Photo: Stewart Nimmo
An untamed natural wilderness as inspiration.
Advances in digital technologies and an inspiring backyard are making the West Coast a hub for creative artisans. Nestled between the snow-capped Southern Alps and the Tasman Sea, the West Coast is an area renowned for its inspirational natural environment.
“From pounamu carvers to booker prize winning authors, the West Coast landscape has long attracted and inspired creative people,” says Development West Coast chief executive Chris Mackenzie.
“Advances in digital technologies are opening new opportunities, enabling people to live where they want, and do business with the world. This has led to a new generation of pioneering artisans who have chosen to live on the Coast for the lifestyle, while selling their products online to wider markets,” he says.
Photo: Jules Anderson
Tessa Lindsay’s business, Nuzzle Baby, is a perfect example that geography is no-longer a barrier to doing business, especially when talent, passion and the internet are involved.
Tessa and her husband were born and bred in Queenstown but were looking for a change. When her sister-in-law encouraged them to move to Westport they jumped at the opportunity.
In 2014 they welcomed their first child, who was born with severe breathing and feeding issues.
“I wanted to make sure that what he played with was safe and enjoyable for him, organic and free from toxins, so it wouldn’t affect his breathing at all,” she says.
Tessa started designing products that would be safe, engaging and nurturing for her son. Seeing the enjoyment he was getting laid the seeds for her business, Nuzzle Baby.
Tessa began making eco-friendly baby toys while her son was sleeping and selling them online.
“Being an online business means you can live wherever you love and for us that’s right here in Westport. We want to bring our children up in a relaxed small-town environment. And being able to draw inspiration from the nature and landscape around me has been a huge influence in finding my unique style,” Tessa says.
Blue Spur Milk and Honey.
Sick of the city-life, Miriam Rees and her family moved to the West Coast. They eventually purchased a lifestyle block just outside of Hokitika in Blue Spur.
Their property soon became home to an array of animals: goats, sheep, ducks, geese, chickens, bees and their dog Zeb.
Miriam became busy taking up new hobbies. She learnt beekeeping and would use her goat’s milk to make cheese and soap.
She started experimenting, adding honey from her hives to her goat’s milk soap and making solid hand lotion bars using her beeswax. With the help of her goats and bees, she found she could craft many different natural products and so her business ‘Blue Spur Milk and Honey’ was born.
Miriam now handcrafts a range of rustic beauty products that encapsulate the untamed natural wilderness she is surrounded by. She avoids plastics, only using environmentally friendly packaging.
“There’s no point making a beautiful natural product and then wrapping it in plastic! The charm of the West Coast is its raw natural beauty, and we want to keep it that way,” she says.
Kira Birchfield Jeweller.
After nine years away travelling and studying, Kira Birchfield moved back to the West Coast with her husband. From her home workshop south of Hokitika, she has setup a new business – Kira Birchfield Jeweller.
“My pieces reflect my connection to this unique landscape. I immerse myself in the West Coast surroundings – the rugged landscapes create incredible silhouettes, patterns, inspiration!” Kira says.
“I am passionate about the art of the hand-made. I melt, form, roll, drill and polish precious materials to make unique artworks. Making work that is connected to the West Coast is important to me.
"Having the freedom to work from home with such inspiring surroundings is something I am grateful for. Being able to head out for a morning horse ride along the beach before heading into my workshop is just magic," Kira says.
According to Chris Mackenzie, the ability of these artisans, and others like them, to carve out their own niches is a testament to the West Coast’s appeal as a digitally connected region, allowing people to run successful businesses remotely “all while enjoying the superior West Coast lifestyle."