No bric-a-brac please: Why craft markets are getting a makeover

Craft markets are following the artisanal trend. Michael Donaldson‘s been drawn into their orbit and finds there‘s no bric-a-brac at these upmarket stalls.

Like barista, gourmet or boutique, the word “artisan” is prone to overuse, but it‘s a perfect description for Marama Davis of Moon Lighting.

She takes old, hardcover books, hollows them out and builds miniature rooms between the covers. The meticulous detail on such a small scale is beyond me: it‘s as if she‘s used nanobots or tiny digital printers.

“I‘ve always loved miniatures and these sort of evolved out of the things I‘ve been making since I was little. I was pretty obsessed with The Borrowers and making tiny things for the fairies,” Davis explains.

Advertisement A Helen Emmett pendant at Crafternoon Tea. facebook twitter email linkedin google-plus whatsapp pinterest reddit

Helen Emmett‘s botanical earrings and pendants prompt another “How the hell do you do that?” eyebrow raise. Kowhai leaves, manuka blossoms and hydrangea petals are set inside an eco-friendly resin that has a glass-like finish, almost as if the leaves and flowers are floating in drops of water.

Honestly, it feels like magic. Like any magic, it doesn‘t happen easily.

“It is hard,” Emmett confesses. “First you have to find flowers small enough to fit in there, then you have to find two of them for matching earrings. To dry them can take several days and it‘s hard to dry them without losing the vibrancy and colour, but I‘ve done a lot of research on how to get that right.

“When you pour resin into the mould you have to be really careful because they‘re so delicate. About eight out of 10 work.”

A miniature room at Moon Lighting. facebook twitter email linkedin google-plus whatsapp pinterest reddit

Emmett has always loved dried flowers, going back to her childhood when her mother gave her a flower press that she became obsessed about. She‘s also a talented painter, with her work adorning box covers for the Seriously Good Chocolate Company, which has previously used Dick Frizzell‘s art on box covers. “Painting is my staple craft. I do have a few I sell but it‘s taken a back seat to jewellery.”

Jenna Brockett is just 29 and under her Prints & Princesses brand, she creates modern, usable art in a very Kiwiana black and white. Again, it‘s the intricacy of her artwork I‘m drawn to. She makes prints and greeting cards but it‘s her popular self-published book AB Seek – an “I spy” children‘s book – that holds my attention.

There are more than 1000 hand-drawn images associated with the 26 letters of the alphabet. The starkly beautiful book – again in black and white – took her two years to complete and each letter took about 20 hours to plan, design, sketch and draw.

Browsing through the crafts. facebook twitter email linkedin google-plus whatsapp pinterest reddit

“I think lots of people have the wrong idea about markets. They see them as old-fashioned,” Brockett says. “But if they come along to Crafternoon Tea, they‘ll see really modern work.”

Other fine-fingered finds include threaded bracelets from Wristocracy; for a person who struggles to thread a needle the painstaking accuracy needed to make these by hand is enough to give me cramp. On a larger scale, Uncle Dave‘s Woodshop might not sing intricacy at first glance but Dave Vickery wields a chisel like a surgeon‘s scalpel to create handmade bowls, boards, and boxes of the highest quality. Vickery got into his craft after he was made redundant. They told him he was “surplus to requirements” so he works in off-cuts and recycled wood that is also surplus to requirements.

Uncle Dave‘s Woodshop. facebook twitter email linkedin google-plus whatsapp pinterest reddit

The list of light-fingered fashionistas goes on: I‘d even include Otti and Olli cakes and desserts in this category. But the overwhelming vibe I take from this market is the collective commitment to reuse, recycle and renew.

ReMaterialise has been making a range of zero-waste products – beeswax covers, plastic-free lunch bags, stainless steel straws and other green reusables – almost before it was cool; Wrapt Weaving do their bit for the planet with shopping bags made from recycled plastic bags; Botcraft creates awesome toy robots out of recycled computer parts and the Agnes&Me skincare range is totally plant-based and eco-friendly, with customers encouraged to return their glass jars for a discount on their next purchase.

• Crafternoon Tea is being held at Trinity Hall in Kingsland today and the third Saturday of every month. It‘s also being held at Mt Albert War Memorial Hall on September 1.