Meet Laura Barben … the wonderfully talented creative behind Featherdale Earrings. Laura’s love for nature and awareness of living sustainably has led her to produce a range of stunning jewellery, that anyone would be proud to wear …
Hi Laura. What’s your background in the New England area … and which part of it do you call home?
I moved to the New England area 11 months ago with my partner, Aaron. We live on the Madgwick fringe, but only a stone’s throw from town, where we house our menagerie of farm animals!
Tell us a bit about your day to day life and job, and how this influences you and your creativity.
I work full-time as an environmental planner and a spend a fair amount of time outdoors in my spare time, so our environment and the landscape is something that inspires me every day. My partner is a farmer, and we have more than 40 birds, 16 dogs and two horses at home.
Ever since I was a child, I have always had an affinity with nature, and this was influenced by the many bush walks and camping trips my parents took my brother and I on. As kids, we were taught to appreciate and respect the environment and the landscape.
Another passion of mine is making people feel and look their best, so making natural feather earrings was a way I could share my love of nature, raise awareness about the environment, and make people look and feel great about themselves.
We live quite sustainably at home. We grow all our own vegetables and farm our own meat. Every night I look at my dinner plate, and I am so grateful to be eating the whole meal from our own backyard. I haven’t done a proper supermarket shop for months. I have been asking if we can get a dairy cow, so I can milk it and make our own dairy products – but that’s a work of negotiation in progress with Aaron.
So, my upbringing and the lifestyle we lead on the farm all serve as inspiration for my designs.
When/how did you come up with the concept for Featherdale Earrings?
I started Featherdale in November last year; my mum came up with the name. It started out as a hobby. I loved that I could make sustainable
jewellery and the main resources were found right in my backyard.
My clay work is inspired by my Aunty Robbie, who is an incredible clay artist. From a young age she always had us working with clay, so I tried mixing clay with the natural feathers and was able to create jewellery that people seem to love.
Still, my most popular are the guinea fowl feather earrings.
Where do you source the products you use for your jewellery line?
All my feathers are naturally fallen and either collected at home, or when I am out bushwalking. Sustainably sourcing my feathers can make it difficult to keep up with the demand for certain earrings – such as kookaburra feather earrings; they are rare to find and make such stand out pieces.
I don’t buy any of my feathers, because I like to know where they come from, and I am able to give that assurance to my customers that their feathers were ethically sourced and collected my me personally.
I buy all the jewellery findings from Australian businesses, and all of the backing cards are recycled cardboard.
My cousin @alisonsherlockstudio hand drew my logo and I had it made into a stamp, so I don’t have to continually use extra resources for my backing cards.
How long would it typically take you to create a new piece of jewellery … and what are some of the processes involved in its creation?
On average to make the actual pieces, it takes me about an hour. But, a lot goes into it before actually putting the earring together. It starts with the feathers; the process begins by freezing them for 24 hours, then individually washing and blow drying them. This ensures they are all hygienic.
Securing the feathers to the clay can be fiddly business, but it basically involves shaping the clay piece, baking the clay, and then affixing the feather to the clay. The other styles of earrings involve a wire wrapping method, which is similar to a lashing technique used to make whip handles.
What’s your primary focus/mantra as a designer and creator?
Creating quality designs which are ethically produced and have purpose. I like to raise awareness of environmental issues and feel I can do this through showcasing our beautiful Australian birdlife and nature through my designs.
Something I have in the pipeline is a threatened bird species awareness range.
A little birdie told me that you’re getting married later this year! When will you be tying the knot?
Yes, that’s right! I am marrying the love of my life, Aaron. We moved here together to the New England to start a life together, and I couldn’t be happier. He got down on one knee on Valentine’s Day, and we are getting hitched at Booloominbah in November.
Where can we find out more info/purchase Featherdale Earrings?
I sell online through Facebook and Instagram @Featherdale_Earrings but you can also email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
I am hoping to have enough stock made up to attend our local market soon.
Final say …
Every few months I like to fundraise; I sell a specific range of earrings, with 100 per cent of proceeds going to the charity of choice.
In January, I ran a breast cancer awareness campaign and raised more than $1,000 for Cancer Council Pink Ribbon.
This month, I am supporting #teamphoenix in their Kiss Goodbye to MS campaign. I am open to suggestions from the public for any charity causes they would like earrings made, so feel free to get in touch with me.
Interview: Jo Robinson.
Pics courtesy of Craig Pevitt, Illumination Photography.