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.

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