Our first installment of Meet Some Good Peeps is with Natalie Austin of Natalie Jewellery. A member of the Craft Council of Newfoundland and Labrador, Natalie has been a regular vendor at SGM since March 2013.
Q: Where are you from?
I’m from Carbonear, went away to school for a few years and drifted back here again.
Q: Why do you do what you do?
I’m a Folklorist by trade, meaning I’m interested in vernacular culture, but I am a non-traditional jeweller making designs from reclaimed copper pipe by passion.
Q: Who/what inspires you (in relation to your craft)?
My Uncle, Sid Butt is a potter and painter and I’ve always admired his work, his ability to create something from nothing, and I wanted to be able to do that. I’ve gone through several mediums before I arrived at copper, the material just lends itself to my particular style. I spend a lot of time in and around the natural landscape of the province where I find much of my inspiration. My interest in fine craft and material culture has led me to a career as an artisan. I came from a family of artisans and artists; from potters and painters, to cooks and actors, there was even a silversmith, it only makes sense that I became one myself. I love to learn new techniques and work with my hands. I’m is dedicated to the preservation of the Newfoundland cultural Landscape, creating abstract designs from upcycled materials that help preserve the natural heritage of the province as well as express it. Every piece of material I can upcycle is one less thing that ends up in a landfill. We are on an island - a beautiful island - and the less of that space we take with unnecessary waste, the better. I want to keep using the natural landscape as inspiration - every rugged shore and flowing wave is reflected in my designs. Through jewellery design, I am making my own small daily cultural and environmental contribution.
Q: What is your favourite part of your craft/process? What takes the longest?
When I open a pipe for the first time I don’t know what’s going to be inside and there’s something exciting about that. I love the moment when a Watermark™ - the natural erosion patterns inside the pipe - reveals itself, I instantly know what it will become. Taking a piece of pipe and transforming it into a visually appealing piece of jewellery is time consuming. From start to finish there are about 15 steps to get a polished piece, enamels take even more. An enameled piece is fired 3-5 times in the kiln at about 1500 degrees to achieve the desired colour and texture. There is a clear layer on the front and a black layer on the back before colour can even be thought of. In between each layer the piece has to be sanded along the edge to remove any firescale that developed in the firing process otherwise on subsequent firings the scale will migrate into the surface of the piece and cause the glass to pull away from the metal. An enameled pair of earrings takes the longest having up to 40 steps between the two of them.
Q: What do you think craft means to NL?
Craft in Newfoundland is the backbone of preserving our cultural heritage in a sustainable way, but it is also the forefront of the art scene as well. Some crafters are keeping traditional crafts alive; some are embarking on new mediums and styles, while others are bridging the gap between what is considered strictly art and craft. Craft in this province is also a major aspect of the tourism sector supplying it not just with finely crafted souvenirs but giving tourists a chance to see how things are made. Crafts represent the people who make them and the place where they are from.
“Without tradition, art is a flock of sheep without a shepherd. Without innovation, it is a corpse.”
Q: Words to live by?
“He who works with his hands is a laborer.
He who works with his hands and his head is a craftsman.
He who works with his hands and his head and his heart is an artist.”
― St. Francis of Assisi
Q: Do you own any pets? What kind and what are their names?
I have 4 cats, Benny – a long haired gray tabby, Belle – long haired all white, part Turkish angora, Huffle Puff – a short hair calico, and Spook – a short haired dilute tortie, meaning she is gray with orange running through her fur. They all watch me assembling jewellery, Benny is the lap cat and likes to sometimes lie on me while I assemble or tag boxes.
Q: What is your favourite food?
Pasta. All day, everyday. The sauce doesn’t matter, oil base, tomato, cream, pesto, or whatever combination of the above. I make my own, roll it out, and dry it on a rack. I could make jewellery all day and eat pasta every night life.
You can find Natalie on Facebook @ facebook.com/nataliejewellery
Online @ Nataliejewellery.weebly.com
Or in her Studio by appointment on 24 Masonic Ave, Carbonear, NL A1Y1A9
She's also at most Some Good Markets!
We hope you enjoyed learning more about one of our craftspeople and stay tuned for another installment on Thursday!