When is a spoon not a spoon? When it's in the hands of Tony Hamilton!
The following day we got talking, as we campers do, and after the usual sort of chat he said 'Ah well, I'd better get back to work. I've got some bracelets to make'. Instantly my curiosity was piqued. 'Bracelets? Ooh lovely!' I said. 'Come and have a look if you like', he said, leading me over to the table. And I learned what the spoons were for. Pretty much anything except to eat with! Where most people see cutlery as something purely plain and functional, Tony sees countless opportunities to turn them into something precious and beautiful.
As Tony set about his work, he was kind enough to let Gareth and I watch. Born in Christchurch and raised in Upper Hutt, he and Beth have been living on the road for 16 years. Before then, the couple were mortgage free with no kids. For some that may sound the perfect scenario, but Tony hated his job. 'Why were we slogging our guts out full time, for only three weeks off a year? We knew it was time to change'. That change came when they purchased their first house truck, back in 1995. 'It came up on Trade Me and we bought it unseen, apart from a mechanic check', Tony says of their leap of faith. 'We knew who built it and it was his third build, so we had a pretty good idea what we were getting'.
'The best advice we were given was that the first year would be the hardest, and it was', Tony said, remembering when they first started out. 'When your dream becomes a reality, you lose the dream. You need some sort of plan, or every beach starts to look the same'. Fortunately Beth and Tony had no shortage of skills between them and were soon able to find plenty of work to keep them busy and support their new lifestyle.
Silver cutlery makes ornate and surprisingly effective windchimes!
One of Tony's delightfully unique oil burners
Even the coat hooks have character!
Tony's first foray into silverware art and crafts was in 2004. 'I made six windchimes', he smiled at the memory. 'I took them along to markets but wasn't having much luck selling them, so I made more while I was sitting there to pass the time. I ended up with 74!' From there he started making oil burners, coat hooks, cell phone stands - you wouldn't believe what this guy can make out of silver spoons! And then there is the jewellery. It turns out that spoons really do make beautiful bracelets! I loved looking at the huge array and began to see the ornate knives, forks and spoons I remembered as a little girl in a completely different way. How I wish I had kept them! They don't make them like that any more, I frowned, thinking of the bland, mass produced stuff from Kmart or The Warehouse we all tend to eat with these days.
Just some of the huge array of hand made rings
They don't make cutlery like this any more!
'No two pieces of anything I make are the same', Tony told me. 'I come up with new ideas all the time. You get to know what people want'. Honestly, you have no idea how gorgeous jewellery made from cutlery can be, you have to see it to believe it. But when you think about it, it makes perfect sense; after all, it is silver! While we were talking, a lady came along to pick up a ring which had caught her eye and Tony was adjusting to fit her. I asked to see more of the rings and was instantly charmed by an adorable ring made from a fork and shaped to look like a tiny elephant. I'd never seen anything like it! Needless to say, it was on my finger that afternoon and I haven't taken it off since.
Tony can make anything from pendants to bangles and rings to earrings
Every piece Tony makes undergoes a painstaking and careful process to restore the silver to its former beauty
'Do you do online orders, or have a website?' I asked. 'Nope, we only sell in person or at markets. Summer is an incredibly busy time for us, travelling around the market circuit. You get to know where people go on holiday and which are the best ones to go to'. Indeed, that was how Beth and Tony came to be parked next to us, in preparation for one of Gore's biggest events of the year, the annual A & P Show. In addition to Tony's amazing silverware skills, Beth also makes a staggering range of beautiful dreamcatchers. What struck me most about this lovely couple however, was how incredibly content they are. And how could they not be? What nicer way is there to live than travelling around this wonderful country of ours, making beautiful things and bringing happiness to others? It was a pleasure getting to know this lovely couple. Hopefully one of these days our paths will cross again!
Look out for Beth's bright and beautiful dreamcatchers at a market near you!