August 18, 2014

KIWI TUNES - Luke Thompson

I discovered Luke Thompson through Little Lot - a great application that you should download, not only is it supporting some fabulous charities but it is absolutely FANTASTIC in its ability to unleash kiwi talent to your screens on a daily basis! 

So anyways, for this weeks Kiwi Tunes I thought I would share this fabulous tune by the fabulous Luke Thompson, I find it an intensely relaxing melody. One Youtube comment calls it 'hauntingly beautiful', I can't help but agree! 

If you like what you hear, you can download the album for free from Luke's website (say WHAT! Awesome), but even better you can donate all you wish towards Luke's journey on his website. 

Thank you Luke, your music makes me feel something. A beautiful tune, a harmony which provides harmony in my soul. Thank you.

August 14, 2014

Pay It Forward

I’m Ginny, the Manager and New Projects Worker for Neighbourhood Trust (NHT), a charitable trust set up in 1999. The whole idea of Pay It Forward had been whispering to me for a long time – around 18 months before doing much about it. It was a concept of having a range of activities operating from one site that would increase the well-being of the community, as well as foster a sense of generosity and encourage creativity.

The start was a combination of factors. I’d done quite a bit of research around social enterprise – businesses set up with a social purpose and there were lots of vacant shops in the Mairehau area attracting graffiti and starting to look really run-down. Being faith-based, I felt it was a God nudge to have a base in the heart of Mairehau, but didn’t have a clue what form that would take. One of the shops had once been a second-hand book store, owned by an older man and when he fell ill, he just closed it down.  People in the community had missed it, so second-hand books and promoting a love of learning was the start point. But I knew there was much more to the project.

I noticed all the craft markets going on and the lack of a base for Canterbury crafts people with the Arts Centre not able to be used. It was natural to talk with Hazel about the possibility of creating a hub and retail outlet for artisans. From there it kind of snow-balled as the first query put on her website had a host of replies and lots of enthusiasm for the idea.

As well as the retail side of things, there was a need to rebuild the sense of community in this suburb, which had been torn apart by the earthquakes and school closures. I saw Pay It Forward as becoming a meeting place for people, where they could browse at leisure, use the shop as a base for walking groups, learn new crafts, have discussion groups on special interest areas and be a place to swap resources and skills.

At the same time Council had recognised the lack of community meeting places in Mairehau and supported the project with a grant from their Endowment Fund. This gave the confidence to look at purchasing one of the shops. We took out a lease on a corner shop, with SeniorNet (who teach new technologies to older adults) coming on board as partners and using the back part of the shop, while we set up a pilot project shop in the front part. There is also a children’s books swap box out front and it is delightful to see children stop and take a book and the surprise from their parents that they are free. We’d love some more donations into the box as they disappear quite quickly.

We love the name 'Pay It Forward', we're all aware of the concept, but why this name for the store? The idea for the name came from the sense of a place where people would share what they had to offer with others, a place of warmth and welcome. A place where crafts people learn from each other, with knowledge and expertise shared. A place where others can learn new skills and pass them on to others. A place to give in to (children’s books, produce) - to experience the ‘buzz’ of giving without expecting something back. 

Each of us have people in our lives who have given to us freely – of time, money, resources, gifts that made us feel good when we were down. We may never be able to pay them back but know that they would be happy that we had passed on this good fortune to others. That we are prepared to listen to the story of someone who needs to be heard; to share a book with a child who might not otherwise have books; to share knowledge and expertise and pass on the love of making something ourselves.

It’s a statement against our ‘me first’ world of consumerism and is a reminder that we live in a community and each of us are affected by the acts of others.

How does the store work? The store is a co-operative that houses 21 artisans, with currently 19 inquiries from potential new crafters. Each brings skills and expertise in different areas with them, so there is an amazing buzz in the room when meetings are held. Commission is charged on sales and this helps to pay the bills and bring resources into the shop. The commission is based on the number of hours the person contributes into the running of the project, whether it is working in the shop or helping with advertising, Facebook page, delivering flyers, processing new artisans or doing displays. The project remains under the Neighbourhood Trust umbrella, so any surplus goes back into the community.

How can artisans get involved with the store? As we have a large number of people already involved, the group decided to set up a curator’s panel, which meets every couple of months or so. We have an application form that newcomers can fill out and then we ask them to bring in a few samples of their work for the curators to view. There is a matrix of criteria and a rating system to try to maintain a fair process. The current shop is small and even when we move we won’t have heaps of room, so the curators have to be discerning around what fits in with the style of the shop and what will complement the current items on offer, as well as having got a feel for what sells best through this outlet. If they give a ‘no’ it therefore doesn’t reflect on quality or even attractiveness of the product. Having said this, we love to see new creations and welcome newcomers. You can pick up an application form from Pay It Forward (cnr Nancy Ave and Weston Road), or email or inquire through the website

Because the store is a co-operative, the artisans have the opportunity to make decisions around every element of the store. It’s their place, but without the huge overheads that normally apply to running a shop. And they have support from day one from their peers.  If they have questions around for example, tax law, they can ask another crafter who is also a chartered accountant. If they have questions around branding, one of the crafters is a graphic designer. There’s also a mix of people who have been creating their craft for a long time and have developed it into a substantial business and those who are just starting out. There’s a generosity in those who have worked through different issues that come up when you are creating objects for sale, being willing to pass on what they have learned, so there is a coaching element. It can be as simple as where’s the best place to purchase boxes for packaging.

We have a ‘secret’ Facebook page for discussions, questions and formulating policies and ways of working together.

It’s exciting because it’s still in the formative stage. Artisans have the ability to feed in ideas about how the new shop might look and what services it might provide. And they know they are backed 100% by NHT. It’s also stimulating, as this is a new concept – having social services alongside a retail outlet, so we are all learning as we go.

Where to next for Pay It Forward? Earlier this year, we purchased a bigger shop two doors down from the current pilot project, but didn’t immediately have the resources to be able to develop it. A grant from The Canterbury Community Trust Social Enterprise Fund has made it possible to set in place plans to turn this into both a larger retail outlet and a meeting/learning place. There’ll also be computers set up with internet access and assistance for those who need it, a mail-drop box for people in transitional accommodation and an automated coffee and hot chocolate machine. We believe it will become a destination shop, where people will hang around for a bit and enjoy the atmosphere. We’re excited to be at the stage where work will begin on alterations and Pay It Forward can expand.

We also spoke with a couple of the artisans themselves about Pay It Forward, this is what they had to say. 

Kirstee from Hibiscus, why did you decide to get involved in Pay It Forward? When I answered the call for Pay It Forward applications, I was fairly new to the Christchurch indie design scene, and I was really focused on getting feet in doors and fingers in pies, so to speak. I pretty much jumped on into anything that came my way, and the results of the frightfully busy six months that followed have catapulted me into 2014 with great gusto and a gargantuan appetite for more.

What is the best bit about being involved in the co-op? I've said this before, and I'll say it again. It's the gathering together. Gathering of amazing talent and fruitful minds, all focused on one, ultimate goal. By each individual bringing independent dreams, significance and ideas and by releasing them into the encompassing support of the Pay It Forward pot, the soup which has evolved in these last seven months is one of spirit, zest and soul. Pay It Forward is not only a gorgeous little shop on a quiet suburban corner in Christchurch, it is that courage, inspiration and love of the thirty four faces behind it. Co operative. It's an outrageously uplifting place to be.

Koral from Handled with Care, why did you decide to get involved in Pay It Forward? I decided to get involved as I had a window of opportunity whilst on maternity leave. It allowed me space to be more creative, and this also provided a good artistic outlet whilst juggling my gorgeous baby boy.

What is the best bit about being involved in the co-op? As a new addition to the group, I am learning the benefits of being part of the Pay It Forward co-op as I go! It was great to attend my first committee meeting last week and put a number of faces to the names I was aware of, and see the amazing insight and vision that the group has for expanding the brand. This is the first time I have sold products I've made, and it is great volunteering hours at the shop to meet your potential customers. I'm immensely enjoying it!

August 12, 2014

The value of chocolate: Part II

Eek! Seriously the person who invents a machine to slow down time will make an insane amount of money. Part I of my chocolate posts was published on March 16 and I had meant to follow up with this one a fortnight later. Before I know it is half way through May! At this rate I better start planning for Christmas.

So back to chocolate. Part I on this went through basic chocolate labelling and some brands that are readily available in New Zealand. This post will cover the basics of chocolate production and the cacao beans. Hopefully it will help you understand on a second level the differences in chocolate that is available to you.

The cacao plant - Like most plants the cacao plant is broken up into several subspecies. These are, Criollo, Forastero and Trinitario.

The Criollo bean represents 5% of the total crop produced. The chocolate made from this bean is expensive and DELICIOUS. It is native to South America and is very temperature sensitive. It grows very close to the equator and is incredibly sensitive to its surroundings making it quite temperamental. It has a lower yield than other cacao plants as well. These factors combined mean that it is not suited to the large scale commercial use that big chocolate companies require. It is generally grown and processed by smaller boutique companies and comes with a higher price tag.

My Criollo recommendation: If you ever get the chance to try Amedei's 'Chuao' go for it. They are a small Italian chocolate house. The beans for their Chuao come from a small island off the coast of Venezuela. The Chuao has notes of 'cigars and raspberries'

The Forastero is most likely native to a similiar region in South America. It is however a very hardy plant and thus easier to introduce to other areas. The African crop is entirely Forastero. It has high yield with easy care making it the most suitable for large scale commercial use. It can withstand a wider range of temperatures and so can grow in a wider variety of places, not just right on the equator. The majority of chocolate that you eat is Forestero.

The Trinitario bean is a natural hybrid of the Criollo and Forastero plant. It is not as widespread as the Forastero but is easier to produce the the Criollo. Within the Trinitario there is both high and low grade plants with each going to respectively produce boutique and larger scale chocolates.

August 10, 2014

Kiwi Tunes - The Response

I have long been a fan of Andy and Victoria from The Response and often have their tunes thumping from my car stereo, I just find the tunes so darn relaxing and Sunday Afternoon-like, perfect when you're stuck in Monday night traffic and wishing for your thoughts to be a million miles away!

This new tune, No Way Out, is from their new album 'North of Nowhere', and given how much I genuinely love this duo I thought it would be the perfect way to start my new series of posts on Kiwi artists, it seems unjust that I would write a blog dedicated to New Zealand's artisans and omit our fabulous song writers! Stay tuned for more hip beats from a wild genre of artists!

P.S. Would love to know who your favourite kiwi artists are!! x

August 06, 2014

Love and Inspiration

I've been getting my blog on lately and appreciating the work of other bloggers and designers across the globe, so I thought I'd start a regular series of posts about my favourites, my favourite images, my favourite blog posts and my favourite ramblings that I discover as I dip my toes back into the world of blogging...

Who wouldn't LOVE to attend a workshop by Design Love Fest... the goody bag alone would have me there in a snap - even if it were empty! Drool! The fact that it was a photoshop workshop has me even more excited, I desperately need to attend one of those bad boys!

This blog post has been on my Bloglovin for a while, but I'm completely in awe of the achievement of this blogger/crafter and the fabulous parties she gets to create during the American Stationary Show, each time I revisit the post my brain starts whirring into action with ideas on how my next Craft Love Festival will pan out! Imagine having the Etsy Wholesale team at your event? Imagine having signage that looks like this! Imagine having goodies to give away like those, and just fabulous decorations EVERYWHERE. In awe I tell you, in awe! Oh so beautiful paper is AMAZEBALLS! 

Another oldie, but a goodie, and mostly because I'm finding myself on a pink tangent, but I came across these on a Cupcakes and Cashmere blog post a few months back and decided to bookmark them, not only because of the pink and the ease of the project, but because at the time I was genuinely struggling to find any decent coasters anywhere. What do you think? Should I make some of my own?

I have to admit to having a bit of a 'love, hate' relationship with this next blog, A Beautiful Mess, I love them because they create some amazing things and have great style, their projects are always achievable and gorgeous. I hate them - because they get to do this for a living AND they just produced another book!! Okay, so maybe hate isn't the right word... I envy them and I'm jealous and I'm sticking my tall poppy stick at them too! 

I particularly love this project and think it would be great for signage for craft love, and/or at a stall selling Hazed magazine.

I really enjoyed reading this interview with 'Pampa Rugs' by The Life Creative, don't you love meeting the makers behind the brands, 'Pampa Rugs' may be an Australian brand, but their brand and ethos is one that we can all understand. 

And besides, that's the best bit about inspiration and blogging, it comes from EVERYWHERE!! So I guess that is where I'll leave the first ever 'Love and Inspiration' post, with that thought, where do you find your inspiration? And do you have any blog posts you think I might like to enjoy? Or any blogs I should add to my blog roll on Bloglovin?

August 03, 2014

PAY IT FORWARD - Pretty Birds

Pretty Birds itself started with my husband saying “You’ve got too much stuff.  You need to sell some.”  I got together with my friends Emma and Christy and we pooled our ideas together and started Pretty Birds Creations.  They were going to be selling some of their craftiness under the Pretty Birds name too, which is why we are Pretty Birds Creations, rather than Pretty Birds Jewellery, but they both got caught up in other parts of their lives and now cheer me on from the sidelines (and give good advice!)  So now it’s just me and the bling.  It has grown faster than I expected, and isn’t the ideal way to start a business, but when I started I didn’t realise that’s what I was doing, however, I do now and I’m far more intentional about what I do and how I do it – I’m always tweaking!

Meet the maker | Lee of Pretty Birds
You are actively involved with Pay It Forward, what do you enjoy most about being involved with this project? I love being in the shop.  I’d been thinking that I’d like to maybe have a shop one day and then saw Hazel's call for interest in Pay it Forward.  When I realised it was in conjunction with The Neigbourhood Trust I definitely wanted to be on board because I had worked with NHT on another project a few years ago and knew they were very good at community focussed projects and that Ginny was amazing at getting things off the ground.  It’s a great opportunity for lots of us to learn and hone our skills and I’m really enjoying working with other artisans.  We’ve also had great feedback from the community and they seem really stoked that we’re there.  I can’t wait to move in to the bigger shop!

Where the magic happens
What does an average day look like to you? I love this question.  Now that all three kids are at school I’m finally getting a more settled daily routine going.  After I get them off to the school bus stop, I do a quick whip around the morning jobs -breakfast dishes, putting on a load of washing etc (although some days if you looked in the window it might look like I’m sitting on Facebook but really you’re hallucinating).  

I try to get out to the shed by 9am and work solidly until 3pm.  The best days are when I’m creating then look at the clock and it’s 2.45pm and I feel like I’ve only just started – looove that feeling of “flow.”  On other days I may do a few hours in the shed then come inside to the computer and either do accounts, email replies, designing, or packaging up parcels and taking them down to the Post Office in Kaiapoi.

Evenings often find me sifting around my suppliers websites re-ordering or seeing what’s new.  If I’ve had enough for the day I’m deep in a book or veged out in front of the television.

Who do you consider to be your muse?  Probably more like “what”, but there are a few “who” as well, including some of my stylish friends, who probably don’t even know they are!
  • My customers.
  • A colour or a colour combination.
  • Ikebana.
  • Chinoiserie.
  • Elie Saab (swoon).
  • Vintage Chanel.
  • Oscar de la Renta.
  • The latest runway fashions.
  • My 2014 Winter collection was inspired by a magenta coloured Cape Daisy that I saw at the plant nursery and bought home to put in my cobalt coloured pot - and voila! Inspiration for a collection based on those colours.

What does your creative look like? Do you keep sketch/recipe books? Have an online journal? Two ways: Pinterest (nuff said).  Also, I have a diary.  I write down inspirations in there, draw little pictures etc and make notes.  I generally disregard the date so I end up making notes I think of in July way back in February or where ever there’s an empty page.  I certainly don’t use it as a diary or appointment calendar – that’s what my phone is for!  I probably should just get a notebook and use that instead…

What is the best piece of creative advice you’ve learnt on your creative journey? I heard something I really liked the other day “Originality is the best form of rebellion” Mike Sasso.  It’s hard to come up with ideas that are all your own (really, there’s nothing new under the sun), however I know most of us crafty people try hard to be original.  I have lots of ideas, but I’m quite good at letting them sit for a while and then next thing you know someone else brings out “my” idea.  I need to act on my ideas quicker!

Where to next? Where do you see ‘Your brand’ heading in the future? I’m in a position to take on more retailers now with the kids all at school, so I would like to be stocked in more shops around the country.  I love the relationships I have with all my stockists and for the most part, different retailers suit different collections from my range which keeps things interesting for me.  Often when I’m designing I’ll have an idea of which customers will like which styles and which stockists the piece will suit.  It keeps things fun - places like Lava Gallery in Akaroa and Design Withdrawals in Dunedin, who have been stocking me from the beginning, are always wanting pieces that are new and “now” so that also pushes me to look for fresh new ideas.

As for other things, I’ll be working more in sterling silver and other materials too.  I’ve also been working on a range non-jewellery items for about a year now, and I’m getting closer to break through with them – all the stars are lining up – hopefully!
Portion of images by Jen at Utterly in Love

August 02, 2014

HIBISCUS - Rock and Roll

Indulge me for a minute... I was six years old and Bob Dylan was blaring from the state of the art sophistication, that was our family stereo.

Mesmerised by the repetitious tuning of the table, I had no idea that the vinyl disc spinning before me was to be fairly short lived in our ever technology moving society. And that there would be millions of them waiting patiently in boxes destined for charity shops, and unfortunately, also for landfill, in twenty years time...

My dad had a substantial LP collection. Even now, if he happens to come over when I have an vinyl creation on the go, he never fails to dissect every title, possible checking that I haven't raided his much loved collection, possibly hoping to add a few more to it.

LP's a readily available from most good charity shops. My local sells them for 50 cents a record, and I have been known to pick up the odd dozen freebee, when their stashes become too great.

What to look for in an LP? Non-ridged ones work for me. And preferably not visibly scratched if you want them to look aesthetically pleasing on the eye. Here are a few DIY projects in which I have used the mighty LP...

I had a LOT of gaps on the wall after our world rattled in Christchurch, some art broke, some I have yet to put back up, and some are lost in the depths of our storage garage. 

Quite frankly, I missed my beautiful children's faces smiling back at me, so I set about making some shake proof photo frames of my own.

Take that Mother Nature!

I decided upon LP records as my base for several reasons.

1) If they fall off the wall and break, 50 cents and some mod podge will get you a new one.
2) Re/up-cycling is my way of saving my planet.
3) We are a rock and roll kinda family. So they just fit.

They were remarkably simple to create. 

I just cut some photos the same shape as the LP sticker in the centre (I used black and white photos to keep with my rock and roll theme), coat the back of the photo with a thin layer of Mod Podge, stick to the LP, let dry, and pop a few coats over the top of the entire record.


To adhere, I used the very technical process of slapping some Blu Tak dots on the back, and pressing them hard against the wall. 

I think the beauty of these baby's comes when you group them together on your wall. They are fab for a large bare spaces which need maximum impact!

My son is a rock star.

So, last year, we borrowed his awesomeness and themed his 2nd Birthday party around, well, him!

I used the smaller 45" LP's for the invitation backing, solely due to the fact that they were postable.

Now, I promise you, I am no whiz on the computer. But somehow, after several failed attempts, I managed to create a printable which had all the party details amongst it, and also which fit perfectly over the middle LP sticker. I used a light  and slightly textured card stock, paper would work equally well.

Again, I used Mod Podge to secure, though I didn't see any need to coat over the whole shebang, as durability wasn't an issue.

Coupled with a Rocking birthday cake and a bunch of two year olds with musical instruments, his festivities were a swinging success...

Kid's love their name in lights don't they!

I decided, around the same time of the Rock Star Birthday, to make a name sign for Kai's door, which we used on the wall for his party too.

Which is why I chose musical themed paper...

I purchased a couple of MDF unpainted wooden letters, these are readily available from good craft stores, as well as  the big chain stores such as Lincraft and Spotlight.

With a quick paint (of the letters), Podge (of the sheet music paper to a 45" LP) and PVA (of the painted letters to the  decorated LP's), it was all done!

As with the photo art, I simply used Blu Tack to secure them to his door.
Pretty snazzy if I do say so myself!
By now, would it be fair of me to say, that you all think I have a garage full of hoarded LP's? I don't. At least I don't think I do. 

I've been unable to access that particular room for sometime now, due to the million boxes of hoarded fabric that align the entrance. But I do have more LP DIY ideas. This, is only part one. Best you stay tuned (see what I did there?), for more on this symphonic adventure.

Until then, keep rocking. You know you want to!