Carbonear woman attending world conference
Amid the hooked rugs and metal works found at DozenOdd Galleries in Carbonear, Natalie Austin is having a hard time containing her excitement. And with good reason. The self-taught metal smith is set to be Canada’s representative at the craftswomen summit being held in Tokyo, Japan as a part of the G7 summit May 18-19. There she’ll join other women from the G7 countries — France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Japan, and the United States — to exchange information, share experiences, success stories and the challenges they encounter.
The result of this conference will be presented to the world leaders at the conference.
This will be the opportunity of a lifetime and a career changer. I am ready for the challenge,” said Austin.
The journey to the G7 started with a simple phone call. Austin received word she’d been nominated by the Newfoundland and Labrador Organization of Women Entrepeneurs (NLOWE) to take part in the exchange and she better start preparing for the possibility of a trip.
That included getting a passport.
It was while in the passport office that Austin received the call that she’d be going.
“I got the call as I was passing in ( the passport) documents saying, ‘I hope you’re there because you’re going to Japan,’” she said. “There was great celebration and revelry and what not.
“It’s a bit overwhelming be- cause I thought it’s a great thing to put on a resume. It’s great to be put in for those kind of things. To be chosen to represent the whole country, it’s not Newfoundland or the Avalon Penninsula or even Atlantic Canada. It’s the whole country and all of those great craftspeople across the nation.”
For the next three weeks, she had to keep the information tucked in her coat pocket until the final details were worked out.
Bursting at the seams, Austin was finally able to let people know about her once-in-a-lifetime opportunity last week.
“Some people get stressed and get sick,” she said. “Well, I made myself sick with excitement.
“It’s incredible to think what I’m doing has some sort of significance.”
Plenty of study
When she found out the news, Austin set about getting some of the other parts of the trip straightened away.
Things like making sure she has enough business cards to hand out, learning different aspects of the different cultures and some of the etiquettes that go with that.
“It’s a big deal to pass your business card over and a ritual that goes with that,” said Austin. “So, I was doing a bit of research about that because you want to make a good impression — you are representing all of the nation.”
Representing a nation
Canada is a nation divided into areas with very distinct identities when it comes to craft styles.
For lack of a better term, it’s a melting pot of cultures and ideals.
“I’m not worried about talking about my work,” said Austin. “I’m worried about talking about the whole of Canada. It’s taking the whole of Canada and figuring out how that works on a global scale.”
Armed with a degree in folklore and vernacular culture from Memorial University, her work is turning reclaimed copper piping into handcrafted jewellery.
She’s looking forward to taking everything in, experiencing the culture and seeing what she can bring back for the betterment of the whole community in this province.
For Austin, it’ll be about speaking fluently for the entire country and being a sound representative of that “voice.”
“It’s not just my voice. It’s not saying Natalie’s Jewelry is this and I do this task,” she said. “It’s talking Canada … and that’s a very important place to be.”
Carbonear’s Natalie Austin is headed to the G7 conference in Tokyo, Japan, later this month.