebecca opened up about her home studio and the pieces that she is most proud of making:

Where do you live and how long have you lived there?

I live in Pomona on the Sunshine Coast in the state of Queensland, Australia. The house that we live in was built by my hubby, his dad and I while I was pregnant with our youngest who is now 11.  I grew up 10 minutes from where I live now at a place called Black Mountain and my dad still lives in the house we grew up in.

Can you describe the landscape of the place where you live? 

Pomona is a lovely green town up in the Noosa hinterland. Pomona’s main visual attraction is Cooroora Mountain. We get a tree filtered view of the mountain from our house and get to watch the amazing sunsets behind it. Pomona and surrounds are lush green rolling hills and very fertile. There are lots of food growers around and a great little country town market every fortnight.

What do you like most about where you live? 

We have yarn bombed street posts and Pomona is a quaint little town. We also have the largest functioning Silent Movie Theatre in the southern hemisphere.

Tell me about the hand sewn items that you sell on etsy. How did you come to sewing? 

I came to sewing through patchwork.  I started having kids early and really wanted something I could do at home while the kids were sleeping or playing. Also once I was pregnant with my first baby I really wanted to create some beautiful pieces for my new arrival.  I asked for a sewing machine for my 21st birthday and that let me start playing with fabric.

I was pretty new to sewing as the only other sewing I had ever done was ‘Home Economics’ in high school. My granny used to sew special occasion dresses for us when we were young and until I began sewing I never really appreciated the work that went into the pieces she made for us. I even remember refusing to wear one when I was about 10 as I didn’t want a yellow dress and my cousin had gotten the pink one and that was the one I wanted!

My nan used to make dresses for me when I was a kid too. She used to give me one at Easter instead of chocolates. Like you, I wasn’t heaps impressed. Have you sewn a dress for someone for a special occasion? 

I make a lot for special occasions. Below is an image of a flower girl dress I made as a custom order. The customer told me what she wanted and I designed a pattern to suit.

That is so cute! And very beautifully made. I love the volume in the skirt. Sorry for diversion, ok back to your story of how you learnt to sew…

When I was learning to sew, I borrowed all of the sewing books from my local library and learnt from them. I also used to borrow the Burda magazines and make the patterns from them. Looking back my first fabric choices were awful and the sewing wasn’t fantastic but here I am 18 years later and selling my sewing and it is of a very high standard even if I do say so myself.

During that time I also started learning how to patchwork, as I loved the beautiful fabrics, which at that time were in limited supply at Spotlight, which was my only local fabric store. I started on a cushion, with an envelope back, as it was a long time before I was brave enough to delve into the hidden zippers I use in my work today.

Today when I am creating new pieces for my Etsy store or to share at a market, I am driven by the gorgeous prints available and also by textures. Ahhh textures, I am a sucker for them. Often at markets people gravitate to touching my cushions and I welcome it. Being a tactile person myself I totally understand the need to stroke soft and cuddly cushions. Sometimes I buy a fabric with a specific project in mind and other times it just speaks to me and I let it lead me into being.

Out of the varied and colourful items listed in your shop, the one that I’d love to have in my home is this cushion from your ‘Grey and white lace’ cushion. With the texture of the lace as well as the flannel like feel of the grey suiting, I’d love to cuddle up with it at night.

Can you tell me a bit more about this collection? Where did you find the lace used in this item?

I am glad you like the grey and white lace cushion, it is definitely a tactile favourite of mine too. Did you know that I individually sew on and tie off each button. That way if one ever comes loose then you won’t lose the whole lot from the cushion. This adds more time to the creation of the pieces however quality is paramount to me and I want the pieces I make to be passed down and well used.

The lace was given to me in a box of linens and French laces that a non-sewing friend inherited from her mother. She was going to give it to the op shop, then thought of me. It was a huge box and one of the best presents I’d ever been given. Needless to say, she received a special creation as a thank you.

Where do you make the items that you sell? 

I have a studio set up just for me to create in. It looks out over my lovely cottage-like front garden.

What do you like most about working with fabric?

Oh the textures, colours, prints. I just love watching it all come to life under the needle of my sewing machine. Sometimes I do hand work on my pieces too, and this is super gratifying for me as it really has a little piece of me stitched in.

What is the hardest part about working with fabric?

Cutting into it for the first time. I am a fabric hoard. This isn’t an exaggeration. We moved to Perth about 6 years ago and I took 15 large tea chests of fabric with me with the promise that if we ever came back to Pomona, that I would have less boxes. Well I’m sorry (not) to say that I came home to Pomona with 24 boxes. I do have a rule though. I have to use something I already have in my “stash” in every new creation that I make.

What is your favourite material to work with?

I love to work with vintage laces and notions. Knowing that they have had a life prior and then that I’m giving them a new one is a special thing for me. I often ponder their previous lives as I recreate them into a new piece.

Out of all the pieces that you have sewn, which one has been your favourite?

My favourite piece, now that’s tricky. I love sewing in general and all of my pieces are a bit special to me. My current favourite is a piece I sold recently. It was made using a vintage doily and then I hand stitched in a font that I drew by hand. I just loved how it turned out and I really enjoyed sewing the embroidery.

Rebecca, that is a lovely piece! I can see why it’s your favourite. I will definitely keeping an eye out for your future cushion designs… 

 

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Interview with Debbie

Image by Debbie from Thunderrose.

This interview was conducted by Michelle Genders and originally posted on the Rainbow Artists team blog here.

Let’s get to know Debbie Rodgers from Thunderrose. With her husband John, she makes and sells gestural leather bags with perfectly beaded details. Debbie opened up about each of the tasks that they undertake and life living in the desert.

Where do you live and how long have you lived there?

We live in Cornville Arizona. Cornville is a small community that is about 15 miles outside of Sedona Arizona. We have lived here around 25 years.

Can you describe the landscape of the place where you live?

We live in the desert. We are surrounded by mountains. The biggest one is called Mingus Mountain. I can see Mingus from my garden. It is a very beautiful mountain. When you go to Sedona you are surrounded by the Red Rock Mountains. Many people travel from all over the world to see Sedona.

What do you like most about where you live?

I love the mountains. I also love the winters. Where we live we don’t get much snow and ice. We get a sprinkle of snow maybe once a year if we are lucky twice. The winters are very mild.

What do you like least about where you live?

The summers for sure. We have triple digets in the summers. It makes it hard to even go outside. We pretty much go out in the mornings at sunrise and in the evening when the sun sets.

Tell me about the leather items, with beaded details, that you sell on etsy. How did you come to work with leather and beads?

I started beading probably 30 years ago. One day I was at a friend’s house and she had just got some seed beads. I was so inspired by these tiny, little, shiny, beautiful beads that I ordered some of my own and proceeded to make beaded earrings doing the brick stitch. I loved creating with them so much. I just kept wanting to learn more. I went into the peyote stitch where I beaded around fans and making key rings and beaded lighter covers. I love all the different colors of beads you can play with.

One thing led into the other. Beads and leather go great together. I started making rosettes and doing the lazy stitch (sewing beads directly to the leather). We started doing all this long before the internet. We have had stores, been in gallerys, and done art shows. I would have to say I think it was what we were meant to do. It kinda found us. John is very good at designing bags. He has created our handbag designs and is fantastic at working with people who want something specific made for their needs. So we, as a team, have many designs we work with now and none have really gone out of style. Some of our work is bohemian, gypsy, hippie and some is native, tribal. We also have worked with higher end clients making more contemporary styles.

Where do you make the items that you sell?

We work in our home.

What do you like most about working with leather and beads?

I love everything about working with leather and beads. They complement each other. When I sit down and create a beadwork, I know its home will be a beautiful handbag or medicine bag. So there is satisfaction in creating a beaded rosette and then going into creating a handmade leather bag to put it on. Everything is done by hand. The only time we use a machine is for our small machine sewn medicine bags. We also make sure the details of our bags are well done and finished giving it a very special look and feel.

What do is the hardest part about working with leather and beads?

Not all the hides are perfect. They have ruff places, scars, holes, blemishes and we never know what will come from the tanneries. Some hides come in almost perfect. So we work with what we receive. Sometimes that can be a little challenging. But over the years we have learned how to work with the hides. In contrast, the beads are pretty easy. But it is always good to be in the mood to bead or you might have more knots in the thread than usual.

What is your favourite tool, piece of equipment, or material to work with?

All leather, all beads. I love all my tools. They make what I do doable…….

I’m intrigued by the medicine bags that you sell, for example this wolf totem bag. Can you tell me a bit about wolf medicine?

Debbie: I think that if a person is attracted to wolf medicine they have had some kind of personal experience with that medicine, maybe a dream or vision and it wouldn’t be for me to say. I have made medicine bags with totems of all kinds for people from all over the world. Each person has their own story, their own medicine journey.

What would you carry in a medicine bag?

That is something I used to be asked when I did art shows. We have sold these bags to many people from all over the world. They would tell us: I need this for my favorite stone, crystal, carved fetish, to keep my wedding rings in while traveling or even the tooth fairy. Yes, the tooth fairy. I thought what a cute idea. Making losing a tooth an even more special event. I have used mine to keep a special feather, rock, medicine like sage or cedar in. You can make a special prayer and wear it or carry it with you reminding you of what your intent is. So medicine bags or amulet bags are totally multi purpose.

John and I have a lot of different sizes and kinds of medicine bags. Some are beaded some are plain, we make custom ones to fit the needs of our customer friends. Sometimes we put a turtle, bear claw or wolf totem on. I also do four direction beadwork with your colors where you like them. One of my favourite medicine bag’s has a beaded sunflower with double a cut fringe off the bottom of the bag and a 36 inch neck strap.

Can you tell me what it is like to work with dear skin as opposed to another type of skin?

I love working with all the different hides. They all have a different feel and texture.

How did you choose the name Thunderrose?

One day many years ago before we created this business John and I had 10 acres in the middle of nowhere where we were building a small cabin with our own hands and raising our children. I was sitting outside one day and the name Thunder Rose came to me. So we named our 10 acres Thunder Rose. Well, long story short the name carried over to our business.

Thank you so much Debbie. It was so interesting to read about your story. I hope I’ll be able to visit Sedona one day. It is stunning! How lucky for you and John to have found your calling and to be able to make a living from your home there. Good luck with all the things you have on at the moment and thanks again for all the hard work you’re doing for the ‘Rainbow artists‘.

 

 

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Interview with Jules

Image by Jules from Jules Reed Jewellery.

This interview was conducted by Michelle Genders and originally posted on the Australian Wandarrah team website.

Let’s get to know Jules from Jules Reed Jewellery. She makes personalised, refined and very wearable jewellery from precious and semi-precious metals using traditional metal smithing techniques. Jules opened up about her country home and what she gets up to in her jewellery studio.

Where do you live and how long have you lived there?

I live in the semi-rural district of the Hawkesbury. A beautiful historical town about 1 hours’ drive north west of Sydney. I have lived here for 15 years and I could not imagine living anywhere else.  It’s a very pretty place with a great community. If anyone remembers the TV show, “A country practice” this is where it was filmed.

Can you describe the landscape of the place where you live?

I live on 5 acres and am surrounded by National Park. It’s only 5 minutes to the shops but it feels like living in the bush. I’m surrounded by gumtrees, paddocks with ponies and alpacas. I have 3 chickens which eat our scraps and give us lovely fresh eggs. Leo my gold retriever gives my family and I lots of love and we spoil him in return.

What do you like most about where you live?

I love that we are only an hour’s drive to the city but get to enjoy living in our rural community with space and nature close by. In winter we get to enjoy our fire place and collecting sticks from the gumtrees on dusk is a favourite to get the fire started. The smell & warmth of the fire is just beautiful  In summer it is really hot here and we have to keep our eyes open for slithering friends but that’s part of living near national park.

Tell me about the jewellery that you sell on Etsy? How did you come to making jewellery?

I absolutely love fine jewellery and decided that I wanted to learn the skill of metal smithing. I’m not your typical jewellery designer. My skills are mostly self-taught, with some basic tuition along the way. I love to read and further my skills. My jewellery designs are an extension of my personality and tastes for fashion. After making jewellery pieces for myself and loved ones I decided to give Etsy a go and have never looked back. Being creative is part of me and brings me lots of happiness.

Where do you make the items that you sell?

I make my jewellery in my studio. Up my long winding dusty driveway my studio sits, it’s a rustic space at the rear of my property where I can make lots of noise and mess and I don’t bother anyone else. I have lots of natural light and my children’s artwork on the walls. I have lots of space and seem to scatter my work from one end of my bench to the other.

What do you like most about making jewellery?

That it’s almost always for a special occasions. Birthday’s, Anniversary’s, Christmas, Christenings, Wedding, Fathers’ Day, Mother’s Day, graduation and sadly the loss of a loved one. Making a wedding ring or personalised cufflinks for a wedding day is probably my favourite pieces to create. I always try to imagine the piece being received and the persons face when they open their jewellery. I want people of be really happy that they decided to make a purchase with me. I feel privileged to be asked to make jewellery for people’s very special occasions and moments.

What is the most difficult part of making jewellery?

Things can go wrong with manufacture of custom jewellery but the saying is that, “if you don’t make mistakes you aren’t trying hard enough”, well that’s what I tell myself when a creation doesn’t go to plan.

Stamping pieces with letters upside down does happen, “oh no”…  Some days you just have put your tools down and decide to take a break and come back to it later and start again.

Oh yeah I know that feeling! And you do indeed need to just take a break, then start over… 

It says on your etsy profile that you specialise in personalised jewellery that is meaningful to the person as a reminder of a special occasion. Can you share a story about a person and occasion that you jewellery has been made/purchased for?

Personalised jewellery is so meaningful and can be made exactly as the customer would like. I often get told that my customers love their jewellery because I create jewellery that cannot be purchased at the shops.  Jewellery that is made especially for them and not mass produced is very special indeed.

I made a pendant last year that really touched my heart. I had a lady contact me with a hand drawn sketch of what she would like me to make for her best friend. Her best friend’s son tragically passed away and she wanted to give her friend something special to help her with her loss and make her feel like her son would be always close by.

On the pendant I stamped “Chris”, (her son’s name). On the outer section of the pendant she also asked me to stamp, “Kia Kaha”. I did not know what this meant, and looked it up to find that “Kia Kaha” means stay strong in Maori. At this point I did shed a tear for her friend.

I really hope the pendant I was asked to make for this grieving Mum gave her the strength she needed and I’m sure she continues to need to carry on. I can only imagine the pain of losing a child. It really is a privilege and honour for me to be asked to make special jewellery like this.

That is a beautiful and heart breaking story, thank you for sharing Jules. It’s good to know the phrase “Kia Kaha” – I will keep it in mind when I feel the need to fortify myself.  

What is your favourite tool to work with?

My favourite tools are the tools that my Dad has custom made for me or tools passed onto me from Dad. Dad recently gave me all his metal stamps, they are something I will treasure forever.

I love to talk to my Dad about what I’m working on or new pieces I want to design. Dad often says you need this tool, I’ll make it for you. He puts his lathe & machinery to work to make tools to make what I create easier. He has made me mandrels, pushers and has even modified tools to suit the work I do.  I feel very lucky to have my Dad to chat with.

My brother often lets me use his guillotine to cut metal and even my husband helps on occasion with letting me use his plumbing tools when required. Having the love and support of these beautiful special men in my life makes my jewellery work that much for special for me.

Wow, so cool of your dad to make tools for you! Best. Dad. Ever. And do you have a favourite material? 

My personal favourite metal to work with is sterling silver but I do love rose gold too. Shiny classic designs are my all-time favourite.

Yup, that definitely comes across when you look at your shop. Very refined and very shiny! For example, this personalised cuff (click to see the listing) is polished to perfection. The rose gold is just beautiful! 

I’m a big fan of jewellery made by hand with skill and love that is “very wearable”. That is, it is something that is out of the ordinary, but I would feel comfortable wearing everyday and be confident that it would last. There is a lot of jewellery that looks great, but when you put it on it doesn’t feel comfortable to wear. For example, studs can often stick out and get in the way when you are talking on the phone. Your jewellery definitely fits this “very wearable” criteria for me.  

Could you tell me a little bit about the process that you go through to design and make your items?

The Russian ring pendant is a favourite with so many people including me, so I thought I would share the creative process for this piece of jewellery.

One of my favourite things about the Russian ring pendant is the sound it makes when worn. It makes this soft jingle sound when it’s on a chain around  your neck. The rings roll over the top of each other & the motions they make are just beautiful. Mother’s tell me that their babies love to play with the pendant, there is something really relaxing about the rings that glide over the top of each other.  I get lots of lovely feedback and admirers when wearing my own Russian ring pendant.

The creative process for making this item (click here to see the etsy listing):

Determine the ring sizes that the customer would like. The Russian ring pendant can be made in many sizes from 17mm diameter up. Some clients like the rings delicate and small while others like them to be a bit more of a statement piece. I have made these pendant in 9ct yellow gold and sterling silver combinations.

Let the fun commence. With my trusty saw and a blade that is only slight thicker than hair I cut three strips of sterling silver wire exactly the same length.

Then with lots of force and my raw hide hammer I forge the metal and make the wire into 3 three rings.

Then I cut threw two rings, open them up and attach the rings to each other and then re-solder closed and then pickle.

If the rings are to be personalised then at this stage I would very carefully stamp each ring.

Polish with various grades of sandpaper and then finally several polishes on the buff so that all the scratches are removed and it is super shiny.

The final step is to clean off all the buffing soap off the rings and then I polish by hand with a soft cloth.

Once the rings are all clean I usually have to clean myself up too as I don’t want to get any of my greasy hands on anything during the packaging phase.

Grab a box that I would have already pre-made. Then I package the jewellery up in tissue paper, write a note to the customer and then off to the post office to ship.

There is so much satisfaction once I’ve finished an order. I only get to imagine my customer’s reaction when opening their jewellery. I am always aiming for happy smiling faces on the other end.

It was great to learn more about you and your jewellery and your making process. I loved seeing inside of your studio! Sounds like a great place to spend some time…

 

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