Over time the idea of making ends meet then gradually began to dawn upon us. We were not business people - far from it - and such an event can easily run at a loss in that sense if you are not very careful to come up for air occasionally and have a look around.
And so it was that from this process eventually came the emergence of Continuum Range, with the iconic Rockpool pendant as its flagship, and the RockBox as a presentation package (or tea-lite candle holder). You may still find examples of this range for sale on this website at times, as one of our artists from that time does still play with these forms occasionally.
These were a very popular range of products and we still get many requests for them today, but as with so many of the things we have made they had their time and were eventually put on the backburner. They are no longer produced and sold at a wholesale level.
Part of the reason for this brief lifespan was the very process out of which they were born. Like butterflies our products can often have a tendency to burn bright, but sometimes only very briefly. And that is what happened here. Having always considered difficulty to be an asset to artistic creation, it had never even dawned on us that the exact opposite might be true in business. Very soon we could no longer keep up with demand, and our country lifestyle retreat had somehow transformed itself into a production house, where we were often working through the night just to keep up.
So eventually, and having by this time established strong relationships with many top local galleries, the decision was made to begin parking CONTINUUM and start development on an entirely new and very different range of products. This path was in no small part a response to the many requests we had received from our various customers for a product that was both more accessible in price, and more universal in appeal.
With so many brands and product ranges, it is not always easy to know where to start when we tell the story of our work. The main thing most people don't usually grasp is that we are only very small. We don't employ any staff.
This is a conscious choice based on keeping things pure, and staying on top of quality etc. But what this also means - in the face of continual adventure and development - is that we need to continually sacrifice the old in order to make way for the new. It means we can't produce more than a small handful of products at any given time, so we eventually have to let go of the old and move on to the new.
This constantly shifting picture means that if we restrict this story to only what we are producing today, then we will miss the entire history, as well as all the other ideas that are still only at the 'egg' stage of development.
It is a bit like a wave - with where it has been, where it is now, and where it heading - all needing to be placed in broader context somehow.
And so, the most obvious way to do that seems to be to simply start at the beginning and follow the path we have taken, to explain where we are now, and then to offer at least some indication of where we might be going next as our creative evolution continues to roll forward.
It is also worth saying - the now 'extinct' works were not failures. They are the ancestors of all that followed, in just the same way as the products you see today will gradually be replaced by those coming soon, surpassed naturally as we continue to gradually make our way forward into unknown territory.
What really matters is that all the various works are united by the same core foundations: a connection to the land and its people, the pursuit of technical mastery, and relentless innovation across all chosen mediums. There are no real limits, and lots of territory yet to explore. We haven't even scratched the surface so far.
There is one problem with telling the whole story, however - people get confused. We end up with many emails asking us for products that are either long since dead, or not yet born.
Therefore, as we begin to tell the whole story below, we will simply mark each product as either -
Hopefully this will avoid any confusion.
All currently available products can also be seen in one place on our shopping page.
And worth remembering perhaps - If you see something you like in the store - and if it is available today - we certainly suggest get it while you can, in order to avoid any possible disappointment later. It may not be there tomorrow, and may never be repeated.
Basically, our various product ranges can tend to come and go a bit like wildflowers. We don't stand still for long, and we think that's great. That's what keeps the whole thing fresh and alive.
THE JOURNEY SO FAR..
The story of PAUA PRISM, CONTINUUM, NZROX, and LIGHTNING TREE can really only be seen within the context of the broader process out of which they have emerged.
In order to see that picture we will need to go right back to the beginning, or at least as far back as the first pebble.. and at least some glimpse of the personal journey that led to it.
For the original story you can still find an archived page HERE, but the short version follows -
After decades at the top of the commercial jewellery industry (platinum and diamonds etc), about a decade ago a decision was made to give all of that up in order to pursue the possibility of a more relaxed and passionate lifestyle. The idea was to do something different, something a little more connected, and a little less constrained - as well as to gradually settle down a bit and shift the work-life balance a bit in favour of the 'life' part.
Some time around then we found ourselves wandering along a beach near where we were born, silky smooth pebbles in our hands, and wondering what that next step might be. We had spent countless days on this beach as kids, and whilst for some people the rugged spectacle that is Birdlings Flat Beach is not to everyone's taste (especially not without something woolly around your neck!) it was good to be back home.
From this crucible came the origins of 'Primal Diamond', 'Flatpearl", and then what would eventually become - 'CONTINUUM'.
The story of Continuum is most essentially about the form - the beautiful orbital form of these pebbles and the place they originate. It is about the almost unimaginable amount of time nature has taken to produce these shapes, how beautiful they are, and the environment in which that occurs. It is about a connection to the Earth in that sense, about our place in the wider process perhaps - an incredible, deep and powerful cycle of energy and movement - and of all the life and beauty that results.
In this sense it is important to understand that Continuum wasn't born merely out of need, but out of a desire to step back and do something different. It wasn't about the money. The whole idea was just to break loose, to reconnect, and to simply play.
So this is where it all began - and this was why some of the pieces we produced in those early days were so extravagant or even bizarre, sometimes to the point that they could not even be worn. It was because we were often just clowning around, like a bunch of kids fooling about in the sandpit. For all of our technical capabilities - very often we were really not taking it all very seriously.
You can certainly see this in some of the works we produced over that time. It was all just larking about, with the result being a continual outpouring of ideas and forms and combinations - ranging everywhere from $30 pieces, right up to to $3000 'wearable sculptures'.
As mentioned, you can still see the original story of this first exploration up at birdlingsflat.com, but here are a few of the resulting families of product just to give you an idea of where it all went -
Very rough at first, gradually the skills developed and the techniques were refined, and before long the carved TOUCHSTONE pendant had become the best selling tourist item in its class in New Zealand (as reported by the largest souvenir group in the country) and there was soon a whole team of artists buzzing around making them.
The presentation package also developed through many variations and forms, with the final version going on to win more than a dozen national and international awards, including supreme winner finalist at NZ Pride in Print, and Bronze (in class) at the Pentawards (world packaging awards) - to our knowledge, the first time ever that a NZ package had won.
And we really do need to give a shout out here - if you are seeking the very best in printing solutions at top level quality, you will find truly wonderful service HERE.
Eventually these products moved offshore and began making their way around the world in various forms, but for that they needed to take on a slightly different flavour. The very parochial nature of the local brand and what it stands for in NZ needed to be broadened somewhat, but still somehow stay true to the essence of what they meant to us and the connection to the Earth that had given rise to them. The design sense also needed to move away from being so fiercely Maori focused (even though that is what we love the most, and what infuses our consciousness), to begin adopting a far more mainstream T-shirt kind of feel.
Preserving and restoring our natural environment has always been a focus in our work, and over time the ECO-ROX brand has managed to result in the planting of nearly 5000 trees.
These plantings are focused in the Philippines for the most part, which at this entry level does not allow for absolute certainty that any tree will make it through to maturity. But these are not very expensive products, and at the end of the day we believe it is raising awareness that really stands to provide a long term benefit. The idea is really that these pieces might allow people many opportunities to talk about the issue of deforestation and habitat loss, and this does seem to be the case overall. For us, this outcome is gold.
You will still find these products appearing in the store here from time to time - as they are still in production in limited numbers. But you will also see that we have now moved our focus to another level again in many senses, with a focus on having a far more robust and substantial impact over time, and on raising awareness at a whole new level.
Then came the FIRESTONES, which were essentially just a kind of 'we know this can be done' statement. And in the end it could be done - our friends at Regal Castings literally cast molten Sterling Silver directly into basalt pendants at more than 1000 C, and they were able to handle the thermal shock (mostly!).
These products were wonderful, but once again our desire for creative exploration had got in the way of economic and practical reality. In particular, the process of dyeing the pebble black was somewhat treacherous. If we could find a more effective or easy method of doing that we would perhaps consider making these products again at some point, but as it stands this range was also eventually put to rest and 'beautiful but unsustainable', all in favour of pursuing other more friendly and reasonable possibilities.
The term 'sustainable' itself leads into one of the latest in this series of adventures. For as long as we have been making products from beach pebbles, it has been part of our arrangement with artists that whenever they see rubbish or bottles that they will pick them up and dispose of them appropriately. And this eventually got us thinking.. why not make stuff from that glass?
The origins of the TOUCHSTONE range had actually come out of technology used to carve glass, which some friends had been doing for many years, and out of which we had developed the process for carving the (much tougher) basalt pebbles.
Thus, this convergence led to the emergence of Continuum ARTGLASS - and a product that was 100% recycled (both pendant and package).
These went through several stages of evolution over time, but have once again now been retired in favour of more recent adventures.
More recently again, and still with sustainability and recycling on our minds, we see the Continuum HEARTWOOD range of pendants.
The original concept for these was actually a response to the devastation encountered in Canterbury in the last few years, and the unbelievable wastage that ultimately ensued. Being based here, we all lived through it on a daily basis - it was simply heartbreaking to witness.
The idea here was to somehow make a product from at least some of the beautiful native New Zealand timber recovered in the wake of the Christchurch earthquakes.
In this sense they were perhaps a kind of token of sorts - trivial of course, but nevertheless small and tangible symbols of the resilience people have shown - and as just one more tiny part of the great avalanche of beauty and fresh growth that has continuously arisen out of the rubble here.
Since then, and with the dust now settling somewhat, the idea has gradually expanded beyond this original format to now include many more types of timbers beyond just NZ native, if only because the demolition contained almost everything you can imagine, and the range will no doubt continue to develop and grow over time. We do our best to name and tag the type of timber used, but this is not always so easy as we are no experts, so this will only occur when we are pretty sure.
And at this point we would like to once again offer an acknowledgement here - to our great friends at Silvan Salvage - from whom we source much of our rescued timber stock for reworking. Their assistance has been truly wonderful.
The original Heartwood range (shown above) helped us to get our bearings in a medium we had not worked before, but before long certain limitations is size and form had led us to pursue a slightly different angle, with an entirely new range emerging to take over - a range which has now come to dominate our production since their launch.
There have been many other items not listed here, and no doubt many more to come, but we had better move onward.
Hopefully this brief outline offers at least some idea of the meandering path that all of this creative adventuring has taken so far, as well as the general direction it was all basically heading.
This also finally sets the stage for understanding where the fabulous PAUA PRISM range fits in the context of this entire spectrum of work, as well as to look forward to some of the work in the pipeline. For that story click on the PRISM menu at the top of the page.
Whatever comes next, it seems certain that the PAUA PRISM range will certainly be a big part of it, but the new wooden pieces are also making their presence felt, so they will no doubt also continue to develop and expand.
At the end of the day we try to approach all of it with the same basic zeal. The lead has always been to make beautiful products to the highest standards, to always innovate and push boundaries, but to nevertheless also remain as affordable as possible - and always with a tacit connection to the Earth, and to nature. And, as lofty as it may sound, to make someone, somewhere, smile a little bit - and maybe even to leave the world a little bit better than we found it.
This is the 'secret sauce' that the carved TOUCHSTONE pendants have - they make people smile. They smile when they see them, they smile when they see the package, and they have a positive feeling whenever they touch or wear them. Truly, we have had so many emails over the years from people who have lost one, and who expressed just how much it had meant to them. We even met a bloke who had our NZROX brand logo tattooed on his arm!
Throughout everything, this remains our aim. This is what we mean when we say that Continuum has always been more of a philosophy than a product. Design is merely the vehicle, never an end unto itself.
As we said on our original home page - "...to be led by the stone itself rather than impose our own meaning, so that each stone might continue its journey, not as a full vessel, but as an empty one, waiting to bear the meaning and significance its wearer imparts."
This was the conflict we faced in even telling the story here. Our work is not really about us - it's all about you, and whatever these pieces come to mean, wherever they eventually find a home.
In this range we see a similar scale and format to the Touchstone Pendants, as opposed to the larger 'worn on top' style of the Heartwood originals. With this development we also see the emergence of a new self-displaying presentation box -
The initial success of this range has since led us toward further expansion along this line - with such items as earrings, cufflinks, and various other pendant sizes all in the pipeline.
Who knows where they might end up, but to us these products (in any form) will always be emblems of the great Kiwi spirit - of endurance, and of triumph in the face of adversity.
This is why we called them HEARTWOOD, it is not because the timber comes from the middle of a tree. It is all about the people who wear them, and who inspired their creation.
TOUCHSTONE PREMIUM & SILVERSTONE
With so many products ending up with a particularly 'girly' flavour here (especially in the PAUA PRISM range) there was some pressure to balance things up a bit with a couple of products that might perhaps appeal to a more masculine taste, and the result of this has been several variations on an old favourite.
Touchstone Premium pendants generally feature a very deep carving or recess on both sides of a much more linear form than the original Touchstone. This shape also allows us to employ greywacke rather than only the basalt that now dominates the original Touchstone works, which enables a far wider variety of natural colours and textures as a result.
At a higher level again, the Silverstone pendants take the same form but inlay it with sterling silver on both sides.
Every inlay has to be produced especially for the particular pebble, so once again every piece is completely unique - and this did bump the price up somewhat.
A final synthesis of the two ranges above, the Toki Pendant range eventually emerged to fill this niche instead. The same new package is featured here, and a much rarer pebble - including several species of darker metamorphic rock and the lighter coloured dolomite.
A much fresher take on the original Touchstone pendant, here we see a range emerging that is made by our admin Poppy. Evolving rapidly, with lots of colour and all over carpet designs, the result is heading in a whole new direction.
The colours and combinations possible using various tones of the dolomite as a canvas come together to produce a vast array of tones and textures, from bright and nordic right through to a dark and earthy 'leather jacket' feel.
With the success of the Carved Heartwood range - and with us spending a significant amount of our time in Australia - a natural progression saw the emergence of another version of this product format, this time made entirely in Australia from 100% ethically sourced Australian hardwood.
Working with local artists, and in a beautiful setting on the Sunshine Coast, these pieces are produced so as to have quite a different feel to the original range, and of course the impetus behind them is different.
Some of these pieces also include 'Lichtenburg Figure' carving, which is a process wherein electrical current is used to produce a unique and organic looking fractal like pattern.
As with our previous ventures into offshore markets, our focus in Australia is entirely on bringing awareness to deforestation and habitat loss through awareness.
For more info see - www.lightning-tree.com
Produced from a single oval pebble, mounted in Sterling Silver, and offered in a beautiful presentation box - the Silverstone Heart Pendant is custom made, and no two are ever the same.