Doubtless Bay: Sowing the beads of love

By Liz Light

Intan Myer's glass-bead jewellery blends sparkle, light, colour and beauty. The Doubtless Bay resident makes Pandora-style bracelets that teens love. Photo / Supplied
Intan Myer's glass-bead jewellery blends sparkle, light, colour and beauty. The Doubtless Bay resident makes Pandora-style bracelets that teens love. Photo / Supplied

It's sacrilege to say, but by the end of summer I'm over sun, sand and sea. Though Doubtless Bay is doubtlessly a fine example of a sublime beach, and Mangonui Harbour at its southern end is delightful, I look behind the beachy, sunny tourist trail and find passionate artists and craftspeople doing what they most love.

Intan Myer is relatively new to her trade as a glass-beadmaker. Four years ago she began buying beads and making jewellery and became hooked on glass. She taught herself how to make glass beads, opening a whole new world of sparkle, light, colour and beauty.

Myer uses an oxygen and propane torch to get super-high temperatures that melt glass, then rolls molten glass around a stainless steel mandrel to form beads. She makes funky shapes with a marble spatula, swirls colours together, makes striped beads, adds spots and creates flowers and other patterns inside her beads.

Initially, Myer used bead-glass imported from Italy but, as that was expensive, she started experimenting with recycled glass.

She discovered glass is even more beautiful when it's free and when its recycling is good for the planet.

"Bombay Sapphire bottles make heavenly, pale-blue sapphire-coloured beads for necklaces," Myer says. "Monteith's lager creates rich chocolate beads with an amber light, Heineken, a deep-green bead, and sea-blue beads come from some German wine bottles."

During the process, Myerlearns a lot about glass, how to temper it and that it can't all be treated in the same way. "Stella Artois has great glass, as does a Baileys bottle, but Speight's glass isn't up to much.

"Perfume bottles are made of excellent glass; Hugo Boss and Gucci are great to work with."

Often the story behind the bottle is important. Customers sometimes bring in bottles they love - it may be from perfume that was a gift from someone special - and Myer turns them into beads, then the jewellery the customer wants.

She tells a cheeky story about a man who came to stay in the Mangonui Motel which she and her husband own, with his girlfriend. They drank French champagne and Myer nabbed the empty bottle when they left because she loved the glass. She made a long necklace of green beads with it and when the man returned a few weeks later with a different woman, he bought her the beads made from the bottle of bubbly that he so enjoyed with the previous girlfriend.

Myer's market is predominantly local, though she does sell through her website, so she makes a range of beads to appeal to different age groups. She creates one-off fancy Pandora-style beads for a quarter of the Pandora price, that teens love.

Their mothers are into bright, funky necklaces and chunky bracelets and grannies can't resist a sparkling string of Bombay Sapphire.

Not far away, in a clifftop studio above the sea, Rebecca Shawyer is fully immersed in sculpting fabulous fantasy figures from clay.

In Shawyer's former life as a patisserie chef she was the British dessert chef of the year in 1995, and had a spell as pastry chef for Neil Diamond, Tina Tuner and other famous folk. But her high life in Europe stopped when she discovered clay.

"I knew as soon as I touched clay for the first time that this was what I was meant to do and, after making my first piece, I gave up my career." Shawyer came home to quiet, peaceful Northland and its kind climate and set to work.

"Working clay is not too different from working with chocolate or sugar paste. Pastry skills gave me an angle on how to do very fine work, making petals for flowers, for instance, and hair for my people and I use my pastry tools a lot."

Her people come to her as visions of figures that need to be created. Some are sad and winsome, some cheeky and funny, some are pretty and plump with sweet rosy faces and others are tall, thin and theatrical.
All are fantasy figures that have the surreal edge of fairy tales, ancient Italian opera or Elizabethan masked comedy. The detail in her work is extraordinary and it defies belief that someone can create such fine figures from clay.

While Shawyer is sculpting, just a few kilometres north Winston Matthews is busy with his extensive vintage collection.

Winston has been farming the land behind Doubtless Bay for years, as did his grandfather and father before him. In fact, the Matthews clan has been in the area since one of his ancestors, the Rev Joseph Matthews, began the mission station in Kaitaia in 1832.

Some of his ancestors were collectors, too, so he had the contents of barns and farm sheds to enjoy. Matthews just loves restoring engines, tractors and cars.

"Then, when they're in beautiful working order, I get so fond of them I can't part with them - that's how I ended up with 45 tractors, 15 cars and 30 stationary engines," he explains.

And that's not half of it. There is the side collection - the 1922 pianola that cranks out Mockingbird Hill, the Edison gramophone, the old phonographs and record players, a vintage telephone exchange or two, and the iron collection - he has 80 of them.

It's hard to pin him down on his favourite pieces - he loves them all - but admits a soft spot for the 1927 Chevy he has had for 40 years.

"Vintage cars have more wow value than tractors but I'm fond of tractors, too. My oldest is the 1929 Farmall. All 45 tractors run and, every now and then, with the help of local enthusiasts, we get them out and start them up.

"We only have a few batteries, though, so it's a bit of a performance to move batteries around to get them going."

Matthews retired from farming in 2001 and devoted himself to his collection and doing what was required to open it to the public.

Now it's housed in a smart 1100sqm shed and is open from 9am to 5pm. Luckily his wife Lyn helps out with the visitors so he can keep on with his restoration projects.

FACT FILE

* Bead Studio: Mangonui Motel, 1 Colonel Mould Drive, Mangonui, phone (09) 406 0346.

* Rebecca Shawyer: 18 Heretaunga Cres, Cable Bay. Visitors welcomed but please phone first, phone 021 1884924.

* Matthews Vintage Collection: Aurere, SH10, 10km north of Mangonui. Open every day except Christmas and Good Friday, phone (09) 406 0203.

- Herald on Sunday

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