A creative journey through past generations

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Like a lot of people, I didn't know a lot about who my ancestors were, or where they had come from when I was growing up. Other than my grandparents, who I was fortunate to get to know while I was growing up, I didn't really know much beyond them.

My first taste of genealogy was in 1992 when a family reunion was held in Nelson to gather the descendants of two settlers who arrived in Nelson in 1842. They had come from rural in England. From that, I learned that one of my classmates was my fifth cousin, once removed. A book was published, which included the history of the family, and all the family trees. It included a copy of the original, handwritten memoirs of Sarah Higgins, my great, great, great grandmother. This was notable, as she wrote it in her 80s, after only learning how to write in her 70s.

As my parents and grandparents were farmers, and with this knowledge of earlier ancestors who were also farmers, I thought that was my heritage, as that was all I knew. This didn't really fit with my desire to move to the city, and get an office job.

After that, I didn't learn much more about my family history until I'd moved to the city (Christchurch), studied graphic design and worked a couple of jobs. I then moved to London, where I met a second-cousin, who informed me that some of our ancestors had lived in London before they emigrated to New Zealand in the 1860s, and had owned a book-binding business there. I found this quite fascinating, as at this time I'd just started a job as a graphic designer for a publishing company in their puzzle magazine department.

Upon my return to Christchurch a year later, I did some more research. I then discovered that half of my ancestors (all on my father's side) had actually arrived in Lyttelton in the 1800s, something I hadn't realised when I first moved here.

Growing up, I was interested in creative pursuits, like handcrafts which my mother taught me, along with drawing and painting, something both of my grandmothers did, and which they both encouraged me to do. Both of my grandmothers have passed away in the time since I left home, and while I was at my parents over the holiday break, I had a look through the trunk which stored Grandma's artwork.

I had looked through these before, but enough time had passed since then, that I felt like I was looking at them through fresh eyes. I had just purchased a book about painting watercolour landscapes, and I had wanted to look at her pictures and see how she had painted trees. There were lots of landscapes as I was expecting, but there was a wide variety of other work which I hadn't remembered from the last time.

This included many different bird paintings, lots of flowers, and even some portraits. There were a couple of my Grandpa, and one which I think might have been a self-portrait. Amongst all the other things, there were hand-lettering projects, and a mock-up of a logo for the local WDFF group that she was a member of. The best bit though, was a painting of a pot plant. I was thinking how it was quite on trend, then Mum looked at it, and she told me that Grandma had painted that design on the cupboard doors of a friend's home. So it turns out my Grandma was making wall art before I was even born!

This got me thinking of how she loved to encourage my drawing as a child, and the very different era she grew up in. She was born before WWI, and got married the year WWII broke out. She brought up her children in the 1940s and 50s, and diligently played her part as a wife and mother. For her, painting was only ever a hobby. To have created art as a career is something she could only ever have dreamed of. When she was in her 80s, her grand-daughter moved to the big city and embarked on as career as a graphic designer. She passed away two days after my graduation ceremony, which my parents had travelled down for. At the time, I felt like that meant something, that she wanted to know I had graduated, and was on the road to following my dream. Now, after seeing all her work again, I really feel that even more.

Grandma also wrote a memoir, so I think it's time for a re-read.

Credit: All photos are of original artwork by W. E. Carson

FREE gift with purchase with any New Zealand map wall decal

Tuesday, July 6, 2021

We have just released large sizes in our Chalkboard and Paua shell New Zealand map decals. To celebrate, we're giving away a FREE Aotearoa wall decal* with each New Zealand map wall decal until the 11th July.

To redeem this offer, use coupon code FREEAOTEAROA at checkout. The free decal must be the same size or smaller than the New Zealand map wall decal.

The two New Zealand map wall decal designs are now available in large sizes. Currently we have them in the black chalkboard, and a paua shell design. The larger size has afforded some more details, and I've added in the larger Southern Lakes, along with Lake Rotorua and Lake Waikaremoana, in addition to Lake Taupo in the North Island. This size is 60cm x 86cm when up on the wall, so makes a nice focal point in a room, or on a door.

*Free decal must be the same size or smaller than the New Zealand map decal purchased. One free decal per order. Stocks are limited, this offer is strictly while stocks last, and ends on the 11th July 2021.

History never repeats...

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Last year, when COVID-19 was starting to dominate our lives, there was a lot of talk about unprecedented change, and how terrible 2020 was becoming. It caused me to reflect on earlier times, which had a similar theme for me. Ten years earlier, (well 11 now, it's been a year!) in 2010 I went through several changes, so that period in time became my reference point.

At the beginning of February 2010 I was diagnosed with Coeliac Disease. This itself was quite a big change. It was good in that it explained and resolved a lot of the health issues I'd been experiencing, but having to drastically change your diet for the rest of your life is quite a big step! Over time I got used to it, and now it is perfectly normal to me.

Little did I know, that was just the beginning! Two weeks later I was made redundant. This was a little more unexpected. The company I had worked for had faced issues, but I thought we'd moved on from that. It turns out I was quite wrong, and all of a sudden I'd lost my income. Right at the tail-end of a global recession. So that was also a little stressful! After having some time to take it all in, and realising there was a lot of competition for the jobs I was qualified for, I decided it might be a good time to take a leap of faith into the world of self-employment.

Around six months after I made this decision, we had a major earthquake, which shook up the city and us. Obviously this wasn't great for local business confidence, and not the best time to have a fledgling new business. By the end of that year, I thought I'd had the 'three bad things'. The next year had got to be better, right? 

Wrong! The following year saw a much more devastating earthquake, in which 185 people lost their lives. By now, change was starting to be become the norm, and the term 'new normal' was starting to enter the lexicon.

As the pandemic progressed last year, I considered myself fortunate. The part-time job I had looked pretty safe. My husband's job in the construction industry did too, and the people of New Zealand were doing a great job of supporting local, so my business was looking good. I kept thinking to myself, 'this is bad, but not as bad as 2010, I haven't lost my job'. So I'm sure you can guess what happened next...

In October, I was told the organisation I was working for was restructuring, and by December, my position had been made redundant. On the upside, things were a little different this time. It was a part-time income, not a full-time one, and the newer aspect of business, which I had purchased in the years we spend in the 'new normal' is a lot more established. I had the benefit of my new studio, so I have a dedicated space to work in. Again, I will make the most of the extra time I have for my business, by continuing to grow it.

I have learned a few things from running a business for this length of time. One of those is where my limitations are. Like a lot of creatives, planning and time management are not my forte, but are important skills to have in order to grow a business. So this year I am working with a coach to hone my skills in this area. As I go through this process, I've realised that I was even worse than I thought, so I have some work to do. Wish me luck (or is it my coach who needs the luck?)

I have also learned that normal doesn't really exist. The last year gave me a new understanding of what resilience means. It is the art of realising that 'this too shall pass'. That if things seem bad right now, they will improve, and you will come out the other side. You just have to put one foot after the other and keep going. It's not always easy, and sometimes you need to take a break. If you just focus on the next step, you will get there in the end.

With the extra time I now have, I am planning to produce more new designs this year, starting with expanding my range of watercolour birds. Maybe I'll even launch a new product I've been teasing you about for way too long. But let's not get too far ahead of ourselves. It's one step at a time into our new 'new normal', and you never know what is around the corner.

IMPORTANT: Faulty product notice

Monday, August 24, 2020

It has recently come to my attention that a mistake was made last year, and my supplier sent me a roll of material with a stronger adhesive than the material I use to make decals with. This product is still removable, but is designed for walls with more textured surfaces where the standard one doesn’t stick as well.

I pride myself on the consistent quality of my removable Sticky Tiki Decals and am disappointed to have discovered this issue. I have now put processes in place to minimise the chance of this happening again, including testing a sample of each new roll to check the adhesive is correct. I have also withdrawn the affected products from sale, and will replace them with new decals printed on material with the correct adhesive.


Here is a list of all the affected product lines made since 27th September 2019. Please note that only some of these decals will have been made with the stronger adhesive. (Some weren’t made with the incorrect adhesive until more recently, so products sold during this time but made earlier are unaffected.)

  • Fantail in Kowhai small dot
  • Kakapo small dot
  • Kea small dot
  • Kereru small dot
  • Tui small dot
  • Sumner small dot 
  • Akaroa Harbour small dot
  • Daly's Wharf small dot
  • Lumo large dot
  • Tui large dot
  • Fantail in Harakeke tiny dot
  • Fantail in Kowhai tiny dot
  • Kakapo tiny dot
  • Kea tiny dot
  • Kereru tiny dot
  • Morepork tiny dot
  • Tui tiny dot
  • Akaroa Harbour tiny dot
  • Pohutukawa tree – extra large
  • Retro intense dots – wall mural
  • Dusky Pink dots – wall mural
  • Mustard Yellow dots – wall mural
  • Red Rocket – medium
  • Kereru & Ribbon
  • Paua Stars – medium
  • Nikau – medium
  • Chalkboard New Zealand – medium

  • Paua New Zealand – medium
  • Counting Numbers – medium

  • Bunny – medium

  • Pukeko – tiny
  • Bunny – tiny
  • Pohutukawa Christmas Tree – large
  • Alphabetica – mini mural

  • Pooky Pukeko – large
  • Nikau – large
  • Pukeko – small
  • Paua Stars – small
  • Bunny (brown) – small
  • Chalkboard dot – tiny
  • Dusky Pink Skinny height chart

I have contacted all the customers who have purchased affected products via my website, Felt or Etsy stores. If you have purchased one of these products from another store, or at a market, please email me with the name of the store and date you purchased the product, and I can check for you if it is one that has been affected.

Please get in touch if you have any questions or concerns about any of the listed decals you have purchased or been given. Below are some tips to help mitigate the stronger adhesive.


If you need to remove the decals, you may like to apply heat with a hairdryer for several minutes to soften the adhesive before removing them. Please note this is a short term solution. If you need to remove them again at a later time, you will need to heat them again.


I have tested some different ways of reducing the stickiness of these decals, to make them easier to reuse. The following method is simple, and reasonably effective, but please be careful as it may reduce the adhesive too much, and render them either useless, or not very reusable.

You will need: 

  • One clean tea towel with a flat weave
  • A flat, hard surface such as a kitchen bench

  1. Lay the tea towel out flat on the hard, flat surface
  2. Apply the decal firmly to the tea towel, and then peel it off
  3. Test level of stickiness
  4. Repeat until the adhesive has reduced to the desired level 

I recommend testing each time to make sure you haven’t gone too far, as there is no going back once this has happened. (I have reached 10 times in testing and it still sticks fine.)

If you have any questions or concerns about this please don’t hesitate to get in touch

How to apply and remove decals on your car

Monday, February 17, 2020

Sometimes it's nice to stand out from the crowd. Car stickers are a great way to do this. You can inject some personality into your ride, and make it easier to spot your car in the carpark! Our reusable decals have a UV coating which makes them durable enough to put on your car. They can withstand the sun, rain, and some gentle cleaning.

You do need to take a little more care of them to ensure they last a long time and keep looking good. Follow these steps to get the most out of your reusable decals:

How to apply car stickers

1) To begin with, throughly clean the surface on the car where you are going to apply your car stickers. Depending on how much time you have, and how thorough you like to be, you could wash your whole car!

2) Once it is clean, use a soft, lint free cloth to dry the area and remove any residual dirt that may have been lingering.

3) Carefully apply the car sticker to the surface of the car. You can remove and reapply if necessary to make sure your arrangement works. Make sure to stick with the paintwork and don't stick to windows, as you don't want to lose any visibility, or fall foul of any laws.

4) Pro tip: Firmly press down all of the edges of the car stickers to make sure no dust can sneak in.

Stand back and admire your work!

If it's time for a change, or you upgrade your car, you can remove the car stickers and reapply them to your new car. To avoid transferring any dust or dirt, follow these steps to remove them from your car:

How to remove and reapply car stickers

1) Carefully clean the car sticker and surrounding paintwork with a soft cloth and soapy water.

2) Use a soft, lint free cloth to dry the decal and surrounding paintwork. Let it dry completely.

3) Carefully peel off the car sticker.

4) Follow the steps above on how to apply your car sticker, then stand back and admire your work!

Here are some examples how much difference smoothing the edges makes. This set had been well smoothed down, and no dust had got under the edges. After removing the car stickers, you can just see a faint outline of the dirt with is easily washed away.

If you're a bit less careful, like I was with the second set of car stickers, you can see that in the areas where the edges weren't firmly stuck down, the dirt has settled in there. This will stay stuck on the back of the decals. Although this will wash off the car totally fine, it won't wash off the sticker. These were still fine to re-apply to the new car, but probably won't last as many years.

by mlekoshi