Mindful making Hobbies to learn
We love celebrating local makers and encouraging DIY here at Your Home and Garden, so this month the team decided to walk the talk and try some workshops in our local area. Here are the results…
“The fun part comes first: picking out your vessels and scents. I went for a heritage floral theme with vintage gardenia, geranium and jasmine”
CANDLE MAKING I’ve always been obsessed with candles. There’s nothing better than lighting a few scented candles on a Sunday evening and basking in the glory of a clean house with no chores left to do. Bliss!
Brian and Emma Simpson from Candle Creations, New Zealand’s largest supplier of candle and soap making products, started their business in 2010. As customers discovered them, demand grew for lessons, so the pair now also run regular courses at their Auckland studio. They use 100 percent natural soy wax and zinc- and lead-free candle wicks and – should you decide to take up candle making as a hobby – all the vessels, scents and equipment you’ll need.
“We have all sorts of people taking our courses. Most just want to have fun and save money making candles at home; for others it’s the start of their own successful candle-making business,” Brian says.
I went into the class thinking it would be an absolute breeze and I’d be walking out with my homemade candle in no time. Turns out, there’s a bit of an art to it. The fun part comes first: picking out your vessels and scents (I went for a heritage floral theme with vintage gardenia, geranium and jasmine).
Brian explained that although it sounds easy enough to melt some wax, chuck in some scent, pour it into a jar and let it set, there’s actually quite a lot more involved. If you want your candle to set well (no air bubbles and a firm consistency), smell great (not too strong, not too subtle) and melt evenly and safely, you need to get your measurements right and that’s where things can get a little tricky.
The good news is that Brian and Emma provide really detailed instructions at their class as well as on their website. They also have a handy little starter kit you can buy for $65 with everything you need to get you on your way.
I’d highly recommend the class and I can’t wait to get started on my candle-making journey. I’m going to save a fortune and they will make perfect gifts for friends and family!
“Everyone had different variations of the original bouquet, but all had Eden’s signature wild and beautiful look”
Working with Eden Kersten from The Botanist on many shoots, I’ve already picked up loads of information about flowers and plants, but I’m always eager to learn more so I signed up for one of her floral workshops.
The class started at 6.30pm and included a nice glass of bubbles (followed by another) which I happily sipped while admiring the array of flowers in her central Auckland shop. There was a long table and benches set up with floristry scissors, twine and a selection of stems and foliage. We all took our seats and listened to Eden explain the different types of foliage and flowers in front of us and how to create the gorgeous bouquet on display behind her.
At first I doubted I’d be able to make anything slightly resembling her creation, but as she explained the different stages of making the bouquet and the ‘spiralling’ technique,
I felt a little better. First we separated out our stems and then started building our bouquets. We started with the foliage (some wild-looking wattle) then added woody tulip magnolia on top, stem by stem in an overlapping formation to hold the bouquet together. Next we added some rust-coloured cymbidium orchids, then creamy white roses. We finished the bouquet with handfuls of cryptandra and eriostemon.
Looking around, I saw everyone had slightly different variations of Eden’s original arrangement but they all had Eden’s signature wild and beautiful look. Once our bouquets were complete we wound twine around the stems to secure them and gave the ends a quick trim to even them up (tip: always cut on an angle), then all we had to do was place the bouquets on pre-cut paper and get wrapping.
Afterwards, we all stepped back and admired our collective handiwork and marvelled at how unique they all were, even though we’d all used the same flowers and technique. Eden explained that this is the special thing about arranging flowers – each person puts their own spin on it. I really enjoyed myself and have even talked a few girlfriends into joining me for the next one!
WALL HANGING I saw a simple wall hanging by Brittany Chinaglia, of Brittany Makes on Pinterest, and wanted to make something similar for my entranceway. Being familiar with Nannestad & Sons’ beautiful craftwork, I decided to ask founder Wendy Nannestad if she could help me adapt and make the design.
Wendy and husband Paul founded Nannestad & Sons in 2013 and together design and make homeware, furniture and jewellery which combine traditional craft techniques with contemporary forms and natural materials. Their style is inspired by their Dutch and Norwegian heritage, and features simple forms and honest materials with a touch of whimsy thrown in.
Using thick, natural cotton cords with contrasting brass tubes for the main body gave length and structure to the piece. The oak rod at the top (with drilled holes so the cords could be secured with a knot) anchors the hanging while the 30 combed-cotton macramé tassels at the bottom add texture and a little chaos (each individually knotted and lovingly combed!).
It wasn’t only the ‘making’ process that inspired me – I also loved chatting to Wendy about the importance of passing on skills to younger generations, the emotional connection craft creates, and how it celebrates imperfection. We’re both conscious that life has become very fast and people often don’t make time to learn or develop outside their comfort zones. “Learning a craft not only challenges self-inflicted stereotypes but also allows us to slow down. Craft is often rhythmic; it connects our brain to our hands and can be almost meditative in its repetition,” Wendy says, and I couldn’t agree more.
“Their style is inspired by their Dutch and Norwegian heritage, and features simple forms and honest materials with a touch of whimsy thrown in”
DRIED WREATH Have you ever admired a gorgeous handmade wreath? Perhaps you’ve seen a sculptural piece hanging on a wall or lusted over a fabulous festive wreath on a friend’s door. Did you assume they were impossible to make? I did, until I went to a ‘Sculptural Wreaths of Vines and Branches’ workshop at the Vida Flores Flower School.
Vida Flores owner Davina Prankerd has created an enjoyable, easy class where she shows small groups of students how to make dried wreaths. The wreaths are sculptural, untamed, imperfect and beautiful. The best part is, you can take the wreath home and it will keep for years, making an ideal base for seasonal decorations.
The class takes place out the back of the fragrant and beautiful Vida Flores shop in Auckland’s Newmarket, where Davina and her team sell artistic bouquets and create arrangements for events and weddings. Davina has prepared bundles of cut grapevines and explains to us how to take a vine and wind it around itself to form a loop as the wreath base. Then it’s an hour of wrestling vines into submission as we continue winding and adding until our wreaths are the desired size and shape. It’s quite addictive and fun, but eventually it’s time to head back into the shop to decorate them. We choose from greenery such as fresh ivy and flowers including jasmine and erica (which I used). Davina also shows us how to incorporate a test tube into the wreath so that flowers and greenery will stay hydrated.
This was a fun, simple workshop which inspired me to get more creative with nature and proved that creating a sculptural, botanical arrangement can be easy. Proudly displaying my wreath at home was pretty special, too.
The Vida Flores Flower School offers classes in flower arranging, wall installations, sugar flower making, festive displays and more.
“This fun, simple workshop inspired me to get creative with nature”
XXL KNITTING I had seen Plump & Co’s ‘giant knitting’ workshops all over social media and became determined to create one of their supersized sculptural blankets, not to mention learn how to handle those fascinatingly large knitting needles!
The workshop, held at Auckland Art Gallery, was being run by Jacinta, the director of Plump & Co. I was a bit nervous as I’m a novice knitter and hadn’t wielded a pair of knitting needles since my grandma gave me a lesson as a child, but Jacinta assured me that this was the case for many people who take her classes.
After some chat and mingling with a glass of wine, I was guided to a chair set up with a “bump” of wool and those famous large knitting needles. We all took our seats and watched Jacinta demonstrate how to easily hold your needles and cast on.
Once I got the hang of operating the needles – which is quite a workout, I might add – I was hooked. As I completed my first few rows I looked around at my fellow knitters; everyone was doing so well and I began to get a little competitive. Most people were going for smaller items like scarves, bowls or pet beds, but I decided to take on the task of knitting a queen-size bed throw. As I furiously knitted on, determined to get my project completed by the time the two hours was up, I could see my throw taking shape and was pleasantly surprised.
At the end of the class, I was really pleased with my (almost finished) throw. Everyone in the group was admiring each other’s creations and knitting techniques, and it was so cool to see all the different things you could make out of this amazing, chunky wool.
I later ordered another bump of wool online and added to my throw to make it even bigger, which was super easy to do. Plump & Co holds workshops all over New Zealand so check out its website and see if there’s one near you – I’d highly recommend it.
“I had seen Plump & Co’s ‘giant knitting’ workshops all over social media and became determined to create one of their supersized sculptural blankets”
DREAMCATCHER The thought of making a dreamcatcher had never crossed my mind until a beautiful creation arrived in the office one day for a shoot. It was delicate and natural, with glinting metallic thread details and tiny crystals which caught the light – very different to what I’d seen before. I was enchanted. I discovered that the maker of that dreamcatcher, Lyn-Marie Harris of Dizzie Pixie Designs, not only creates custom commissions but also runs workshops and parties for all sorts of occasions (for kids and adults), so I decided to sign up for her next DIY event.
Upon arrival at the workshop I was adorned with a compulsory flower crown and also opted for a light dusting of “magic Dizzie Pixie dust” (usually reserved for children but what the hey). On a table lay all kinds of colourful dreamcatcher supplies – threads, beads, feathers and more. Lyn-Marie upcycles everything; her mantra is “reuse, re-love, recycle”. Like a little magpie, she collects what others may deem trash and uses it in her art: from broken bits of jewellery and pieces of fabric to lace, wool, buttons and shells.
Lyn-Marie briefly explained the origins of dreamcatchers; how Native Americans made them to protect the dreamer from bad dreams (they get caught in the web), while letting the good dreams slip through the central hole, down the feathers and onto the dreamer below. Her own philosophy is that people should arrive at their own interpretation of what a dreamcatcher is and then craft one with love; that way they will end up with something unique to them.
The weaving process is straightforward; it just takes time – about two hours to be exact. The fiddly part is when you need to use the glue gun to secure thread or tie small treasures into the web; the fun part is deciding on colour, design and where to put what. I wove some of my own randomly collected, sentimental treasures into my design, making my creation feel a lot more meaningful to me.
Lyn-Marie explained that her workshops are all about “mindful making” and that the people who come to her classes are craving a chance to unplug and get away from the phones and devices that saturate modern life. I was having fun creating and learning something new, and Lyn-Marie and I gossiped away like old friends. At the end of a very pleasant afternoon, I left feeling inspired and refreshed, already thinking about my next creation. •
“I wove some of my own randomly collected, sentimental treasures into my design, making it feel a lot more meaningful to me”