She's got creative skills

By Zoe Walker

In a technology-dominated world it is heartening to find young craftspeople creating tangible and beautiful products.

Mexican-born Luzette Godinez creates terraniums from her home. Photo / Babiche Martens
Mexican-born Luzette Godinez creates terraniums from her home. Photo / Babiche Martens

In an age where we are so connected to technology and it seems as though every young woman has a blog that is at once a virtual diary and a hobby, there is charm in those who look to traditionally old-fashioned pastimes and create things by hand.

Think of independent crafters who look to and develop oft-forgotten skills of flower arranging, jam making, quilting, woodworking, book making and more.

We talk to three women with seemingly traditional hobbies who create things with their hands - although yes, two of them do have blogs...

Skills with ... plants

Luzette Godinez works with her hands to create terrariums; miniature indoor gardens under glass that bring nature into the home or office, or as she explains, "a collage of nature, life and art".

The 27-year-old graphic designer began creating terrariums, big and small, about a year ago, because of the "necessity to create something with my own hands with the objective to help people be conscious that something so small has life and that with minimal effort we can help ourselves to be in direct contact with nature and the importance and benefits that it brings".

These terrariums feature slow growing cacti and succulents, accented with coloured pebbles and crystals; Godinez also handcrafts mobiles from "Mother Nature's 'waste"' - sticks, logs and wood that is no longer used, which Godinez paints with mystical patterns and colours.

But it's the terrariums that are the most traditional.

"It's a very old pastime. The terrarium in its modern form was invented by accident in 1827 by Nathaniel Ward, a London doctor. During the Victorian era and predominantly in England they became very popular and many people kept them in their homes," she explains. "The practice fell in decline and has made a bit of a comeback, but has never reached the popularity that it had." But perhaps they're needed even more so now, in a society where sitting in front of a computer in an office all day is commonplace - as Godinez explains, plant life helps to absorb stress and harmonise the environment around you.

Godinez moved to Auckland with her boyfriend almost three months ago, from Tijuana. She was raised in Northern Mexico in Obregon, Sonora, which accounts for her interest in the cacti that often feature in her terrariums. "Sonora is a state full of them - the Sonora Desert is a very famous kind of desert, with the uniqueness of the endemic cactuses it has such as the famous saguaro, which only grows in the wild there".

Her family is another key influence on her craft and passion for plant life: "My mother and Grandma, they love plants; they taught me how to garden, the names of plants and how to take care of them. My father is the director of a national park in the Sonora desert. He enjoys his work a lot and he knows all of about cacti, their names and how they grow, he taught me about them a lot.

Working with terrariums is a way to combine things I enjoy, like gardening, crystals, being in direct contact with nature, fine art, science, and a touch of modern cosmic whimsy".

Her interest in nature extends further too.

"I'm very interested in the ancient knowledge of the plants. It would be great to learn more about their medicinal and healing powers."

But it's the somewhat old-fashioned pastime of getting your hands dirty that appeals to Godinez. "I love getting my hands dirty with the sand and soil that I use to create these tiny worlds; learning about new kinds of plants each day and interacting with these live creatures. Once I begin working on a design, I want to make terrariums all day and I just can't stop. Even when I'm sleeping I'm thinking and dreaming of that. They are special because their compositions are magical and changing day-by-day, evolving."

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Skills with ... wood

The heady smell is one of the many sensory benefits of working with wood, a pastime that for some will conjure up images of schoolyard woodwork classes or of stealing Dad's sandpaper while he busily worked on a project in the back shed. For New Zealand-born Rebekah Nathan, that smell is just one of wood's charms.

"I have always loved wood, the way it smells, the way it feels, the millions of different grain patterns but it wasn't until recently that I began working with it myself."

Nathan works with her husband Richard on Bliss in a Teacup, a design collaboration where they work largely with found wood to create bookmarks, guitar picks, bunting and necklaces.

"I really love the warmth of [wood], I love that it is something quite solid but not cold, if that makes sense? It's so rich," explains Nathan, who moved back to Auckland from Vancouver earlier this year.

"I actually really love the smell of the sawdust as I'm shaping it, too. Wood is also something that does wear to a certain degree, which I think is nice in terms of jewellery as it changes as someone wears it - but it is also extremely long-lasting. It sticks around for a long time, but gathers people's stories."

Bliss in a Teacup's jewellery is surprisingly fine and elegant for such a raw material, combining her "hippie", organic tastes - think gemstone and prism shapes - and his love of clean lines and mid-century modernism. Nathan counts the wood itself as something that often inspires their work, but "I'm also really into the craftsman, build your own home type movement in craft - that's the hippie in me coming out - particularly popular in the 60s and 70s with geodesic domes.

Aside from that, moody landscapes, old quilts, wood smoke, witchy women - I'm a big Stevie Nicks fan ... they all find their way in there somehow".

Like most crafters, Nathan's family and childhood sparked her interest in creating things by hand: her grandma taught her to knit when she was around 6 years old; her aunt is a quilter who taught her how to sew; and her artist and cabinetmaker great-grandfather taught her how to cross hatch and correctly use a pencil.

The process behind creating one of her pieces can involve working with rough grit sandpaper, disc sanders, bench sanders, files and carving tools; depending on the intricacy of the shape. It's a hands-on approach that may seem somewhat traditional, but Nathan says she doesn't want to get caught up in the idea of things necessarily being better in days gone by.

"That said, I do love nostalgia and I am definitely drawn to an 'older' aesthetic for lack of a better term. I also think making things by hand and choosing to purchase things made by hand or by local, independent makers, is a really positive act that will hopefully change the way we view consumption."

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Skills with ... books

"My work harks back to a time when books were really valued," says book lover and maker Hana Park, who creates books under the name Bakadesign. Park combines traditional appreciation of the touch and smell of books with modern innovative techniques to create a large offering of brightly coloured journals, notebooks, diaries, photobooks and more - things that will make stationery lovers come over a bit giddy. Before beginning to create them herself, Park was "madly in love with diaries and journals. I used to have all sorts of journals with me; a dream journal; a fashion journal with cut-outs from magazines, photos, and drawings of what I wore each day, thought journals, sketch journals ... I could keep listing these all night."

Park's penchant for craft goes back to her childhood, where she would constantly be creating things with whatever she could get her hands on.

"I think my first book was a collage paper book held together with staples when I was in pre-school."

But it was a visit to a small local bindery during a typography class as a design student that sparked a serious foray into the world of bookbinding.

"I was so amazed that a book could be made with any material and by human hands. I started to make dozens of different books every week, and took a bookbinding class and I was hooked."

A masters degree in book arts followed, where she developed her passion and craft for bookbinding, "a highly skilled craft requiring enormous patience, concentration and knowledge".

The process of creating and hand-binding one book can take her more than eight hours, and that's not including drying times. Park will often use 100 per cent cotton and hard cardboard for the cover, with inserts that are designed on the computer, all bound and glued - one of the most time consuming parts of the process.

"Allowing enough time for the glue to dry thoroughly can make all the difference between a strong book and a useless pile of paper." Lately she has been working a lot with leather, an "adorable material for a book cover, but it has given me sore fingers ..."

Where to buy it:

- NZ Herald

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