Victoria Patchell

 

When I go shopping or buy gifts, I am conscious of buying local products, supporting local business or sourcing handmade, sustainable, pieces. As we walked around the Byron Bay Design festival, I made a point of lovingly and stealthily telling my husband that he could buy my Christmas present from one of the creatives at the festival. I met Victoria from Mermaid Collective as I was admiring her unique shell jewellery, the vibe that this beauty radiates, made me want to grab a colourful, fruity cocktail and hang out on the beach with her. Her whole being pulses with happiness, her smile lights up her face and the enthusiastic way that Victoria expresses herself made me think that she would be the life of the party, but also a chick that would be able to have a deep and meaningful over a glass of red. She was excited and generous in wanting to tell me the story of her jewellery.

“Firstly I sit and day dream on a beach somewhere and I think about the pieces. The ocean is my medicine and inspiration. For me all the things that I loved as a kid, I still love even more now. I have always loved wearing sea shells, but as I got older I realised that they weren’t as elegant as I wanted them to be. So I created a few shell jewellery pieces, that unite the creation of a surfboard set with resin, and coloured resin and a seashell.

I was living in Indonesia and I ran my first trip there – I run a surfing and yoga retreat business. I custom made some of this jewellery for me and I thought no one in the world would want to wear it, I thought it was just my quirky taste. The girls that were on the trip adored it and I got them to hand make some pieces and then it snow balled for there.

I have trained a studio in Indonesia. It is incredible. They do all the shell art and it is then set in sterling silver.  When I sell a piece it supports those remote communities. I also take a portion of the proceeds to gift to a marine conservation projects that I support.

My shell artist is a beautiful man called Herman. This is what he lives for. I often go and visit him in his house and see his family. Yeah my long term goal if I get this, I mean when I get this really happening, I want to give Herman his own proper studio, and he can train more people.  Herman has all the contacts in finding all the shells. Number one for me is about loving the ocean, so I wanted to make sure that my shells were from an ethical source. This year I spent a few months in Indonesia and I researched and investigated the shells.  Culturally the men eat the nautilus shell fish to make them more fertile, if they are trying to conceive they go and eat nautilus shells and so from that there is an excess of these shells.

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The process is quiet long once we have the shells because the whole process is hand done. At the moment they take about two days. What we do is; we get the shell and slice it – some won’t last that process only the strong ones will, then we clean it out, high pressure clean it and then we let it dry naturally in the sun. We hope for sunny days or it will end up being three days. We fill it with the resin, it took a month for me to get the recipe for the turquoise just right. It is my favourite colour so it was game on to get it right. When the resin is set, it comes back to the carving station is sliced back and front and shave it off for the white and turquoise and that is the shell process done and we hand it over to the silversmith.  I have beautiful team of people. I know that every time I sell something I know that I am helping them. I am helping beautiful Herman feed his babies. And I am so excited about the conservation.

The essence for me is take the sea wherever you may go, I feel like if someone wears one of these shells they are constantly reminded about how special and powerful Mother Nature is. You know by wearing one of these it shows you love the sea and might stop you buying plastic.

 

(Christmas morning I was gifted from “Santa” a stunning shell ring from the Mermaid collective. I love it and love knowing where it came from and how it was made.)

Website:

Mermaid collective

Instagram

Why back me financially, by having to pay to read the interviews? Because I am creating a platform for me to showcase my best work, build a community and get paid to keep on creating. The more patrons in our community means more interviews, and more stories. A portion of this money will be used to pay it forward, sharing the love with other women and girls and raising their voice.

 

Ania Caffarena

Ania Caffarena

I walked into the space at the Festival of design where Ania and Kat had their art displayed. The blonde and brunette haired beauties, one from Germany and one from Italy, made use of pine wood pallets as supports for black and white pencil drawings of whales, fish and swim suits. Green leafy branches from palm trees added colour, a quick shade in the same colour as the foliage and its poles allowed Ania to hang her whales and white flowing material softened and gave the display a beachy feel.

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I had just finished having a speedy interview with Kat about her drawings and asked Ania if she would also be interested in a quick chat. I could’ve spoken and listened to these interesting and extremely talented ladies with their European accents for a lot longer, but it was a market type feel with people walking around and I didn’t want to take up too much of their time.

Ania told me that she started to make the three dimensional whales in February. “It was a strange thing. I had been doing this back in Italy just for an hobby. But then I came here to Australia and I met this girl she is an artist too” and she said “you should try and sell your stuff.”

She sent some pictures to a really famous interior stylist in Sydney. And this stylist wrote me back and said “I want to buy your whales!”

Laughing she tells me “And I was like oh my god, ok!” So since then I have been starting to sell them, to Sibella Court, Sibella Court Society Inc, and she is from Sydney. Since then I have been selling to shops and galleries, off my own website.

Ania tells me that when she came to Australia and landed in Darwin she had no idea what she was going to do here. She proudly and with a big smiles say “and now I am in artist in Australia.”

Ania spent time in Italy making flat metal sculptures and in Australia embarked on making three dimensional whales, she told me she finds these so much more fun to do, and they are so much more challenging.

“I just love whales there is something so magic and they are so poetic, I just love them, there is a special connection with the ocean and I wanted to do something to represent that”.

In November the whales are playing in the waters off Byron Bay Ania said “it was just crazy seeing them in the ocean in Byron bay, they were jumping and I was jumping.” Watching them in nature added to her research on the whales form and movement. This research is also backed up from Ania’s study of design in Italy, yacht design actually. “I left university and I came to Australia because yacht design back in Italy is not really mmm you know”, she says with a shrug of her shoulders and lifting of her hands. “I mean the technical yacht design and drawings for the yachts are very similar to the whales.”

“I usually go on YouTube and watch videos and study and sketch the movements and study the three dimensional part. I make lots of sketch and then I go free hand.”

After the sketches are completed she gets down to making the sculpture, she explained to me that first time was difficult creating the three dimensional pieces because of course she didn’t know what she was doing. So this could take like two, three days. “But now I am quicker. I love it, I love when I find a new position or something new to add or do.”

From Ania’s expression and body language she loves Australia as much as the whales. “I have been here for one year and I am here for sure until July, I just want to stay. I will be a student my whole life if I have to, so that I can stay here.” She recounts her travels and how her sculptures support her life here. “I love travelling here so much. I have a van, I landed with my sister in Darwin and we got a van and we crossed the desert and we saw Uluru and the Great Ocean Road, then up to Noosa and then back again, then down to Tasmania for two months. I am always driving. My van is nice, it is a super old van, it is a thirty one years old van, so everyone looks at my van and it is a good display for my whales. On the side of my van in the window I always put my whales, on the side with my website.”

Ania Caffarena can be contacted on

@aniacaffarena – Instagram

www.aniacaffarena.com

aniacaffarena@gmail.com

 

Byron Bay

We are grateful to be only 3 hours down the highway and to have the good fortune of holidaying in Byron Bay the nature loving, surf metropolis that thrums to its own vibe. I enjoy the melting pot of diversity of the people that are attracted to the famous coastal town. Bare footed surfers, backpackers, families, gen y’s speaking foreign languages, hippies and the patient locals. Another thing that I enjoy while in town is checking out the local markets, festivals, and food. Driving around this week I have seen signs advertising the Byron Bay Festival of Design. My husband wanted to go Christmas shopping in Ballina, because it really shits us to have to pay for parking in Byron. Seems petty when it is only a few dollars, but it’s just something else we have to pay for and that alone stops us from going in there as much as I would like. But I said no way we are going to support the locals and local creatives and I am so glad we made the effort. We are early rises so I think we were some of the first people at the festival. I had in mind that I wanted to do a few interviews of people that I had seen on the Instagram account for the festival but I was too nervous to ask and did a quick lap around the stalls and we took advantage of the free parking at the Youth Activity Centre and headed into Byron for a look at what was going on in town. My three ate gelato, they dreamed over new surf boards, we found alley ways with murals painted on the walls, stopped in the street and chatted to our elderly neighbour from the caravan park. The streets were quiet and bare, maybe a bit early for the all the tourists to be out exploring, not many surfers around due to the terrible conditions, we listened to a van full of long haired, bare chested blokes with beards playing guitars and a banjo, we walked past a homeless man who was packing up his belongings, we stood beside a black Porsche with a flawlessly made up lady sitting in it playing with her phone while we waited to cross the road. We walked the back streets back to the youth centre and by the time I got there I had worked up the courage to go back to the design festival and ask for some interviews. Have a read of the next four posts about some very interesting women.

 

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For the last 3 years we have hooked up our camper trailer and driven south down the highway to Northern New South Wales to a little place south of Byron Bay. The caravan park where we stay is tucked in between a headland and the beach. The camp ground doesn’t have many facilities in itself but the location is perfect. To get our favourite camp site we need to a year in advance. The dates that we have stayed have meant that the same people have been there each year. One lady that comes to mind when I think of Broken Head has stayed at the park at the same time of year for over 60 years, all of her children and grandchildren have spent summers at the park and her husband actually passed away there, on their annual holiday. She is an expert on the weather, she out fishes the men and can be seen walking the beach everyday.

We spend our time on holiday walking over the headland in the morning, going for a swim or a surf on the way back to camp, we usually have a nanna nap, go back to the beach for more swimming after lunch, then it is “happy hour” with cheese and wine before heading back to the beach for a late afternoon fishing and a pipi hunting session. Then back to camp and cooking on gas oven, with ingredients and produce from the fridge that we take with us, we have a comfortable set up with lots of shade, the boys sleep in their own tents, and we cover our camp site with 100’s of fairy lights making it shine brilliantly.

With mostly the same people camping in the park at the same time each holidays, my boys look forward each year to catching up with their mates from all over Australia. They spend their days, at the beach, in the park, going from camp site to camp site catching up and getting to know families. The group of mostly boys in the mornings head up to the camp kitchen and cook and feast on pancakes. Most days I have to actually remind them to eat and I always insist that they are back at our camp site for dinner; otherwise I would never for the whole holiday see my children.

One of my absolute favourite things is getting comfy in my queen size bed in the camper trailer and listening to the ocean as I fall asleep, going for long walks with my little family and practising yoga on the beach is pretty high on the list as well. The 16 days that we are away each year, living a healthy lifestyle of eating beautiful food, being active everyday, spending time together is my favourite time of the year.

People at the bakery.

I spent time today just sitting. Sitting outside on a long wooden bench seat at Suffolk Park bakery. Taking delight in a caramel latte, dressed in cut off denim shorts, a bikini top, and a chiffon kimono top (I would NEVER dress like this to go the bakery at home).

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My attire to go shopping at the bakery.

Suffolk Park is about 6km from Byron Bay. Byron is Australia’s most easterly point, so is the first place to see the sun rise. Byron is a laid back beach lifestyle with a village atmosphere and a lively local culture. Byron has the best of Australian settings including sunny subtropical climate, white sandy beaches, leading to turquoise ocean and is hugged by lush countryside and tropical hinterland. With these gorgeous conditions it is no wonder that the year ending September 2015 there was 217,100 overnight visitors to this region. With 63.9% of these visitors being between the ages of 15 and 29 and spending $105 million in overnight accommodation, with 29.2% of this money going to backpacker accommodation.

 

It seemed this arvo when I went to buy a couple of staples at the bakery the 217,000 international visitors congregated to the Suffolk Park bakery. As I was enjoying my coffee, there was a couple in their twenties, adorned in beach ware (both unquestionably blessed with beautiful genes.) sitting a little way down the bench seat eating sugary treats, the girl was trying to steal bites of partners little delicacy, he was shoving her own cream puff in her face. I don’t speak French, but the way these two were speaking it sound so romantic, (he was probably telling her to bugger off). There was a mother and small child (the mother dressed in an elegant flowing white dress and her little brown berry baby only in a cloth nappy) sitting next to me speaking, mmmm I am not sure maybe Dutch. He kept on pointing at the glass cabinet with an abundance of cream and pastry on the shelves. Being a kindred spirit in the Mumma fraternity, I think she was probably telling the little guy no. At one point a bashed up car jumped the gutter, the driver trying to park in between two other parked cars, and he clearly had zero driving skills if the scratches, and dents are any indication. They had there surfboard hanging out the back window, the car was absolutely full of bags, towels and oh god who knows what else. The passenger jumped from the car in board shorts that had seen better days and nothing else, in long strides to the pie cabinet, all the while (I think) yelling obscenities in Japanese to his kamikaze driving friend. All of this human hilarity was happening with the sounds of an Aussie baker belting out, Pinks – Raise your glass. I sat on that bench seat feeling grateful and proud to be living in such a fabulous country. A place where international visitors crave to visit. Creating a real melting pot of wonderful people, cultures and experiences for not only international visitors but also locals. Of course being summer in Australia, I got to my car where I blasted the air-conditioning, because the steering wheel was so hot I couldn’t touch it, and the seat belt burnt my bare belly (teach me for wearing a bikini top to the bakery).

I wonderful thought for this time of year: We are all different and that’s beautiful. x