New Zealand's talented craftspeople harness the allure of the handmadeby Kate Richards
For the food or kitchen enthusiast in your life, here are some gifts to treasure or share; something indulgent, something special. And they’re all created in New Zealand by talented craftspeople with a shared love of the handmade. These Kiwi-crafted items are Kate Richards’ kitchen favourites.
Monmouth Glass, Auckland
Isaac Katzoff and Stephen Bradbourne
Isaac Katzoff and Stephen Bradbourne make beautiful glass objects from their very hot, industrial studio in Grey Lynn and have created bespoke works for many of Auckland’s finest restaurants. We love their decanters and tumblers, which come in a range of timeless but fun shades, and also their pendant lights.
Kate Richards: Why glass? It seems an extraordinarily niche medium.
Isaac Katzoff: That’s true, there are only a handful of fulltime practitioners in New Zealand, but glass as an artistic medium has a diverse and rich history. So, as well as being the most amazing material to manipulate and create with, we are connected with that history and responsible for continuing the tradition.
KR: Talk us through the glassblowing process.
IK: It requires some major pieces of equipment before you can begin: the furnace that runs at 1100°C and keeps the glass molten, the glory hole at 1200°C for reheating pieces being made, and the annealer where all the pieces from the day’s production are cooled slowly overnight.
Basically, the process starts with molten glass gathered onto the tip of the blowpipe. It’s shaped, and then a small bubble is blown into the glass through the pipe. For larger pieces, more layers of glass are added. Once the required amount of glass is on the pipe, the piece is slowly shaped, reheated and blown to the required size. The piece is then transferred to a punty [metal rod] that’s attached to the base of the object, allowing the top of the piece to be finished.
KR: What’s the most impressive piece you’ve ever made?
IK: I think the Monmouth collaborations – large-scale installations, such as the lighting for Ortolana restaurant in [Auckland’s] Britomart.
KR: Tell me about the inspiration for your tumblers and decanters.
IK: We wanted to create functional, everyday pieces that were also elegant in form and weight. Initially, we drew inspiration from mid-century Italian and Scandinavian design. The main question we ask ourselves during the creative process is ‘Would we be happy to use this glass in our own homes?’ If the answer is yes, then we know we’re on the right track.
KR: You work with some beautiful colours. How do you choose them?
IK: We tend to work with a range of subtle colours we hope are timeless – mainly a selection of natural blues, greens and browns in pale hues. We also introduce brighter seasonal colours throughout the year and, of course, take custom colour requests when clients want to make more of a statement.
KR: Why invest in good glassware?
IK: Nothing beats using good-quality, well-made, hand-blown glass. As well as the satisfaction of knowing you’re buying locally designed and made objects, you’re also supporting the continuation of this unique art form in New Zealand.
Six Barrel Soda Co, Wellington
Boutique sodas, in bold flavours, with no nasties – what better to sip on over New Zealand’s long, hot summer? Here’s Joseph Slater, one half of Wellington’s Six Barrel Soda, on the history of his company – plus a summery Christmas recipe with a bit of kick.
Kate Richards: How did you start Six Barrel, and why?
Joseph Slater: We started after owning a cafe and a bar in Wellington, and experimenting with different combos of flavours for non-alcoholic drinks and as cocktail bases. We couldn’t find anyone doing decent non-alcoholic syrups or sodas, so we built up our own range of flavours. We decided to turn it into its own thing in 2012 and see how far we could push it. We opened a soda store and kitchen in central Wellington. It was a way for us to demystify soda and show people we were using real ingredients, and it wasn’t just some marketing spin. That transparency has always been important to us. There’s a lot of secrecy around soda and usually because it’s just nasty stuff in a bottle.
KR: You do bottled sodas, as well as syrups. There are thousands of fizzy drinks on the market – what makes yours special?
JS: We started with syrups for using at home with SodaStream and for bars, cafes and restaurants to use with soda taps and cocktails. After a couple of years, we added the bottled sodas so we could supply places that wanted a pop-and-go option. The bottled soda space is very competitive, especially if you include kombucha and other drinks, but it’s dominated by a couple of companies with lots of sub-brands. Our customers are generally people who want a more natural option with less sugar and like supporting independent Kiwi companies.
KR: What’s the most unusual flavour you’ve ever made?
JS: Maybe the strangest one we’ve done is pine, using wilding pines from the South Island. It was menthol-y and citrusy, like drinking a Christmas tree. We’re working on a kimchi syrup at the moment.
KR: Have you had any fails that never made it to the shelves?
JS: I made a trial eucalyptus and lime syrup with gum leaves, which was incredible-tasting – but then I realised eucalyptus is poisonous if you’re not a koala, so that one didn’t get released.
KR: Can you give us a boozy Christmas recipe using one of your sodas?
JS: Our Hibiscus Royale is perfect because it’s easy; the syrup works with even cheap sparkling wine and it’s red, so that’s pretty Christmasy.
15ml Six Barrel Soda Co
120-150ml sparkling wine
Put the syrup in a flute or coupe, top with sparkling wine and garnish with a fresh cherry.
Real World, Havelock North
Nicola Mossman had dry, cracked hands and couldn’t work out why. When she realised dishwashing liquid was drying out her skin, she decided to make her own range of natural cleaners and soaps. She’s never looked back.
Kate Richards: What’s involved in making a “natural” cleaner, and why should people care about what’s in their products?
Nicola Mossman: I wanted to develop a range of plant-based products that were free of sulphates [foaming agents] and parabens [artificial preservatives] – nothing synthetic, no additives or petrochemicals. Sulphates, for example, are very efficient cleansers, but they can pull a lot of natural oil from hair and skin. There’s also an environmental consideration for me. After bubbly cleaning liquids disappear down our drains, they’re treated along with sewage and other wastewater, and discharged into nearby waterways. Some chemical ingredients don’t break down after treatment, threatening water quality for fish and other wildlife.
KR: How effective are your products without any chemical cleaning agents in them?
NM: We let the essential oils do the work. Oils like tea tree, which comes from steam-distilling the leaves of the shrub, are very effective.
KR: I really like the sound of your aniseed and mandarin peel hand wash. How do you make it?
NM: Like making a cake, we measure all the ingredients, add them together and mix. Then we pour the mixture into bottles by hand and label them.
KR: People joke about soap being a bit of a naff gift – what do you say to that?
NM: I’d say our hand washes offer a simple luxury. The best part about this gift is you will think of the person who gifted it to you every time it’s used, which will be most days.
KR: What would you recommend as the perfect gift bundle for a kitchen lover?
NM: Our kaffir lime and peppermint dishwashing liquid, aniseed and mandarin hand wash and our bench spray in white grapefruit – people become hooked on that spray. I had to ask one lady if she’d been drinking it, she was going through it so quickly!
Amanda Shanley Ceramics, Dunedin
A darling of the New Zealand ceramics scene, Amanda Shanley works from her Macandrew Bay studio overlooking the rugged Dunedin coastline. Admired for their irregularity and playfulness, her pieces reference the fun and free will of childhood – daughter Frances even scribbles some of the designs.
Kate Richards: How long have you been working with clay?
Amanda Shanley: I’ve been working in clay fulltime since I completed my ceramics degree at Otago Polytechnic Art School in 2005.
KR: Where do you source your materials, and do you have a favourite clay?
AS: I love to work with white earthenware clay. I get a lot of clay from Nelson Pottery Supplies.
KR: Where do you draw inspiration?
AS: Artists I look to for inspiration are Cy Twombly and his freely scribbled works; Edmund De Waal for his writing and installations of porcelain vessels; and Joanna Margaret Paul for her domestic still-life paintings.
KR: Why should people invest in high-quality ceramics?
AS: People should be investing in the handmade because it’s about investing in a treasure you use and love every day.
KR: How does working with clay make you feel?
AS: It’s a feeling that is hard to put into words. Wheel-throwing, when it is going well, can be wonderful; it’s a tactile medium that is magical, messy and instant.
KR: Tell me about a favourite piece you’ve made.
AS: My most treasured pieces are plates I’ve made and my 10-year-old daughter Frances has painted on. These are heirloom pieces that we love to use and share every day.
Courtney Petley works as a gardener and spends her spare time woodcarving in a little workshop below her apartment.
Kate Richards: How did you discover you had a knack for woodwork?
Courtney Petley: Building is in my blood. My father is a builder and both of my grandfathers were. My mother is also very creative and always seemed to have some project on the go when we were kids. I got into woodworking out of a need to be creative and work with my hands. I was buying a lot of secondhand furniture at the time; most of it needed cleaning up so I spent a lot of my weekends sanding, and it all kind of grew from there. My love of cooking also drew me towards making utensils.
KR: You use reclaimed and recycled timber – why, and how do you source it?
CP: It’s just the most special and unique resource. I love that I’m able to give it a new life and add to the history. Some of the homes the wood comes out of are close to or more than a hundred years old. Each piece has seen so much, had so many people living on or around it. And it blows my mind to think how old the tree was before it was cut down. To have it continue on as a spoon or a spatula, and possibly have it passed down, feels really special and so much better than the wood going into a skip or being used as firewood. My father is my best supplier; he saves up wood for me and sends it from Wellington. Many kind people offer me wood; I also get a lot from the volunteers at the Devonport workshop I go to.
KR: What’s your favourite wood to work with?
CP: Rimu has beautiful grain, especially heart rimu. I love watching the grain develop over the period of making – you never know what you are going to get. I love how sparkly and linear the grain of kauri is, and how smooth it is to carve.
KR: How long does each piece take to make?
CP: A cheese knife probably takes an hour and a half, a large serving spoon maybe just over three. It’s a labour of love!
KR: Where do you draw inspiration?
CP: I love modernist architecture, furniture and all things Eames. I was lucky enough to visit the Eames House in LA a few years ago. I almost burst; it was a dream come true. I have an obsession with geometry, straight lines, symmetry and strong corners. I think this definitely comes across in my work.
KR: Are you able to make a living from your art?
CP: Unfortunately, I’m not there yet. I work fulltime as a gardener; my evenings and weekends are spent woodworking. I think balance is good, and I love gardening. It would be lovely to get to a point where I could have at least two full days a week woodworking.
Lorimer Knives, Ōmakau
A legend in the world of metalwork, Peter Lorimer has been making handcrafted steel knives since 1992. It all began when he complained about the cost of kitchen knives to his blacksmith neighbour, who replied, “Well, why don’t you make one?”
Kate Richards: Why does a knife make a good gift?
Peter Lorimer: Because it’s practical, beautiful and personal. Using a sharp, well-balanced knife is one of life’s pleasures. When someone makes a gift of one of my knives, it’s the gift of a tool – one of the few tools we use every day.
KR: I’ve heard a knife should last a lifetime. Can you give us some tips on caring for one?
PL: Rinse your knife immediately after using it and don’t throw it in the drawer with other utensils. Apart from knocking the edge, you can cut yourself getting something else out. A knife block or magnetic strip is good for storage, as well as display.
KR: Talk to me about the process of creating one of your pieces.
PL: Handle size and weight, as well as handle and blade material, need to be decided. If I use D2 steel, the blade is cut out of a sheet and rough-ground to get the taper to the blade and the tip before being hardened. I braze on guards before attaching the handle. Finally, the blade is hand-sanded, polished and oiled before being sharpened.
KR: What makes your knives special?
PL: I make every one from start to finish. You don’t get that level of personal involvement from mass-produced knives. I shape them by eye and finish the handles, constantly checking how they feel.
KR: Do you have a favourite?
PL: I don’t, but I enjoy refining shapes and there are occasions when I’m surprised by how a piece turns out. I particularly enjoy etching the folded Damascus steel knives. The pattern on the blade isn’t revealed until the last process. They are never the same.
KR: How much should people expect to pay for knives like these?
PL: From $200 to $1000, depending on size and the blade material. If I make the steel for the blade, it adds a couple of days to the process.
KR: Where do you source the steel?
PL: Mostly from Böhler Uddeholm in Austria. When I make my own folded or Damascus steel, I try to use recycled metals with some history. I have old NZ Railways train springs, as well as wrought iron from the old Westport wharf. For the handles, I mostly use native timbers fossicked from beaches or donated by enthusiasts.
This article was first published in the December 2018 issue of North & South.
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