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Rachel from Oh Blackbird’s Nest creates whimsical jewellery & garden ornaments from base metals and found objects

08 December 2017

Designer Spotlight: Oh Blackbird’s Nest

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Gardener, mother, jeweller & metal sculptor, Rachel: “I am definitely an opportunistic maker, snatching little snippets of time where I can or ignoring the housework in lieu of making.”

Hello, I'm Rachel, the woman pulling all the strings behind Oh Blackbird's Nest. I make jewellery and garden ornaments, predominantly out of base metals, but also using recycled materials where I can.

Metal brooches depicting garden scenes, boxed and almost ready to ship to new owners

I live in a 1930's red brick bungalow in Adelaide, with a great big jacaranda tree out the front with a make shift swing attached that my four-year-old Harvey loves to fly on. You should see him dressed up as Elsa from Frozen, or Batman, his cape flying behind him, clenched fist outstretched in typical superhero pose. He is at present having a heated discussion with his six-year-old brother Noah, as they try to negotiate the boundaries on the sofa and divide up the cushions. They are both adamant the other child has more space.

Needless to say, I work on my little business around looking after these two very much-loved and energetic children. I also have a thirteen-year-old step daughter, Lilya who is a suitably surly teenager with her heart in the right place, a black cat Mookie who is in disgrace at the moment, for staying out till 2 in the morning in a storm, and my wonderful partner Kosta.

Mookie the black cat inspecting Rachel’s creative supplies

I do most of my creating from my kitchen table while the kids are at school and kindy or engrossed, miraculously, in some joint pursuit. I can attach my bench peg to it with a clamp and most of my tools fit into a cardboard box. I have a small blow torch, like you would use to make crème brulee, that I use for soldering, but I keep that on top of the miscellaneous items (junk) cupboard, out of reach of little hands, next to the power drill.

Copper girl garden ornament among the flowers, by Rachel of Oh Blackbird’s Nest: “Making… helps to define me as more than a mother and tidy-upper”

I am definitely an opportunistic maker, snatching little snippets of time where I can or ignoring the housework in lieu of making. Those times when I have the house to myself, the sun on my back and a glorious light filling the kitchen, piercing saw in hand as I cut out an intricate pattern, music that I have chosen drifting in from the stereo in the room next door, bring me much happiness and fulfilment as a creative and helps to define me as more than a mother and tidy-upper.

Little girl catching insects: hand-pierced metal garden ornament

We live on quite a big block of land compared to most, where increasingly houses like our home are being torn down to make way for several townhouses. There is plenty of room to run around and I am slowly digging up the lawn to make way for flower beds. There are poppies, hollyhocks, cornflowers, nigella, marigolds, salvia and sweet-peas all blooming at the moment and some sunflower seedlings have just emerged with much hope attached for those happy and honest Van Gogh flowers to be blooming at Christmas.

Handcrafted brass brooch by Oh Blackbird’s Nest: “I hand pierce these little garden beds from brass or copper, and from the metals found in abandoned objects”

All I need is a sketchbook and pencil, and my own garden and the insects it attracts, to design my brooches that are little garden scenes you can pin to your blouse. I hand pierce these little garden beds from brass or copper, and from the metals found in abandoned objects. I have quite a good production line going on now, where I source my recycled metals from the six-year-old son of a friend who enjoys deconstructing old electrical household items. He has just given me the disassembled pieces of a large toaster for which I have some bee and flower brooch designs ready to make.

A little girl of copper catching insects in the among the blooms

I spend a good deal of time stretched out on my stomach on the earth, photographing the garden ornaments I make, placed in the ground next to whatever flower is blooming at the time. The designs I have at the moment are based on the Milly Molly Mandy books, filled with stories of children outside, climbing trees, riding bikes and embarking on small adventures.

I am also influenced by the Harry Potter books, that I read every night to my Noah and the character Arriety or the Borrowers, those small humans that live unnoticed under the floorboards of your house. I imagine my little girl characters, hand pierced out of brass or copper, tending to your garden while you are not looking, welcoming the bees and throwing the snails over the garden fence.

Copper girl with watering can by Oh Blackbird’s Nest: “I imagine my little girl characters, hand pierced out of brass or copper, tending to your garden while you are not looking”

I remember as a child, using a hammer and nail to pierce holes through shells I'd collected from the beach, then stringing them all together with fishing wire to make shell necklaces. My mother has just returned to me a small glass jar filled with hand painted beads I'd made from modelling clay.

Witch and cat on a bycicle: hand-crafted copper garden ornament

I guess I've always known in my heart that I would pursue some sort of creative career. I ended up studying jewellery design at Central Saint Martins College in London. Such an amazing experience that I feel privileged to have been able to do. I remember my first tutor saying that there was not much money in jewellery design and that I would probably end up making jewellery from my kitchen table with a baby strapped to my back. She was not far wrong.

The highlight of my university days was winning a competition run by the London Livery Company the Worshipful Company of Tin Plate Workers alias Wire Workers, where I made a skeletal piece out of sheet tin that twisted and moved down the spine and hooked over the shoulders. I was given 500 pounds, a fortune for a struggling student, and was invited to attend a grand dinner with four courses and copious amounts of alcohol, in an old Hogwarts style great hall, where we partook in a ceremony called the loving cup and I was awarded my prize.

Metal sculpture by Oh Blackbird’s Nest: “I remember my first tutor saying… that I would probably end up making jewellery from my kitchen table with a baby strapped to my back”

It feels like a lifetime ago now and I do miss working within a community of other students, where you can bounce ideas off each other and glean support in times of stress. In a lot of ways, the Madeit community, and the handmade community as a whole, has replaced the support I had at university. There are so many hand-makers out there who have my back and who are ready to offer advice or assistance and I come away re-assured.

Copper girls by Oh Blackbird’s Nest, tending to the flowers in Rachel’s beloved garden

I feel incredibly supported by the people behind Madeit; it is an incredibly human company, not just a faceless selling platform. I will always feel over the moon to be included on the front page or in the newsletter and being able to share my story here is just the icing on the cake.



Visit Oh Blackbird’s Nest to find whimsical characters and garden inspired metal jewellery: Oh Blackbird’s Nest

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