Amelia Fagence is a Tradespeople tradie and then some

Designing, gardening, sculpting… Is there anything this multitalented Auckland maker can’t do? 

Amelia Fagence grew up in Auckland in a home filled with art, where she loved making inside and exploring outside in the native bush that surrounded her family’s property. Of all the things that her artist parents taught her, perhaps the most significant of all was how to make a living doing things you love. So, after four years living in Melbourne, with a completed  Masters of Architecture and some work experience under her belt, she returned to Auckland with the desire to pursue a varied work life that among other things sees her in Tradespeople’s new national directory of women and gender-diverse tradies for hire. 

Your ‘trade’ has a multidisciplinary aspect to it — how do you describe what you do? When introducing myself, I say I’m a maker — an open-ended description that allows my specific trades to be wrapped up in one word. Essentially, I love doing and creating anything with my hands, so my days involve a combination of gardening, custom design and fabrication projects for residential and hospitality clients, and creating furniture and sculptures.

ABOVE Amelia in her Northcote workshop with objects from her Monolithic Explorations collection, which blur the line between art and furniture, depending on how they’re arranged. The idea took shape during the beginnings of the pandemic, when Amelia seized the opportunity to use the time to create a body of work derived through slow, subtractive methods.

How do you divide your time between your various pursuits? Planning, communicating and understanding how long each project will take is essential. My custom design and fabrication projects are generally larger jobs that take up the majority of my time when they’re underway. The gardening slots in nicely on the less- busy days and is fairly seasonal during the warmer, dryer months, and the furniture-making and sculpting happens when I’m not as busy with the rest.

Timber is a particular interest of yours — what is it about it that excites you? Timber is one of the most beautiful materials to work with. I love the feel of it in my hands, reading its growth lines and knowing its age. I love the soft, natural quality it brings to any project, how forgiving it is over time, and that it’s a sustainable material.

When it comes to gardening, are you drawn to a certain philosophy? Yes — permaculture and the concept of treating a garden as a whole ecosystem, regardless of its scale.

ABOVE Pumpkin and strawberry plants propagating in her glasshouse.

What parts of your process give you the greatest satisfaction? I enjoy working on projects with a point of difference. Aside from seeing them fully completed and that final ‘Aah’ moment, I get so much satisfaction from working out how things will be put together, and in what order each part will be worked on and installed.

Why are sustainable practices important to you? Because we all have a responsibility to do our part and reduce our impact on the environment. I try to leave the lightest footprint possible in everything I take on.
I push my design and fabrication projects towards sustainable material choices and processes, and within my gardening work, I attempt to educate people to make better choices for our ecosystems, by eliminating sprays and planting for all the critters and creatures in our neighbourhoods.

ABOVE Want to establish or maintain a lush plot at your place? Amelia can help! Instead of creating traditional gardens, she likes to grow edible and beneficial plants.

Name five things that are inspiring you right now… Trees; Tradespeople; the strength of communities; Grown & Gathered by Matt & Lentil; and Yuka O’Shannessy, who owns Auckland store Public Record.

What makes you hopeful? Silent pauses.

ABOVE Timber being one of Amelia’s favourite materials, it appears in almost all of her projects. Starting with a chainsaw and ending with a chisel, these pieces are made mostly from macrocarpa, eucalyptus and fallen tōtara.

What’s the coolest thing you’ve made this year? I’ve recently been working on a body of sculptural work, Monolithic Explorations, that’s pretty cool. It’s a playful collection of large forms made from solid, locally sourced timber.

What are you growing and planting at home at the moment? I have a ton of sweet basil taking off, and have just picked the last of my elderberries and made them into a tonic ready for the cooler months ahead. 

What else do you like to get up to when you’re not working? I love escaping the city for quiet nature spots, and trading in the tools for a good book.;

Interview Alice Lines
Photography Frances Carter

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