The crafted object : Nora Leschinski ~ wood carver and illustrator

Nora Leschinski grew up in a remote mountain village in the green forested heart of Germany. It was the perfect starting point for a wood carver, and nature provided its designs for inspiration.


leschiwelt - dandelions

leschiwelt – dandelions


Studying sculpture at art school opened up a whole new vista for her, and there she discovered her love for images and stories told through illustration, using the time to experiment with lots of ideas and many materials. An artist residency in France propelled her further into experimenting with paper sculptures and more graphical work.


leschiwelt - willow

leschiwelt – willow


Often working in small formats, Nora’s sculptures are richly tactile and colourful, her forms are simple and show a lovely play between primitiveness and sophistication. She feels good about working in this size – “It’s the small footprint needed for a closer look. And who it admits, is rewarded: worlds open up … and in the best case, there is the discovery of new ways of looking at things …”

Time and space to think are fundamental to her working process. Collecting all her ideas together, she puts them together in a large paper box which is divided into different areas according to themes. Over time, this has resulted in a “sizeable collection of brainstorms”, which she can constantly access. It’s kind of like a box of chocolates which can be taken out and savoured one at a time, or in combination to create new flavours.


leschiwelt - pomegranate

leschiwelt – pomegranate (and other things)


Also telling is her choice of favourite artist – Rachel Whiteread is best known for making concrete or plaster casts of the interiors of everyday objects – like bookshelves, bottles or even entire houses. Nora is also drawn to the colours and shapes of Expressionist painter Feininger and the simplicity of primitive art.


leschiwelt - blue flower

leschiwelt – blue flower


Now making her home near Bernsdorf, Nora works out of the huge barn next to her house; it’s her place to build and dream and create… “eventually things arise that you have just discovered”. The surrounding spaciousness rests her mind and allows her to”meet the plant and animal world with curiosity”.

Woodcarving has its advantages, and her skills for constructing household objects are useful when the need arises. Like many artists before her, she often fills her own spaces with prototypes – for contemplation, and to spark fresh developments and new directions. Wooden reliefs, lamps, furniture, and more, in many different approaches and materials. Many found objects “become something finished after sufficient cooking time.”


leschiwelt - owl

leschiwelt – owl


leschiwelt - flounder

leschiwelt – flounder


You can find more of Nora’s very fab art in her Etsy shop, leschiwelt, and on her own website, (sorry it’s all in German! – but you can always use Google Translate).


The crafted object : Britta Boeckmann {resin & wood jewellery}

Britta Boeckmann moved to Australia for love. When she got here, she fell in love all over again with its beautiful wood.

britta boeckmann - pink resin pendant with wood

britta boeckmann – pink resin pendant with wood

Combining Australian native timbers with translucent resins and semi-precious stones, her jewellery looks a bit architectural with its bold, simple shapes. I love how the clean forms let the rich colours and natural textures shine through; sometimes she adds in bits of twig, flowers or gold leaf to make lots of intriguing details. Britta loves the landscape of Australia too, but is also especially inspired by the organic and modernist furniture of Nipa Doshi & Jonathan Levien (it’s on my wish list as well!).


britta boeckmann - pendants in teal blue resin wood

britta boeckmann – pendants in teal blue resin wood


britta boeckmann -pendant with sheoak pod in resin

britta boeckmann -pendant with sheoak pod in resin

She studied Industrial Design in her home country of Germany and there discovered her  passion for wood. After moving to London, she had a stint designing jewellery for a brand in Oxford which ignited a desire for further study. “I finished my studies in September 2013 and moved to Australia with my partner. I started working in a woodworking group in Wangaratta straight away, happy to find a place to explore my ideas. The lovely members there always supply me with stunning pieces of wood to work with and that’s a credit to them.” She loves working there: “They always tell me interesting stories about the history of each piece I get.”

Her time is currently split between three work areas. “Most of the work is in the Wangaratta Woodworkers workshop which has a great setup with all the tools you could image. I also have a table with tools in a garage, where I make the moulds and cast the pieces, and then I finish off my pieces on a desk in front of a big window. This is where I glue hooks on, attach the chains or cords and oil the pieces. The last two are a total mess most of the time.”


britta boeckmann - wide green pendant with redgum

britta boeckmann – wide green pendant with redgum


All her work for the Oxford brand was built on CAD and sent out for manufacture, and that is very different to how she works now – completely handmade, mess and all.  “There are several steps involved in the process of making these pieces. I colour resin with oil based colours and then pour it into moulds which I make from clay. Then I embed flowers, branches, gold leaf or mostly wood in the resin. A couple of days later I take the cured block out of the mould and I sculpt the shape on the belt sander. After the piece gets its final shape I sand it with different grits by hand to get rid of the scratches. Finally I oil or varnish the pieces and sometimes add additional elements like metal tubes or gemstones.”


britta boeckmann - ring - wood with light blue resin

britta boeckmann – ring – wood with light blue resin


britta boeckmann - ring wood resin gold flake

britta boeckmann – ring wood resin gold flake


Like many jewellers I know, Britta says she never wears much jewellery (although she admits she has one special piece that she has kept for herself).  “I love jewellery, but I am just doing so much physical work that it would disturb me wearing it.”


wangaratta workshop

wangaratta woodworkers workshop



Her best best of advice comes from her partner, who told her “Not to take life so serious, to do what I love to do and not to think about money all the time.”


You can find more of Britta’s jewellery in her Etsy shop, BoldB.

Opinion : Hot or Not?

Yippee! SO excited about this new segment on tractorgirl. What I’m going to do is pick a current trend in craft and design, review it, and pull it apart to see if it’s worth having as a trend. Whadya reckon?

Be warned, the vagaries of my personal taste are bound to peek through now and again…

OK, so let’s get started.



Do you love them or hate them? You know I live on farm, so I’m probably a bit predisposed to regard them as a blight on the landscape. Originally brought to Australia to provide hunting sport for the gentry, they spread rapidly and are now considered a feral pest throughout the country, with government programs in place in an attempt to eradicate them. They are a cruel destroyer of lambs (in a good season they hunt for fun, not food), which can be hard and expensive for farmers. But even more importantly, they have also devastated some populations of native animals and birds to the point of extinction.

Real ones aside, the pretend ones I am seeing in graphic and surface design and crafts are all a bit cutesy for my taste. Perhaps cute is OK when you’re designing for kids. What I’m REALLY not liking is seeing cute on things made for grownups. (And of course, I’m not fussed on the tendency for everyone under the sun to “whack a fox on it” in an ill-considered attempt to keep it “trendy”.)

Nonetheless, there are foxes and there are foxes. Here, I’ve chosen a few of the more interesting interpretations of this trend.


owlprintpanda - DIY felted fox knitting bag pattern PDF

owlprintpanda – DIY felted fox knitting bag pattern PDF

I quite like how the nose has been utilised as the closure here – it adds a nice three-dimensionality to the face. Not sure I’d like a knitted bag as a knitting bag though – I hope it’s lined so your needles don’t poke through. From  .


gnomewerxPDX - little fox family of four

gnomewerxPDX – little fox family of four

These are sweet and naive, perfect for kids to play with. But if it weren’t for the colour, I’d think they’re not so fox-like as much as Max in his wolf suit. From


rabbit and eye - 3 clever foxes leggings

rabbit and eye – 3 clever foxes leggings

Why have one when you can have three? Perhaps one would have been more eloquent. On the side. From

natitys - too cute fox ( cream)

natitys – too cute fox ( cream)

Hipster foxes! Now that’s a double whammy of appeal. Might be cute on a kid’s bag? Or pyjamas? But please, not on your tote. From


krukrustudio - leather bag sleeping fox

krukrustudio – leather bag sleeping fox

Perfect for an almost-teenage girl, it’s succinct and sturdy. Big enough for lipgloss, camera and a book to read – perhaps the one about the fox and the crow? Because a girl’s got to learn how to be crafty, and get what she wants.


Overall, I don’t mind these examples of foxes on thngs. But if you’d just take two seconds to search through any online crafty-type marketplace, I can guarantee you’ll come up with HUNDREDS of items of not-so-fantastic Mr. Fox. Hahaha, you know you will, don’t deny it!


So what do YOU think? Hot or not? You’re welcome to tell me I’m a snob!

Cheers, Julie X

The crafted object : pipapiep {jewellery}


Esty Gertzman {aka Pipapiep} manages to straddle that line between bright and fun, and seriously, elegantly good. Bulbous beads of painted wood in bright colours combine with fluffy pompoms in pieces that are both amusing and beautiful. They are eclectic and quirky, but their easy appearance  belies the that fact that every element  is very carefully considered – form is important, space is important; size is important; colour is very important.

pipapiep - collection

pipapiep – collection

Pipapiep is not Esty’s only outlet – she is also a graphic artist and illustrator, makes videos and animations, constructs felted dioramas, and sculptures in wood and metal.  And there are often sweet and quirky creatures populating her landscapes. “One of my monsters got famous by starring in a commercial for the biggest supermarket chain in Holland. The whole experience of being part of the project and to see it on national television was all very exciting!”
pipapiep - collection

pipapiep – collection


Nature, and plants in particular, are a constant source of inspiration. “Nature in all its variety of forms and colors keeps surprising me every day.”


pipapiep - neckpiece

pipapiep – neckpiece


Connections to the outdoor world flow throughout her life. One of her earliest memories of being surprised at her own skills was a drawing she made of a hoe, a rake and a shovel in kindergarten. “Later, me and my friends used to have a small corner in the garden that we used to decorate and rearrange every Thursday afternoon, it was an exercise in styling and design.”


pipapiep - collection

pipapiep – collection


She studied sculpture at the Art Academy in Amsterdam and was always curious about different media and materials, exploring not only traditional sculpture materials like wood, metal and clay but also video and illustration. She spent a few years working as an artist and exhibiting, and was exploring new ways to sell her work when she discovered Etsy. “I really liked the community, and because of the international connections I soon came in contact with a much broader group of people who are working in the same field between art and crafts.” Pipapiep  (pronouced as peepapeep) was born, derived from the names of her son’s two russian dwarf hamsters called Pipa and Piep.

Favourite artists include the photographer Francesca Woodman, the wire sculptures of Ruth Asawa, and the paintings of Giorgio Morandi.


pipapiep - neckpiece

pipapiep – neckpiece


I asked her what she would make with a cardboard box, a marker pen and a knife. She said, “I’ll cut out Godzilla, give him a pair of eyes and let him loose on the world.”


pipapiep - workspace

pipapiep – workspace


Her best piece of advice?  “Be true to yourself and dare to make mistakes.”


You can find more of Esty’s jewellery in her Pipapiep shop on Etsy, plushies, felted works and sculptures on Behance, and a broader range of illustration and video on her own website,


The crafted object : Natalia Milosz-Piekarska {jewellery}

It was a few years ago in Melbourne that I first came across Natalia Milosz-Piekarska’s luminously coloured jewellery. I was intrigued by her painted surfaces and tactile shapes; her very organic forms reminded me of some kind of mysterious, shy yet friendly sea creatures, and they stuck in my head.

So it is an absolute pleasure to finally be able to have a chat with her! To start off with, I asked her if she had any memorable childhood experiences with art and making. “It’s hard to define a particular experience. Both my parents are creative souls, and I’m an only child, so I was bombarded. Creative activity and thinking was part of daily life and a way to stay occupied. I was always making something, painting, drawing, writing stories, fiddling around with making music, making clothes for my toys… I was never bored.”


natalia milosz-piekarska - joy ring - silver, paint (via egetal gallery)

natalia milosz-piekarska – joy ring – silver, paint (via egetal gallery)


With a background like that, wanting to make a career from art was an obvious choice, and so Natalia studied a Design/Visual Communication degree through Monash University. In her last year, she took an elective in Gold and Silversmithing; however, she freely admits she was “terrible” at it and ended the subject with no intention of pursuing it. She decided she didn’t want to be a graphic designer either and so when she graduated, she packed her bags and travelled around the globe for a few years.

Discovering the incredible contemporary jewellery scene abroad was an eye opener, and on her return to Melbourne, found a similarly vibrant scene here. She decided to give it another go, doing a few short courses to get her skills up before applying to RMIT. She completed four years of study, and now divides her time between the bench, lecturing at RMIT, and working at Pieces Of Eight gallery.


natalia mp - frond rings - silver, paint, gemstones

natalia mp – frond rings – silver, paint, gemstones


Imagination is never in short supply in Natalia’s work. Such a diverse range of work comes from a, equally diverse range of materials and skills. “I don’t have one method to be honest, as diverse are my materials and ideas, so too are my methods. I do whatever I need to get a job done. I might do a sketch, play around with materials, trial and error, or sometimes I’m very calculated and precise. I guess it depends on the idea, the context, the purpose and how much time I have to experiment. In regards to techniques, I carve timber, sculpt in wax too, then cast in silver, gold or bronze, I saw-pierce sheet metal, I cast resin, I bead. I mix and match skills and techniques to best suit the piece I’m working on.” More recently, she has moved more into traditional ring forms, working with gold, silver, and precious stones.


natalia mp - strange fruit - necklace - timber, resin, glass, bone, paint (via Pieces of Eight gallery)

natalia mp – strange fruit – necklace – timber, resin, glass, bone, paint (via Pieces of Eight gallery)



When pressed on her influences, she said “I always find this question too hard. I compare it to when I step inside a record store, or get asked what my favourite movie of all time is… I freeze up and suddenly have no idea what I like, ever liked, and why I’m here.”



natalia mp - seeds and sea necklace - timber, beads, paint

natalia mp – seeds and sea necklace – timber, beads, paint


natalia mp - earrings - timber, silver, paint

natalia mp – earrings – timber, silver, paint


Spending her time surrounded by jewellery makes her very happy. “To be honest, I get a lot of icing on my cake. I don’t mean to sound overly saccharine, but I get a real thrill from so many different experiences. Of course it’s amazing when my work is validated with a grant or an award, and I’ve been very lucky to have had a few successes in that department, but I get such a kick out of seeing my work being worn by someone, or a genuine compliment or thoughtful observation.”

Of course, things are not always rosy in Natalia’s workshop. “Oooooh, yikes! I have epic fails all the time. There’s your usual nuking of silver or gold when having a particularly bad soldering day. Or it could be spending days working on a piece that  just simply ends up looking plain rubbish when I’m finished with it. How do I overcome it? Take a deep breath and move on.”


natalia mp - special commission ring- 18ct gold, diamonds, pebble chip

natalia mp – special commission ring- 18ct gold, diamonds, pebble chip


I also asked Natalia if there was something quirky about herself that she’d like to share. “Well, I’ve noticed recently that I pull the same weird and rather unflattering concentration face that I used to see my dad make when he sat at his drafting board, (he’s an architect). I was mesmerised by this funny scrunched up pout that he’d develop when he was deep in thought, and now I’ve caught a reflection of myself doing the same thing when working away at my bench.”


Natalia Milosz-Piekarska - studio wall

Natalia Milosz-Piekarska – studio wall


You can find more of Natalia’s joyously quirky pieces (with no scrunched up faces in sight) at Pieces Of Eight and e.g.etal in Melbourne, and Metalab in Sydney. Natalia also occasionally writes about her work on her own blog,