Who we are
Our gloves are made by a small team of awesome people across the lower South Island. We start off by getting the best merino we can get our hands on, made in New Zealand whenever possible. From there we get our gloves cut by a small local garment manufacturer in Dunedin. We print all of our gloves and scarves in our Dunedin workroom. From there your gloves go out to our two lovely machinists who work from home in North and South Canterbury, back to the workroom to be pressed, then I wrap them, and send them out to you, and all of our lovely retailers across the country.
What we make
We make a range of merino gloves and scarves, items that are both practical and beautiful. Aesthetics are important to me, I don’t think that beauty is frivolous or unimportant – our lives are complicated and busy. A vintage floral cushion, some pretty plates, a small ceramic sculpture – each of these items can bring small moments of joy to everyday.
Our fingerless gloves are useful- our winters aren’t very warm in the south island. Our gloves will warm up your hands, but leave your fingers free to work and play. Useful without being utilitarian – I design them to add that finishing touch to your outfit, a special detail for everyday.
Where it all began
I studied Craft Design at Christchurch Polytechnic, although I’ve always made things. My parents used to keep me quiet with a pile of cardboard, scissors and glue when I was a child. After I finished studying, I decided I needed to learn a trade, so I started a clothing label and taught myself to sew, in that order! I designed and made clothes for quite a few years, and sold through around four little boutiques around New Zealand(in around 2008)
Towards the end of this time (It’s a jolly hard way to try to earn a living) I started making fingerless gloves, which turned out to be quite popular. I stopped making clothing for a while, and worked for Southern Opera and the Court Theatre as a casual machinist, but after a while started making the gloves to supplement my income. The first gloves I made were knit fabric with patches of brocade sewn on with a zig zag, which were cute, but not very easy to make in larger quantities. I taught myself to screen print as a way to add a point of difference to my gloves, that was much more suitable to boutique manufacturing than stitched patches. The gloves sold really well, and quickly became my full time job.
My favourite materials, tools and processes.
I banned myself from any medium other than textiles years ago. I love many things, fine metals, resins, wood... but I realised early on that it is expensive to tool up for each material, you end up storing so many different kinds of materials, and you need a different kind of work space for each craft… I’m really glad I decided to specialise. I think I have developed a really good skill base, textiles is a vast creative field all in itself.
What inspires me
Lots of things! When I am designing I try to relax and to walk around with an open mind, soaking in colour and textures around me. I often start with a walk through native bush, followed by a trip to the museum. I’m inspired by the natural world – I’ll often stop and take pictures of flowers and leaves wherever I am, watching the changing forms and colours as the seasons change. I’m also influenced by vintage textiles and wallpapers, old letters, and found objects like feathers and seed pods.
My creative process
Running a creative business is quite time consuming, there are many aspects that need to be kept on top of, like ordering materials, keeping the websites updated, sending out orders to my retailers, making sure we have enough stock. Until the beginning of this year I have also done all of the screen printing, which can often take a couple of days a week. Now I have help with the printing (Thanks Nige!) but I’m doing a Masters part time... so.... unfortunately the creative bits often get squished in at the last minute in a real rush. It can get quite stressful trying to come up with something good enough within tight deadlines. On the upside, it means I have learnt to commit to a design and bring it through to completion quite quickly, but I know if I had more time my work would have a more considered beauty. I throw away at least 1/3 of the designs I work on every season, sometimes they just don’t quite work out, and you just have to let them go!
My workspace: DUNEDIN
I’ve got a lovely big space in Dunedin, I’ve just got way too much stuff.
When I first started out in Christchurch, I worked from home. We just had one little 50s extendable formica table – I did my printing, then I cleared off the table, then packed up my orders, then cleared it all off to print again. I sewed up the first 1000 pairs of gloves myself in a rather crowded sunroom.
Now I’ve got heaps of great big work tables, there’s a separate area for everything. One for printing, one for the computer, another for the sewing machines, another for pressing and sending the orders out. I feel pretty lucky! I’ve got great views of some lovely buildings too. I’d love to show you, but honestly, the state of it is a bit embarrassing
Five words that describe my mind
Busy, a little chaotic, inquiring.
My favourite feedback from a customer:
I have customers who have been buying from me again and again over the years, I think that’s the best compliment. And I get people calling me and emailing me to tell me how much they love my packaging. I also love the wholesale part of my business, one of the things I love most about being in business is the mutually beneficial relationships that my business has with other small business across the country. And I love my customers! There are some truly fabulous women (and men!) out there running gorgeous boutiques across New Zealand.
What I am currently listening to
National Radio! It’s great company when you work by yourself a lot of the time. I’d like to listen to more music though, maybe a mix tape full of 50s girl groups and Nick Cave. Oh and throw in some early punk please!
The album I recommend
The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. It just takes you away to another place, it’s a very special album, from beginning to end. Otherworld, other time.
My favourite book
I think it’s probably Eucalyptus, by Murray Bail. It’s like a fairytale for grown ups. Beautifully written with lovely details.
Anyone who is out there making incredibly beautiful work and sharing it with us.
What’s in store for 2018
I started doing a Masters in Visual Art in July last year. I’m working in Textiles, which I’m loving, its so amazing to be able to just create without having a finished product in mind. It’s been a bit of a stretch, my background is in Craft and Design and Art is coming from a completely different place! But I’m loving it. So that’s me part time until early 2019... you can see my evolving test pieces over here at https://www.instagram.com/among_the_sparrows/
Who Kate Watts - We/Us/our – the team. I doesn’t feel right. This business doesn’t work because of just one person, its everyone who works here, + our families, textile agents, boyfriends, friends. Small business is about community.
What Fingerless gloves mostly. As sustainably as I can. With heart.
Where I started this up in Christchurch, I shared a studio with a lovely friend (Hi Mel!) on the corner of Tuam & Madrass, where the wind used to come up through the floor. I made myself a pair of gloves to sew in, and made a few more for a shop in Dunedin, and things kind of took off.
I spent 4 years with the business in Oamaru, then moved it to Dunedin in late 2015. It’s quite a portable business really!
When 2008 - till you guys get sick of me or climate change makes it so warm we’re wearing floaty dresses down here the way all the pretty girls do in Auckland.
Why because some people just aren’t cut out to be employees ; ) Because I like to make things, I love both product design and the rhythms of boutique manufacturing. because I love the relationships this business creates, because the people I have met along this journey are just the best.
+64 21 985 999